Why study in Canada as an international student?

Canada is a land of endless possibilities. Each year, nearly 500,000 international students choose Canada as their study destination. Why study in Canada as an international student? The reasons are as plentiful as our vast open spaces, as diverse as our people, and as abundant as the opportunities available to those who live, work and study here.

When you study in Canada, you invest in your future. After all, a Canadian education opens the door to employment and business opportunities, and life in Canada after your studies. Canada’s university degrees and college diplomas are recognized worldwide, yet our tuition fees are among the lowest in English speaking countries. Canada’s vibrant research community is also a big draw.

As an international student in Canada, you’ll enjoy all the same freedoms which protect Canadians – respect for human rights, equality and a stable, peaceful society.

Every successful venture starts with a plan. Before you come to Canada as an international student, gather all the information you can about preparing for your new life and making the most of it once you get here.

We’re here to help with some handy resources to get you started.

Before you decide on Canada as your study destination, you need answers to some important questions. Which colleges or universities should you consider? How much money do you need to study in Canada? Is your program offered in the city where you hope to study? Now is the time to gather crucial details on the programs that interest you, where they are located and what they cost.The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding study programs in Canada. Browse the sections below and use our search tool to find the right programs for you, including: architecture and design, business and marketing, dentistry, education, engineering, finance, information technology, law, mathematics, medicine, nursing, science, sustainable technologies.

Live and work in Canada as an international student

Are you ready for your Canadian adventure? As you consider a new life as a student in Canada, you have some research to do to answer your questions. You’ll find many of those answers here. Discover everything you need to know about living and working in Canada as an international student—from information on student life to travel, work, fun and planning your budget.

The 500,000 international students who come to Canada every year for college and university studies are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands more travel here to go to elementary or high school, to take part in exchange programs or attend language school. Canada is a great place to grow and thrive as a student.

Discover what Canadians do for fun and what other international students think about Canada. Learn from us and from real students about what it’s like to live, study and work in Canada.

International student life in Canada

A typical day in a Canadian classroom

If you become a student in Canada, what will your day look like? Much depends on the level at which you are studying. Select your desired level of study to see what a typical day can look like.

Elementary school

Your child will love the interactive and supportive classroom environment available to elementary (primary) students in Canada. From math to science, reading, languages, geography, history and beyond—our teachers excel at creating engaging lessons using the latest techniques. The technology is top notch with classrooms that provide interactive SMART boards, computers and tablets. School subjects go beyond the basics and often involve topics such as robotics, health sciences or 3D technology.

Children get plenty of time for physical activity in gym class and during their recess breaks. Throughout the year, they also participate in educational outings to museums, maple syrup farms, performing arts or theatre, and much more. Many schools offer extracurricular activities outside of regular school hours, including clubs, music, theatre and sports. There are also opportunities for children to showcase their talents at science fairs, music competitions, debates, spelling bees and other special events.

High school

High school life in Canada offers amazing opportunities for your child to learn, grow and be their best. High school is also referred to as secondary school. Our teachers are dedicated and driven to enhance every student’s learning experience. They bring their lessons alive with innovative approaches, technology and real-world opportunities. In addition to math, science, technology, languages, arts, geography, history and economics, students have access to a wide range of courses that may include robotics, aeronautics, pre-university math, international business, environmental studies and much more.

Many high schools offer specialized programs to prepare students for their future careers: entrepreneurship, engineering, law, international affairs, health sciences and outdoor education—just to name a few. There are co-operative education programs that provide valuable workplace experience. Some high schools also deliver International Baccalaureate® and gifted student programs.

Learning also takes place outside of the classroom—whether it’s a week spent attending university classes to discover higher education options, a visit to the science and technology museum, an overnight outdoor adventure excursion or a trip to Quebec City to experience French Canadian culture.

Student life is another important part of the high school experience in Canada. Every school has a wide range of sports and clubs available before, during and after school. These often include music, theatre, special interests (chess, math, gaming), team and individual sports, and student council. Your child will thrive by getting involved.

