Studying in Canada offers a multicultural destination with an array of academic fields, endless outdoor activities and stunning scenic vistas. Discover a valuable international research experience that will look great on your resume while you explore Canada's spectacular landscapes and friendly cultural milieu. While in Canada, you'll have access to the world's best outdoor activities, like downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice hockey or curling.



Languages Spoken:

English, French

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

As Canada is officially a bilingual, multicultural country with two major cultural traditions, two systems of higher education have developed. One was originally patterned on the early French system with most institutions under the direction of Roman Catholic orders. In the other system, instruction is given in English, and the institutions are controlled by a variety of groups: government, religious denominations, and private, non-denominational bodies. A small third group of institutions offers instruction in both French and English.

Under the Canadian Constitution, the provinces are generally responsible for education, except for federally sponsored schools for Indian and Inuit students. The federal government also assists provincial financing of primary education and provides grants for research projects in institutions of higher education. Provincial autonomy has resulted in the development of distinctive educational systems in each province. There are, however, certain similarities.

The Canadian system of higher education appears to be a mix of the U.S. and British systems. The bachelor's degree from a Canadian university is usually awarded after three or four years of study, depending on the level of high school completed at time of admission. "Honours" bachelor's degrees, which are more specialized than the general "pass" degrees, require an additional year of study.

LEARNING STYLE AND ASSESSMENT

The Canadian education system is marked by progressive evaluation. That means that your final grade is not based solely on one major exam or paper at the end of the semester, but on an accumulation of grades for periodic (usually smaller) assignments given throughout the semester in combination with one or two larger assignments given halfway through the semester or at the very end. This system also allows you to track your own academic progress throughout the semester. However, you must complete all the assignments (not just the final exam) to achieve a high grade in the end. Consult your course syllabus, which your professor will provide on the first day of class, to determine what percentage each assignment is worth.

Professors present core material during class in the format of lectures or discussions and attendance is mandatory. All students should be present and punctual for class, as their attendance record may actually affect their final grade. Furthermore, Canadian students are expected to take an active role in their own learning: this includes taking notes on the lecture material, joining in the discussion or asking questions during class, making appointments to meet with professors outside class if additional help is needed for any of the material, etc. Your level of participation in class shows evidence you have done the outside reading or assignments, and may therefore also affect your final grade.

TERMINOLOGY

In many countries the academic term beginning in January is termed as the Spring semester, while Canadians refer to it as Winter term.

COURSE LOAD, CREDITS AND CONTACT HOURS

A full load for a typical Canadian student is five courses per term, although if exchange students wish to take only four courses per term, it is sometimes permitted. Each of these courses generally equates to a three credit course in the U.S. system. Meanwhile, European students will receive 24-30 ECTS for the four to five courses they take in Canada; depending on the home university, it is sometimes possible for visiting European students to receive 30 ECTS for taking four Canadian courses.

Some Canadian courses are two terms long and therefore worth double the credit-weight of a semester course. Students may take a combination of one-term and two-term courses which balance out to five courses per term. Exchange students staying in Canada only one semester are not eligible to enroll in the two-term courses.

GRADES

A (100 – 80%)
B (79 – 70 %)
C (69 – 60%)
D (59 – 50%)
F (49 – 40%)

If a Canadian letter grade is at the higher or lower end of its corresponding percentage range, it may be specified with a "+" or "-"; for example, a percentage of 80 – 84 % is probably considered an A-.

Visa and Residency

STUDENT VISA/RESIDENCE PERMIT

All visiting students traveling to Canada are required to have a passport.


Semester Students (or any student studying in Canada for less than six months)

Students planning on studying in Canada less than six months are not required to obtain a Study Permit, however they may be required to apply for a temporary resident visa (check the list of countries whose citizens need a visa). You may want to consider applying for a Study Permit before coming to Canada if you think you may wish to extend your studies beyond six months or if you intend to seek part-time on-campus employment at the host university. If you do not have a valid Study Permit and wish to continue your studies beyond six months, you will have to leave Canada in order to apply for a Study Permit.


Full Year Students (or any student studying in Canada for longer than six months)

All visiting students planning on studying in Canada for more than six months must obtain a Study Permit and in some instances a temporary resident visa (check the list of countries whose citizens need a visa). You must complete the course or program within the period authorized for your stay in Canada.

You may complete and submit your study permit application online. Using Citizen and Immigration Canada’s online services is quick and easy. The system guides and assists you while you complete your application, thus reducing errors that can cause additional processing delays. Applying online saves you time and money since there is no cost to mail your forms and documents. This application is for people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada and who wish to study temporarily in Canada. A study permit is issued if the application is accepted.

