Currently, the international student population in Canada stands at half a million. The rising popularity of Canada as a study abroad option for advanced education can be credited to various factors like a quality but affordable tuition, cities which are deemed safe, an option to work both during as well as after the study period and lastly the pathway to permanent Canadian residency make this country a favourite among international students. Having decided upon Canada, there are few decisions to be made regarding the accommodation, cost of living and working during the study period.
There are multiple accommodation choices available to students. It is advisable to conduct research regarding accommodation before going to Canada. It can be broadly divided into two categories- on campus or off-campus housing options. The on-campus choice generally referred to as ‘dorms’ is the ideal option for the first-year students as all amenities provided by the university are at close proximity. Secondly, living on the campus offers an opportunity for students to socialize and fraternize with other students studying in the same university through social events and gathering. The on-campus accommodation is usually facilitated through the University website.
Based on the University’s location sometimes ‘off-campus’ is a less expensive option. Living off-campus makes the student more independent and provides a better understanding of the local culture and flavour. Furthermore, there is always the option to get a roommate.
Homestay arrangement is another inexpensive option which can be explored through free online websites, or consulting relevant organization or contacting school student service’s office. Homestay advantage is it provides a family atmosphere, help the students integrate with the community and sometimes enhance the language skills.
Cost of Living
The expenses for a student can vary from $ 15,000 to $30,000 per year depending upon the location. Knowing the cost of living will help the student in creating a relevant budget and planning their finances. Opening a bank account, phone plan, public transportation pass and registration for student ID pass are facilities which usually student mentors or the staff of International Student Office assist the students in creating. Moreover, coverage of health insurance in the intended province of education is another mandatory requirement. This can be done through the school. The diverse cuisines is another aspect which students will enjoy exploring.
The Canadian study permit allows the student to work on or off campuses. An international student can work up to 20 hours per week off campus during ongoing academic sessions and work full-time during the breaks such as winter and summer holidays. This employment opportunity is useful in recovering some of the academic cost as well as building a robust professional network to be leveraged later when exploring career options. One of the conditions to be eligible for study permit would be to apply for Social Insurance Number (SIN). Application for SIN requires meeting of certain conditions printed on the study permit. However, if the study program includes work experiences as a part of the curriculum then the student needs to apply for co-op or intern work permit. Alternatively, students can work on the campus, but they need to ensure the company is affiliated to the university. Besides helping the students gain practical experience, working will help the student when they decide to immigrate to Canada.
Canadian culture is deeply influenced both by British and French culture. It provides a warm welcome to a diverse population and is considered as a melting pot of multiculturalism with 22% of the population having been born elsewhere. Canada reputation as a peaceful country makes it one of the safest country to live in. The most popular professional sport is the National Hockey League. Also, the culturally rich Canadian cities host multiple events like theatrical productions, musical performances besides the sporting events showcasing the diverse culture fostered by the Canadians.
However, students also face some challenges when they decide Canada as their destination of choice to pursue further studies. They can vary from the weather, homesickness, and finances.
Coming from a tropical country the cold weather of Canada is something which most students in India would have never experienced. It becomes a priority for the student to first research the weather of the city where the university is located. The warm clothes which the students are accustomed to in India are no match to the Canadian weather condition. It is important to invest in clothing appropriate to the season, especially during the winters. In case of slightest of discomfort like the extremities of the body turning blue, it is advisable to seek medical attention.
A sense of alienation or homesickness
After the initial excitement, a sense of homesickness does overwhelm students due to language barriers, and culture shock. Students need to integrate by getting involved in sports, recreational activities and join clubs which align to their interest. It is equally vital to stay connected with the family through various mediums and talk to them constantly which will create a sense of comfort.
Fiscal discipline is another important aspect which the student needs to cultivate. It is a necessity to plan a budget including the tuition fees and living expenses. The university provides a full list of fees which will help in planning the budget, and online tools are available which will facilitate the creation of budgets.
It is advisable for the student to seek help when they lack the know-how. The challenges may be an adjustment to a new way of teaching methodology, comprehending the food menu, or finding their way to various places in the city. Canadians are considered to be friendly and approachable also an office at the university provide a support system to international students.
In summary, life in Canada may come with few challenges but it will a wonderful experience too.