Gursahib Singh would do a few things differently if he could do it again.
Singh, 30, relocated to Canada from New Delhi in 2018 to attend Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
He was already a working engineer at home, but wanted to start a life in Canada. For a number of years, however, he was preoccupied with what he thought his new Canadian life should be like.
Now, through his popular social media channels — some of his YouTube videos in Hindi have been viewed nearly 400,000 times — he offers advice to prospective students in India to help them avoid the same mistakes.
“Everybody flaunts on social media like they have a big car or a very expensive gadget,” said Singh, who became permanent resident of Canada earlier this year. “So when other international students come to Canada, they think, ‘Oh, it’s very easy to afford all these things in Canada.’
“Students who think like this go into debt within months of arriving,” he said.
“I fell into this trap after graduating from college, but now I’m out. I’m really happy about that.”
They see other international students who are already in Canada and they see their pictures. Everyone brags on social media. So you think that it is very easy to afford all these things in Canada.– Gursahib Singh, YouTuber, former international student
Singh worked for an engineering firm in London, Ontario before recently taking a job with a Waterloo company called Molex. Singh and his partner, who joined him in Canada in 2019, are planning to move to Waterloo in the near future.
The couple is now saving for a down payment on a house.
“My motive is to have a good career, buy a good house and make my parents proud,” he said.
Advice on jobs, shopping, housing
Based on Canada’s post-secondary school enrollment figures, Singh’s videos have a huge potential market.
According to Statistics Canada, from 2018/2019 to 2019/2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a 13.7 percent increase in international student enrollments while Canadian student enrollments fell 0.9 percent.
During his time off work, 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 what to expect for clothes.
“There are so many music videos in my home country,” he said. “These music videos were starring expensive brands, brands like Armani or Gucci. And the students who are planning to study in Canada are like, ‘Oh, it’s very easy to afford these brands too.’”
In a recent video, Singh visits a London mall and demonstrates just how much $100 can actually buy.
While there are benefits to living with other international students, he warns that it comes with challenges.
“Everyone is busy and all the housework comes to a standstill. Nobody cleans the dishes because they have exams. Nobody cleans the house. Nobody does nothing.”
And that could lead to conflict, he said.
Singh’s social media offerings have had a 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, Ontario in April to attend Algoma University. “I’ve watched since I was in India.”
Sain admitted that finding accommodation was difficult when he settled in Brampton. It also took him some time to get used to public transportation in Canada.
But he said he learned how to deal with challenges through Singh’s videos and received practical information about what to expect once he arrives.