Five things to do in your first week as an international student in Canada

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: December 10, 2023

Coming to Canada as an international student is a big step for many people and this article will outline a few of the key steps that a newcomer pursuing their education must take in their first week in this country.

Many international students come to this country with the intention of staying in Canada long-term. This journey often includes completing their education, establishing a career, laying down roots, and building a future here. For that reason, it is important to look forward as an international student and ensure that you maintain sight of your long-term goals so you can take the appropriate steps along the way to set yourself up for success.

However, an often-undervalued part of the international student journey is the early foundational steps taken by incoming foreign nationals to set themselves up for success in both the near and distant future.

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In other words, there are certain steps that international students can take, including within their first days in Canada, that will go a long way toward ensuring that they are successful as an international student in this country. The list below presents five of those initial steps to success.

Note: The following list is presented in no specific order

1. Register at your college/university

Registering yourself as a student means confirming your enrollment at the institution where you will spend the next few years obtaining the education that will set you up for long-term success. While most international students will likely have formally confirmed their registration before arriving in Canada, some aspects of the enrolment process can only be finished in person.

As part of this process, international students will receive their student identification (ID) card, which is key due to the access it provides when looking to use institution facilities such as the library or renting equipment from the school, among other things.

As an added benefit of obtaining your student ID, many stores and experiences provide discounts to Canadian post-secondary students, who use their university/college ID as proof of eligibility for these offers. This means that registering at your educational institution as soon as possible can help you save money almost immediately upon your arrival in Canada.

Learn more about being a Canadian international student here.

2. Figure out/finalize your housing situation

International students are often given priority when an institution allocates on-campus housing spots to its students, although cost and other considerations such as proximity to family members and friends may mean international students opt for off-campus housing instead.

Under either circumstance, it is crucial for international students to quickly finalize their accommodations in Canada. This is because having a place to stay in Canada while pursuing your education will help establish comfort and stability as a student, allowing you to put more focus and energy into your education.

Many Canadian universities and colleges offer housing support for international students, including a housing portal and other resources. In addition to these supports, international students can also look for rental properties through social media such as Facebook marketplace or online classified through platforms like Kijiji.

Click here to learn more about international student accommodation in Canada.

3. Open a bank account

Opening a bank account will allow international students to manage their daily spending and bill payments after arriving in Canada. In addition, bank accounts are necessary for Canadian international students who have work authorization included with their study permit.

Canada has a variety of banks with offices and branches in most Canadian cities, as well as credit unions and international banks. Many Canadian banks also have specific offers for international students.

Our dedicated webpage will provide a deep dive into the process of opening a bank account in Canada.

4. Obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN)

A SIN, similar to a Canadian bank account, is necessary for any international student* who wants to work in Canada while they pursue their education. This number can be obtained at the Service Canada location closest to you in your city of residence.

Note: A SIN can be obtained using your study permit and international passport, and this confidential number is what will allow you to get paid by your employer.

*Canada typically allows international students to work 20 hours per week during the school year and 40 hours per week during designated school breaks and holidays

Learn more about getting a job in Canada as an international student here.

5. Get a cellphone/phone number

To stay connected to friends and family, both locally and internationally, international students must prioritize getting a cell phone with a Canadian number. Canada has many cellphone providers who offer a range of plans and devices at varying price points depending on an individual’s needs.

Whether you need unlimited calling minutes, Canada-wide texting or 20 gigabytes of data per month, one of Canada’s cellular service providers is sure to have the plan that is right for you. The range of device and plan options makes it crucial to explore all available options before committing to a particular carrier or plan. Many Canadian cellphone providers also have international calling add-ons that can be attached to their standard phone plans.

Note: Telecom companies in this country typically require consumers seeking a post-paid phone plan to have an established Canadian credit score. However, some providers will provide international students with a post-paid plan if they have a good enough international credit score (which they will check at the point of sale). If this is not an option, students may opt for pre-paid plans and build their credit score until they are eligible for post-paid plans.

Visit this dedicated webpage to learn more about getting a cellphone in Canada.

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