How to Thrive as an International Student in Canada

By Tess Campbell Modified on August 31, 2021
Tags : Academics | Campus Life | Health and Wellness | Money | Travel

Being a student in a different country is exciting and scary. Check out this guide on how to succeed as an international student in Canada.


International students like you choose to study in Canada for its reputation of being inclusive, diverse, accepting, and having a great education system. You’ve made a brave decision to leave your home and study in an entirely new country. You’re probably wondering how you’re going to be able to survive and adapt to this new culture. But don’t worry! We want to help make your transition here as easy as possible.

Consider this your guide for how to prepare for life in Canada!

Preparing to come to Canada

With all your paperwork in order, the next step in your journey is to set up your life in Canada. Each school will have an International Student Support team or something similar to provide support and resources for international students. Many schools’ international student support teams, such as McGill University’s, will offer useful advice such as:

For more advice on what to pack, check out Carleton University’s checklist on What To Pack for Your New School and Country.

Finding accommodations

There are two common options for living in Canada while in school: on-campus and off-campus housing. Both have many benefits, but it depends on what is important to you that will help you decide.

On-campus housing is convenient for those who want to meet new people and be surrounded by a community of students. For more benefits of on-campus living, check out the University of Waterloo’s Hidden Perks of Living on Campus.

Off-campus housing is great if you’re looking to be more independent and get to know the city that you’ll be studying in. This option can also be more affordable depending on how close to campus you’ll be. If this is the option you’re interested in, then you should check out your school’s residence guide for trusted companies to rent from. Remember, some apartments may not provide furniture, so this will add extra expenses to your list.

For more information on how to decide which style of living you’d prefer, check out Western University’s article on Which Residence Style Suits You Best?

Don’t forget to keep in mind that you may be living with roommates in whichever style of residence you choose!

School life

Starting school in a new country may seem scary, but there are many support systems in place to help you succeed.

1. Your International Student Support team

Most schools will have an International Student Support team or a team dedicated to helping international students adjust and succeed in school. This support team typically helps international students connect with domestic students, join extracurricular clubs and activities, explore the campus and nearby destinations, and prepare you for classes. Take advantage of this team and ask any questions that you have about adjusting to life in Canada.

2. Participate in orientation

Your school’s orientation is dedicated to helping students adjust to post-secondary education. It will inform you of clubs and services that can help support you while at school. You will also meet other students who are in a similar situation to you.

3. Talk to your professors and classmates

Talk to your professors and teaching assistants! You may not be used to the class sizes and style of teaching. Meeting with a professor is one of the best things you can do to help yourself succeed. Go to their office hours and ask them questions about the course content that you can’t quite figure out, or just go to talk to them about campus.

If you aren’t comfortable talking to the professor, talk to the teaching assistant or a classmate. They will be closer in age to you and will understand exactly how you’re feeling. These connections you make in class can be great resources for studying and getting notes if you miss a class.

Social life

The best part about studying in Canada is all the friends you are going to make while here! Make sure to mix up your friend group by including domestic and other international students. It helps if you make a friend who is a local from the city that you’re studying in so that they can show you the best spots to eat, party, have fun, and study.

Here are some of the best ways to make friends:

  • Find a popular place on campus to do some work and sit at a table with other people
  • Join a club that interests you
  • Play an intramural sport that you like
  • Join your class Facebook group

Finding work

Depending on your study permit, you may be eligible to work in Canada. This can be a great option to make some extra money and explore your community. There are typically many jobs for students on campus or nearby in the community. Check out Concordia University’s article on how you can study and work in Canada.


It’s natural for you to feel homesick when you’re in a new country. It happens to everyone! Here are some tips to combat your homesickness:

  • Find a grocery store that sells common ingredients from your home country
  • Check out a restaurant that cooks meals that you loved at home
  • Get out and be active. Distract your mind.
  • Go out with friends
  • Join a club or sport

For more tips, check out the Top 5 Tips for Beating Homesickness.

Overall, your student life in Canada is what you make of it. Try new things, and don’t be scared to ask for help! We want you to have the best experience possible. Welcome to Canada!

Learn more about your school before arriving

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