From getting the highest CGPA among all the degree formats at Fraser Valley India to sustaining a strong academic performance at UFV Canada, Harshal Patel is a student surpassing the textbook representation of an ideal student. Transferring to Canada is not a comfortable feat. Placing yourself out of your comfort zone takes courage. Harshal Patel is one who had never stayed away from his home. But his journey so far has been bedazzled with academic scholarships and co-op opportunities all while he was miles away from home.
How do you think transferring to Canada from FVI was any different than other ways to transition to Canada?
Transferring from FVI helped me prepare mentally because, since the beginning of semester one, I knew I have to move after two years. The first two years in India helped me to get ready for the coming two years in Canada; I was able to achieve good grades and was able to work on my communication skills with the help of various club activities and presentations. Practical knowledge (in some CIS and COMP courses) and the course content was useful in learning and understanding concepts thoroughly. The experience at FVI was different because I was getting Canadian education from India. Classroom size was limited to 30-35 students; this was another important aspect for me because the professors knew each student individually and were determined to help in every possible way.
What do you think are some insecurities that international students face? Did you face any such insecurities, if yes, how did you manage to overcome them?
As an international student, I did face some challenges for the first few months when I landed in Canada. I had to do everything on my own, unlike back in India, I cooked my food, studied day and night because the courses were now 300 and 400 level and the environment was different than the one I was used to. I worked part-time to manage my expenses and controlled my emotions because this was the first time I was living away from my family. However, I was able to overcome these challenges because I had a home away from my house: my group of friends. We started this journey together and will finish graduation together. Having each other’s support was crucial.
Tell us a little bit about your Co-op experience. What was the organization, the role, and how did it align with your life goals?
I did my co-op with UFV Canada and worked as a Student IT Technician for my first two co-op terms and as an IT Support Analyst for the third co-op term. This experience was quite overwhelming, and my learning curve was exponential for the first two co-op terms. This was my first step in the professional world. Having completed all the co-op terms, I did get clarity on what approach and career should I pursue in the upcoming years.
How did you manage one, and what is something that students need to keep in mind before looking for a co-op working opportunity?
Securing a co-op term is a long and time-consuming process. It involves various steps: attend co-op workshops, complete assignments/exercises, apply for a co-op work permit which takes 1-3 months to get a co-op work permit, apply for co-op jobs, interviews, and finally the co-op. Students should start this process within a couple of months when they land in Canada to get a co-op at the earliest.
Tell us a little bit about the scholarship. How’d you find out, what did you achieve, and how do you think it made an impact? What do you plan on doing with the scholarship?
I received two scholarships: first for getting the highest CGPA among all the degree formats in my first year at FVI, and second for strong academic performance in my fourth year at UFV Canada. I have kept both the scholarship amounts in my savings account and will use it for some useful purpose, not decided yet. It feels great when my efforts get recognized and valued. It motivates me to keep working towards a better future. My next goal is to graduate with distinction and secure a job towards the software side of IT.
What was one determiner that helped you choose FVI?
In 2016, when I decided to come to Canada, I chose FVI because coming to Canada at that time was too soon for me. Transferring to Canada after completing bachelors in India would be too late because most of the employers prefer candidates with a Canadian education. Hence I decided to go with FVI where I found a balance and transferred after two years.
How did your experience at FVI/UFV help you find your first/right position for work after graduation?
I became one of the student ambassadors during my second year at FVI. I took this initiative as an opportunity to guide potential students and their parents with doubts and questions and also did an internship during the summer of 2017 as a web developer intern. This internship polished my WordPress and website development skills.
How was student life like at the Chandigarh Campus?
My student life at Chandigarh campus was filled with memories. The FVI canteen and SD college canteen were amazing eating joints to eat with friends. FVI’s gaming lounge was a fun place to spend time. Associating with student life, engaging with the faculty, student trips were also enjoyable.
With the ever-evolving pandemic situation, uncertainties and stress have gripped every student alike. What would be your advice to a student who finds these times challenging and never-ending, considering they stand at a pivotal juncture?
This Covid-19 time is challenging, especially to find new jobs, but students should focus on learning and polishing their skills. This is an excellent time to work on your resumes. Be prepared for upcoming times because this challenging time is not going to last forever.