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International Students in Vancouver

Written by Alexander College in Vancouver on January 31, 2019

Last Updated: March 8, 2021

As an international student in Vancouver, you may find yourself in a mixed bag of emotions. You’re excited, nervous and honestly, lost in a new city.

Vancouver is a beautiful place for you to explore and embrace all it has to offer. By living in Vancouver as a student you will find a plethora of things to do during every season, and find yourself becoming a Vancouverite in no time.

We’re excited to share all the things you can expect to experience as a student in Vancouver, such as

What’s it like living in Vancouver as a student?
What kind of student life can I expect at Alexander College?
How do I connect with other international students in Canada?

In this article, we’re sharing the best parts of being a student in Vancouver and how you can make the most of it!

Jump to a Section of the Blog!

Student Passport and Visa
If you’re an international student that is awaiting your flight to Vancouver, there are several things that you should be aware of.
Student using laptop while listening to music
So you’ve landed in Vancouver International Airport (YVR), it is your first day in Vancouver! Now what?

International Student in Canada enjoying Downtown Vancouver
Being a student in Vancouver means that you are readily able to connect with your community in many ways!

Happy Students at Alexander College
Scenic Vancouver View

Before You Arrive to Vancouver

An important piece of the puzzle!

If you’re an international student that is awaiting your flight to Vancouver, there are several things that you should be aware of.

You should always check the admission requirements needed to be a student at Alexander College.

At AC, we welcome students both internationally and domestically, and it is a good idea to also check the student tuition costs. Further down in the article, we will also be sharing how you can work as an international student living in Vancouver, and several tips to managing your money!

As a new student, you can also expect to complete the important documentation needed. In some cases, you may need to book a placement test for your courses too.

When You Arrive

Read our Self-Isolation Plan for Spring and Fall 2020 Alexander College students by clicking here. (Updated August 24th, 4:25pm PST. Please download latest version.)

So you’ve landed in Vancouver International Airport (YVR), it is your first day living in Vancouver!
Now what?

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.

Homestay in Canada

If you’re looking for a truly Canadian experience, homestays are a popular choice for many of our students.

Host families provide security, protection, and care for their homestay students. In addition, you will feel a part of the family as you’re slowly integrated into Canadian culture.

Homestay in Canada
Student Homestay in Canada

If you’re under 19 years of age, it is required by law in British Columbia that you stay in a homestay with a family and have a local, legal guardian.

Homestay companies can also provide guardianship services for international students if you require it. If you are over 19 years of age, you also have the choice to stay with a homestay family if that’s of interest.

Ways to Make the Best of Your Homestay

You can learn a whole lot about Canada by staying with a Canadian family during your time as a student!
Canada is a hub of multiple cultures and we embrace diversity! You will be able to experience both Canadian culture and share your culture and traditions with your host family.

Homestay companies carefully review the information they receive from students through their application forms in order to place you with a family that has a positive match for both interests and hobbies.

This makes your homestay a convenient and educational option, and an incredibly enjoyable one!

College Student Homestay Experience
Homestay in Vancouver Canada

1. Be Open.
Talk to your homestay family if you’re having problems or any misunderstandings. Very often an open conversation helps resolve any conflict.

2. Communicate.
Let your homestay family know if you need anything or if something is making you feel uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

3. Speak English.
The best way to learn English is by speaking English. You will not be judged for your English skills.

4. Be Respectful of New Customs.
You can use your homestay experience as an opportunity to learn something new – one that is not common in your own culture.

5. Be Respectful of the Home.
If you accidentally damage your homestay family’s property, be open about it – honesty is always appreciated.

6. Keep the host family informed if you are running late.
Your safety is your homestay family’s priority, so please let them know if you are planning on coming home late or if you are behind schedule for dinner.

Apartment Rentals – Single or Family

Renting an apartment alone can provide peace, privacy, and a sense of independence! Like many things, you should also do research on the pros and cons of renting at the same time.

Renting in Vancouver can provide you the urban surroundings of the city, and you will also be in walking distance to all the exciting things that Vancouver has to offer. With this convenience, the cost of renting and living in Vancouver is among the highest of other locations in the area.

Student looking for shared house in canada
Students talking about shared house

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.

If you’re looking at more expensive neighbourhoods in Vancouver, you can check out Downtown, Yaletown, Cambie Village, and West Vancouver. Monthly rental rates for a studio or 1-bedroom apartment in these areas vary in prices but are around an average of $2000 per month.

You may find living spaces more cost-effective in locations like East Vancouver, Commercial Drive, Fraserview, Marpole, and Burnaby, but we encourage you to research beforehand.

