Ever wonder what it’s like to live and study in Vancouver? In this article, Chris Maringka shares his experience as an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University conducting a research project in Saõ Paulo, Brazil.
“Persist and keep your head up. Something great will come your way, you just can’t stop for a second.”
Cheesy, but it is the word that I live up to. My mentor uttered it to me when I was about to submit my proposal for an international academic research project in Brazil. As a student pursuing a bachelor degree in the business department, my project at that time was fairly non-conventional: studying how technology could be implemented to leverage soccer clubs in Brazil.
Before you hit ‘back’, let me assure you that you are on the right page: this article is about studying in Canada, not Brazil. And truly because this article is about studying in Canada, I would like to infatuate you with all the opportunities that I have found so far in here.
As mentioned earlier, I am a senior at Simon Fraser University, majoring in Business and specializing in Management Information System. I came to Vancouver, Canada because my sister often mentioned that pursuing a degree in another country would be good for me to polish my skills, compete with some of the best of the world, and build my network. I am particularly interested in the ‘compete’ part: with the potentials that I have, how far could I traverse?
Then I got beaten up. A lot.
No, I am not talking about being physically beaten. Rather, it is about competing in aspects of life such as getting good grades, transferring to a preferred university, landing a job at a prestigious company, and many other opportunities. Not only in professional or academic aspects, even in personal aspects such as getting the last pair of NMD sneaker from the Adidas store, I lost there as well.
After concurring many defeats and failures, I realized how intense and how competitive Vancouver could be. I could not expect to win anything if I was just sitting idly while all of my other peers were fiercely nurturing themselves: studying, researching industry insights, acquiring new certificates, building networks, and so on.
However, I would encourage you to keep trying after all. While the competition in Vancouver is very harsh, there are a few things which make competing in Vancouver actually fun:
A lovely town which is worth competing for. Vancouver is a pretty unusual city: it is a metropolis area, but it is surrounded by nature, and somehow still manages to get the best of both worlds. Vancouver is blessed with many beautiful mountains, parks, and beaches, which are only a step away from the hustle and bustle of the business district. Often after I get out of class or work, I would just go straight to the mountain or the beach with a few of my friends to do some sightseeing, play catch, or other sports. As a bonus, during the winter, going to campus became something I look forward to as I know a ton of my friends would love to hit the mountains to do some snowboarding afterward. After hitting the slopes a few times, I couldn’t help but think ‘Yeah, I could bear with whatever craziness tomorrow would bring after this.’
There are many channels or platforms that can help you to grow. As an example, I am very lucky that my university has a channel to connect students with professionals from their industry as a part of the mentorship program. From my mentor, I was able to cross-check current industry standards, review and select beneficial opportunities around me, and develop my skill sets to be more competitive.
Given how free the competition is, it actually benefits international students. While of course high-confidentiality jobs are only offered for Canadian citizens, the rest pretty much works based on meritocracy. It becomes easier to work in Canada even in the public sector, as long as you show that you are capable of fulfilling the tasks. Back then, even with my status as an international student, BC Housing offered me the opportunity for an internship position to assess their internal system. Canada is also fairly lenient in terms of granting post-graduation work permit. Typical international students can obtain the right to work in Canada for up to three years after they graduate, and should you be interested to apply for Permanent Residence (PR), the government representative is receptive and supportive.
If you are tired from getting defeated in pre-existing arenas, Vancouver challenges you to be more creative and create your own opportunities. If you have an interesting idea and enough grit to conceive it, you are more than welcome to go for it. There is no reason to be intimidated, the worst thing that could happen is getting your idea rejected, which is way better than not trying at all. Starting from cold-contacting faculty members, pitching my ideas, submitting my proposal, and finally gaining support and even sponsorships, I developed my own independent study about technology management of soccer clubs in Brazil, which aligns well with my interest and field of study. While the process was rigorous and exhausting, it went very well and I could not explain how satisfying it is to design something from scratch and turn it into a final product.
A good competition makes the food taste better. I cannot stress this point enough, especially since Vancouver is very well-known as the heaven for foodies. It is so hard to find a meal which would not make your tongue tingle in Vancouver!
All in all, I never thought that the opportunity to study in Canada would perhaps be the most meaningful experience in my life. It was not a smooth journey, I do agree with that. However, considering the experience and the journey as a whole, studying in Vancouver is something that I would definitely recommend for students who are looking for a unique and rewarding thrill.
All photos are provided by the author.