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How to go to college and find a job in Canada

Julia, a Repafi.com expert on education in Canada, has already talked about why you should enroll in a Canadian college . In this article, she shares her experience studying two programs at Algonquin College and finding a job in Canada. Bonus: inside you will find a discount on consultations on higher education in Canada.

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education consultant in Canada

Hello! My name is Yulia and I: 

  • She entered Algonquin College in Canada and received a scholarship to study.
  • Received a specialist degree in teaching foreign languages. I speak Russian, English, French and German.
  • Passed international exams with high scores: IELTS (English) – 8.0 out of 9.0 and TEFAQ (French) – B2.
  • I live in Montreal and from experience I know about all the intricacies of admission, study and life in Canada.

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I had no plans to go abroad. I traveled a lot, but had no intention of moving to another country.

After school I entered the Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University named after. V.P. Astafiev to the Faculty of Foreign Languages. I liked computer science and mathematics, but in 2008 it was difficult to imagine how I could connect my career with these subjects: the IT field was not developed, and no one had heard of the professions of a web designer and developer. Therefore, my parents insisted that I enroll in foreign language. I studied English from the age of five and by the end of school I knew it quite well, so I didn’t mind.

After university, I worked for two years in the field of education abroad in my mother’s company. At some point, I got tired of the routine and the office, and I decided to get a second higher education. I was still interested in video games and the IT field, so I decided to enroll in information security.

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I was 22 years old then. It’s been six years since I graduated from school. So if you have doubts about choosing a specialty and are afraid of going to the wrong place, don’t worry. This kind of uncertainty is a normal situation.

The desire to get a new education was so strong that in a month I prepared for the Unified State Exam in computer science, having absolutely no knowledge of this subject other than school, and entered the Siberian Federal University (SFU) as a correspondence student.

But several problems arose. The admissions committee said that I would have to study for all five years, because I am a humanities major. This means that I had to again take those general education subjects that I studied in the 1st–2nd year. I didn’t want to spend so much time studying part-time. In addition, the second education in Russia is paid, but for the money that my studies at Siberian Federal University cost – about 50,000 rubles per year – I could study in Germany in German, and there would still be money left for housing and food. Higher education in Germany is free.

I started looking for a university in Germany. I found a great program in Game Development (game development) for four years at one of the large German universities. When I was young, I dreamed of working for Blizzard Entertainment, the company that created the games Warcraft, Diablo, StarCraft and Overwatch, so I really wanted to study in this specialty. I started preparing documents, but then my mother suggested the option of studying in Canada. I then thought that Canada was very far away and it would be difficult to fly home, but I still sat down to study this issue and eventually decided to enroll in Canada.

Why Canada and not Germany

The first reason is the length of study. In Germany, I had to study at university for four years as a bachelor’s degree, and I would graduate from a German university at 27 years old. I didn’t want to study so much again, and there are no short programs to change my specialty in Germany. In Canadian colleges they exist, and they are equivalent to higher education.

You don’t have to be an IT specialist and go to a Canadian college to study IT; you can choose another specialty. This does not apply to completely opposite directions, for example, a college is unlikely to accept you for medicine with a teacher’s diploma. But in some cases, work experience will help: if you studied at the sports department and developed applications for smartphones in your free time, you will be accepted into college for programming without any questions. According to my diploma, I was a teacher, but in Canada I could even go to study to become a programmer – the course would still last a year.

The second reason. Having studied the question of the possibility of working legally after studying in both countries, I decided that it would be easier to do this in Canada. If you have completed at least an academic year (eight months) at a state college, you can get a work permit for a year.

In Germany, too, after receiving your diploma you can stay and work. Read about this in the story of Maria , Repafi.com consultant on higher education in Germany. She entered the Technical University of Munich, received a scholarship to study and managed to work while studying in a German company. 

Third reason. Most Canadian colleges teach in English, and I knew it better than German. But this did not push me away from entering Germany as much as the length of my studies and the issue of future employment.

Unlike in Canada, higher education in Germany is free. How to enroll in a German university, get funding and get a job while studying, read our article . 

