As a teenager, I never thought about my relationship with money. I was young, with a privileged life, and my father provided for all my needs and wants. Once, when I was in secondary school, my father could not pay my tuition on time and it bothered me because I did not want to be kicked out of school. But he reassured me he would eventually pay, and he stayed true to his word. So it always stuck with me that my father paid for everything in my life and I could leave all financial issues to him. All of that changed when I came to Canada as an international student.
For the first two years of my life in Canada. I carried on the same financial mindset from my teenage years. My father paid for my tuition and most of my living expenses while I worked to gain experience and some pocket change. However, in the second year of university, things changed drastically. My father was dealing with some financial crises and did not want to worry me about how drastic his situation was. My tuition of over $18,000 for the year had not been paid, and the school was constantly calling me to get it sorted out. My father reassured me he would pay, and I did not question him, as this was the only way I knew how to confront money issues. I trusted his promise that the fees will eventually get paid, just like in secondary school. Yet, this did not happen and further, my school did not let me register for the next semester until I paid what I owed. After months of waiting for him to pay the funds, I started panicking. Since the university had restricted my course registration, I stop responding to their calls.
While I was still waiting for my dad to save me from my financial misery, I received a phone call from a private number, asking me to pay up what I owed. I asked my Canadian friends if they knew of these types of calls. This was the first time I heard about "collections". My friends explained that my debt was now with collections and this would negatively affect my credit. "What was credit? And why should I care about it?" "Credit affects my ability to get a house, a car, a phone," they explained. Almost all conveniences in Canada happen through the credit system. But I was not ready to acknowledge how dire my financial situation was. I had more pressing issues to deal with. I was not in school, and my work permit was going to expire in about six months. Canada would deport me if I could not register in school for the next semester, but the university would not let me back in until I paid what I owed. So I decided not to respond to further calls from collections. I foolishly assumed that if I ignored them long enough, everything would go away. Boy, was I wrong!
In the not-so-distant future, Collections slapped me with a lawsuit. They sued me for the tuition that I owed to my university. The lawsuit also contained a transcript that documented all the many times I told my university I was going to pay and I did not pay. My situation was unravelling. This information was like the added fuel to the inferno that was currently happening in my life. Yet, this lawsuit was a defining and eye-opening moment for me. I realized I needed to take charge of my financial situation, and that my father could not help me even though he wanted to. I took a moment to re-assess my entire plight and decided I needed to stop waiting to be saved and address the lawsuit, my debt and make strategic decisions about my education.
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