Shared Rentals

Vancouver is host to thousands of international students every year. You can choose to share accommodations with other international students. This can be a good way to make friends and save money.

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

Student Key for Shared Rentals
Shared House with other students

Some popular local websites providing rental listings in the Burnaby/Vancouver area are:

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!

Getting around in Vancouver

The Vancouver transit system is a great way for you to quickly familiarise yourself with getting around the city. You can use the Skytrains and various bus lines to get to where you need to go.

A great app to download that would help navigate the system is the Translink Phone App.

We also now have Uber services available in Vancouver, as well as various taxi companies.

best view in vancouver canada
tourist spot in vancouver

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.

As well, the Alexander College Vancouver campus is located right by the Waterfront Skytrain station and is central to a variety of shops, restaurants and services.

Medical Insurance in Vancouver

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).

How about Working in Canada as a student?

You may have plans to work in Canada during your time as a student at Alexander College, and/or will be looking at Post Grad Work Permits.

There are a variety of options for you as a student looking for work, such as on campus employment and external places of work! That said, you need to keep up to date on any study permit renewals that you will need to do while being a student.

Welcome to Vancouver

You may be wondering to yourself, what does student life look like in Vancouver? How can I make the most of it?

Well you’re in luck!

Canada is one of the world’s most beautiful countries and Vancouver is a stunning mesh of nature and urban feels. Not to mention the clean, fresh air and water!

Depending on where you are coming from, you may be worried about the climate.

Vancouver has the mildest fluctuation of temperature compared to the rest of Canada. Rain is common in Vancouver, especially during the Fall months between September to December.

You will find that Summer in Vancouver is particularly lovely. We are lucky to receive a ton of sunshine, hot weather that at times goes up to 28 degrees Celsius. You can bet that our beaches are packed!

If you love water sports, summertime calls for plenty of days basking in the sunshine on our multitude of beaches around the city. In the winter months, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are popular activities that you can partake in.

The city of Vancouver is bustling with fun activities that you can access easily via our transit system. You can walk about downtown Vancouver for some shopping and find a variety of restaurants of different cuisines.

Going around Vancouver Canada
Vancouver Sightseeing View

Poutine is a popular dish that consists of freshly made fries covered in flavourful gravy. A staple for Canada and a must-try. You can venture around Canada Place, which is a popular tourist spot that overlooks the water. You will find that Canada Place is also where the Vancouver Convention Centre is located.

Here, you will also be surrounded by various choices for food and shopping, or just take in the beautiful view of the water and mountains.

On the Topic of Food

Being a multicultural city, you can find food from all over the world in Vancouver.

We love it when our students take pride in food from their home countries. They help share a piece of what cultural significance is contained in food, and through this, we learn a little bit more about each other.

japanese food in Vancouver
korean snacks in Vancouver

Get your mouth watering over Korean food like bingsu with our student, Brian, learn about the history of sushi from our Japanese student, Go, explore Taiwanese cuisine with Linda or learn how to make bubble tea with Aaron!

Food trucks are also very popular in Vancouver and you see them all over the city, especially during the summer months! You can venture downtown with us and explore a handful of the many food trucks you can expect to see in the city.

The Great Outdoors and Tourist Spots in Vancouver

Ranked as one of the world’s best parks, Stanley Park is the jewel of Vancouver. You can choose to walk or bike along the stunning seawall, and take in the city skyline. If you prefer to explore Stanley Park through a tour, you can also join in the very popular horse carriage tour that brings you through various pit stops along the park. Stanley Park is also where the Vancouver Aquarium is located.

Do you love specialty stores, markets and the art scene?

You can easily take the Aquabus at False Creek that will lead you straight to Granville Island! The Aquabus arrives on a schedule so be sure to check it out prior to planning your trip- though they come every 15 minutes so it is very frequent!

Downtown Vancouver
Capilano Suspension Bridge Vancouver

The Aquabus makes several stops on route but the most popular one is Granville Island.

Granville Island is a hub for food, art, and culture. You will find a marketplace filled with fresh seafood, delectable baked goods and art pieces. Walk along the water and venture through the streets and find unique cafes and if you’re a fan of theatre, the Vancouver Improv Theatre is located here. Granville Island is an open concept space, so expect a ton of sunshine with an ice cream in hand.

There’s also a really cool way for you to plan your day at Granville Island on their website, where you can specify the time frame you’d like to spend there, interests and more.

Not only that, there are plenty of fun tourist attractions all over Vancouver, such as the Gastown Steam Clock, or do a tour of the city with Vancouver Tours. It is a great way to meet some new friends and explore the city.

Vancouver is a Multicultural Hub

As an international student living in Canada, you will be a part of the vast multicultural hub that is Vancouver.

