Studying In Canada

When you think of Canada, you probably think of its picture postcard beauty – wide-open spaces, dramatic mountains, pristine forests and majestic lakes. What might not come to mind, however, is that Canada is a modern, progressive, open and tolerant multi-cultural society with 2 official languages – English and French.

Living in Canada is similar in many respects to living in other Western countries, however there are some aspects of daily life that are unique to our nation. This section of the website will give you a overview as well as some helpful tips to know before you arrive to study in Canada.

Canadian universities consistently rank among the best in the world, while Canada is continually rated one of the best countries in the world in which to live. Students studying in Canada invariably return home academically strong, with fond memories of their student years.

As many students will attest in this guide, Canada offers a wonderful cross-cultural experience, able to assist you with second-language development and to foster a solid network of international connections to last a lifetime.

Known for tolerance and our welcoming nature, Canada is characterized by a vibrant, inclusive culture that draws strength from the many immigrant groups that have made our country their home. We thank you for choosing Canada, and welcome the contribution you will make during your time with us.

Canada is most famous for its natural beauty. To many in other countries, the word “Canada” evokes images of wide-open spaces, dramatic mountains, pristine forests and majestic lakes.

Canada is also known as a modern, progressive nation with open-minded citizens. We are a multicultural society with two official languages, English and French, and are proud of our ethnic diversity.

Canadians are widely regarded as friendly, polite, well-educated, interesting and healthy. We enjoy a very high standard of living—Canada has consistently ranked among the top 10 countries in the United Nations Quality of Life Index since 2004.

Canada occupies the northern half of the North American continent, with a landmass of 9,093,507 km2, making it the second-largest country in the world after Russia. Bordered by the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, we have the longest coastline of any country. To the north, the Arctic islands come within 800 kilometres of the North Pole. To the south, we share an 8,893-kilometre land border—the longest in the world—with the United States. Most of the population live within a few hundred kilometres of the southern border, in a long band that stretches between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Distinctive features include our vast mountain ranges: the Torngats, Appalachians and Laurentians in the east; the Rocky, Coastal and Mackenzie ranges in the west; and Mount St. Elias and the Pelly Mountains in the north. At 5,959 metres, Mount Logan in the Yukon is Canada’s tallest peak.

Canada has more than two million lakes, covering about 7.6 percent of the country. In total, Canada has almost 900,000 km2 of fresh water. Many large lakes traverse the Canada-U.S. border, but the main Canadian lakes are Huron, Superior, Great Slave, Winnipeg, Erie, Ontario and Great Bear. The St. Lawrence River (3,058 km long) is Canada’s most important river, providing a seaway for ships from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

Canada has two official languages, English and French. In 2011, approximately 5.8 million Canadians reported being able to conduct a conversation in both of Canada’s official languages, making up about 17.5 percent of the Canadian population. All federal government institutions and many businesses offer bilingual services.

Chinese dialects are the third most common native language in Canada, followed by Panjabi (Punjabi), Spanish, Arabic and Tagalog. The most common Aboriginal languages are Cree, Inuktitut and Innu/Montagnais.

Canada has four very distinct seasons: spring (March-May); summer (June-August); fall (September-October); and winter (November-February).

While temperatures in the far north climb above 0°C only a few months of the year, most Canadians live within 300 kilometres of the country’s southern border, where warm springs, hot summers and pleasantly crisp autumns prevail for at least seven months before winter sets in.

For average seasonal temperatures and detailed weather information by city, visit the Government of Canada’s Weather website.

