5 Things I Did After Arriving in Canada as an International Student
After all the struggles of compiling all the necessary documents for your study permit application, the waiting game before you receive your application approval, and the long hours of travel time, you’re finally in Canada!
Before you tick off your bucket list of the things you want to do in Canada, it is important to process first the things you NEED to settle as smoothly as possible for the duration of your stay.
As a fellow international student in Canada, here are the 6 things I made sure to do in my first two weeks.
- Get a Sim Card + Data Plan
Having a Canadian sim card and data plan is a must to be able to communicate locally and be connected with your loved ones at home at a fraction of the cost if you’ll use the roaming feature of your home country’s mobile sim and data plan.
In my case, I used my old phone to store my sim card from my home country because it’s the number that receives OTP messages (for banking purposes). Then, I used my other phone to store the Canadian sim card I bought.
A friend of mine recommended Fido. So that is where I purchased the sim card and monthly data plan. But there are other service providers such as Telus, Rogers, Freedom, etc.
Regardless of what provider you choose, ask if they have student plans or promos to get some discount.
- Open a Bank Account
A Canadian bank account is essential to receive funds in Canadian dollars, whether from your part-time work or from your family and sponsors.
One thing to note is that Canadian banks charge fees that might be much higher than what you’re used to in your home country. If you’re a student, worry no more, as you can avail of student accounts with no monthly fees. But the caveat here is that the ‘no fees’ are only applicable as long as you’re enrolled in post-secondary education and there are limited transactions that you can make monthly.
In my case, I opened a chequing and savings account at TD. You may also be eligible to open a credit card, but I opted not to (for now).
- Applied for BC MSP (online)
During the international student orientation at my school, they advised us to apply for the British Columbia Medical Services Plan as soon as possible when we arrive in Canada. This is because it takes up to three months to be approved.
The BC MSP is public health insurance for residents living in British Columbia. This includes Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents like those who have valid student permits). It costs $75 per month.
If you intend to work part-time as an international student in Canada, you need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) as it is one of the requirements the employer will ask you.
You can get it at any Service Canada office. The processing time is very short (5-15 minutes), but the line may be long. In my experience, I stood in line for about 7 hours before getting inside the office. Then, I had to fill out a form I’ll give the teller when it was my turn. The form asks for the following details:
- Mother’s Maiden Name – used as a security code/question
- Father’s Name
- Applicant’s Details – contact number and complete address
You can also apply online and have it mailed to you, but this usually takes longer (about two weeks or so). The documents needed are the same whether you apply online or in person – a study permit and passport.
- Learn Public Transportation
If you use public transport, I highly recommend getting a compass card. Pricing varies per zone and type. Check out the Translink website for the full pricing. In my case, I don’t have to pay for it because it is already part of my tuition fee.
Download the Google Map and Transit App on your mobile, so you can easily search the routes from your starting point and destination. What I liked about it is that it shows different ways you can take and the estimated time.