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Student Life in Canada

Student life in Canada is among the top globally. Over 500,000 international students enroll in post-secondary institutions every year. Whether you choose to study at a vocational school, college, or one of the many prestigious universities across Canada, two things are certain; you will receive a world-class education and you’ll have an incredible experience doing so.

Canada values its education system and prides itself in offering a diverse, inclusive and supportive learning environment for students from all over the world. Classrooms foster innovative thinking, academic excellence, and freedom.

Most Canadian educational institutions offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities for international students in Canada, as well as various support groups and online communities to help you ease into your first semester abroad.  

International Student Life in Canada: What to Expect

Studying in Canada will not only open up doors for your career but is a great life-experience that you are guaranteed to carry with you in the days ahead. When first arriving in a foreign country, let alone a new college or university, the experience can be quite overwhelming. Most universities and colleges, however, offer fantastic orientation programs to help you meet other students and settle into student life in Canada. 

A Typical Day

No matter where you decide to complete your studies in Canada you will have unique opportunities to learn and grow. Canada offers an array of study programs; from trade skills to medical qualifications. 

Undergrad Life

Your days at vocational institutions or colleges will be spent applying practical skills, related to your specific career, in real-world environments. In between classes you may find yourself editing your own videos, making your own cabinets in woodworking class or working with patients, if dental hygiene is your chosen field of study, for example.

University life is typically a balance between learning and doing. When not attending lectures, you’ll find yourself in state of the art labs, researching your next assignment in the library or attending student workshops and tutorials. Lecturers and professors are usually available to assist students during office hours and you will also have the added support of at least one teaching assistant to help guide you through the course program and provide extra learning support. 

Graduate and Post-grad Life

As a graduate student, you’ll spend most of your time between lectures and doing original research to complete your research project, thesis, or dissertation. You’ll be guided through your study program by renowned lecturers and professors to help you get the results you’ve set out to achieve.

Campus Life

Students sitting on steps on campus | student life in Canada

Student Accommodation

There are various accommodation options available for international students in Canada. As an undergraduate, you’ll have both on and off-campus options available from shared dormitories on campus to shared student housing or private student apartment rentals off-campus. On-campus housing is a plus for first-year students as it makes it easier to meet new people, is much more affordable, and offers 24/7 housing support. Private dorms are usually reserved for graduate and postgraduate students.

Off-campus options include both furnished and unfurnished house shares as well as homestays, which is a great option if you are looking for an authentic Canadian family experience. When budgeting is sure to set aside at least 25 percent of your study budget for accommodation.

Useful Links To Find Off-Campus Accommodation

Getting Around

Canada's transportation system is both reliable and affordable. An average monthly travel pass will cost you around $90 depending on which city you’re studying in. You’ll have access to buses, trains, or if you’re lucky maybe within walking distance of your campus or even choose to cycle to and from class. Many universities also offer it’s own transportation options and may even have a transit pass included in your tuition fees. 

Take a look at some f the discounts on offer for international student in Canada, below;


Student Travel and Transit Discounts
Provider Student Discount
Greyhound Bus Save up to 45% on fares to and from select universities, and 10% student discount on adult fares.
Visa Rail Discounted multi-trip passes for youth and students.
Air Canada Discounted multi-trip pass for students.
GO Transit 22.5% off full adult fares for students (8% off Presto fares).
Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Discounted monthly TTC pass for post-secondary students.
Desjardins Students get discounted rates on car insurance.
Zipcar Students enrolled in participating institutions get discounted rates when borrowing a zipcar.

Food and Groceries

If you’ve chosen to live on campus, you’ll be able to choose from set meal plan options at the dining hall, which is included in the cost of residence or opt for self-catering instead. Most institutions cater to specific dietary needs but it is best to confirm this beforehand with your chosen university or college. There are usually a variety of grocers and supermarkets nearby with a huge selection of international food items.

For those who enjoy eating out or hanging out, you’ll find a variety of coffee shops and restaurants in and around campus all tailored to a student’s budget. Be sure to ask if they have any student discounts. 


Student Restaurant Discounts
Restaurant/Supermarket Student Discount
Arby’s 10% off with your student ID
Buffalo Wild Wings 10% off at participating locations with your student ID
Bulk Barn 10% off on Wednesdays with your student ID
Burger King 10% off with your student ID
Metro Grocery Stores 10-15% discount at participating locations on Tuesdays
Toby’s Pub and Eatery Cheap drinks specials + 15% off Sundays to Thursdays with valid student ID
Hard Rock Cafe 10% off with your ISIC card
Insomnia 20% off all meals except weekend and holiday brunches.
Fika Cafe 15% off with your student ID
Food Basics Discounts on Tuesdays with your student ID
Fresh 15% off with your student ID
Loblaws Discounts on Tuesdays with your student ID
Real Canadian Superstore Discounts on Tuesdays with your student ID
No Frills ”Dollar Days”
St. Louis Bar & Grill 20% off or $5 off and hot menu item with your student ID
Superstore Discounts on Tuesdays with your student ID
Valu-mart Discounts on Tuesdays with your student ID

Retail Therapy

If you love to shop there’s just no reason you should be paying full-price for that amazing pair of sneakers or the latest piece of tech offered at the iStore. Take a look at just some of the amazing savings waiting for you in-store as a student in Canada. 

Travel and Health Insurance

If you are an international student in Canada, you are required to have health insurance for the length of your stay in Canada. Depending on which province or territory you're in you may have to take out your own health insurance plan. Below is a comparison between provincial health insurance policies for students in Canada. 


