“Good day, eh?” This is a typical greeting in this beautiful land, and what a good day it will be if you choose to study abroad in Canada! From the gorgeous forests, rivers, and Canadian Rockies to the warm and friendly people, there isn’t much about Canada that one wouldn’t like. Since 1994, Canada has been listed among the top five countries to live in. Whether its because of the longer life expectancies, the safety and low crime rates, or the amount of leisure activities, Canadians are happy. But what’s even better is the fact that Canada was ranked third in the world for their educational systems, which means that students who wish to study abroad there are not only getting the cultural experience of a lifetime, but are also getting a world-class education.
As the second largest country surrounded by the longest coastline in the world, Canada has a lot of space for adventure. In fact, it has so much space that the Trans-Canada Highway (which runs through all 10 provinces and connects the Atlantic and Pacific coasts) is long enough to stretch from London to Bombay!
Between the thick forests that cover half the land and the two million-and-some lakes, most people who reside here (80 percent in fact) live in cities and towns that are within 62 miles of the U.S. border. Canada is made up of 10 provinces, which are geographic areas that have governing power second to the central government of the country. They are similar to states and have more rights from the central government than Canada’s three territories. In all, about 34.5 million people call this beautiful land home, which means that it holds about three million less people than the state of California.
For many, the thought of Canada sends a shiver up their spine. They assume that it’s bitterly cold year-round. This is actually only true in the northern parts, which contain virtually no people. Actually, where most people live, there are four distinct seasons and although winters are usually longer than summers, when summertime does arrive…watch out! It warms up considerably and causes the plants to grow like crazy into a fusion of colors, scents, textures, and tastes. The southwestern region is a blanket of green. A popular time to visit the southern region of Canada is in the fall, when warm, bright days lead into cool nights. However, the perfect time to visit really depends on one’s personal preferences.
In Canada, the dynamic balance between preserving cultural identity and also accepting, respecting, and supporting others leads to a society that is friendly, peace-loving, and secure. The annual Folk Arts Festival held in St. Catharines every year exemplifies this acceptance and individualism. After a large parade, locals from different countries open up their homes for people to experience the cuisine, dance, culture, music, and artifacts from their home country.
An interesting aspect of Canada is the fact that it has two official languages - English and French. About 82 percent of Canadians use one of these a majority of the time. This means that 18 percent of Canada’s citizens more often use another language, such as Chinese, Italian, or Ukrainian. However, Canada’s federal institutions do provide bilingual services for people who may not know English or French, which can be extremely helpful.
The diversity of Canada’s people is also especially prevalent in their cuisine; depending on which region you’re in, the type of food you’ll typically encounter will change. For example, in eastern Canada, you will find food with an English heritage; however, cuisine in Quebec has a French background. Along the west coast, Asian cultures strongly influence both food and customs.
Overall though, a few foods are loved by a majority of Canadians, despite cultural and regional differences. Maple products and maple syrup (from the tree whose leaf adorns the national flag) is especially popular, along with fiddleheads, a tasty sprout of woodland ferns that look like the coiled end of a violin.
The currency used in Canada is the Canadian Dollar. One advantage to this currency is the fact that it uses the same sign ($ or C$) as the American dollar and is made up of 100 cents, making it easy for American tourists to read, recognize, and understand pricing.
When it comes to studying abroad in Canada, there a few important things to keep in mind. For example, one needs a temporary resident visa (it’s recommended that students apply at least two to three months before their departure for one). Along with this, if you will be studying in the country for more than six months, a study permit is needed.
Legal issues aside, first or second year students, students who will only be spending a semester in Canada, and students who are new to Canada and would like to meet people quickly and easily should consider staying in the college dormitories. Most students prefer them but there are usually apartments near campus for those who are interested in more private quarters and staying with a sponsor family is always a great option.
Universities in Canada offer a wide range of classes for international students, including French immersion in Quebec City, analyzing the economies in North America in Montreal, or discovering natural history and field biology off the coast of Nova Scotia on a ship!