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by Sumeet Dhami

It’s a reality many say they were not prepared for. In this OMNI News special investigation, countless Indian international students share the hurdles they faced when they arrived in Canada – claiming their new reality was nothing close to the dreams they were sold.

Gurvarinder Kaur Brar came to Canada on a study permit in 2009. Leaving behind her family in Faridkort, Punjab, she was chasing her mother’s dreams of becoming a nurse. Brar says her mother hoped the western education and career advancement would give her daughter the financial independence she herself couldn’t have. But the isolation and lack of community support services resulted in a strenuous few years for Brar.

“This country wasn’t what I thought it’d be… I spent everyday in tears when I came to Canada,” Brar said.

“Usually the evening time was when my mind would feel it the most.”

Nurse Gurwarinder Brar shares her story with Loveen Gill | OMNI News

According to Statistics Canada, international students contributed $22.3 billion to the country’s economy in 2019, right on par with Canada’s auto manufacturing, aerospace, and forest sectors. From 2010 to 2020, the number of international students in Canada rose by 135 per cent. Brar, who has seen this drastic increase first-hand, wonders why additional government support systems have not matched the influx of international students.

Brar recalls one specific day when she was feeling particularly broken. She called her massi (her maternal aunt).

“I cried a lot to her, telling her I wasn’t feeling connected or happy in Canada,” she said.

“I was feeling alone. My aunt hastily responded saying, ‘you didn’t come to Canada to feel good. You wanted to study abroad, so that’s what you’re going have to do’.”

This feeling of alienation is one many international students say they know too well. In Peel Region, an area known for its diversity, dozens of students spoke about the feelings of loneliness they battled. Gurjeet, who is on a study permit residing in Brampton said “I went into deep depression. I had never been away from my family like this. When my roommates went to work and I would be alone at home, I really struggled”.

This is the first story in a special 8-part series in which OMNI News takes a deeper dive into the issues impacting Indian international students.