London

International student-turned-YouTube star has advice for others coming to Canada

Gursahib Singh made mistakes while moving to Canada in 2018, and even got into debt, so he's sharing his experience and advice with potential international students from India to help them navigate resettling. His efforts have made him a YouTube star.

Gursahib Singh came to Ontario from India in 2018. First living in Thunder Bay, he's now in London

Gursahib Singh, 30, advises potential international students on the cost of groceries in Canada in this image from his YouTube video. The London, Ont., resident, who works for an engineering firm, uses social media to help international students avoid pitfalls while settling in Canada. (Gusahib Singh/YouTube)

Gursahib Singh would do a few things differently if he could do it all over again.

Singh, 30, moved to Canada from New Delhi in 2018 to study at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ont.

He was already a working engineer back home, but wanted to start a life in Canada. However, for a few years, he got caught up in what he thought his new Canadian life should look like. 

Now, through his popular social media channels — some of his Hindi language YouTube videos have been viewed nearly 400,000 times — he offers advice to prospective students in India to help them avoid the same mistakes.

Singh recently took at job in Waterloo, Ont., at an engineering firm. He's currently working remotely, but plans to move in the near future. (Submitted by Gursahib Singh)

"Everybody flaunts on social media, like they have a big car or a very expensive gadget," said Singh, who became a permanent resident of Canada earlier this year. "So when other international students come to Canada, they think, 'Oh, it is very easy to afford all these things in Canada.'

"Students who think that way end up in debt within months of arriving," he said.

"I got into that trap when I completed my studies, but now I'm out of it. I'm really happy about it."

They see other international students already in Canada and they see their pictures. Everybody flaunts on social media. So they think it's very easy to afford all these things in Canada.- Gursahib Singh, YouTuber, former international student

Singh was working for an engineering firm in London, Ont., before recently taking a job with a company in Waterloo called Molex. Singh and his partner, who joined him in Canada in 2019, plan to move to Waterloo in the near future.

The couple is now saving for a down payment on a home. 

"My motive is to make a good career, and buy a good house and make my parents proud," he said.

Advice on jobs, shopping, housing

Based on Canadian post-secondary school enrolment numbers, Singh's videos have a potentially huge market.

According to Statistics Canada, from 2018/2019 to 2019/2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a 13.7 per cent rise in international student enrolments, while Canadian student enrolments declined by 0.9 per cent.

During his downtime from his job, Singh produces two to three YouTube and Instagram videos a week, offering advice on everything from grocery shopping, to finding a part-time job and how much to expect to pay for clothes.

"There are so many music videos back in my home country," he said. "In those music videos, the lead would wear expensive brands, brands like Armani or Gucci. And the students who are planning to study in Canada, they think, 'Oh, it is very easy to afford these brands as well.'" 

In a recent video, Singh visits a mall in London and demonstrates how much you can actually buy with $100.

Although being roommates with other international students has benefits, he warns it comes with challenges.

"Everybody gets busy and all the household work like comes to a halt. Nobody's cleaning the dishes because they have exams. Nobody's cleaning the house. Nobody is doing nothing."

And that can lead to conflicts, he said.

Prince Sain moved to Brampton, Ont., from India in April to study at Algoma University. He says he learned about what to expect in Canada from Singh's videos. (Submitted by Prince Sain)

Singh's social media offerings have had far-reaching impact, including on his followers. 

"I used to watch videos from Gursahib's YouTube channel," said Prince Sain, 32, who moved to Brampton, Ont., in April to study at Algoma University. "I have been watching since I was in India."

Sain admitted it was difficult finding accommodation when he first settled in Brampton.  It also took time for him to adjust to public transit in Canada.

But he said that through Singh's videos, he learned how to deal with challenges and gained practical information about what to expect once he arrived.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Zandbergen

Host, London Morning

Rebecca Zandbergen is from Ottawa and has worked for CBC Radio across the country for more than 20 years, including stops in Iqaluit, Halifax, Windsor and Kelowna. Contact Rebecca at rebecca.zandbergen@cbc.ca or follow @rebeccazandberg on Twitter.

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