How to choose a college in Canada

I decided to study in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, because most international students go to study in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and I didn’t want to be like everyone else. In addition, prices for tuition, housing and food in Ottawa are lower than in Toronto. This was also important, since I was looking for a program no more expensive than 18,000 CAD (~ 810,000 rubles for 2014).

There is no free education in Canada. Annual tuition at a Canadian college costs on average 15,000–18,000 CAD (~ 785,000–940,000 RUR for 2020). It all depends on the specialty and location of the college.

My choice fell on Algonquin college . This is one of the few public (state) colleges in Ottawa. Only such institutions give permission to work after training. If you go to a private college, you won’t be able to work after studying. Algonquin college also had a convenient location: it was in a good area that was easy to get to. Other colleges were located far on the outskirts of Ottawa.

To finally decide, I found a girl from Moscow on social networks who was studying at this college at that time, and asked her about her studies and the atmosphere. According to her stories, everything suited me.

I decided to go to a one-year program in Event Management . Why such a sphere? I decided to look around for the first year and see if I would like Canada and whether I could live here. In addition, the program met my financial requirements: it cost 15,000 CAD ( ~ 675,000 rubles in 2014) .

Algonquin college

About admission

For admission, the college required only a higher education diploma translated into English and confirmation of English level : an IELTS certificate above 6.5 points or a TOEFL certificate – 80 and above. There were no entrance exams. I passed IELTS with 7.5, which was enough.

We talk in detail about TOEFL and IELTS in articles on our blog: “ Preparing for the TOEFL exam ”, “ How to pass IELTS with 9.0 points ”.

I planned to start studying in January 2015, but I started applying only in September 2014 – it’s too late. Usually they start preparing earlier: at least 8–10 months before the start of the semester. You need to plan your admission in advance for two reasons.

First reason. The process of obtaining a Canadian student visa is long: you need to take biometrics and undergo a medical examination, and then wait for the results to be sent to the consul who is processing the student’s application. Not all cities have accredited clinics that do this. To get tested, I had to travel from Krasnoyarsk to Novosibirsk. It took me a month and a half to obtain a Canadian visa: I submitted the documents in mid-October 2014, passed the medical examination a month later, and received the visa itself on December 6, 2014.

Our visa manager Valeria Kolomiets explains how to get a Canadian visa . 

The second reason. There are no application deadlines in colleges: you can apply a couple of months before the start of the semester if there are places left. But usually places in good destinations are filled as soon as admissions open. Luck was on my side: there were still places in my specialty. I quickly filled out the application, received a visa and flew to Canada in January 2015.

You can enroll in a Canadian college without TOEFL and IELTS exams. We tell you how to do this in the article about the Pathway program .

How is studying in Canada different?

There are no extra classes at Canadian colleges . I studied Event Management, and all the subjects were only in this specialty. No philosophy, Latin or physical education.

Subjects studied in the Event Management program at Algonquin college

In some programs you can create your own schedule , but in my college it was fixed. I studied four days a week, one day was for independent work. Due to the inability to choose when to come to classes, there were sometimes long breaks of two to three hours between classes. Those who lived nearby had time to go home, but I lived far away, so I had to stay in college.

We also had online elective courses that we took at home.

Electives in the Event Management program

In Russia there are lectures and seminars, but in Canada there are only seminars . We didn’t just listen to the lecturer, but did some practical tasks. Another difference is that it is not customary for Canadian students to write by hand: everyone takes notes on computers or tablets.

In college classes

Teachers in Canada are people from the industry, they have been working in the field they teach for many years.

We also did volunteer work. It was necessary to work 120 hours per semester: helping different companies organize events. This is a great experience because you can actually apply your knowledge.

About a college scholarship

At the college scholarship ceremony

Many colleges offer scholarships to international students. You can get them for good grades in your certificate/diploma, good English, sporting achievements and outstanding achievements such as winning the Olympics. This scholarship only covers tuition fees; it cannot be cashed out and spent, for example, on renting an apartment. It is automatically credited to your account and pays for part of your studies.

When I was studying Event Management, my college awarded 16 scholarships in the amount of 3,000 CAD (~ 135,000 ₽ as of 2015). To get one of them, I had to show that I have good English, have a higher education, and also write a letter of motivation why I deserve to receive this scholarship.

