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Ten common myths about studying in Canada


Whenever a student or family is deciding on where to study abroad, plenty of questions arise – including many of which that go well beyond the basics of simple academics.

The Canadian University Application Centre (CUAC) knows all about these questions, and have had years of practice in answering them for prospective students.

Here’s a look at some of the most common misconceptions that new international students have about studying in Canada.

1. All of Canada is cold and covered in snow


Although Canada is well known for its Winter Wonderland status, climates and yearly weather changes vary greatly across the country. Meaning that not everywhere gets covered in snow! So if you’re a little wary of the cold, no problem! Victoria, British Columbia (home of the University of Victoria) boasts some of the mildest winter weather in North America – with warm, pleasant summers, and largely snow-free winters (roughly one -third of Victoria winters will see virtually no snow at all!). Alternatively, the University of Windsor, located in Southern Ontario, has one of the warmest mean annual temperatures – boasting hot summers and the nation’s warmest fall.

On the other hand, if you’re excited to experience a stereotypical winter, then Canada can certainly provide that! The University of Winnipeg, for example, located in the central province of Manitoba, boasts one of the snowiest city experiences around – along with all the winter sports and activities you can imagine! Or, if you’re hoping for a seaside locale, consider looking into St Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia – and prepare to watch the snow drift down over the open ocean.

2. Toronto and Vancouver are the only places in Canada worth going to


Although Toronto and Vancouver are certainly two of Canada’s most populous cities, they are far from being its only major destinations. Especially for students.

To get an idea of some of Canada’s other top university cities, be sure to check out the city of Guelph (home to the University of Guelph and consistently rated as one of the country’s top 10 places to live); Victoria (once known as the City of Gardens, Victoria consistently attracts millions of visitors each year); Windsor (located literally minutes away from the US border city of Detroit, Michigan, Windsor provides access to some of biggest industry opportunities around); and Halifax (a true student city, boasting more than five different universities and colleges with thousands of international students from around the world). When it comes to the overall student experience, any of these cities give Toronto and Vancouver a serious run for their money!

3. It’s almost impossible to get a Canadian student visa


Definitely not true! The Canadian University Application Centre (www.canada123.org) has years of experience helping international students from around the world obtain visas for studying at our Canadian universities. Even in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh (known for dodgy student agents and visa delays), the CUAC has a well-earned reputation with the Canadian visa offices. The CUAC helps students through the application process, and worldwide, the visa success rate is well over 90 per cent. Visit the CUAC website to find out more about how it can help.

4. Some Canadian universities are way better than others


Higher education in Canada is unique in the sense that, across the country, virtually all universities are publicly funded, and are therefore all required to meet high standards of quality. So although some programs may be more regarded than others when it comes to international profile, no matter which Canadian university you choose, you’re still guaranteed a top quality experience.

5. I have to speak French to study in Canada


Indeed, Canada has two official languages – English and French. But with the exception of some universities in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, the truth is that the only language you actually need to know to study (and get around) in Canada is English. And even then, for those students who need some polishing on their English skills, a number of CUAC member universities offer special ESL (English as a Second Language) programs, providing students the opportunity to brush up before starting their main studies.

It is also worth pointing out that although English and French are the two official languages, according to Statistics Canada, one out of every six Canadians has a mother tongue other than English or French. In some places, even street signs appear in as many as three languages, as do some of our favourite TV programs – for example, CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada is now offered in Punjabi! Which just goes to show you what a multicultural bunch we “Canucks” (slang for Canadians) truly are.

6. It would take me years to qualify for Canadian residency or citizenship – if ever


Also not true! Especially for international students, it has never been easier to become a Canadian resident and/or citizen. As the Canadian government is anxious to attract skilled and capable young people to work and live in Canada, new laws and regulations mean that work permits, residency, and citizenship are now a simple step (and virtually guaranteed) once a student graduates in Canada. For many international students, Permanent Residency (PR) is typically obtained a year after graduation three years after that.

7. Canadian cities are boring compared to those in the UK or the US


Canadian cities are full of things to do and see! Besides its many museums, theatres and historical monuments, Canada is well known for its variety of entertainment options (Halifax, for example, has a thriving pub and live music scene, and acts throughout the country have produced some of the world’s most famous comedians – ever heard of Jim Carrey or Mike Myers?!). Vibrant ethnic districts provide fascinating looks into other cultures (for proof, be sure to check out Victoria’s China Town, or Winnipeg’s Little Italy), and for those interested in trying out (or perfecting) any outdoor sports – there’s no better place to be! Canadians love their outdoors, so no matter what activity you’d like to try, you’re bound to find an opportunity.

Alternatively, for those looking for a smaller city experience, Canada also offers top-quality universities in some less populated areas. Algoma University, for example, is located in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, and is known for its friendly campus and extreme hospitality. Also, smaller cities are generally easier to get around in, while living expenses are cheaper than those offered by larger metropolises.

8. Studying as an international student is unaffordable


Although international tuition fees are rarely the cheapest option, when compared to other popular, top-quality study destinations such as the US or the UK, Canadian institutions generally weigh in at a fraction of the cost.

For example, why spend almost $57,000 US (all academic and living costs included) to study computer science for a year at the University of Southern California, when you can do the same undergraduate course at the highly regarded University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, for less than $25,000 US (again, all academic and living costs included)? Or, for those considering a degree in business, compare these yearly program and living costs: $39,837 US at Ohio State University versus $20,045 at Saint Mary’s University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Even for those pursuing Master’s degrees, costs are similarly low.

9. Since I can work during my studies in Canada,
then I should be able to pay for my entire school tuition through working


The great news is that, at Canadian universities, international students legally qualify for paid work positions, both on and off campus, during their studies. The thing to realize, however, is that although this work can help to keep costs down, it is not realistic for any student to plan to cover their entire tuition fees by working during their studies. On average, students can work up to 20 hours per week during their studies, with full-time options available during holiday periods. For those looking for some extra cash and/or some great job experience, this is a brilliant opportunity! Just remember to be realistic when you budget.

10. Canada can’t be as safe as it sounds


For years, Canada has prided itself on its reputation as a safe country. And that reputation has never been so well deserved. According to Statistics Canada, crime rate dropped nationwide by five per cent between 2009 and 2010, and the overall crime rate is the lowest the country has seen in nearly 40 years! It may sound too good to be true, but as the numbers prove, Canada really is one of the world’s safest countries to live in – and getting even safer every year!
– ARWEN KIDD

ARWEN KIDD currently serves as Communications Director for the Canadian University Application Centre and its parent organization, Higher-Edge. A Canadian university graduate herself, Arwen has spent most of the past five years working and travelling overseas. Among her credits are various documentary film and photo journalism projects in Eastern Europe, Australia and West Africa. Arwen is currently based in Liberia.

Posted: Jan 3, 2012

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