Being surrounded by a multitude of different cultures means you’re able to learn about other cultures and share your own at the same time.

You will be able to do so right at Alexander College as well!

You can fully embrace student life in a new country by being an active student participating in the various student life events and activities on campus. We will share more on this further down in this article.

You may be wondering, what’s the best way to learn about other cultures?

Student life events
student lifestyle

We have a special YouTube series called AC Exchange and it is a great resource for you to learn new languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Farsi, Japanese and more from the comfort of your devices. you will learn commonly used phrases, how it looks written down and how to pronounce them in these videos.

As well, our students love attending the cultural events on campus- regardless of their own culture. Everyone is welcome!

At AC, you can expect events like our annual Diwali celebration! Staff and students come together to celebrate and have a great time dancing to Indian music and learning more about the Indian culture.

On campus, we regularly celebrate other cultural holidays such as Nowruz and Lunar New Year. You can expect various activities, games, and food on campus!

After you Arrive in Vancouver

Being an international student in Vancouver means that you are readily able to connect with your fellow students and community in many ways!

Want to make a difference?

If you’re looking to make a difference in the world we live in, we’re here to help!

All of us at AC aim to do the best we can as an institution towards a greater cause. We have signed the Green Pledge and currently have an active Green Committee that’s open to students and staff to participate in.

Our Green Committee strives for sustainability through education, community engagement and modelling waste reduction best practices. We aim to produce environmentally responsible global citizens and contribute to the overall health of the communities in which we live.

As part of this mission, you will find multi-waste sorting bins at both AC campuses.

You will be introduced to easy ways that you can incorporate recycling and living sustainable as an international student in Vancouver. You can also partake in various events towards the cause such as park and beach clean ups in the city.

Join the Student Life Clubs and Events

You will find that the best way to connect with friends and learn about AC is through the
New Student Orientation on campus. During orientation, you will get to meet many of our staff and instructors who will share the variety of services available to you as a student.

join college clubs
happy students making friends

Among them include our Academic Advisors, Enrolment team, library services and more. Not just that, you can expect to meet many of our students who are actively involved in the student body as student workers, club organizers and athletes.

Plus, it is a fun way to meet new friends in a casual and fun setting.

We have a variety of clubs and events available to students at AC.

You can join the AC Student Association (ACSA) which is our student led committee aimed towards being the voice for the student body. This is a great way for you to play a more active, leadership role while being a student.

If you love dancing, we have a Zumba club that you can join, Bhangra dance club that is led by our students, and many more!

Love playing sports?

college basketball team
play soccer in vancouver

In addition to the various sporting events we run such as attending Vancouver Canucks hockey and Whitecaps soccer games, you can also join the AC Basketball team called AC Explorers!

The goal of Alexander College Athletics is to connect students through sports, and in doing so build a strong sense of pride and school spirit.
The AC Explorers team won its first game recently, practices once a week and is open to all students. We currently play intercollegiate games to compete against other local institutions and you can definitely join in the fun!

What Our Students in Vancouver are up to

We pride ourselves in our students and you can hear real stories from our students themselves in our
AC Student Spotlight series.

You will find students from different academic disciplines chatting about how life is like in Vancouver. Many of our students share their experience, and lessons along the way from being an international student in Vancouver and thriving.

“Embrace the change and choose Alexander College because of the diversity and the quality of services. Accept and take on the new adventures in life!” – Elisa, AC Student

student in downtown vancouver
student in downtown vancouver

A popular video series is the Day in The Life series where our students take the reigns in sharing what their day to day life looks like.

Find exciting vlogs of our students at the Vancouver Whitecaps Game, Playland, Ghanafest , our New Student Orientation and exploring new study spots in Vancouver. We also do fun challenges with our students like the Spicy Noodle Challenge.

You can also learn more about living and studying in Vancouver from our student Carlos. He shares more on his personal experience being a new international student from Mexico and how he developed academically and socially in a new city.

How You Can Stay Connected

Stay connected with us on social media!

Whether you are a new or current student, you can connect with us online. We believe that social media is a powerful tool to connect with each other, regardless of where you are geographically.

stay connected
college experience

Not just that, how about using it to create an online brand for yourself? Did you know that today, social media is pivotal for employers to learn more about job applicants?

Our Alexander College Blog is a great resource that is available to you 24/7. you will be able to find more comprehensive information on everything to do with AC, and up to date information on academics, current affairs and more.

You can find and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

We hope you’ve gained more insight into all the things you can expect as an international student in Vancouver.

We’re excited to welcome you to the AC family and see you!

Looking to start the application process? Apply to AC here
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