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Studying in Canada: 'I will cherish the experience for life'
Parshati Patel
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July 02, 2007

With departure dates rapidly approaching, Indian students are booking tickets and preparing to leave for international universities.

To ease their concerns and answer their questions, we've asked students who are already studying abroad to share their experiences.

Today, Parshati Patel from Ahmedabad, who is studying Astronomy and Physics in Canada [Images], shares her story:

I am Parshati Patel from Ahmedabad and I'm studying Astronomy and Physics in Canada at the University of Toronto.

Last year was my first at university and to best experience the new environment and culture, I decided to stay on-campus.

I reached university first, arranged my things and waited anxiously. I was nervous on the day my roommates were to arrive. Though I had exchanged few emails with them, I knew it would be different in person. I was curious to know how they would react to a "brown" student.

All three girls were Canadian and seemed intimidating and different when we first met. But at the end of the first day, I was sure that it would be fun living with them for the year.

As I was from a completely different background, I used to study a lot and was scared to interact with them. Thankfully, as time passed we got to know each other much better.

The best thing about my roommates was that they were very cooperative. They used to laugh at my accent and my choice of words, but never in a hurtful manner. They also were very curious about India, and found the culture astonishing.

Once, we were talking about India, and I told them, 'I am from the land of Gandhiji.' After a second, I realised that they would not know about the Mahatma, and apologised for my obscure reference. But to my surprise, they were very familiar with Gandhiji, and in fact, adored him! Eventually, I realised that these white Canadians knew more about our history than many Indians.

I was very close to one of my roommates, Julie. Though she was from a 'typical' Canadian family, she loved Indian food and movies. We spent many evenings watching Bollywood films while eating dal and rice.

It was strange but very enjoyable to share my favourite meals and entertainment with a girl from such a different background! She was very inquisitive, helpful and warm by nature.
Lisa, on the other hand, didn't enjoy Indian food and disliked my movies and music. Handling such a situation wasn't so difficult, which was a surprise. While she didn't like the food, she hardly complained and tried not to make my life uncomfortable.

The third girl, Stephanie, was very bubbly and talkative. Because of our very different personalities, we used to have many minor clashes. These clashes about the high volume from music and television and her endless parties had some negative effects on my behaviour and life.

I remember an incident when they were partying downstairs and I was trying to study upstairs. They were drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and smoking ganja. The smoke of the drugs was so strong that it became unbearable. Even though I went and told them that I was having trouble breathing from all the smoke, no one was stopped and the party continued.
After my experiences with them, I am very proud to be Indian. Also, I am proud that our culture has an ability to keep hearts connected. Even if someone is dissimilar or different, even if you don't get along, you should be able to understand and accept them.

One piece of advice to all those who are leaving soon for foreign studies, try living with Canadian or American roommates. It's difficult and eye-opening, but you're sure to learn a lot about the world and yourself.

One more piece of advice, just mind your own business and your roommates will be happy. I am very glad I stayed with them, even though at times I suffered. It was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. I especially cherish the friendship and warmth I shared with Julie. I hope that she will always be one of my good friends.

Looking back, I realise that I miss living with them. 


~ Are you a student who is studying/ has studied abroad? What advice would you have for other students who may soon be pursuing studies in a foreign country? What are your experience as an international student? What were the things you wished you knew before you left home? Write to us at and we will feature your experiences right here.

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