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Each year, more than one hundred thousand foreign students arrive in Canada to pursue their academic studies to gain a competitive advantage amongst their peers, learn a new language, experience a new culture and earn accreditations from a Canadian school. The summer months are especially busy as foreign students arrive and settle across Canada. According to a report published in August 2013 by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the majority of foreign students settled in Ontario (43.3%), British Columbia (25.4%) followed by Quebec (16%) because these provinces have the three largest Canadian cities, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, respectively. The report also indicated the bulk of foreign students arrived from China, India and South Korea as outlined in the graph.

Since many foreign students arrive during the summer months, this article is written to assist them in preparing for their studies abroad. Below are five preparation tips for foreign students studying in Canada. These tips were compiled based on more than 15 years experience working with international students. The list can also be used for Canadian students studying abroad by substituting Canada for their adoptive countries. With adequate planning, foreign students can ease the transition and reduce stress and anxiety associated with living in a new country and studying in a foreign language.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued 970 study permits to foreign students from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

  1. Knowledge Is Key
  • Enroll in an English language program to reduce the language barriers and anxiety. Learning a few key phrases will also be useful in emergency situations.
  •  Acquaint yourself with the city by reading travel books and websites, and talking to friends or family members who have lived or studied in that city. Familiarize yourself with the laws and customs of Canada because foreign students are subjected to our laws.
  •  Prior to arriving, organize your living arrangements by consulting with your school, a homestay company, family and friends or your legal guardian. Consider all options and decide which is the best choice for you. If possible, ask a trusted source to check out the local transportation system, distance to your school and safety of the neighbourhood.
  •  When living with a homestay family or sharing accommodations with classmates or friends, have an open dialogue about the rules, expectations, chore schedule, meals and curfew.
  •  Bring two original documents of your report card. If the document is translated, it is recommended to have it certified by an official translator.
  1. Safety First
  • Although Canada is one of the safest countries to live and study, it is recommended to exercise caution at all times. When possible, especially in the evenings, travel in groups or with a buddy. When travelling alone at night, tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
  • Stay alert of your surroundings and do not talk to strangers.
  •  To avoid having your valuables such as expensive jewelry, high-valued electronics or important memorabilia being lost or stolen, leave them at home!
  •  When carrying your passport, keep it hidden and safely secured. Keep an electronic copy in your email account of your identification and important documents such as passport, airplane tickets, health insurance cards, driver’s license, student ID, etc.
  •  Locate your closest Embassy or Consulate and keep their contact information in your wallet.
  •  Foreign students under the age of 18 are required to appoint a legal guardian who will oversee their well-being while studying in Canada. The legal guardian must be a Canadian citizen and over the age of 18. If the student does not know someone whom they can appoint, there are organizations that offer this type of service.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many Canadian financial institutions waive service fees for foreign students 18 years and younger.

  1. Money Matters
  • Research if your bank has local branches throughout Canada. Banking with the same institution may expedite the transfer of funds and possibly reduce bank service charges. It is also recommended to inquire about the service charges applied on withdrawals from your debit account and credit card purchases from your home country.
  • Immediately after settling, it is important to visit a financial institution to set up an account and deposit your cash. To avoid carrying large sums of cash, apply for a debit card and order cheques.
  • Ask your financial institution about the process and account information needed to wire funds from a foreign bank to your account. Transferring funds between countries may take between seven to fourteen business days so ensure you have sufficient funds until your money arrives.
  • To avoid overspending or rapidly depleting your funds, it is imperative to create a monthly budget and abide by it! Below is a sample budget to plan essential and non-essential monthly expenses.
  1. Your Health is Your Wealth!
  •  Visit your physician, dentist and any other health professionals to ensure optimal health and to prevent emergencies abroad. Regardless of the foreign student’s health, obtain medical records of your immunization, medical condition, and if applicable, your eye glass prescription.
  •  If a medical condition pre-exists, inform your school, guardian, homestay, and anyone who comes in regular contact with you about your medical condition. The medical records should also be passed along to your new physician in Canada.
  •  Develop an emergency action plan appointing someone as the contact person in the event of a medical emergency.
  •  Purchase medical insurance as soon as you arrive in Canada because it can be costly to be treated in a Canadian hospital. Prior to purchasing medical insurance, speak to your school to see if medical insurance is included in your tuition.
  •  Always travel with a basic health kit that includes antidiarrheal medication, alcohol based hand gel, Band-Aids, thermometer, topical antibiotics and an ample supply of prescriptions taken regularly.
  •  Ensure all prescription medications are admissible or available in Canada. If the medication is not admissible or available, consult with the physician for alternatives.
  1. Packing
  • Consult with the airline company for the size and weight restrictions and the number of checked luggage allowed. If these limits are exceeded, this may result in paying a substantial surcharge.
  • Attach an identification tag with your contact information on all pieces of luggage and also include this information inside the luggage.
  • Pack two smaller suitcases rather than one large one, and equally divide clothing and other essentials so if one piece is lost, the second one may still be accessible.
  • Invest in a converter and an adapter with different types of plugs because your electronic devices may require different voltage and sockets.
  • Pack accordingly by familiarizing yourself with Canada’s weather, the region where you are staying and keep into consideration the change in season. Pack clothes that you can layer and remember to bring comfortable walking shoes.
  • Since foreign students are often transient, it is recommended to not over pack or buy too many items while studying abroad. They will need to transport these items each time they travel or move.