University or college (undergraduate)

Higher education in Canada encompasses college and university. Each offers unique opportunities for learning and growing. At college or vocational school your days will be filled with career-focused learning in a very practical way. In addition to attending classes, this might involve shooting and editing your own videos in broadcasting or working with patients if you want to be a dental hygienist. You might spend the day designing and constructing kitchen cabinets if woodworking is your career choice. In short, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to practice your skills in real work environments.

At university, your days will include lectures and labs, tutorials or workshops. This variety is what university life is all about, giving you a mix of learning and doing that will help prepare you for your future career. Your professors and instructors schedule office hours for students, so you can meet with them to discuss assignments or questions. Each class also has at least one teaching or lab assistant—usually a graduate student in your field who is also available to provide extra learning support to students.

Graduate or postgraduate (Master’s degree and PhD)

As a graduate student in a master’s, PhD or doctoral program in Canada, you will attend classes and spend much of your time doing original research or field work for your final research project, thesis or dissertation. You’ll thrive under the expert guidance of Canada’s renowned professors, researchers and instructors. You may also work on campus as a teaching, research or lab assistant.

At every level of higher education in Canada, student life is a huge part of your experience. College and university connect you with friends and colleagues who will remain valuable contacts throughout your career. You’ll likely enjoy a fun and active social life—whether it’s meeting friends for coffee, going out to pubs or clubs, experiencing your city outside of school hours, or travelling around Canada during your study breaks with friends.

Discover the many education institutions available in each province or territory

Want to study abroad in Canada and have a particular region in mind? Maybe you want to experience life on the West Coast with its majestic Rockies, or immerse yourself in French-Canadian culture in the heart of Quebec. Find out more about living and studying in each province or territory below:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prepare your budget to study in Canada

As an international student in Canada, it’s a good idea to establish a budget to plan for the cost of living and studying abroad. You’ll need to consider the study costs for international students in Canada from elementary to university, including tuition fees at your school of choice.

Our Search colleges and universities tool will lead you to information about college and university programs. You can search for programs at institutions across Canada and compare the cost of tuition. The tool provides cost of living estimates to guide you.

Living expenses in Canada

After you figure out the cost of going to school, it’s important to plan for the other expenses associated with living in Canada.

Your student budget

There’s more to your study costs than tuition. Don’t forget to set aside money for:

  • Books
  • Computer
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Fun
  • Clothing
  • Travel
  • Transportation
  • Health insurance
  • Travel insurance

Housing and accommodations

What type of housing will you live in as a student in Canada? Living in a residence on campus is something you can do at most Canadian universities. It’s a great way to make friends quickly, and it’s an appealing option when you are a first-year student. Many Canadian students also choose to live in residence their first year. One of them could be your roommate.

Other great reasons to live in residence:

  • Residence offers a safe way to settle into post-secondary studies in Canada.
  • It can be affordable since the cost of residence also includes food from the cafeteria.

Your university’s website will outline the cost of living in residence.

If you are attending a college or language school, it’s less likely there will be a residence on campus. In that case, you’ll have to search for off-campus housing. Living off campus might involve getting your own apartment or sharing one with friends.

How much should you plan to spend on your accommodations? It depends on the city and your living arrangements. We generally recommend setting aside 25% of your study in Canada budget for housing.

Food and groceries

When it comes to food, Canada offers variety. As a multicultural nation, Canada offers all the foods you love, so you can easily feel at home. Our large cities are home to people from all around the world. They offer everything from small specialty food stores to grocery stores with huge selections of international foods.

If you live on campus at your college or university, you can register for the meal plan, which gives you access to your college or university cafeteria for all your meals. If you live off campus, you will likely do your own cooking or share cooking duties with friends.

Build the cost of food and groceries into your study budget. You can easily investigate the costs online by looking at Canada’s major national grocery store chains. Shop around for the best prices. You can even download apps that will allow you to compare costs from store to store or find the best deals on food.

