Thursday, 9 August 2012

An Inch in Their Shoes

Being a Punjabi here in Brampton is totally different than what it is in Australia. People are more accepting and less judging coz of the turban. Even though you can find some of them no matter which corner of the world you go to. Children of Indians who are born here in Canada might think they are living a tough life, but it gets to a whole new level of suffering when you come here as an international student. As we go to local Indian stores and restaurants, we can see them working for as less as 6$ an hour. One might say why won't they find a better job? Well, it's not that easy for them. There are a couple of things they have to keep in mind before looking for a job which will be paying them bare minimum wage. Here's a list of all the problems they face, which, believe it or not, are really severe on them as well as on their parents back home. And this problem is not limited to students in Canada, but also includes UK, US, Australia and many other countries.

Limited working hours: International students are only allowed to work 20 hours a week. Since anything more than that will be affecting their studies. Also, for the vast majority, finding a proper job for even 20 hours a week might seem difficult since they have poor communication skills and poor grasp of the language. They do not have vehicles to commute to their work or school. Most of the international students travel by bus which makes their options even more limited since travelling in buses is really time consuming.

Alienation by own community: Even though Canadians are considered to be amongst the friendliest people, international students face a lot of prejudice and bias. And to one's amazement, it's not from Canadians; it's coming from brown people themselves. Shocking right??? You can hear tons of brown people going, "international students have made this place a mess" or "they are uncultured" or "they make enough money but still eat only at gurudwaras". That's just a few of things I've heard them saying. I remember a taxi driver, who happens to be a punjabi who came here during the 80s on a refugee visa, telling me about how he hates the international students, how they're ruining everything for other punjabis and how much he hates it when he sees international students (or students as they refer to them) eating langar at gurughars. Well, to be honest, I personally think that guru ka langar is for everyone and guru ji never mentioned that only permanent residents or citizens of a certain country deserve it. I remember one of my friends who is apparently an international student telling me about how a paathi (priest) at gurudwara told him that they hate it when international students go there for food. I was devastated to hear such words of bigotry from a paathi. It's one thing hearing such biased opinions from ordinary people, but when it comes to a priest, we expect him to be a little more understanding, who actually believes in what our Guru ji said about helping those in need and offering selfless service to all human beings, or are we asking for too much from an illitrate, priest for cash two-faced employee?

High tuition fees: We all know someone who's getting OSAP and has not much to worry about. Well no judging, life has a different version of "struggle" for each and every one of us, but funds is not that much of a problem for most domestic students. However, it is the biggest problem for all international students. They have to pay full amount of fees, yup, there is no government subsidiary for them. Paying around 14 grands for a course for which a domestic student pays only about 3 grands acts as a stressful burden, not only on students but also on their parents. Many of the parents are forced to take loans on high interests from banks and some of them even have to sell their valuables, including properties, investments and even personal belongings. Many of the overseas students are desperately looking for someone who's settled here, to marry in order to lower the burden of fees and get settled the easy way. Many struggle finding accommodation since it's expensive and are forced to live in dirty, messy basements to cover their heads.

Who's to blame? well as long as it comes to higher tution fees, limited working hours & inconvenience to school or work, we can not do much about it. But we certainly can contribute our fair share in destigmatization of international students. People usually say, "look, there goes an international student", well, as far as I believe, their visa status is not their only trait which can be used to refer to them. They are much more than that for sure. They are humans, they are hardworking teens who left their countries, parents and friends in a hope for a better life, they are sons, daughters, brothers and sisters, and much more which cannot be understood unless glasses of bias are removed from our society's eyes.