Visit the Study in Canada page of the Citizen and Immigration Canada website for further information.

Basic documents typically required for the Study Permit may include:

  • Application form for the Study Permit
  • Valid passport. (A U.S. driver's license is not acceptable)
  • Two passport-size photos with your name and date of birth written on the back of each photo
  • Processing fee of Canadian $150, payable in cash, money order or certified check in either currency; be sure to check in advance whether the border office at your intended port of entry will accept U.S. or Canadian dollars or money orders (personal checks are not accepted)
  • Original letter of acceptance issued in advance by your Canadian ISEP host institution, which should also preferably include an official statement of the fees (tuition, room and board) to be provided in the exchange
  • ISEP certification letter, verifying that your tuition, room and board is covered through the ISEP agreement
  • Notarized letter showing proof of sufficient funds and return passage

Note: ISEP advises that you apply in advance (preferably four months before the exchange period) for a Study Permit in order to study at a Canadian institution. A personal interview at the embassy or consulate may be required, and applicants under 18 must be accompanied to the interview by their parents. It is also possible that a medical exam and police clearance certificate may be required. The Study Permit is usually valid for one year. Do not let your Study Permit expire; allow at least three weeks for renewal of the document.

Additional information:
Application processing times
Applying online
Fees

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Being a Foreigner in Canada

At first, you might be tempted to cling to other international students, especially those from your own country. While it is comforting to depend on these people as friends, you will limit your experience of getting to know authentic Canadian culture. Try to make a sincere effort to meet and get to know the locals.

Some foreign students find that although Canadians are very friendly, it can sometimes be difficult to truly befriend them. Canadians are very independent, and don’t tend to rely on family and friends in the same way that people from other cultures might. Furthermore, Canadians value privacy. For instance, upon first meeting you, Canadians may prefer to make small talk, discussing non-personal, safe conversation topics like classes or the weather. Some international students find small talk to be trivial and insincere, but this doesn’t mean Canadians are not interested in making new friends. Rather, they simply may not feel comfortable discussing more personal subjects until they know you better. Don’t be discouraged! In conversation, show an interest in Canadian sports (especially hockey), politics, social issues or the local arts or music scene. Better yet, get involved in a club, join a study group, volunteer or join a sports team. It may take some time and effort at first, but you will find that people are generally friendly, fair and accepting.

Multiculturalism

As opposed to the "melting pot" imagery used to describe the U.S., Canada heralds itself as a "mosaic," where diversity is embraced and celebrated. Thus, it’s not always easy to define what a "typical" Canadian is like. Originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples (today often called First Nations), and later populated by both the French and the British, Canada has a long heritage as a unique combination of cultures, and one not without its social tension and conflicts. Racial discrimination against First Nations people* and a rivalry between Anglophones and Francophones has not always boded well for national unity. Today, however, the country takes in some of the highest numbers of immigrants in the world (including many refugees) and around 40% of Canadians identify themselves as being from an origin other than French or British (for example, Chinese Canadian or Indo-Canadian). Vibrant multiculturalism has become a defining trait of Canadian culture, and a point of national pride. In fact, Canada was the first nation to institute a federal department of multiculturalism, and has earned the distinction from the United Nations as being the most multicultural country. Both English and French are official languages, although French is spoken primarily in Quebec.

*Canada continues to seek reconciliation with and restore land and civil rights to First Nations people. Be aware that the term "Indian" is considered offensive. Use "First Nations," "Native" or "Aboriginal" peoples instead; use "Inuit" instead of "Eskimo," and "bands" or "nations" instead of "tribes."

Social Values

As in any country, there is a spectrum of views in Canada that range from conservative to liberal, yet somehow the two ends of the spectrum seem less divergent (and perhaps less divisive) than is sometimes found in other countries. Perhaps this is one reason for the stereotype that Canadians are so ‘peaceable,’ compromising and accommodating. Canadians hold dearly to values of individual freedom and social tolerance, egalitarianism, courtesy and peacefulness. They are proud of their many government-sponsored programs, including universal medicare, unemployment insurance and old-age security. They grant benefits to those in common-law relationships and same-sex marriages, and marijuana is legal for medical purposes.

Landscape and sports

Canadians take great pride in the scenic beauty of their country, and love spending time in the outdoors. As the second largest country in the world, Canada’s landscape includes everything from mountains to pristine lakes (over two million), and from rolling plains to glaciers. Not surprisingly, winter sports are huge, ice hockey and skiing being two of the most popular (although more Canadians enjoy hockey as a spectator sport rather than play it themselves). Other outdoors activities such as hiking, canoeing and fishing are also popular.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

Being a Foreigner in Canada

At first, you might be tempted to cling to other international students, especially those from your own country. While it is comforting to depend on these people as friends, you will limit your experience of getting to know authentic Canadian culture. Try to make a sincere effort to meet and get to know the locals.