If you like to treat yourself to restaurant meals from time to time, plan to build those into your study budget.

Health insurance

Canada has no national healthcare plan. Instead, each province and territory provides universal health care to its citizens. This coverage is free and applies to all Canadian citizens. It includes the cost of doctors and hospitals, but not the cost for dentists, physiotherapists and other health providers.

As an international student, you need to determine whether your province or territory extends health insurance to you. In provinces where there is no coverage for international students, your school will have medical insurance plans for purchase.

Travel health insurance

Travel health insurance is different from basic health insurance. It will be useful if your time in Canada is short (less than one year) and you expect to live in different parts of Canada. This may apply to students planning to attend:

  • High school for only 9 or 10 months
  • Language school for 12 or 20 weeks
  • A summer camp language school
  • A co-op program or internship

Travel agents and the school where you are enrolled can provide details on travel health insurance.


It’s important to take time to relax. Be sure to include your “fun time” expenses in your budget. You may enjoy going to clubs to dance or seeing the latest movies at the cinema. Who knows? You may quickly become a hockey fan and want to attend games. Or your favourite entertainment may involve buying an X-box or PlayStation, so you can play video games.

How much money do you think you’ll spend on entertainment each month? You might want to include things like yoga classes or restaurant meals with friends when you plan your budget.


Set aside some money to cover your clothing budget in Canada. There are countless shopping options—from factory outlets where you can find great deals to shopping centres, boutiques, big box stores and more. Thrift stores and second-hand clothing stores are also very popular. They sell used clothing and shoes including winter coats and boots that will keep you warm without costing a lot of money.

Your clothing budget will depend on how much you like to shop and how much you feel you’ll need to buy for your time in Canada.


When you come to Canada, you will want to get around to see and experience life in your new country. Plan for your transportation costs by estimating how much money you’ll need for:

  • Public transit, like buses and subways
  • Bus or train tickets if you want to explore other cities in Canada
  • Plane tickets home to visit your family

You may want to get a local bus or subway pass to see and experience your new city or town. If you are a college or university student, check with your school to see if the cost of a transit pass is included in your tuition fees. You’ll find that many cities with public transit also offer special student rates.

Some international students choose to buy a car when they come to Canada. If this is something you want to do, plan for the cost of your car, automobile insurance, gasoline and parking in your budget.

Canadian cities and towns often feature beautiful bike paths in recreational areas and bike lanes on busy streets. This makes owning a bike a great and economical option to experience the city around you.

For elementary and high school students, school boards generally provide school buses to take elementary school students to and from school each day. In some cities, high school students use public transit to get to school.


When you make friends who are Canadian students, they may invite you to spend Thanksgiving or other holidays with their family. This could involve travel by bus or train.

At other times of the year, when you need a little getaway from your studies, why not experience the rest of Canada? Consider your travel plans when you budget for your studies. If you’re looking for inspiration, explore the Government of Canada’s travel website, Destination Canada.

The most important travel you will do while studying in Canada may be to your home country. How much does that cost? Make sure to include this in your yearly budget.

Work while studying in Canada

Do you want to work while you study in Canada? Do you have a spouse or common-law partner who would like to work during your time here? Both of you can work while you study in Canada. Working in Canada can help you develop business contacts and gain practical experience for the future. It can even help you immigrate to Canada after you graduate.

There are many ways to work in Canada while you complete your education:

  • On-campus work
  • Off-campus work
  • Co-op placements
  • Internships

Wages or salaries for work in Canada will depend on the skills required for your position and the employer. Minimum wage varies by province.

Explore careers in Canada

Most students who arrive in Canada for post-secondary education think that Canada is a great place to build a career. If you’re one of them, you’re right!

Explore a lifetime career path

Do you have questions about the types of careers available in Canada? Perhaps you’re wondering what sectors of the economy are strong or whether your Canadian experience will help you build a career in Canada.