Life in a Foreign University: Fighting patriarchy to pursuing event planning course in Canada, this Haryana girl is living her dream – The Indian Express

(This letter is part of a series by The Indian Express where we bring to you the experiences of students at different foreign universities. From scholarships and loans to food and cultural experiences — students tell us how life is different in those countries and things they are learning other than academics)
— Harshita Rana
My dream to study abroad started coming true when my family shifted to Gurugram from Sonipat — a small city in Haryana. While the whole culture in Sonipat was not supportive of girls planning to pursue higher studies in a foreign country, however, I never gave up on my dream.
As I studied at a Kendriya Vidyalaya in Gurugram, discussing future plans with my peers and seniors helped me open up to several new prospects. Conversations on higher education, universities, etc were so normal that I started actively researching foreign colleges. Since I was completing my class 12, I decided that Canada was the country where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
Initially, I wanted to pick the United States of America for higher studies but I was afraid of the recent increase in crime rate. I chose Canada because it is a student and immigrant-friendly country. Also, most of my cousins were already studying or working in Canada, so I would always have a safety net.
Studying Event Management at George Brown College
I am studying Event Planning and the course focuses on design, coordination, marketing, sponsorship, budgeting, risk management and event evaluation. In the first semester, they are teaching us all the skills we are going to need to work in the field.
Our assignments are all practical, such as, if we decide to work in a catering centre, they have taught us how to design a menu, how to create banquet event orders and so on. We are also given classes about working in the hospitality and tourism industry, how to set up tables in high-end restaurants, how we properly serve wine and including the theory of what are the expectations right now in the industry.
Fighting societal pressure
I shifted to Gurugram when I was 14-year-old. I never really had to convince my parents of my study abroad plan. However, my parents and I had to fight societal pressure. Be it relatives or the people in my neighbourhood (in Sonipat and other places) everyone discouraged me saying that a girl should not be sent abroad for higher studies for all security reasons.
However, my parents decided to go against their advice. That means I have to ensure, now, that I study well and bring laurels to my family name. Not just heading abroad to study, my family and I also fought against the usual stereotype that those who work in retail shops or outlets in India are not bright students. To prove them wrong and earn my savings for Canada, I started working at a Starbucks store in Gurugram.
Earn your living
After my class 12 results where I scored 75 per cent I started applying for Canadian colleges. To make sure that I utilise this time in the right manner, I started working at Starbucks. This helped me gain some work experience, as it is needed for foreign university applications.
Working at Starbucks also made me realise that I like hospitality and management. When I dug deeper, I realised that event management is something that interests me. However, I was more interested in the events sector rather than opening up my own restaurant. I love meeting new people and working on creating an event that satisfies the client, going above and beyond expectations and creating lifelong memories for people. Hospitality and tourism is such a broad category in which event planning is a sector which focuses on different types of events such as weddings, birthdays, festivals, conferences and so on.
I scored 76 per cent in class 12 exams, which put me in a good spot for international university admissions. After passing my class 12 in July 2021, I started applying to Canadian colleges for their May 2022 intake. While I researched a lot on my own, I also took help from IDP consultants. Then I utilised my time (which I would not call a gap, it was just the timeline of the study abroad process) to prepare for IELTS exam, which took approximately two months.
After I finalised my college, I applied for my course by filling out online forms, sending required documents (such as transcripts, statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation) and submitting my IELTS proof. After a wait of three months, I finally got my acceptance letter from the college, and after that, the process of getting the Canadian student visa took three months.
Work experience helps
This barista job in India played a major role in helping me earn money in Canada. I was one of the few candidates who was hired by Starbucks in Canada since I already had a good track record of working in their branch in India. This job helped me settle in properly in this new country while making sure I earn enough to support my daily needs.
Now, since I have shifted cities, I have left the barista job and I am currently working as a cashier at a local furniture store, and I will also soon be starting as a crew member at McDonald’s. I will have two part-time jobs now that pay me the minimum wage, i.e. $16 an hour. At present, I am working 35 hours per week at the furniture store, and my shifts at McDonald’s will be decided soon. Earlier, we were allowed to work 20 hours per week, but that limit rule has been rolled back recently, so we can work full time.
I also made sure that I stayed with my acquaintances in the country in the first few months, which helped me get an idea of the cheapest and safest places to buy groceries, daily essentials, best part-time job etc. Then, after finding my ground in the country, I shifted to Toronto to ensure I am closer to my college and can save on travelling expenses. Now, even though my rent is higher, I live closer to my college, which helps me save travelling time and money. I depend on local transport services now to travel to my college and jobs.
Balancing work with studies
Even though I work more than 35 hours per week, I still manage to complete my chores and college work. It was a bit difficult in the beginning balancing between my college assignments, and lessons from college, while making sure that I do not miss out on my part-time job too, in addition to cooking for myself.
However, now this has become more of a habit. I know that as soon as I wake up, I have to make my bed, then clean the floors, cook for the day and then head to the college. After the lectures are over, I work on my assignments for a bit and then head to my job for the day or return home and prepare for the next day. This has become a habit now.
Also, I have divided my week into two parts: four days a week I solely concentrate on my college and the work related to that, and on the other three days I work on my part-time jobs and ensure that I earn enough to survive the next week while making some savings. I would say this is the initial struggle that every student who leaves their home country and family to be independent and successful has to face and eventually their hard work pays off.
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