At SAIT, there is a pervading sense of excitement at the start of every school year. However, for many of its international students, the experience is marred by some trepidation.
International students, transplants from all over the globe, face the added burden of finding gainful work in unfamiliar work environments. This is on top of other challenges like relocation pains, cultural and language barriers, higher costs of living, and the sheer shock of Canada’s climate.
For some, working as a student is necessary to gain valuable knowledge.
“I’m working weekends in an industry, so that means I can be exposed to how the industry works in Canada,” said Gecel Magsayo, a second-year electronics engineering technology student.
“You need to practice every day to develop your skill and talk with people and handle situations,” said Kelsey Ho, a hospitality and tourism management student in her second year at SAIT.
For the majority, however, the need to work is financially motivated.
“We have to sustain our needs — the tuition to pay, the bills to pay,” said first-year Business Administration student Laila Ritualo.
At present, international students pay tuition of up to four times the local rate.
According to Zuzana Ritzer, manager of International Student Support, SAIT regularly reviews its tuition and fees against other institutions in Alberta and across Canada. Moreover, as a publicly funded institution, SAIT is tasked to ensure that there is no burden on Alberta taxpayers, as it delivers quality programs to international students.
“Alberta still has one of the lowest tuition rates across the country,” Ritzer said. “As one of Canada’s leading polytechnic institutions, we believe strongly that SAIT students receive excellent value for the tuition they pay.”
Despite pressure to participate professionally and economically, international students inevitably discover that finding one’s stride in Calgary’s job market is far from easy. Luck seems to play a role in employment success, as does having a robust personal network.
“I have a friend here in Calgary. He referred me to one of his acquaintances, and that acquaintance of his helped me with my first job. At the same time, my friend, who has a higher position in a certain company here in Calgary, also arranged for a job for my wife,” Magsayo said. “We can say that we are lucky, actually.”
While online platforms like Indeed and LinkedIn offer convenience to job seekers, they are also highly competitive avenues. Applicants who have little to no work experience in Canada, are frequently overlooked for more established and readily available candidates.
The most significant obstacle is scheduling. Currently, most SAIT programs follow a block scheduling model with limited flexibility.
First-year BA student Yass Sidhu has been refused potential jobs by revealing that he is a SAIT student.
“I have one class in the morning, and one class in the evening. That’s why I found it difficult to find a job,” he said.
“There are sometimes options available to switch a class if the same one is offered at another time. If the student is finding it difficult to manage work and learning, we encourage them to reach out to their instructor or academic chair in their specific school to explore options,” said Ritzer.
“I told the business administration office, then they changed my schedule. Now I’m fine,” Sidhu added.
We believe strongly that SAIT students receive excellent value for the tuition they pay. – Zuzana Ritzer
Indeed, there is no dearth of support offered at SAIT for local and international students looking to succeed in the job market. The most essential is My Career Hub, which students can access with their SAIT login credentials. The platform offers in and off-campus job listings, career preparation events and workshops, and industry mentorship opportunities.
Furthermore, students and alumni can use the website to book one-on-one consultations with a career advisor for resume and cover letter assistance, networking advice, and practice interviews.
“Just be patient,” advised Magsayo. “The time will come — you can have the right job for you.”