The first year of living and studying abroad is definitely the hardest for international students. Not only are you living far from home, you need to deal with a lot of complicated paperwork and arrangements. And that’s before you even start your first class! Every situation is different but if you’re studying in Canada, there are some important things every international student needs to remember. Follow the 10 items on our university checklist below and you’ll be set up for an awesome first year of studies.
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10. Funds for Living Expenses
The first item on our university checklist is a place to live. Having accommodations secured before you land in Canada is essential. For one thing, you don’t want to be scrambling to find a place to live before or after your classes start. More importantly, border officers will often ask you about your accommodations and can turn you away if you don’t have a place to live. For this reason, it’s important you have your full accommodation information, including the address, when entering Canada.
You’ll also need to prove you have the financial means to support yourself while you study. International students living outside of Quebec must prove a minimum amount of $10,000 CAD for living expenses in each year of study (in Quebec the amount is $11,000). This is in addition to your tuition fees.
If you qualify for Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Student Direct Stream, you’ll be required to take out a $10,000 Guaranteed Investment Certificate (GIC). The advantage of a GIC is it proves your financial means. Visit Immigration Canada for more information on financial requirements.
9. Funds for Tuition
As mentioned above, you’ll need to prove you can pay for your living expenses in addition to tuition costs. While studying in Canada is more affordable compared to other countries, tuition will still set you back anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 a year. As for paying the tuition, you have a few options at your disposal.
If you’d like to make a payment outside of Canada, bank drafts or money orders (in Canadian dollars) are accepted by most universities and colleges. CIBC’s International Student Pay program is another great option, allowing students to pay their tuition in their home country’s currency. You can use the service yourself, or have a parent or agent pay on your behalf.
8. Winter Clothes
You’ve likely heard that Canada gets really cold in the winters and, well, it’s the truth! In Toronto, which is actually one of Canada’s warmer cities in the winter, the average temperature in January is about -5.5°C (22 °F) and it’s not uncommon to see the temperature drop to -20°C or more. A winter coat, boots, hats, and gloves are a must in order to stay warm.
If you live in southern British Columbia, you may be able to get away with not wearing winter clothes, as this region doesn’t get as cold as the rest of Canada. However, if you’re studying anywhere else, you’ll need to bundle up!
7. Canadian Bank Account
One of the first things you should do after you get settled into your new home in Canada is open a Canadian bank account. Doing so will help you manage your finances and make it easier to collect income if you end up working in Canada. The process may seem overwhelming, but it’s fairly easy to do. We recommend opening a no-fee chequing account. You may also want to find a bank that offers services in your native language if you’re still learning English or French.
For more information, check out our step-by-step guide to opening a student bank account in Canada.
When it comes to tech and gadgets, some will be much more useful to your education than others. The most important piece of technology you’ll want to secure is a smartphone. Whether you bring a phone from home or purchase one in Canada, you’ll need to use a Canadian mobile carrier during your stay. While Canadians pay some of the highest mobile fees in the world, there are many great deals available to students. We recommend shopping around and finding one that fits your budget.
Laptops are a great investment (and will make note-taking much easier) but they aren’t essential. If you’re bringing any electronics from home, you’ll want to make sure they are compatible with Canadian outlets and voltages. If not, you’ll need an adapter (or several depending on how many electronics you have).
5. Emergency Contact List
For many international students, studying abroad will be the first time they’ve lived away from home for a long period of time. And depending on where you’re from, you could be living far away from your family. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have a list of emergency contacts you can share with new friends and roommates if you have them. This list should include your parents or guardians, siblings, relatives, and anyone you know and trust who lives locally. Make sure you have both physical and digital copies (you may want to email it to yourself) to avoid losing it.
4. Government ID
When it comes to government ID, your passport isn’t the only proof of identity you’ll need as an international student. While your passport will let you travel internationally, it’s a good idea to bring every piece of official ID you can, such as a driver’s license and birth certificate. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six (6) months past your date of arrival and ideally for the duration of your study period.
All international students in Canada must have health insurance, so this item isn’t optional. In fact, universities and colleges will insist on it. While it may seem like an unnecessary cost, health insurance could save your finances (and your life) in the event of a medical emergency. The type of coverage varies by province, but the average yearly premium will cost between $600 and $900 CAD. For a more detailed breakdown of how health insurance for international students work, check out this great guide.
2. Medical Records and Prescriptions
Before you get insurance, you’ll need to make sure your medical records and prescriptions are in order. Depending on where you’re moving from, you may need to pass a medical exam before being allowed to enter Canada. Your school will outline which documents you’ll need to bring, including medical, dental, and vaccination records.
Making sure your vaccinations are up-to-date is also essential. If you have any prescriptions, you’ll want to ensure you have enough to cover you when you arrive in Canada. There is a chance your medication won’t be available in Canada. If this is the case, do your research and see what your options are when you arrive in Canada.
1. Acceptance Letter
The final item on our university checklist is the acceptance letter. Your acceptance letter is more than just your confirmation of enrolment at a Canadian school – it’s required to get your study permit. In order to attain your study permit, you’ll need to present your acceptance letter to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). In other words, you need a printed copy of your original acceptance letter. Don’t forget it!
For more information on study permits, check out our guide on the differences between a Student Visa and Study Permit.
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