As a mature international student from Nigeria, one thing I constantly strive to achieve is to do more with my non-academic life and seek opportunities where my skills can shine. It is such an uphill task because that takes some level of audacity to want more for yourself beyond your academics as an international student. You have to be so dogged and determined in a way that people around you may not be able to relate but as a mature person with a university degree (already), pursuing an MSc or PhD does not mean my whole life should be consumed with the silo-nature of academia.
Yes, I am studying full-time and have a laser focus on my grades but I also want to live more purposefully and make good money because in our world today, you better bring something else to the table than just another degree or certification. People are more willing to use you for temporary job tasks than actually stick their necks out for you as an international student for full-time roles; casually relate with you, and put up an artificial friendly front for the most part but would never rate you as good enough to connect with you beyond your status. So, you find that you are present and unseen in many spaces. Despite putting in the same effort, even twice the effort like others, your status would always determine your fate studying abroad. The term "newcomer" is not meant for people like you, so you do not expect much but to finish what you came to Canada for - studying.
The noise to come study in countries like Canada will always be the loudest but the reality is, you must understand exactly what that status means and that it is all there is. The idea is that you should dare not expect much outside the boundaries of being a student. Harsh but straight-up facts. Because I am someone who does my personal research when it comes to surviving abroad, I do not pretend about the reality of my status as an international student and I make sure to stay within the boundaries while I aim to carve out a path that proves I can be more. Knowing just how much rejection I have experienced even in cases when I know I am highly qualified for jobs, I have reached a stage of wanting to create something for myself. Yes, you can sideline me because of my status but you cannot take away the opportunity for me to create with my skills and thrive. At least, living abroad, I can tell you this for sure.
At this stage, I am already weary of submitting the best resume, getting all the pep talks that take you nowhere and attending all manner of career shows to connect with potential employers because too many things are designed to work against you. The challenge of being overqualified and older is on one side, then the constant reminder that you are Black will always be a bigger problem. Even when there is so much noise about EDI, it is mostly surface aesthetics in the end. So, I say, the best thing for me as an international student blessed with so many skills and creativity is to build my own space and shine. You can discriminate against me when I submit an application and whatnot but when I create my own space, I call the shots. When you have had enough of racism and rejections as an international student in a place like Canada (even though I expected better coming from Sweden), you learn quickly not to waste time and energy pushing that hard to be accepted playing by rules that leave you at the door while others get a foot in the door.
Realizing how many international students are roaming the streets of Canada post graduation with no full-time jobs despite having Canadian qualifications and in constant limbo with a path to PR, I would say, I am too old to be taking any chances with only my degrees and believe the illusion that only a degree (which is halfway done) and opportunities within the walls of the university would be sufficient. I already accepted early enough that my fate in Canada is tied to my status and that most people cannot see beyond that, then it would be wise to harness my skills to build something sustainable on my own terms. As a person, I know that I carry more than my degree and I have more to offer than just being labeled "an international student". I am already exhausted from proving myself; not like anyone sent me to Canada and people have the right to limit their interaction with me based on my status, I understand but then that should not be a limitation to what I can achieve in this country. Immigrating as an adult would always be challenging and worse, as a Black person.
My fight, frustration, and anger is now been channeled toward building my own table and spaces for people like myself. There is hardly any time for pity parties because even yesterday, I was told to my face that I did not deserve something because I was Black (rejection and racism is an everyday reality, sometimes it is subtle but you cannot deny it). How long do you keep surviving, just walking on eggshells? There are already too many reactions and conversations with people who are far removed from your reality as an international student; people constantly test you with situations they cannot deal with; so you already know not to waste your emotions and hope but make the most with what you already have. I am already building with Skinfully Booked and I will grow with this one step.