Local or abroad, students juggle the choice of leaving or staying home
A peek into how Canadian students view the international scene, and what they can do if they want to venture out.

It’s 2024, and you’ve got your dream destination on your bucket list. You’re texting the group chat, “Grad trip this year?” You watch vlogs to get a sense of what it’s like to live in a foreign country. But what’s stopping you from packing your bags and living abroad for a few months? Why not just stay in Canada? 

This brings up the questions: what makes a country so desirable to live in? Do people want to go abroad for new experiences, or would they prefer local quality education and work opportunities? The Medium asked a few students their opinions about the international scene. 

Although some people might find traveling exciting, living in a new country, even if it’s only for a semester or a year, can be scary. There are a lot more requirements and things to consider before simply applying to the program they want overseas. Students might need to consider things like important documentation, such as visas and student permits, course approval for their program, and government photo IDs. 

Lovelle Pong, a fifth-year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) specializing in forensic biology and minoring in psychology, shares that some of the challenges students might face are in “balancing academics, developing a new social circle, and possibly working a job.” For Pong, learning about life abroad allows for more opportunities to network, new experiences, and many more career options. While talking about the job market in Canada, Pong shares that “the difficulties of finding a job in Canada… is one of my biggest concerns as a soon-to-be-graduate… the main concern of many students is determining how to get their foot in the door of their desired discipline. We all have a collective fear of graduating and [being] unable to find a suitable full-time job.” 

With job security constantly being questioned, some students might worry that the current market is too competitive and could be too saturated depending on the field. However, some may outreach to different companies in other countries to maximize their chances, given the current job market. As fresh or upcoming graduates, Pong advises students to keep their options open. “It can be difficult to obtain a job in the current market, and having a wide range of prospects can make such a big difference.” By doing so, it increases the chances of getting a call back, or making lasting connections that may help students land a promising job after graduation.

Meanwhile, Catherine Lam, a fourth-year criminology and English double major student at UTM, gives us insight into how she feels about the quality of education and work opportunities in Canada—a country whose reputation in the education and work sector is “regarded as high because of [its] resources and strong institutional frameworks,” Lam says. “Canada’s education system is recognized globally.” 

If Canada is so renowned for their education and resources, is it necessary for students to pursue work or further education elsewhere? Some might think that it’s worth pursuing other options abroad for multiple reasons, which then makes one wonder: how are Canadians perceived abroad? Is there even room for them in the international scene or should they simply stick to studying and working within Canada? 

Lam discusses the advantages of Canadian students and their edge in the field, stating that “Canada is a bilingual country, which means many Canadians can communicate in both English and French. Our society is multicultural, so that generally translates to a high sense of cultural awareness, which helps when adapting to a new country.” Although some students might not consider studying and working in Canada after they graduate, Canada’s reputation and resources create a name for its own. 

Many elements in our multicultural society also help translate into work ethic and social and behavioural attitudes in the workplace. Bilingualism—whether it’s English, French, or another pair of languages—is a key playing card in how employers view you as a candidate. Besides being qualified for the position or program, being able to connect with different people and cultures through communication and understanding is something that may help students stand out amongst the competition abroad. 

At UTM, there are several options for those exploring life internationally. The International Education Center’s (IEC) website is a great tool to explore. There are many different opportunities abroad that allows students to complete courses for their program, immerse them in new cultures, explore new cities, learn new languages, and try new foods. UTM has great connections with various universities and colleges abroad, so it’s very possible to study anywhere in the world and earn credit for it. With more than 140 partners in more than 40 countries, students can either take a semester abroad in the summer, or even explore taking courses during reading week.

But what if you would rather work than study abroad? Don’t worry, there are resources available at UTM that provide information and support. Students can visit the UTM Career Centre to learn more about these topics, such as what the current job market resembles, how to plan a career, and how to find new career paths of interest. The staff can also help teach you skills that will help you in the job process; from workshopping résumés and having one-on-one advice on interview preparation, to building professional-looking LinkedIn profiles and networking and helping navigate CLNx for job postings both on and off campus.

For those who are interested in studying or working abroad and getting credits for your academic program, a great resource to explore isn’t only UTM’s International Education Centre website, but also upcoming information sessions being held over Zoom. You can learn more about the different opportunities at the Learning Abroad website. Don’t forget to register and guarantee a spot! 

Associate Features Editor (Volume 50) — Pamela is a U of T alumni with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minored in East Asian Studies and Italian Studies. She is currently studying at Humber College to be a UX Designer. She was previously the Marketing Manager for On the Danforth Magazine, and even wrote a blog article about "4 Cafés to Visit on the Danforth" (2021). When she's not writing or studying, you can catch her crocheting, designing her bullet journal, and streaming video games. Her favourite games are Valorant, Stardew Valley, and Teamfight Tactics. Pamela loves to write and tries to put creativity at the forefront of everything she does. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram.


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