 Winter survival tips

The following tips will help you prepare for the winter months [1]:

  • Listen regularly to weather forecasts on the radio or check the Internet to avoid being caught in a blizzard or other active weather system.
  • Winter clothing is not a luxury. You will need it to stay warm and enjoy your time here. Invest in a good winter jacket, gloves, a warm hat, a scarf and boots.
  • Dress in layers so that you can adjust to the variable temperatures inside and outside.
  • Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast; you’ll stay warmer outside if your body has fuel to burn.
  • Prevent dehydration in cold weather or from dry indoor heat by drinking water regularly and using a moisturiser on your skin and lips.
  • Wear sunglasses and sunscreen on clear days as sunlight reflecting off snow can be very intense.
  • Remember there is a wind chill factor. High winds blowing on a cold day lower the temperature further, so -20°C with a wind of 16 km/hr can feel like -25°C.
  • Beware of frostbite. Ears, fingers, toes or cheeks exposed to very cold temperatures for just a short period of time can become frostbitten. Should any part of your body feel numb or become pale or slightly blue, seek medical assistance immediately.

Note on home heating in Winter: Individual homes and some apartment tenants pay for the heat they use, whether it is gas, oil or electricity powered. Verify if heating costs are included in a rental unit, or whether you are responsible for your own bill. Pay heating bills on time to avoid having the service shut off.

4.3 Communications

Canada has a comprehensive and modern communications network with first-class infrastructure that offers easy access to a wide variety of technology.

Making international calls from Canada

To call or fax an international number from Canada, you will need to dial:

011 + Country Code + Area Code + Local Number

International calling cards offer reduced rates and can be purchased from most convenience stores.

Internet services

Internet service is readily available at all academic institutions and you will get a free college or university email account once you begin your studies. Internet cafés are also common, particularly in metropolitan centres, and they offer reasonable rates.

Consider bringing your wireless-enabled laptop to Canada as most colleges and universities offer wireless Internet on campus.

You can get high-speed Internet installed at your home or apartment through a telephone company; a monthly fee will apply.

If you are staying in Canada for less than three months, you can use a valid driver’s licence issued by your country. If you are staying longer than three months, you must obtain an international driver’s licence (IDL) from your country of residence. An IDL is a special licence that allows motorists to drive internationally when accompanied by a valid driver’s licence from their country of residence. You must have this licence when you arrive in Canada; you cannot apply for one once you are here.

Learner’s permits, probationary licences and temporary licences cannot be converted to a Canadian equivalent. Contact the Ministry of Transportation in the province or territory in which you will be living to find out whether you will have the right to drive.

Car rentals are available. Generally, the minimum age to rent is 21 and you must hold a valid driver’s licence. Drivers between 21 and 25 years of age may have to pay a surcharge.

Road rules and driving tips

  • Throughout Canada and the United States all traffic drives on the right side of the road.
  • Seat belts for drivers and all passengers must be worn in the front and back of the vehicle, and infants/toddlers must be strapped into a safety seat.
  • Speed limits in city areas are usually 40 to 60 kilometres per hour (km/h), except in the vicinity of schools where it is reduced to 30 km/h. Where no limit is posted, the maximum is 50 km/h.
  • Speed limits for rural driving vary, depending on the province/territory, and are set according to local conditions. Generally, speeds are between 90 and 100 km/h. Always check the speed signs when crossing into a neighbouring province/territory.
  • Pedestrian crosswalks are often marked with overhanging yellow signs and an X or white horizontal lines are painted on the road surface. Pedestrians have the right of way and cars must stop to allow crossing.
  • Turning right on a red light is permissible at an intersection in every province/territory except for the Island of Montréal in Quebec. Before making a turn, bring the car to a complete stop and make sure that there are no signs forbidding a right turn.
  • If a police officer signals you to stop, remain seated, switch off the engine and await instructions from the approaching officer.
  • Always carry your licence and vehicle documentation.
  • In case of an accident involving personal injury, the police must be notified immediately. They will file an accident report. It is a crime to leave the scene of an accident involving injury without first giving details to the police.
  • If your vehicle breaks down, roadside assistance is available. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) will assist members of some international auto clubs. Check with your local auto club for details on coverage when driving in Canada. If driving a rental car, assistance information may be found in the glove compartment.
  • Ensure that your vehicle is properly equipped for winter driving. It is mandatory in some parts of Canada to have winter tires fitted by a certain deadline.

Residence/dormitory

Many post-secondary institutions have accommodation conveniently located on or near campus. Dorms generally have a shared kitchen, bathroom, and laundry facilities. Some offer optional meal plans where you can pay a set price up-front for two or three meal tickets per day.

