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International Students in Vancouver: Before You Arrive

Written by Alexander College in Vancouver on June 21, 2024

As a future international student in Vancouver, congratulations! Choosing to study in another country is no small decision and we are happy to welcome you to Vancouver! 🙌

Vancouver is a beautiful place for you to explore and embrace all it has to offer. Living in Vancouver as a student, you will find a plethora of things to do during every season whenever you need a break from your studies.

Vancouver is also known for its diversity. You’ll be able to meet people from all around the world here, each bringing their own culture and viewpoints.

If you’re an international student that is awaiting your flight to Vancouver, there are several things that you should be aware of. This international student guide will hope to answer some questions you may have about your future life in Canada!

Double Check Your Admission Requirements

At Alexander College, we serve approximately 4500 students a year and we welcome students both internationally and domestically.

Here is a quick list of things you will need to do once you arrive:

  • ✅ Fill out important forms
  • ✅ Submit original academic documents such as transcripts and English test scores
  • ✅ Submit a copy of your study permit
  • ✅ Book placement tests if needed

It is also a good idea to check our student tuition costs to make sure you have enough funds for the duration of your studies here.

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Accommodation in Vancouver

Key Points

  • 🛏 Two main options: Homestay or rentals.
  • 🏡 Homestay: A great option for students who want to learn about Canadian culture by living with a family.
  • 🏢 Rentals: Rentals offer more independence than homestay and there are options specifically catered to students.

Prior to arriving in Vancouver, you need to ensure you have made the necessary living arrangements, whether that be living with a homestay or other accommodations.

Among the options for accommodations that you can choose from include homestay, room rental or apartment rental.

If you are unsure about which type of accommodation is the best fit for you, Alexander College offers Student Housing Services where our staff will help you review your options.

Harbour Centre

Homestay in Vancouver

The Pros

  • Good company: Living with a host family can help reduce feelings of homesickness by providing a supportive and friendly environment.
  • Personalized matching: Homestay companies carefully review students’ application forms to place them with families that share similar interests and hobbies.
  • Legal guardian available: Homestay companies can provide guardianship services for international students if needed.

Homestays offer students a unique opportunity to live with a local family, giving them insight into everyday life in Canada.

Host families help students adapt to their new surroundings by sharing their customs and traditions. This makes homestays a convenient and enriching option for students seeking a more immersive cultural experience.

To ensure availability, it’s recommended to book your homestay at least one and a half months in advance.

Homestay Tips for International Students

Staying with a local family during your time as a student is a wonderful way to learn about Canada!

backlight student walking downtown

Here are some tips to make the most of your homestay experience

  1. Embrace Diversity

    Vancouver is a multicultural city. Share your culture and traditions with your host family while learning about theirs.

  2. Communicate Openly

    Clear communication helps build a good relationship. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or express your needs.

  3. Practice English

    The best way to learn English is by speaking English. Practicing English with your homestay family is a great way to improve your skills!

two students posing in downtown Vancouver
three students posing in downtown Vancouver
  1. Participate in Family Activities

    Engage in family meals and activities. This helps you integrate and build connections.

  2. Be Respectful

    Respect house rules and your host family’s lifestyle. This mutual respect fosters a positive living environment.

  3. Stay Safe

    Ensure you have all necessary contact information, including your host family’s phone numbers and emergency contacts.

Apartment Rentals and Student Housing

The Pros

  • Independence: You get to make your own decisions regarding meals and activities.
  • Freedom of choice: Deciding where to live is entirely your choice based on personal preferences, proximity to various services, and budget.
  • Student housing: Student housing is an option specifically catered to students and has its own advantages.

Renting in Vancouver can provide you with the urban surroundings of the city, and you will also be in walking distance to all the exciting things that Vancouver has to offer.

Convenience comes with a cost, however. The cost of renting and living in Vancouver is among the highest compared to other locations in the area.

view of downtown Vancouver

On that note, the cost to rent an apartment for living in Vancouver varies from one neighbourhood to another. You should also include any additional costs such as utilities and groceries into your budget.

We always encourage you to do your own research as each person’s situation is different.

Some examples of more affordable neighbourhoods include:

  • East Vancouver
  • Commercial Drive
  • Fraserview
  • Marpole
  • Burnaby

Some examples of expensive neighbourhoods include:

  • Downtown
  • Yaletown
  • Cambie Village
  • West Vancouver
view of downtown

Shared Rentals

You can choose to share accommodations with other international students. This can be a good way to make friends and save money!

