From rugged landscapes and snowy mountains to sea-salted coasts and buzzing metropolitan cities, Canada is a country like no other. Canada's rich diversity, geography, and culture make the "polite nation" a great option for a study abroad program.
Canadian Universities are focused on academic research and higher-level education while Canadian Colleges traditionally specialize in learning technical and vocational skills in a variety of hands-on industries. This system of universities and colleges allows students to pursue their passions -- and study with the aid of world-class faculty and facilities.
Since the country is so large, choosing where to study abroad in Canada is not an easy task. The location you choose plays a significant role in shaping the experience you have abroad. Having said that, there are a number of larger cities and smaller student-centered towns that can offer students a great overall experience while studying abroad in Canada!
Where to Go
As the largest city in Canada and one of the largest cities in North America, Toronto offers study abroad students an immersive experience into Canadian culture. The city has a thriving and diverse mix of neighborhoods, restaurants, attractions, and sports teams.
Toronto (and the Greater Toronto Area or "GTA") is home to a vast number of universities and colleges to choose from. Most notably, the University of Toronto is the largest in Canada by student size and ranked among the top universities in the world. OCAD University, or the Ontario College of Art and Design, on the other hand, is a highly-ranked school for the arts.
Nestled between the flat landscape of the prairies and the towering mountains, Calgary is a younger city with booming industries and a western “cowboy” culture. Since Calgary sits at the base of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, study abroad students have access to exploring pristine Canadian landscapes like Banff National Park and Jasper National Park just a day trip away.
As for studying abroad in Calgary, the University of Calgary is an excellent option, as is the smaller Mount Royal University. The city itself is situated on a river and offers students many green spaces where they can unwind from their studies.
As one of the only truly bilingual cities in Canada, Montreal offers study abroad students the opportunity to study in French as well as English. Montreal is home to the highly ranked McGill University with its main campus located in the heart of downtown. The Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) are good options for those wanting to study in a French-speaking institution.
There are also language learning institutions in the city dedicated to creating a supportive learning atmosphere for students acquiring both French and English skills.
Montreal has a historic old town, a buzzing nightlife, and a flair for international cuisine. There is also plenty of green space -- including Mont Royal, the mountain from which the city is named -- where students can go to relax, jog, or hike.
Located on Canada's west coast, Vancouver is a dynamic and active coastal city with the Rocky Mountains a quick hike or drive away. This unique geography allows study abroad students to discover the outdoors through a number of trails and adventures close by.
As for studying, the University of British Columbia is a top-ranked school with excellent research facilities and a beautiful coastal campus. Simon Fraser University, on the other hand, is situated at the top of a mountain in Burnaby, a city which is located just east of downtown Vancouver.
Planning Your Trip
When planning to study abroad in Canada, there are a few details to consider before you hop on the plane to begin your time abroad.
How to Choose a Study Abroad Program in Canada
When choosing a study abroad program in Canada, definitely consider which city or town you want to have as your base. You also need to think about what you want to study while abroad. Some universities and colleges only offer specialized programs through certain faculties. This can narrow down your choices if you have a specific area of study you want to stick to while in Canada.
Housing options during your study abroad experience in Canada depend greatly on where you choose to study. Sometimes -- but not always -- schools have residences or off-campus housing available for students from abroad. If you are expected to find your own accommodation, you should begin your house hunt from your home country.
Facebook groups for the university or college town you are staying in are a great place to start looking for accommodation during your time abroad. Other sites, like Kijiji, act as a general listing site where you can find suitable rentals in cities and towns across Canada. The popular university towns where many students already reside will certainly have options for housing, but start your search early to avoid disappointment and added stress.
Whether or not you need a visa -- called a study permit -- to study abroad in Canada depends on the length of your program. Any program length under 6 months does not require a permit for study. However, if a program exceeds 6 months -- in the case of a year-long exchange or program -- you will have to apply for the proper permit through the Government of Canada. You can learn more at the Government of Canada website for studying abroad.
Social Life & Student Culture
Many institutions in Canada have a thriving student life and defined student culture. Study abroad students in Canada often find that their school of choice is rich in school spirit and rooted in history and tradition. From student wellness and athletic centers to common areas like libraries and campus pubs, campuses across Canada become hubs of activity where international students can meet students from many different backgrounds.
Life in student towns or cities can make for a fun and memorable study abroad experience. Typically, shops, restaurants, bars, and events are tailored to serving students. This means that you can find student deals on food or even off-campus events designed to help international students integrate with their new surroundings!
Health & Safety
In general, Canada is a very safe country to study in. Canada is ethnically quite diverse, especially in urban centers, and politically very stable. Levels of crime are low in many places but, as with anyone traveling to an unfamiliar place, students studying abroad should take normal precautions. Petty crime, like pickpocketing, can happen anywhere.
If you plan on doing any adventure activities or heading out into the wilderness, be sure to have the proper gear, watch for larger animals, and plan your routes based on your experience. It is always a good idea -- and sometimes mandatory -- to purchase travel/health insurance before leaving on any study abroad experience. Canada has a top-tier healthcare system so you can be confident that in the case of an accident or illness, you will be well taken care of.
Costs & Funding
Studying abroad in Canada can be an expensive endeavor even if it is for just a few months. There are, however, ways to help you pay for your studies in Canada.
Typical Program Cost
Generally, fees for international students are more expensive than for Canadian students. Program costs vary depending on the school you are studying at, the program or faculty you are in, and the length of the program. A typical semester aboard at a university in Vancouver can cost over 15,000 USD while a whole year in a top business program in Ontario can cost over 34,000 USD.
That said, an advantage to studying abroad in Canada is that the Canadian Dollar is generally a weaker currency than the US Dollar. This means that not only are the fees generally less expensive than in the United States, but the US Dollar goes further when exchanged into Canadian Dollars.
It is always a good idea to check with your home country’s government to see if there is funding available for students wanting to study in other countries. There may be funding available for specific programs of study or for specific countries.
If you are coming to Canada to study for over 6 months, your study permit may allow you to work on or off-campus during your studies. You will need to be sure that you meet a number of other conditions, however.
For international students looking to study in Canada, there are scholarships available through Global Affairs Canada -- a branch of the Government of Canada. You can check for available scholarships here. It also never hurts to check with your home university and websites like Scholarships Portal for available scholarships or bursaries.