When I decided to study in Canada and leave the U.S. for a while to take part in the International Student Exchange Program (ASSE), I did not think that I would come across major troubles, because the two countries are similar in terms of educational system and culture. One of my educational agents reassured me when she wrote me an email saying that I would not need additional help, because I would fit in seamlessly.
Well, she was right for many parts, but the entire experience has taught me many things that should be noted by other international students who come here. Given my journey as a future architect was mostly smooth during my time at the University of Toronto, I feel obligated to share my knowledge with others to make their journeys excellent as well.
Let’s go, future students (always wanted to say that!)
Before we begin, let me just say that Canadians are one of the most welcoming people in the world, so you won’t have any problem with that. You can get all the information you need by asking, so don’t be afraid – go ahead and ask.
Location and Accommodation
Toronto and other big cities in Canada are pricey (For example, Notable calculated comfortable living in Toronto at $2,570 but we will plan for a little bit less, we’re students). I found that the places closer to the university are more expensive, so you can find an apartment in another area to keep the monthly rent down. Just make sure that it has a good connectivity to the university (public transportation, such as buses, are the most widely used option).
To decrease the rent costs even a little bit more, I highly recommend sharing the apartment with a friend. You won’t believe how rapidly your expenses will go down if you can split your rent in half. Always remember that the saved money can be spent on other things, such as internet, transportation, food, and a Canadian sim card. I lived with two friends and paid only $300 in rent, so you should do the same!
If you need to find a job to cover some costs, you might have a little bit of a problem, because many international students in Canada work in ill-matched positions. Take me as an example: I studied architecture, so where would I go find work as an architect while still studying, right? So don’t be frustrated if the job does not match your skill and experience, it is a common thing.
Also, the Canadian job application process might be a little bit complicated, because some employers are hesitant to hire international students because of local regulations. I highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the Canadian labor market and workplace practices before you even begin the job hunting process. Be patient when looking for a job!
However, when you do find a good job, do your best to keep it because it will help you to earn at least $1200 (part time). This is enough to cover rent, transportation, food, internet, and many other costs. Don’t forget to submit everything your professors ask, too! My friends and I occasionally used assignment help to get everything done and organized on time.
Connection With Locals
Canada does not have many services in place that help international students to integrate with the natives, so don’t expect to feel like a local even after several months. That’s why a recent survey by the Canadian Bureau for International Education found that 56% of international students do not count locals among their friends.
The good thing is, however, the people around are friendly and helpful, so if you have some question about the local supermarket, a bad neighborhood, or the best time to commute, just ask politely.
The language barrier falls into this category as well. Although for me it wasn’t a challenge, some international students may not be as proficient in English or French, so I recommend studying the language as much as you can before your arrival. To be completely honest, I don’t speak French fluently, but if your English is good you’ll be just fine.
I often heard from my international friends how much they missed their families, dogs, favorite places, and other things. Well, be prepared my dear friends, because homesickness, difficulties adjusting to the new academic culture, feelings of not belonging, cultural barriers, and financial limitations can make it really difficult. Just keep the big picture in focus and continue on.
My recommendation for you is to go study with someone you know, so you will always have a friend to support you during the period of cultural shock. Eventually, this feeling will pass and you will realize that student years are indeed the best years in life.
The Bottom Line
Studying in Canada has been a great experience for me, so it should be the same for you as well. I was glad to provide you with the tips I have, so use them and have a blast!