I received a scholarship. It partially covered my tuition fees.

Job search and new specialty

In August 2015, as my Event Management program was coming to an end, I began looking for event management jobs in Ottawa, but all positions required French. When I entered, I didn’t know this, and I didn’t learn French. Therefore, I decided to go to college again, but in a different specialty – it was easier than going to language courses.

This time I chose the Interactive Media Management program (Multimedia). The course included web programming, web design, SMM, photography, videography and related subjects. I liked working with graphics: when in the previous course we had assignments for events, it was I who made invitations, posters and other visuals. I was also interested in programming. I entered the same college in September 2015 and graduated in April 2016. For this program I paid 18,000 CAD (~ 850,000 rubles for 2015). I did not have a scholarship for this program: I was given it in the previous program and I could not apply for it again.

Subjects in the Interactive Media Management program at Algonquin college

In multimedia, as a practice, we worked on client projects such as helping to create a website for a non-profit organization, business card design, or company branding. It’s great that students had a small portfolio when they left college.

Is it difficult to study in Canada?

It was easy and difficult to learn at the same time. It’s easy, because along with the task you also receive a checklist , which clearly states what is required of you. If you complete all the points, you will get a good score. And you don’t need to invent anything. They also give questions to prepare for tests and exams; they will not ask for more material than this. Therefore, I did not experience much stress during my studies. There were difficult tasks and tests, but no unexpected surprises.

I’m working on one of my student projects

However, Canada is very strict with plagiarism . If you are caught doing this, depending on the scale, you will either be given a warning or suspended from classes. If you copy someone’s work completely, you may be expelled. But you quickly get used to checking every paper for plagiarism through the programs that the college advises.

In my college, the Event Management program had attendance monitoring : you could only miss classes twice in one subject without a good reason. This did not apply to sick leave provided you had a doctor’s certificate. You couldn’t ask someone to mark you, because the teacher himself did the roll call at the beginning of each class. Anyone who missed more than two classes and failed a course had to take it again in subsequent semesters. Lucky if the subject was in the next semester. Sometimes students had to wait a year to enroll in the course again. This retake is not free: it was paid additionally and cost about 2,000 CAD (~ 90,000 rubles in 2015) per course 

Not all programs monitor attendance so strictly. When I went to college for the second time to take a multimedia course, no one was looking at our attendance: we had projects that we could work on whenever we wanted. The main thing was the result.

These are the sites we made in the multimedia program

How I found a job in Canada

At the end of the second program, I started looking for work again. Due to the specific nature of my second multimedia program, I could choose which field to go into: being a web designer or programmer, running social networks or photography. I decided to look for a job as a web designer or web developer.

Doing this in Ottawa proved difficult. You can either go to a small marketing agency with 10-15 people, or to large companies like Adobe and IBM. In the first case, all positions were filled, and in the second, only back-end developers were needed, this is not my profile.

Then I began to look for work not only in Ottawa, but also in other large cities: it didn’t matter to me where to work, the main thing was not to sit idle. During the search, my mother visited me, and together we went to an exhibition on higher education. There we found a company from Montreal that was involved in marketing for educational institutions. They were looking for a web programmer. I sent them my resume and they called me for an interview.

The interview took place in English , and it did not seem difficult. They asked me what I could do, what I learned in college and what my plans for the future were, and after the conversation they gave me a test task. I was so excited that I made it in a couple of hours. The answer from the company came on the same day – they offered me a job.

They didn’t ask me for diplomas or letters of recommendation when applying for a job. Also, I was not required to know French: the company worked with English-speaking clients, and all correspondence was in English. Canadian friends I knew later explained to me that a higher education only tells an employer that you are a responsible person, know how to work in a team, and can handle multitasking.

How much does it cost to live in Canada, where to look for vacancies as a student and how to combine study and work, we tell you in our article . Have you decided to enroll in Canada and need help choosing a college? Sign up for a consultation with Yulia , our specialist in higher education in Canada. Using the promo code GOTOCANADA you will get a $10 discount.

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