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The International Student Phenomenon

Visiting India after the Pandemic –Part 4

Los Angeles, May 04, 2023 Sanghera
Ramesh/ A.Gary Singh

Read Part 1....Click Here
Read Part 2....Click Here
Read Part 3.....Click Here

The exodus of international students, especially from Punjab to the west should be a major concern to the Punjab government and the Centre. These young, energetic boys and girls are a great asset to the western countries like Canada, USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand etc. They bring not only their youth and skills but also load of money with them. A few years ago, Canada’s then Minister of Immigration was reported to state that Canada was getting more revenue from the international students than it gets from the lumber industry. In a sense, he was right. Every student coming over from overseas brings in thousands and thousands of dollars to pay for their fees, accommodation and other expenses. Unfortunately, the west’s gain is Punjab and India’s loss .Since this current trend started more than twenty years ago, thousands and thousands of international students from countries like China and India have called the western countries their home. Most of them have done very well. However, a few of them have fallen through the cracks.

 International students who come from fairly well off families do well financially. Unfortunately, some of them become overconfident and even arrogant and have difficulty in adapting to their newly adopted country. A few of them even get in trouble with the law in their adopted country. For example, in Canadian cities like Surrey and Brampton, with large number of international students from the Punjab, there have been frequent reports of inappropriate activities and rowdy behaviour by some of these “:spoiled”  youth . Such behaviours have become a cause of major concern to the Punjabi/Indian diaspora here. Then, there are students form ordinary/middle class families. Usually, their parents have mortgaged or sold their land holdings or other properties to send them abroad. These parents are aware of the fact that their children have very limited opportunity to get a decent job in the Punjab even after they complete their education. They see better opportunity for their children abroad. Some of these parents expect that once their children are settled abroad they will sponsor them (parents) to join them.

Thus, before these students even land in a country like Canada they are already under pressure to settle in a new country, study,  work hard and also send money home to their parents.. Not only that, these students face hefty tuition fees and very expensive places to rent. On top of that, they need fairly large sums of money to pay for their living expenses. In areas like Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto Area these expenses are huge. In addition to that, in some cases they face exploitation by some unscrupulous employers. This puts a lot of pressure on these students. Furthermore, some of them have no close relatives, friends or support here. They have to struggle very hard to study and make a living. On top of that, they worry about the huge debt their parents are dealing with back at home.  This results in some of them suffering in silence and dealing  with mental health issues like anxiety, depression ,loneliness and homesickness. Some of them are unable to cope and even tend to commit suicide. This is very tragic.

In order to help our international students here in Canada, various agencies including our places of worship and organizations like the food banks have been doing a commendable job. However, they can do only so much. Also, some of the international students who are well settled in Canada have been trying to help their younger peers. This is very encouraging. However, in order to facilitate matters for our youth eager to leave Punjab for the west, the governments of Punjab and India need to provide these young people with affordable, quality education and job/ career opportunities to stay and serve their province and country. In the meantime in order to succeed here these young people deserve our community support as much as possible.

Balwant Sanghera

(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)