Your Complete Guide to Living and Studying in Canada
All you need to know about being an international student in Canada.
When it comes to Canada, academic excellence, affordability and adventure are some of the key factors that have made the country popular with students.
In fact, Canada has welcomed more than 250,000 international students in recent years, and many of them have walked away with unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Why Study in Canada
Some of you might ask: What’s great about Canada? It seems so far away and is the distance worth it?
To that, we’ve curated a list of useful information regarding what it’s like to live and study in Canada.
Research is a vital aspect of the student journey in Canada and it is supported by the government and local industries. International students often participate in research fields comprising telecommunications, medicine, agriculture, computer technology and environmental science.
World-class language education
Canada is a bilingual country and a world leader in language training. Canadian universities teach both French and English as a first and second language.
Chances are, studying in Canada will help improve your language skills and further strengthen your growth academically and professionally.
Top ranking universities
Canada is home to some of the best universities in the world with 13 of them placed in the top 300 of the QS world university rankings. Many are also ranked in the top 100 by reputable sources including The Times Higher Education Supplement and Shanghai Jiao Tong.
What to look for in a Canadian school or university
Before you select an education institution, here are some things to consider:
• The intake capacity of the school or university
• The size and reputation of the Faculty you’re considering
• Extra-curricular activities
• Facilities, such as sports grounds and accommodation
Education System in Canada
Canada invests heavily in its education system. In fact, Canada is one of the world’s top education performers and among the top three countries in spending per capita on public post-secondary education, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
How Canada’s education system works
The post-secondary education system in Canada is divided into:
• Certificate level, generally for a year
• Diploma level, for one or two years
• Advanced diploma, generally two or three-year programs
• Bachelor degrees, awarded after four years of full-time study
• Postgraduate diplomas/certificates, for one or two years of study
• Master’s degrees, available after a bachelor degree to excel in a certain subject, for one to two years
• Doctorate or PhD, generally four to seven years
Most colleges and universities typically offer classes from early September until the end of April or early May. The winter session is usually divided into two terms that operate from September to December and then from January to April.
There are several kinds of summer studies offered between May and August. There are also a few select schools in Canada that offer year-round schooling.
Depending on the university, undergraduate degrees can take either three or four years to complete. Depending on the type of degree, postgraduate degrees take between one and two years. Master’s programs generally take between one to two years while PhD programmes often take between four and seven years to complete.
Teaching and learning style
As well as Canadian universities being devoted to research and high-quality teaching, they also aim to provide opportunities that improve students’ learning, career and life.
University classes are a combination of lectures and tutorials. Lectures are taught by professors and can contain anywhere between 30 to 200 students. They usually have a linked component such as a lab or a tutorial.
A tutorial or lab allows a more in-depth discussion of topics within a course. The sizes of tutorials generally range anywhere from 20 to 30 students.
Applying For A Visa
In Canada a student visa is often referred to as a 'study permit'.
It is important that you make sure you have the correct study permit for your international studies before you leave for Canada.
The Canadian immigration authority is called the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
As study permit conditions can change quickly, you will need to make sure you follow up-to-date advice. The best place to find this advice is Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website.
Canadian Culture and Way of Life
Canada is famous for its pristine landscape (especially its vast mountain ranges), rich history and diverse blend of people and cultures. It’s the second largest country in the world, and extends from the US in the south all the way to the Arctic Circle in the north.
Canada is made up of ten provinces and three territories; the capital city is Ottawa, but you might also be familiar with other major cities like Vancouver, Toronto and the French-speaking Québec and Montréal.
Canada is bilingual, with English and French being the two official languages, but most people speak English at home. You might hear some common Canadian slang such as loonie (a dollar coin), chinook (a warm wind that comes over the mountain in mid-winter) and Hog Town (nickname for Toronto).
When you think of the weather in Canada, you might think of extreme cold and snow, but this isn’t always the case. The weather in Canada is as varied as its landscape. Generally, you’ll experience the following weather conditions in each season:
• Summer (June to August) - the weather is usually warm to hot, with daytime temperatures between 20°C and 30°C or higher.
• Autumn (September to November) - the weather starts to get colder and there is often a lot of rain.
• Winter (December to February) - winters are very cold, with temperatures often staying below freezing all day long.
• Spring (March to May) - the weather starts to get warmer and days are typically very pleasant.
You’ll need to remember to wind your clock forward by one hour on the second Sunday in March, as that’s the start of Daylight Saving Time in most parts of Canada.
Daylight Savings lets you make the most of the warmer weather in spring, summer and autumn, as you get more daylight in the evening.
Your banking and payments options
In Canada, you generally pay (and are paid) in dollars and cents. You might hear individual coins called by their nicknames - nickel (5 cents), dime (10 cents), quarter (25 cents), loonie ($1) and toonie ($2).
Most Canadian banks will be happy to open an account for you while you’re living in Canada. To open an account, you will generally need:
• Your passport
• A document confirming the school, college or university you are enrolled with.
• Proof of your address at home and in Canada
• Reference and statements from your home bank
Some banks offer special student accounts, with extra benefits such as free banking and travel discounts. You should ask if your bank offers student accounts and if you’re eligible for one.
No matter which account you choose, you should read the fine print to ensure you know all the important information, including what fees may apply.
Getting your phone and internet organized
You’ll probably want to get your phone and Internet sorted pretty quickly after arriving in Canada.
When it comes to phones, you have three main options:
1. Landline: usually only relevant if you live off campus (link to article Best student accommodation in Vancouver, Canada). You might be able to get a better deal by bundling your landline with internet access, or you might choose not to have a landline at all and stick with your mobile.
2. Mobile: prepaid: gives you control over how much you spend and you can stop using whenever you want. Pre-paid SIM cards are widely available from Canadian shops and supermarkets, as well as from mobile phone providers, and include a set number of calls, text messages and data.
3. Mobile – contract: Depending on how much you use your mobile and what for, a contract with a Canadian mobile phone provider could be cheaper.
The type of medical coverage available to you in Canada varies depending on where you live.
All international students in Canada must have health insurance. If you are studying in a province where international students are not covered under a provincial health plan, you will need to organise private health insurance. You should research the health plans and insurance options available where you live as a priority.
There’s no doubt that it can be expensive for students to study overseas. However, in comparison to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US, Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for foreign students.
To cover tuition fees, you will need between CA$7000 and CA$29,000 a year. However, this is a general guide only and cost varies in relation to the institution and program you are applying for, as well as the location and lifestyle.
Generally speaking, humanities, education and arts courses are cheaper, while subjects such as medicine and engineering are likely to be more expensive. If you wish to study at postgraduate level, the tuition fees are typically higher and the costs vary depending on the program. As with most other countries, MBA programs are often the most expensive. The average cost for these programs is around CA$42,000.
If you are interested in studying in Canada, we can help you. Just fill out the form on this page to book an appointment with an IDP Education Counselor and we'll assist you from school application until pre-departure activities.