Settling in Canada: A Survival Guide for International Students
The decision to study abroad is high up in life’s most important decisions list. This journey to a foreign land is exciting but can also be overwhelming. As much as you may try to plan for everything, some situations are just not predictable.
In addition to obtaining the right documents, the process of getting established in Canada also involves adapting to new social and cultural environments.
Canada has many accommodation options for students. It is advisable to search for available places before arriving in Canada.
There are two categories of housing, off-campus housing, and on-campus housing. You should know the ins and outs of each category before choosing where you prefer to stay.
On-campus housing refers to ‘dorms’ or student residence. One of the benefits of a student residence is that most amenities will be available close to you. Another is that you get to connect and socialize with fellow students through social gatherings and on-campus events.
On the other hand, ‘off-campus’ housing can be more affordable depending on location. Additionally, by choosing an ‘off-campus’ residence, you will be more independent which will allow you to get immersed in your specific city’s local culture. The availability of roommates from online sources ensures that living ‘off-campus’ is not a solitary experience unless you want it that way.
There is also a homestay arrangement, which is another ‘off-campus’ option. The advantage of a homestay is that it is usually inexpensive and gives you a family touch. Homestays are available via online websites, organizations or a student’s service office homestay program.
A Canadian study permit enables you to work off or on–campus while studying. International students are able to work full-time during study breaks and 20 hours a week throughout the academic session. The study breaks include the summer holidays, spring break and the winter season. This working opportunity allows study permit holders to network in the local labor market and cover living costs.
If you are a study permit holder, it is advisable to apply to get a SIN (Social Insurance Number), which will give you access to government program sources and many other benefits.
The following conditions must be in your study permit:
- May accept ‘on-campus’ employment at the institution in which you are registered for full-time studies
- May accept ‘off-campus’ employment where eligibility criteria (RI86 (f), (v) or (IV)) is met. Must cease working if the criterion is no longer met.
The above conditions can be added to your study permit for free if you meet the working criteria but don’t have the conditions printed on your permit.
If part of the curriculum for your study program includes work experience, you will require an intern or co-op work permit. You can submit your co-op work simultaneously with your study permit, before the start of the placement.
Cost of living
Canada’s provinces provide international students with options for higher education in colleges, university, research institute or technical institute. Having knowledge about each province’s cost of living will assist you to budget and plan your study/work schedule. The financial capacity to cover tuition and living cost is a precondition for anyone looking to get a study permit.
After you arrive, the first thing that is advisable to do is set up a phone plan, public transportation pass, bank account and enlist for a student ID. Most of Canada’s academic institutions have an international student office or a welcome center for students.
Remember to have a health insurance in the province where you will reside.
Adjustment plus planning ahead
If going to study in Canada will be your first time in a foreign country, try to adjust slowly to the new environment. This is because trying to figure out everything at once may lead to a culture shock. The following are the phases of a culture shock;
- The honeymoon
- The frustration
- The adjustment
- The acceptance
Below are ways you can utilize to triumph over culture shock:
Get involved in your studies/work through a similar transition as you get connected with friends and share experiences.
Plan ahead if you plan to live in Canada permanently. This can be by connecting with professionals, visualizing your career and enhancing language skills.