Some foreign students find that although Canadians are very friendly, it can sometimes be difficult to truly befriend them. Canadians are very independent, and don’t tend to rely on family and friends in the same way that people from other cultures might. Furthermore, Canadians value privacy. For instance, upon first meeting you, Canadians may prefer to make small talk, discussing non-personal, safe conversation topics like classes or the weather. Some international students find small talk to be trivial and insincere, but this doesn’t mean Canadians are not interested in making new friends. Rather, they simply may not feel comfortable discussing more personal subjects until they know you better. Don’t be discouraged! In conversation, show an interest in Canadian sports (especially hockey), politics, social issues or the local arts or music scene. Better yet, get involved in a club, join a study group, volunteer or join a sports team. It may take some time and effort at first, but you will find that people are generally friendly, fair and accepting.

Multiculturalism

As opposed to the "melting pot" imagery used to describe the U.S., Canada heralds itself as a "mosaic," where diversity is embraced and celebrated. Thus, it’s not always easy to define what a "typical" Canadian is like. Originally inhabited by Aboriginal peoples (today often called First Nations), and later populated by both the French and the British, Canada has a long heritage as a unique combination of cultures, and one not without its social tension and conflicts. Racial discrimination against First Nations people* and a rivalry between Anglophones and Francophones has not always boded well for national unity. Today, however, the country takes in some of the highest numbers of immigrants in the world (including many refugees) and around 40% of Canadians identify themselves as being from an origin other than French or British (for example, Chinese Canadian or Indo-Canadian). Vibrant multiculturalism has become a defining trait of Canadian culture, and a point of national pride. In fact, Canada was the first nation to institute a federal department of multiculturalism, and has earned the distinction from the United Nations as being the most multicultural country. Both English and French are official languages, although French is spoken primarily in Quebec.

*Canada continues to seek reconciliation with and restore land and civil rights to First Nations people. Be aware that the term "Indian" is considered offensive. Use "First Nations," "Native" or "Aboriginal" peoples instead; use "Inuit" instead of "Eskimo," and "bands" or "nations" instead of "tribes."

Social Values

As in any country, there is a spectrum of views in Canada that range from conservative to liberal, yet somehow the two ends of the spectrum seem less divergent (and perhaps less divisive) than is sometimes found in other countries. Perhaps this is one reason for the stereotype that Canadians are so ‘peaceable,’ compromising and accommodating. Canadians hold dearly to values of individual freedom and social tolerance, egalitarianism, courtesy and peacefulness. They are proud of their many government-sponsored programs, including universal medicare, unemployment insurance and old-age security. They grant benefits to those in common-law relationships and same-sex marriages, and marijuana is legal for medical purposes.

Landscape and sports

Canadians take great pride in the scenic beauty of their country, and love spending time in the outdoors. As the second largest country in the world, Canada’s landscape includes everything from mountains to pristine lakes (over two million), and from rolling plains to glaciers. Not surprisingly, winter sports are huge, ice hockey and skiing being two of the most popular (although more Canadians enjoy hockey as a spectator sport rather than play it themselves). Other outdoors activities such as hiking, canoeing and fishing are also popular.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency, Credit Cards and Travelers Checks

Canadian currency is based on dollars and cents. You are urged to use Canadian currency at all times so as to avoid exchange problems. It is also economically advantageous to do so. All major credit cards are accepted in Canada.

If you travel to more rural and remote areas, be prepared to have cash on hand.

Banks and ATMs

Many major banks in Canada will allow you to set up an account for the time that you are there. You may wish to contact your host institution for a list of banks on campus and in the surrounding area. Some do have fees attached to the accounts or minimum balances, while others do not.

The hours of each bank branch vary by city and location, but can usually be found on the bank’s website. In general though, banking hours are usually:
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday
10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., Friday
Many banks are also open 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Saturday

ATM usage in Canada is very high. There is a safe and widespread network of ATMs where you may be able to use your bank card to withdraw money directly from your account at home, but the fees involved can be more than for credit cards.

Discounts

Look into purchasing an ISIC card from STA travel. You can often get you discounts on travel (for example, ferry tickets), movie tickets and more.

Sources of Information

LINKS

Canadian history

Government of Canada

National Atlas of Canada Online

Travel Information about Canada

BIBLIOGRAPHY

*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com Web site for content and purchasing information.

Guides

Lonely Planet Canada

Frommer's Canada

Canada (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

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