Living in Canada – Postgraduate Guide
Written by Mark Bennett
Canada is a popular destination for postgraduate study, with a welcoming attitude to international students and a generous approach to post-study work opportunities.
So, what's it like to live in Canada during a Masters degree? Our guide covers essential information on accommodation, living costs and other important aspects of student life.
Elsewhere you can read our guide to postgraduate study in Canada, find out about Canadian Masters fees and funding, or take a look at Canadian university rankings.
What's it like to study abroad in Canada?
Canada’s unique wildlife and spectacular landscapes are some of the greatest attractions for those who decide to study and live there; the country's forests, animals, protected areas and water are well known around the world.
Its nature credentials are numerous: more than 71,500 known species of plants and wild animals; 20% of the world’s remaining wilderness; 10% of the world’s forests; 25% of the world's wetlands and the longest coastline in the world. Canada can also offer dynamic cities, ski resorts, cultural centres, leisure activities and a wide range of cuisines.
The climate in Canada is not as one-dimensional as you might think. It's not always cold and it's not always covered in snow! Canada is a huge country and therefore climatic conditions vary greatly from one end of the country to the other. Most of Canada’s population lives within 200 miles of the southern border. There, you’ll experience four distinct seasons.
As in many countries, accommodation options for Masters students in Canada include halls of residence (or dormitories) and off-campus privately-rented accommodation.
Dormitories are a popular choice for students in Canada. Situated on, or near campuses, halls offer private or twin rooms and communal facilities, such as kitchen, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Students can also choose full-board with their meals provided in the university cafeteria.
Universities will often publish lists of private accommodation (flats, rooms or lodgings) and these will be available through the accommodation office. This is not an endorsement and you are recommended to visit the accommodation before signing a lease. During your search, which you should start as soon as possible, you should consider price, quality and availability. Prices range widely according to size and location. You can expect to pay between CAD $400 and $800 (USD $325-$645) per month to rent a room in a shared house, or between CAD $900 and $3,000 (USD $725-$2,425) per month to rent an apartment (but you can reduce this cost by sharing with other students).
It is likely you will have to pay at least a month’s rent in advance and another month’s rent as a deposit. Leases will normally be for a year but make sure you do have a lease, as it will be the legal contract between the landlord and you. In most cases, the landlord’s responsibility is to keep the building and the facility in good order while you’ll be required to look after the premises.
Universities will often provide legal advice for students opting to live off-campus. This service is generally free or offered at a reduced rate, so if you need someone to look over an agreement with a landlord, make sure you use the help available.
Canada is considered a mid-range country in terms of living costs, but some things, like car insurance, can be fairly expensive compared to other countries. However it is easy to eat well and take part in leisure activities without breaking the bank, unless you want to live in luxury.
Universities Canada, an organisation representing universities in Canada, estimates that international students should budget CAD $20,000-30,000 per year (USD $15,300-22,950) for tuition fees and living costs.
Public transport in Canada will cost around CAD $80-150 per month (USD $60-120), while a typical food budget will be CAD $200-462.50 per month (USD $155-355)
Learn more about studying in Canada
Looking for more information about Masters study in Canada? Our detailed guide covers everything from universities and courses to fees, funding and applications.
Working while studying
Consistent with Canada's employability agenda, international students who hold a study permit are allowed to work during their studies. Spouses can also apply for a work permit. If you're working on campus, you don't need an additional work permit but you must follow the conditions of your study permit.
For off-campus work, you require a work permit, which usually stipulates that you are studying full-time and work no more than 20 hours per week during term (employment hours during holiday periods are unrestricted).
Job opportunities are usually available in hospitality and tourism-related roles (language proficiency in French could be particularly useful in some provinces) and your university may also be able to advise you on local employment opportunities.
By now you should be well prepared for an exciting study abroad experience on a Masters in Canada. Of course, there's more to living overseas than finding accommodation and budgeting for living costs.
As a Masters student there is no obligation to open a bank account (unless you're undertaking paid work on or off campus). Having access to a local branch is more convenient.
International students can apply for a bank account as non-residents. It may be useful to ask your bank back home if they are part of a network of banking corporations that has branches in Canada. This might help when opening a new bank account or when transferring funds, even before you move to Canada. There is a fee to have a bank account, generally around CAN $5 (USD $4) each month. Bills can be paid by cheque, but you should set up direct debits for regular payments such as rent.
In Canada, each province is responsible for its own healthcare system and hospital care provision. International students can purchase medical insurance from their universities (most of them will arrange healthcare cover on behalf of providers). Although you don’t have to choose one offered through your university, having Canadian healthcare cover will be a condition of your study permit.
Search for a Masters in Canada
Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Canada on FindAMasters.com
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