Student Provincial Health Insurance
Province or Territory Coverage Requirements
Alberta Yes Minimum 12 month study permit and residence in province
British Columbia Yes Minimum 6 month study permit. Coverage begins after three months. iMED Offers temporary coverage during your waiting period
Manitoba Yes Minimum 6 month study permit and residence in province
New Brunswick Yes Minimum 3 month residence in province
Newfoundland and Labrador Yes Minimum 12 month study permit
Northwest Territories Yes Minimum 12 month study permit
Nova Scotia Yes Minimum 12 month study permit
Nunavut No No designated learning institution in the province
Ontario No Student enrolled in University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) participating institutions must enroll in this plan.
Prince Edward Island Yes Minimum residence in the province for more than six months.
Quebec No, with exceptions Students from the following countries may be eligible to apply for free basic healthcare through Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ):
  • Belgium
  • Denmark,
  • Finland,
  • France,
  • Greece,
  • Luxembourg,
  • Norway,
  • Portugal, and
  • Sweden

Students must get private insurance. Check to see if your institution offers coverage plans.
Saskatchewan Yes Study permit and proof of full-time enrollment
Yukon No Only one designated learning institution that automatically enrolls students in mandatory group health insurance plan

If your province does not offer health care options, most universities will offer medical plans geared towards students and their budgets. If you are studying in Canada for less than a year and you intend to do some travelling, it may be a good idea to opt for travel insurance instead.

Meet New People

Meeting new people in a foreign country can be overwhelming for some. Most universities and colleges in Canada usually have an orientation week to help students get to know the campus as well as their classmates. There are also various online international student communities, as well as cultural and social get-togethers, which are not only a great way to meet people but to get involved in the community. Most universities also offer a variety of sports and games clubs as well as community programs aimed at giving back to the community. 

Out and About

Weekends and vacations in Canada as a student can be fun packed or easy going and laid back. Whether you prefer weekends away on outdoor adventures, shopping at local boutiques, visiting art galleries or trips to the city for a night out, Canada has something for you. Most local bars and nightclubs have student nights and special events and even coffee shops and stores offer student discounts.


Student Entertainment Discounts
Place Student Discount
Art Gallery of Ontario $45 membership - unlimited annual visits
Free admissions on Tuesday after 3pm
$11 for non-members on weekdays
Canadian Opera Company $22 tickets for under 30’s
Cineplex $8 tickets on Thursdays
Ontario Science Centre $16 student admission with your student ID
Royal Ontario Museums $14.50 for discounted general admission and free with student ID on Tuesdays
TIFF Bell Lightbox Year-round $10.50 movie ticket with valid student ID
Art Gallery of Alberta Free for all post-secondary students
Royal Botanical Gardens Student discounts on single and annual membership

Work

All international students that have a valid student visa for Canada are permitted to work part-time for 20 hours per week either on or off campus during the semester or full time during vacations. If you need to work more hours you will need to apply for a temporary work permit.  

Useful Apps

There are a variety of useful apps that can not only help you get around easier but will also help you suss out the latest deals in your area. Take a look at some of the most popular apps that are a must have for international students in Canada. 

First Week on Campus

Female student wearing headphones sitting in library with laptop | student life in Canada

Your first week on campus may involve some admin. The first thing that you’ll need to do is register for your student number and Student Identification Card (your passport to all those amazing student discounts). Once you’ve registered you’ll receive your class schedule. Once you have your schedule you’ll have to sign up for tutorials.

By now, if you don’t already have a great mobile or internet plan it’s time to get connected.

Next, you’ll need a bank account and possibly a student credit card. There are various banks that offer great student packages most with no monthly fees and various added bonuses. Take a look at some of your options below.  

Once your bank account is set up, you’ll need your Social Insurance Number (SIN). This nine-digit number will allow you to work in Canada as a student as well as give you access to various government programs and benefits. This is free and you will receive your letter on the day of application.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How is international student life in Canada?

International students in Canada can look forward to learning from world-class educators and facilities, fun activities, buzzing city life, and meeting people from all over the world. It is rated as the fourth most popular choice among foreign students, and the best part is by studying at Designated Learning Institution (DLI) you may have the chance to stay and work in Canada.

2. Can international students work in Canada?

As you may or may not know, foreign students can work in Canada for up to 20 hours per week, without a Canadian work visa. If you want to work more hours, you will need to apply for a work visa.

3. How much can international students earn in Canada?

On average, student can earn anywhere around $35,097 per year or $18 per hour.

4. Is Canada good for students?

Canada is a country with one of the highest qualities of life and the most educated adult population globally Canada. It also has a multicultural population and is known to be extremely tolerant of different cultures and religions, making it a great place for international students.

5. Do international students get free healthcare in Canada?

In order to get free basic healthcare in Canada as an international student, you will have to be enrolled in  a full-time study program which is at least one year in length or longer. It is however important to note that it can take up to three months to activate so its always advised that you take out your own healthcare cover before leaving for Canada.

6. Is dental care free in Canada for international students?

Unfortunately the government funded Medi Care Plan (MCP) does not cover dental work.

7. Is Canada expensive for international students?

Studying in Canada can be extremely affordable. On average, you would need around $20,000 to $30,000 to cover your tuition for the year. Your cost of living depends entirely on your life choices as well as the city your are located in. It is however, estimated that your monthly costs could be around C$2,730 per month.

8. Why Canada is best for international students?

Besides the obvious - being able to work part time, the world-class education, free healthcare  - Canada offers international graduates from Canadian institutions the opportunity to stay and work in Canada. Having at least one year of Canadian work experience could give you the chance to apply for permanent residence at a later stage.

Ready to Get Started?

With all these amazing offers available to you as an international student in Canada, and not to mention the stellar education and student life awaiting you, what are you waiting for? Find out if you’re eligible to start studying in Canada and uplift your education to new heights with a Canadian qualification. Apply today to experience amazing student life in Canada!    


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