Students at Alexander College may post advertisements for available shared accommodation on the student notice bulletin boards at either campus.

Popular local websites providing rental listings:

More on Rentals

*Keep in mind Alexander College does not review or approve listings posted on the sites listed above. It is your responsibility to determine the legitimacy of these listings and understand your rights as a tenant in British Columbia.

Metrotown Towers
four students walking around Station Square

Student Housing

Unlike apartment rentals, student housing, as the name suggests, are housing units which are rented to students only.

They are usually located near post-secondary institutions, making it a convenient choice for those who want a short commute to class.

Student housing is a great option if you are unsure of what to look for in rental housing, but you want the freedom of managing your own space and meals.

In addition, you will also be able to meet other students from around the world! 🌎

No matter which part of the Greater Vancouver Area you choose to live in, and whether you’re renting an apartment on your own or sharing with a roommate, it can be a new and exciting experience for you!

Transportation in Vancouver

Google Maps

The Vancouver transit system, known as TransLink, is a great way for you to quickly familiarize yourself with getting around the city. You can use the SkyTrain and various bus lines to get to where you need to go.

From the airport, you can easily travel to the core of the city through the Canada Line, which is part of the SkyTrain system.

A great app to download that would help navigate the system is the Translink Phone App. The app allows you to check schedules and plan your route.

Alternatively, you can also use Google Maps or Apple Maps to look up where you need to go. 🗺

Purchasing a Compass card, a reloadable stored value card that can be used for public transportation, is highly recommended so you can transit with ease.

More About Compass Cards

You can also use your credit card at any fare gate, but the fare cost will be higher than using a Compass Card. Using a Compass card is the cheapest form of payment across the TransLink system.

For more information on how TransLink fares work, check out our TransLink guide.

Metrotown bus loop

We also now have ride-sharing services such as Lyft available in Vancouver, as well as various taxi companies.

Keep in mind, these tend to be the most expensive methods of transportation and the costs may vary during different times of the day based on distance and demand.

Alexander College campuses are located central to a variety of public transport options.

You can easily find your way to the Alexander College Burnaby campus via the Metrotown SkyTrain station and our Vancouver campus is located right by the Waterfront SkyTrain station.

Quick Summary of Transportation Costs
Method of Transit Cost Notes
Taxi/Ride-Sharing Services 💲💲💲 Cost may vary based on distance and demand
TransLink (Without Compass Card) 💲💲
TransLink (With Compass Card) 💲 Up to $1.40 discount per trip compared to other payment methods

Health Insurance for International Students

Life happens and as an international student in Vancouver, it is important for you to get medical insurance. You can get access to comprehensive public healthcare in the province of British Columbia, through BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP).

Obtaining temporary private medical insurance is highly recommended as there is a 90-day waiting period before MSP coverage begins, starting from the day of your arrival.

close up of maple leaves

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Who Do I Talk to About My Study Permit?

At Alexander College, we provide free Regulated International Students Immigrations Advisor (RISIA) services to all current and future students.

Our certified RISIAs can help answer any questions related to study permits, PGWP, and more.

Each member of the team is also proficient in multiple languages in case you prefer to communicate in a language other than English.

While the main method of advising is through emails, our advisors are also available for in-person or virtual advising by booking an appointment.

In addition to one-on-one advising, our RISIAs also host monthly webinars regarding various immigration topics and policies so you can stay up to date on updates from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

male student reading a book outside

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Starting a New Chapter in Canada

We hope this article answered some questions you may have about life in Canada. This is a major chapter in your life, and we hope this article was able to answer some questions you may have about living in Vancouver.

The next step of your journey happens after you arrive in Canada. We will be covering what life is like living in Vancouver from food, shopping, tourist spot, and more. We will also be introducing what life is like as a student of Alexander College.

Have a safe flight! ✈️

After You Arrive two girls walking downtown

Get in touch with our Enrolment team!

Learn about our programs, tuition and fees and admissions requirements by requesting additional information. Apply to AC

Alexander College acknowledges that the land on which we usually gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work in this territory.

Alexander College acknowledges that the land on which we usually gather is the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work in this territory.