If staying for just one semester, choosing a residence can be easier than finding your own private, off-campus housing.

For a longer period, you could choose residence for your first semester and then make alternative long-term arrangements as you become more acquainted with your area.

Staying in residence is the preferred option for a majority of Canadian students in their first and second years of study. Many international students also find it allows them to make friends and find study partners more easily, saves on transport to campus, and generally enables a smoother social transition.

Private accommodation

Check with the housing office or student union office on campus for a current list of rental units nearby. These private accommodations are not inspected by the institutions, therefore it is your responsibility to contact the landlord, inspect the premises and determine suitability for your needs.

Price, quality and availability will vary greatly. Rent can be especially high in some cities. Expect to pay from C$400-$1500 per month, depending on the city, the neighbourhood, and whether there are co-tenants. Landlords typically collect one month’s rent up-front as a damage deposit, which is returned to when you move out if no damages are incurred.

Private rentals require a signed lease, which is a legal document stating your responsibilities as a tenant, such as paying rent on time, keeping premises clean, repairing any damages caused by you or your guests, and not disturbing other tenants.

Landlords may add various rules and conditions to the lease. Read the document carefully before signing and ask for a copy.

The landlord also has responsibilities, such as keeping the premises in good repair. In emergency situations, the landlord may enter your dwelling unannounced; otherwise advance notice must be given with a reason for the request. If the landlord needs you to vacate the premises, 60 days advance notice is required. If you refuse to move, the landlord can go to court and obtain an eviction notice.

If you experience trouble with your landlord, free or affordable legal assistance may be available through your Canadian educational institution.

It is your responsibility to arrange accommodation. For more information, please contact the housing or residence office at your institution.

Entertainment and media

Like all large metropolitan areas around the world, Canadian cities offer a range of entertainment options. No matter where you plan to live in Canada, you will find many activities to suit your personal tastes. The following is a list of entertainment suggestions and the relevant contact information.

Cinema

Canadian movie theatres are typically large and modern, featuring stadium-style seating. Given the close proximity to the United States, Canada tends to receive new movies immediately following their release dates. A standard adult admission costs approximately CAD 13, though most theatres offer reduced prices on designated nights and student rates are generally available if you show your student card.

Repertory cinemas are often older, smaller venues that show second-run movies at discount prices.

Theatre

Most Canadian cities have wonderful theatres showing a range of musicals and theatrical performances. Broadway shows, such as Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia! circulate through the larger cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal. Tickets for such productions can be quite expensive.

Major cities usually have a very active amateur theatre community. For those who enjoy drama, theatre is an excellent way to get involved in the local scene and meet new people. Shows are often advertised in local newspapers and tickets for the productions are reasonably priced. Contact your local playgroup or theatre for more information.

More information on major events
  • Ticketmaster

Television and radio

There are a number of television and radio stations in Canada catering to a variety of tastes.

The major Canadian TV networks in English:

  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Canadian Television
  • Global Television

Canada’s major Francophone TV networks are:

  • Radio Canada
  • TVA (Quebec, French only)
  • TFO (Ontario)
  • TV5 (French only)

Newspapers

Newspapers, particularly their entertainment sections, are a great way to find out what is going on in a city.

Canada’s two national daily papers:

  • The Globe and Mail
  • The National Post

Leading French language newspapers in Canada are:

  • Le Devoir (French only)
  • La Presse (French only)
  • Le Droit (French only)

Visit the Canadian Newspapers Association web site to see a list of daily newspapers in the cities that interest you.

You can buy newspapers at convenience stores and other retail locations, as well as from boxes on streets and campuses.

Alternative newspapers offer a unique perspective on local happenings, featuring classified ads, inexpensive things to see and do, and stories relevant to young people. Look for these publications in the Canadian city where you will live.

Sports and recreation

Canadians love playing and watching sports. Popular sports include hockey, cross-country and alpine skiing, snowboarding, swimming, baseball, tennis, basketball, golf, soccer and curling.