Canadian schools will help international schools find appropriate accommodation. The first contact should be with the website of the institution at which you are studying, or the international student’s office of the university or college.
There are many options when it comes to accommodation for students, here are the five main types.
Types of Accommodation
Student Dormitories and Townhouses
Many schools provide access to on-campus accommodation and options nearby. The dormitory is a large building that will house many students, with shared bathrooms, entertainment areas, plus cooking and exercise areas.
Dormitories generally sleep more than one student per room, are managed by the school and are the recommended choice for first-year students.
Townhouses normally house three to six students, each with a separate bedroom, and include all the facilities found in a home including living areas, kitchen, and bathroom. The townhouse is usually for second-year students and onwards plus graduate students.
You will find that student accommodation of each style is close to amenities such as shops and cafes, and usually on or near campus. Utilities such as heat, water, and internet may be included in the package.
Off-Campus Shared Accommodation
Much like the townhouse, an off-campus shared apartment or condominium will allow the student their own bedroom with shared living space, kitchen and bathrooms. One or more other students will share the space.
This type of accommodation is often privately owned and not managed by the school. The school will put you in touch with agents who offer such properties, and you can also search online for the accommodation of this type. It is strongly advised that students check the going rate for rental, which can be expensive in the large cities.
Homestay Host Family
Staying with a host family has its advantages, especially where international students are involved. The homestay option will provide you with a private bedroom and will serve meals one to three times a day with shared mealtimes. A shared living space will be provided.
The main advantage of the host family option is that it provides you with an introduction to Canadian living and culture, and they will be able to help you get to know the town or city in which you have chosen to study.
You should factor in 30 to 50 minutes commuting time by public transport with this option, and you may find that some host families offer a room-only deal whereby you sort your own meals.
Students are free to search for an apartment using the usual sources such as Craigslist, Airbnb, HouseTrip, and Wimdu, each of which lists privately owned apartments for rent. Check reviews from previous tenants as these can be informative, and bear in mind the apartment will usually be furnished. Unfurnished is also an option but not a popular choice with students in a foreign country. Factor in the commute time as above.
Advice for International Students Looking for Accommodation
As soon as you receive a Letter of Acceptance you should start researching accommodation options. The school may send you a welcome package that includes advice on this. Also, use the school website, and other resources, to research what is available, what it will cost, and how to go about securing accommodation in advance.
Make sure you have accommodation sorted at least 8 weeks prior to arrival as the best options become scarce the later you leave it.
On-campus students may sign up for a school’s Meal Plan deal, a cost-effective method of ensuring you have regular meals at participating cafes and restaurants. This is paid in advance for added peace of mind.
Be certain whether your utilities – water, electricity, internet – are included or otherwise before committing to accommodation. If not, ensure they are sorted in advance of your arrival.
Should you have particular accessibility requirements the school may be able to offer you accommodation to suit. Talk to them in advance to find out what is available and allow them to make arrangements.
Making the Move
Give yourself a few weeks prior to term beginning to get used to your new surroundings and familiarise yourself with the city or town you are living in. In summer, many students will be on break until school resumes in September so it may be quieter than expected.
Lease and Deposits
You will be asked to sign a lease – usually of around 6 months – and possibly pay a deposit equivalent to a month’s rent and associated utilities.
Some Additional Tips
- Do ask the school for help in finding accommodation as they will have people in place for this purpose
- Beware of scams; you are a foreigner entering a new country and a potential target. Don’t pay money up front unless you are absolutely certain everything is above board and genuine.
- Discover in advance whether the school expects you to use an agency or find accommodation yourself, or if they run such a service.
- Remember that if you are referred or offered accommodation by the school you are not obliged to take it. Many students prefer to source their own living space.
- Check out the areas you might want to live in for suitability, safety and ease of access, and make sure you find somewhere you are happy to live while studying in Canada.