By deciding to pursue your studies away from home, you have made one of the most important decisions in your life. Embarking on a new journey in a new country may be overwhelming as it is exciting. While you may have made most of your planning prior to landing in your destination city in Canada, not all situations are predictable.
The process of settling in Canada does not only involve obtaining the right documentation, but is also about learning to adapt to new cultural and social environments.
There are many accommodation options available to students. If possible, it is best to research available places prior to arriving in Canada. Student housing is often grouped into two categories: on-campus housing and off-campus housing. When making a decision between the two, you should be mindful of the difference of experiences you would have in either.
On-campus housing is also referred to as student residence or “dorms”. Searching for student residence housing is most efficient through an academic institution’s website. Living on-campus can be convenient, as most amenities are likely to be available within close proximity. Living on-campus can also help you socialize and connect with other students attending the same academic institution through on-campus events and other social gatherings.
Depending on location, “off-campus” housing can sometimes be a more affordable option. By choosing to live off-campus, you may be able to be more independent, and become more immersed in the city’s local culture. Living off-campus does not have to be a solitary experience, and you can find roommates online.
Another option available is living with a host family through a homestay arrangement. A homestay may be one of the most inexpensive ways to live in a new city as an international student. You can search for homestays in one of many free online websites, consult an organization, or request a homestay program through your school’s student services office. Homestays are a great way to enhance language skills and ease the process of integrating into a new culture, all the while maintaining a sense of family.
With your Canadian study permit, you may be able to work on- or off-campus while completing your studies. An international student can work up to 20 hours a week off-campus during an academic session and full-time hours during scheduled study breaks, such as the winter and summer holiday or spring break. This opportunity afforded to Canadian study permit holders is a great way to cover living costs and build professional networks in the local labour market.
In order to work in Canada as a study permit holder, it is important to apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN). A SIN from Service Canada gives you access to benefits and government program services. To apply for a SIN, your study permit must have the following conditions printed on it:
- May accept employment on the campus of the institution at which registered in full-time studies.
- May accept employment on or off campus if meeting eligibility criteria as per R186(f), (v) or (w). Must cease working if no longer meeting these criteria.
If your study permit does not have the above conditions printed on it and you find that you meet the criteria required to work in Canada as a study permit holder, it can be added to your permit at not extra cost.
If your study program includes work experience as part of the curriculum, you will need to apply for a co-op or intern work permit in addition to your study permit. An application for a co-op work permit may be submitted at the same time as a study permit, or later after starting a study program and prior to the commencement of the placement.
Learn more about the eligibility requirements to work as an international student.
Cost of living
Canada’s provinces offer international students various options to pursue higher education in universities, colleges, technical institutes, or research institutes. Knowing the cost of living in each province can help you when budgeting and planning your study and work schedule. In order to apply for a study permit, a potential international student must show that he or she has the financial capacity to cover living costs in addition to tuition.
The table below is a guideline of a student’s monthly living expenses in each Canadian province. Keep in mind cost of living can vary, particularly as it concerns urban and rural living.
|Province||Accommodation (off campus, single)||Food||Public Transit||Extra (phone bill, internet laundry, entertainment, clothing)||Total (approx.)|
|British Columbia||$730||$300||$91 (Central Vancouver)||$530||$1,726|
|New Brunswick||$400||$300||$40 (Fredericton)||$490||$1,230|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||$600-$750||$350||$68-70 (St. John’s)||$500||$1,518-$1,660|
|Nova Scotia||$758-$1000||$250-300||$70 (Halifax)||$510||$1,400|
|Prince Edward Island||$600||$250||$40 (Charlottetown)||$510||$1,400|
As soon as you arrive, you will probably want to set up a bank account, phone plan, public transportation pass, and register for a student ID card. Most academic institutions in Canada have a student welcome center or an international student office where staff or student mentors may be able to help you find the best deals available. Bank accounts, phone plans, and internet contracts are offered through different providers and with varying conditions, so do your research!
Also, it is important that you are covered for health insurance in your destination province.
Adjustment and planning ahead
If this is your first time away from your home country, give yourself some time to adjust. Because you are experiencing a new culture for the first time, you may face what is known as “Culture Shock”. Culture shock could be experienced in four phases: the honeymoon, the frustration, the adjustment, and the acceptance.
Some of the best ways to overcome culture shock are by getting involved, getting connected, and planning ahead. It is important to seek and maintain a support network of individuals who are preferably going through a similar experience as you. If your plan is to settle in Canada permanently in the future, plan ahead by enhancing your language skills, connecting with professionals, and visualizing your career path in Canada.
For helpful tips, updates and news that will help make your life easier as an international student and/or graduate in Canada join the CanadaVisa Study Hub. You also have a chance to win a $500 scholarship!
If you want to discover your options for studying in Canada, complete the free CanadaVisa Study Pathway Assessment Form today.
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