Dear Teacher,

As a new immigrant, it must be overwhelming to try to learn about and adapt to the necessities of lifestyle, including employment and education, in a new country. But know that in Canada, when one door closes, many more open to reveal various untapped opportunities.

Sometimes we don’t recognize these opportunities because of a fear of the unknown. One way to overcome these fears is to commit to what you want by searching for information that would satisfy your needs. From your question, it appears that you are looking to enrol in an educational program that is in the same line as what you’re used to.

Of the various post-secondary programs for new immigrants I am familiar with – having instructed at a few local universities and colleges over the years – I recommend that you do your research. You could use the following list as a guide to determine which area of study would best suit you:

  1. Pick a program with courses you love. When you’re passionate about a curriculum, you will work harder and, understandably, you will perform better in it than a program that you are not interested in.
  2. Research different colleges/universities and see if they offer work experience opportunities. In other words, do they offer internship and/or employment placement opportunities that could result in you obtaining a job or career in a related field?
  3. Are the courses offered on campus or online? Flexibility is preferred in an education program, so it is best if the curriculum you ultimately choose gives you the option to take courses either at the campus or online – or both.
  4. How will you finance your education? If you’re not paying by yourself and don’t have wealthy parents, will you seek student loans, awards, bursaries, scholarships, etc.? Selecting a post-secondary institution that has the ‘know-how’ to help you with this step would be a great asset.
  5. Research the lecturers. It’s important that the instructors in the program you choose care: care about the material they teach, care about the college they work for, and most especially, care about the personal growth and academic success of the students they teach. A fairly easy way to learn about the teachers is to visit and search either the program or, more specifically, each individual teacher by name.
  6. Now, if your chosen college has received ‘passing’ marks so far, then physically visit the institution. Make an appointment with an academic advisor and take a list of questions to ask. Most colleges have ‘open house days’ or ‘information nights.’ Attend these opportunities and chat with students who already study there for some candid, honest, first-hand perspectives of their experiences.
  7. Does the college have a student support network? Studying at a post-secondary institution can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting at times. Does the place you would like to study have a student advisor to help you, either by offering you resources, guiding you to make decisions or just to be ‘there’ to listen to you vent? An added bonus is if the college has student support groups in which students – in a safe environment – would be able to share any grievances with each other and get support from each other.

I’m sure there are several good colleges that meet the above ‘criteria’ including Stenberg College (the one I instruct at). What’s most important here is that you trust your instincts. After your research, go with the one you feel most respected at.

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