We spoke with UX Design graduate, Vanessa Kwan to find out more about her learning experience and her capstone project: Lemon House.
North American tech markets continue to climb the ranks, with cities like Toronto beating out Silicon Valley as North America’s fastest growing tech hub, and New York ranking in the top 5 tech talent markets. It’s no surprise, then, that BrainStation’s campuses are popular digital skills training institutions amongst international students.
Planning for training in a different country, however, can be difficult. To help, we’ve outlined some common areas of confusion, and provided some tips for international students looking to study in either the US or Canada.
How to Get a Student Visa in the United States
The requirements for studying in the US or Canada vary depending on what country you live in, the length of the study program, and whether you have intentions to stay in the country after you complete the program.
If you are not a US citizen, you will most likely need to obtain a visa before going to the US to study. The type of visa depends on the length of your program and total period of time you wish to stay in the United States. Here is a helpful government resource to determine which type of visa you will need.
The most common types of visas used for a BrainStation program or course would be a B2, F, or M visa. The B2 visa is a standard visitor visa and will be suitable for a program that is three months or less.
If you need more information about the process of studying in the United States, this US government website outlines specific details.
How to Get a Student Visa in Canada
As an international student in Canada, you may need to apply for a study permit if your program is longer than six months (24 weeks), or if you intend to take consecutive programs that will extend past a six-month period.
BrainStation’s full-time diploma programs are 12 weeks, meaning that international students do not typically have to apply for a study permit. However, depending on your country of residence, you may still need to apply for a visa. Visa requirements are unique to each country, and you can find out if you need to apply for one through this government website. If you need to contact the Canadian Visa office in your area for more specific information, you can reference this list of offices outside of Canada.
It is recommended that if you need to apply for a visa, you do so a couple of months in advance. Visa applications can take several weeks to process, and if you apply too close to the course start date, you may not have an approved visa before the beginning of class. Students need to have their visa or study permit secured before the start of class, so it’s recommended that you speak with the respective government to ensure you will have sufficient time to complete the application process.
The Citizen and Immigration Canada website provides more details on entering and studying in Canada.
How to Finance Your Digital Education
BrainStation offers a range of scholarships for both full-time diploma programs and part-time courses. Additionally, there are a few different financing options available for international students and immigrants in Canada and the US.
The US Government does not provide loans, grants, or financial assistance for international students, however, it is possible to look for funding from other independent organizations. A helpful resource is the US Government’s free online scholarship search tool.
Windmill Microlending (formerly Immigrant Access Fund Canada) is an organization that provides funding for Canadian immigrants who will incur costs to work in the same profession in Canada as they did in their home country. This is helpful for professionals who are taking a diploma program to ensure that their existing skills are relevant in the Canadian landscape.
Booking Flights and Accommodations
As an international student, you are responsible for finding and booking your own flights and accommodation to study in North America. When booking flights, it’s important to ensure you arrive in your city of study prior to your course start date.
You may also want time before the start of the course to settle into your accommodations, and get comfortable with your new city, transit system, and surroundings. Many international professionals who come to the US or Canada for a BrainStation program or course will rent or sublet apartments through housing networks.
Here are some resources to assist you in the search for housing:
- Housing NYC
- Search 4 Student Housing
- Housing in Canada
- Toronto Housing
- Move to Vancouver
- Canada Homestay Network
Some professionals even look for long-term Airbnb accommodations that they can rent for the duration of the program. Finding accommodations can be time consuming, so it’s beneficial to start looking for available housing well before you arrive.
Finding a Job After Graduation
BrainStation’s full-time students are provided with career support, however, finding a job after completing a 12-week diploma program is ultimately up to the individual. Students must ensure that they are eligible to work in the US or Canada, this includes obtaining a work permit, sponsorship, or visa. While this can be a challenge for international students, it is definitely possible. BrainStation graduates come from more than 15 countries across the globe.
“My advice is to get to know the local work culture, ranging from styles of email communication to resumes. Also, get local experience no matter what, even if it means interning at first,” says Pavla Bobosikova, an international student and graduate of BrainStation’s full-time UX Design program. “Most importantly, you should go out, meet people, and build a strong network. Your network really is your net worth, and can help you find jobs, places to live, and enjoy the city that you live in.”
Pavla was granted a work permit in Canada prior to studying at BrainStation, and found a job in design after graduating from the full-time program.
“I started looking for UX/UI jobs while studying at BrainStation, and I was very lucky to get multiple job offers based on presenting my work at the BrainStation Demo Day at the end of my course,” says Pavla. “I’m currently the head of design at Nudge.ai, a relationship intelligence platform. I lead both product and brand design, including launching new products, website, brand renewal, as well as constant user experience improvements to our web and mobile apps.”
BrainStation offers career services to students and graduates of full-time diploma programs, which includes mock interviews, and networking opportunities. BrainStation also has a diverse network of hiring partner organizations that attend events and Demo Days, giving students the opportunity to connect with industry professionals. Many international students use these events as tools throughout their job search.
“I go to networking events, I look at job postings online on LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed,” says Sophie Sengmany, an international student who took BrainStation’s full-time UX Design program. Sophie just finished working as a UX Design Fellow for Code for Canada.
You can find out more about employment rates for BrainStation’s full-time program graduates in our Outcomes Report.
Applying to BrainStation
The full-time application process at BrainStation takes between four to six weeks, and students must meet all application requirements. If you meet the requirements, you will have a short interview with a member of our Admissions Team before you’re accepted into the program. Please note that English language proficiency is a primary requirement of taking a diploma program at BrainStation.
If English is a second language, evidence of proficiency can be satisfied by one of the following standards:
- Minimum overall score of 50 on the Canadian Academic English Language Assessment (CAEL)
- Minimum overall score of 90 on the TOEFL iBT test
- Minimum overall band score of 6.5 on the IELTS (academic)
Upon acceptance into the program, students must complete a prep course to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running on the first day of class. You can find out more about the full-time application process through our program pages.
Once You Arrive
You will want to arrive in advance of the course start date to settle into your accommodations, get your bearings, and determine the best form of transportation to take to class each day. These Welcome to the United States and Welcome to Canada resources created by the countries respective governments are helpful tools for many international students and immigrants arriving in Canada.
Students of BrainStation’s full-time programs form strong relationships with fellow professionals, sharing resources and tips to help one another.
“There was a diverse mix of international and local students of various professional backgrounds in my class,” says Pavla. “Every class we would share the conferences that we are attending, the job boards that we discovered, as well as give each other feedback on our resumes and portfolios. Everyone helped each other.”
We recommend that you swing by campus before your first day of class to get acquainted with the building, our campus coordinators, and BrainStation’s very own Quantum Coffee shop.
If you have any questions about applying to BrainStation as an international student, don’t hesitate to reach out through email: [email protected] and one of our Learning Advisors would be happy to help guide you through the process.