International students experience difficulties when trying to build a life in Canada, and one of the most difficult is finding a home.
Many arrive with a place to stay, either through a college or travel agency, but that’s only for a limited time. They think that having a place to stay in the beginning will make it easier to find a place later, which is not always the case.
Lina Ferreira works at the Just Canada Intercambios travel agency, helping foreigners to find accommodation, the right program or providing any other service international students need.
“To get accommodation, you need to hire a good agency in your country of origin,” she said. “Many of the international students only use student accommodation from their school or homestay.”
What international students don’t know is, in most cases, they need to prove they have 12 months rent in their home country bank account before they can rent an apartment.
“Newcomers must already come with a temporary location through an agency or applications, and being here, calmly look for a good agent who accepts foreign bank proof,” Ferreira said. Landlords often don’t accept foreign statements without confirmation from intermediaries, such as an agency.
Livia Cortez received help from a travel agency in reaching Toronto in May to attend a two-year program of Hospital Management and Health at Learn English In Canada (ILAC). She also received help in finding a family to live with for two months.
When the two months end, she said she is looking “for a place that is close to the college, that the rental price is something affordable, and you can share it with someone else so that the rent doesn’t get too heavy.”
The student said she feels confident about finding another home because she is getting help from a cousin with experience in living in Canada.
Many other students don’t have the same luck, as they arrive in the country without any contacts, credit or fixed proof of income.
Gabriele Barbieri came to Toronto as an international student for a diploma in Business Administration at ILAC and since graduation, works full-time as a buyer at Desco Plumbing and Heating. She said her journey in finding a place in the city was difficult.
Before coming to the country, Barbieri went to a travel agency to find accommodation for her first month in the country. With the agency’s help, she opted to stay with a family and did not regret it.
“They treated me very well, washed my clothes and as soon as I arrived they asked me if I had food restrictions, every week they asked me if I liked the food,” Barbieri said. “I liked their house so much that I came here with a month deal and when it was over I decided to stay two more, so I stayed three months with them.”
After the three months with the family were over, she stayed at a friend’s house paying only the extra utility costs she generated. In the meantime, she met her husband and went to live with him in the room he rented in a basement.
Barbieri and her husband lived in a basement for a year and a half, “completely informal, because the student’s life is not easy, we can’t formalize almost anything.
“It was a nice experience, we learned that we could live with the minimum,” she said. “We didn’t have a stove, just a refrigerator, a mattress on the floor, a rice cooker and a frying pan. So right there we ate our meals and slept on the floor.”
She found a part-time at the plumbing firm in March 2020 and by June, she was transferred to full-time. The couple managed to rent an apartment for the first time with a lease.
“It was not a difficult process because I was already working full time,” she said. “But as a student, it was a very difficult experience because you can’t formally rent something if you are working part-time.”
No one formalizes any kind of contract with someone who does not have financial security. Barbieri spent nearly two years living informally until her student status changed to the stability of being a full-time worker.
“For the first time, we can take a step up on our journey in Canada and (live in) a decent rental,” she said.