Why Calgary is a premier destination for international students coming to Canada

Published: January 26, 2023

Calgary, the world’s third most livable city according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index 2022, is among the top destinations for international students looking to pursue education and immigration in Canada.

Here’s why.

Life as a post-secondary student in Calgary

As valued members of the Calgary community, international students will be able to experience the vibrant social life of Canada’s third-most diverse city. Home to residents who speak more than 120 different languages, international students will have 333 days of sunshine per year —more than any major Canadian city — to explore and interact with Calgary’s diverse population.

Calgary’s median age is also just under 38 years old, one of the lowest of all major Canadian cities. This means that young international students in Calgary should have little trouble making friends with whom they can experience life in this city together. From enjoying the Calgary Stampede to visiting the Rocky Mountains, Alberta’s largest city has many things to offer those looking for a fun student life on top of a world-class education.

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

However, education and entertainment are only part of the story for international students. They will also need to sustain themselves financially. To this end, Canadian international students will temporarily be able to work full-time hours during the school year, thanks to a policy change that took effect in November 2022.

Eligible students can now work full-time even outside of scheduled school breaks, earning money to support themselves financially and gaining Canadian work experience.

Note that this temporary policy will remain effective until December 31, 2023. Typically, international students are able to work 20 hours per week off campus during their studies, and full-time during scheduled breaks.

Studying in Calgary

Calgary’s post-secondary education system includes over 60 Designated Learning Institutions (DLIs), according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). DLIs are key to the international student experience because foreign nationals must obtain an acceptance letter from a DLI before seeking a Canadian study permit.

One of Calgary’s DLIs is the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). SAIT is unique for being one of just 15 Calgary-based DLIs to offer programs that make international students eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), which is vital to supporting the common goal of SAIT graduates to pursue permanent residence if desired.

At SAIT, students are offered programs through eight different academic schools, which prepare them for careers in many key employment sectors, including Energy, Digital Technology, Business, Construction, Health and Public Safety, Hospitality and Tourism, Manufacturing and Automation, and Transportation.

As an international student, you can apply to a variety of our baccalaureate and applied degrees, diploma and certificate programs. Our programs are designed to give you the skills and confidence you need to be successful in your career.

Book an Appointment with a Future Student Advisor!

Calgary: Life after graduation

After graduating from a Calgary-based DLI such as SAIT, international students can also look forward to a flourishing future in the city of over 1.6 million residents.

As alluded to above, SAIT is one of just a few Calgary DLIs that offers PGWP-eligible programs. Post-Graduation Work Permits enable DLI graduates to work in Canada for up to three years and accumulate Canadian work experience. Many federal and provincial permanent residence programs reward candidates who possess Canadian study and work experience. In other words, SAIT plays a major role in supporting the Canadian immigration ambitions of its students.

For example, in October 2022, SAIT held a first-of-its-kind ceremony for 35 school alumni who received permanent residence in Canada. At this ceremony, students were joined by school faculty and provincial dignitaries — including Calgary’s Mayor Joyti Gondek and Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides — to commemorate this marquee milestone.

This is a large part of why Alberta is so successful with international student retention, and Calgary is a big part of that success. In fact, according to Conference Board of Canada data, Alberta retains the second-highest percentage of international students among all provinces and territories after three years. Alberta is also the second most popular destination province among international students who moved away from their initial province of study within the same timeframe.

At SAIT we have a team of professional and dedicated regional advisors. Do you need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

Alberta and Calgary specifically retain many international students because of the city’s reasonable living costs and competitive wages.

Specifically, Calgary provides residents with a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour, which is higher than both Montreal and Toronto (and only 20 cents less than Vancouver). Calgary also offers the lowest average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment ($1000) and sales tax (5%) among these four major Canadian cities (see graphic below).

Add to this the fact that Calgary is home to the fastest tech workforce growth in North America, meaning that Calgary is quickly becoming a premier Canadian tech and innovation hub. This makes it easy to see why Brad Parry, the President and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, believes that Calgary has a bright future ahead “as a growing tech city where bright minds and big ideas come together to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges.”

Ultimately, this makes Calgary an increasingly popular and viable destination for international students looking for the perfect Canadian city to begin their path to a successful and prosperous future in this country.

Need support or have questions about applying to SAIT? Contact a regional Recruitment Advisor for more information!

Photo Credit: Calgary Central Library

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