As a new international student in Canada, there are top 10 activities you must engage in order to be well settled in to the Canadian system. Some students have been lucky to have friends or family in Canada who can help them through the settling in process. Other students have had to navigate through the settling in process themselves. This post summarizes 10 top things you must do during your first month in Canada. Ensuring that these things are done will make your stay in Canada less stressful and fun :).
1. Find Your accommodation And Know Your Address: Most international students upon arrival in Canada may stay in hotels or with family and friends until they can move into their student residence or they find an apartment. It is very challenging for international students to find accommodation before they arrive in Canada. Therefore, it is a lot easier for students to apply for on campus accommodation at least in their first year and once you are well-integrated into the system you can begin looking for off-campus accommodation. Once you have found your accommodation the next step is knowing your address. Lots of organizations and businesses would require your mailing address from time to time.
2. Update Your Address On Your School System: Now that you have arrived in Canada and you have your new address, makes sure that your school has this new updated address not the one they used to mail correspondence to you in your home country. This is to ensure that you do not miss out on mails and information sent to you.
3. Get Your Student Card: Visit your student card office to get your university student card done. This would serve as some form of ID for you in school and other places where they may be accepted. Your student ID can even also get you discounts with some businesses.
4. Get A Phone: After getting your student card, your next task should be getting a phone number because you will need this number for upcoming applications such as bank, health card, social insurance number etc. you have the option of getting a landline or a cellular line. Most students would prefer the cellular line, as this is most convenient. For cellular phones, there are two options, post paid or pre-paid. Pre-paid is pay as you go and these types of plans are usually not very economical and have very limited options. However with post paid, you select a plan that would work for you and based on the plan you select there is a monthly fee. The only major challenge with post paid is that a credit check is required. A new international student, you have no credit history. This makes the post paid option challenging unless you have someone with credit history in Canada who is willing to co-sign for the phone line with you. In a situation where you have no one to sign for you, some companies would require you to put down a deposit of about $350- $500 which can be refunded to you after you are consistent with paying your bills for at least 6months.
5. Attend Your Orientation: It is very important to attend orientation. There is so much to learn and orientation helps get you to speed with some of the things especially class locations and other university facilities and amenities. Orientation is also very good because you get to meet other new students, makes friends and have new people to go on your new journey with. Orientations also provides you with tips on living and studying in Canada.
6. Get A Bank And Open A Bank Account: It is important to visit the bank as soon as possible after your arrival to open an account. As an international student, information require to open an account is your international passport and study permit. There are five major banks in Canada, they include Royal bank of Canada (RBC), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Toronto Dominion Bank (TD), Scotia Bank, Bank of Montreal (BMO). Any of them would serve you pretty well. However, ensure that the accounts you are opening are student accounts to avoid lots of fees in bank services charges. For most international students, it is always advisable to open a US bank account as well as US dollars are readily available in most countries than Canadian dollars. With the US accounts, your sponsors can transfer US dollars to you and you convert it to Canadian. Remember to watch for conversion rates.
7. Apply For Health Card/ Coverage - Getting health card/ coverage differs among provinces in Canada. In some province, students are covered by provincial health care plans and in other provinces students have to source for health coverage with insurance companies or through their universities. It is important to ensure that you have health coverage as soon as you arrive in Canada to avoid unnecessarily bills should you become ill or require the services of a health professional (medical doctor, pharmacist, nurse, etc.). Find out what yours is and apply as soon as possible.
8. Apply For social Insurance Number (SIN)- international students can work for up to 20 hours while in school and up to 40 hours on holiday. In order for you to get paid in Canada, you will be required to provide your employer with your social insurance number. Documents required to apply for this includes your study permit, international passport. Your SIN also serves as a form of ID in the future.
9. Apply For A Provincial ID - Soon after you arrive in Canada, you will realize that you need a Canadian Government Issues photo ID. Most people in Canada use their driver’s license as their Identification Card. This ID is important because it provides anyone who needs accurate information on you with your name date of birth, address, signature and your photograph. Usually in most places where IDs are require, two pieces of IDs are usually required. Most international students arriving in Canada may not be opportune to get a drivers license as soon as possible. Therefore it is advisable to get a provincial Issued ID. This ID is very similar to the Canadian Driver's license and would serve as a major form of identification, which would provide anyone trying to identify you with information about your address, date of birth, full name, signature and other information.
10. Get A Secured Credit Card - As mentioned earlier, building a Canadian credit history is very important as it will help businesses and banks determine how you handle/pay for your expenses. Getting a secured credit card is one of the easiest and safest way of building your credit history. This is a credit card provided to you after you are willing to deposit some money for the card. The amount you put down becomes your credit card limit. In order to have good credit history, you have to ensure that your total balance is paid up monthly. The deposit is used as collateral incase you are ever unable to pay up your monthly bills. This money usually invested for you as well. After you build your credit history, and it is satisfactory to the bank, the deposit could be released to you and you would be switched to an unsecured credit card. In as much as credit cards are good for building credit history, they can ruin ones credit history if not managed properly. The best way to ensure that you maintain a good credit history is by paying off your total amount owing monthly (not just the minimum payment amount) to avoid interest charges.