I struggled as an international student. My YouTube channel helps others avoid the same fate

I was unprepared when I came to Canada. I want others to avoid the same fate.

“Parents tell me that after watching my videos, they feel reassured about sending their kids to study in Canada.” (Illustration by Victor Kerlow)

In 2015, I lived in New Delhi, running a product development company with two friends. But soon we realized we had different goals, and we parted ways. I didn’t know what to do next, so I talked to my uncle, who had moved to Brampton, Ontario, to chase better job opportunities. “Give Canada a try,” he said.

After a couple of years, I finally saved up enough money to pay for my first year of tuition at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, where I would study engineering technology. Although my parents weren’t thrilled about me moving 3,000 kilometres away, when I left for Canada in August of 2018, there weren’t any tears at the airport when I walked through the gate.

I had arranged to rent a room in Thunder Bay through Facebook Marketplace, but after the landlord met me, he said there were no rooms available. I was shocked and scared, and I eventually convinced him to let me sleep on the living room floor for four days until I could secure new accommodations. From then on, I had trouble finding housing. Many landlords said they weren’t comfortable with immigrants living at their home. I persisted and eventually found a house to rent with two other international students from India; our total rent was $1,300.

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To pay for the rest of my degree, I juggled three jobs at a grocery store, a gas station and a convenience store. In 2019, I reunited with my girlfriend, Jasmine, who came to Canada to study at a university in St. Catharines. Around the same time, I started applying for jobs so I could start working as soon as I finished my degree. After a year and almost 100 rejections, I finally landed a product development position in London, Ontario.

I used to watch videos about immigration on social media, and one day, I emailed a YouTuber to ask him a question. After we talked, he invited me to go on his channel and explain how I came to Canada as a student and landed a job in my field. The video got over 40,000 views, and I received a deluge of requests on LinkedIn and Facebook from people living in India who wanted to know more about my college studies and the job application process.

I used to host workshops with students back in India, so I knew how to communicate with people and what questions they might have. Jasmine encouraged me to start my own YouTube channel, @GursahibSinghCanada, which I launched in July of 2021. I took a free, online video-editing course, and my initial goal was to post 50 times on my channel by the end of the year. My first video only got 72 views in a week, but I kept creating content, sharing information I wish I’d had before, like how to find a part-time job and secure housing.

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In October of 2021, I posted a video about the three intake periods in Canada for international students—January, May and September. Few other YouTubers had offered advice on this topic, and the video went viral with over 600,000 views. In the coming months, subscribers also asked about other matters, including pathways to permanent residency and Canadian food prices. Sometimes international students recognized me at the mall; they told me that my videos saved them from falling for scams or abusing their credit. One follower even said I felt like their big brother, advising them on a big life change.

Over the past four years, my life has changed too. Jasmine and I got married in July—my uncle performed the cultural rituals. My parents secured visitor visas and will visit Ontario later this year; I hope they will move here permanently. Jasmine and I are also saving up for a house, and we plan to have kids soon. In the meantime, my channel keeps growing. I now have over 260,000 subscribers, mostly based in India. Parents tell me that after watching my videos, they feel reassured about sending their kids to study in Canada. It’s fulfilling work. With my channel, I can use my experiences to help other immigrants plan for their new lives.

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