If you had the chance to live and study in one of the best cities in the world, would you? Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most livable places, and the city is a dream for urbanists and outdoor loving students alike. Filled with quirky neighborhoods, a multicultural population, and more culinary fare than you can possibly sample in a lifetime (even with a student budget!), it’s also surrounded by easily accessible beaches, rainforests, and snow-covered slopes. Deciding to study abroad in Vancouver is an easy choice, but fair warning: finding the will to leave might be much harder.
Studying Abroad in Vancouver
With all there is to see and do while studying in Vancouver, you might be wondering when you’ll find the time to hit the books. Luckily, the city lends itself to multi-tasking, and many programs allow you to learn while also taking advantage of Vancouver’s history, environment, and location. A classroom field trip doesn’t sound so bad when it involves visiting the set of a new blockbuster film, right?
Vancouver has become a popular filming location for both movies and television shows, which has made the city a hub for studying the industry. Several schools focus directly on film studies and filmmaking and many more universities offer programs within the field. While film production and cinema studies are popular subjects, students can also explore acting, screenwriting, and sound and costume design. With so much filming in the city, you’re practically guaranteed some hands-on action (and maybe a cameo appearance, too!) while studying abroad in Vancouver.
Vancouver’s wealth of restaurants, hotels, and ski resorts also makes it a great location to study hospitality. These programs provide classroom training as well as hands-on internships in prestigious hotels and restaurants across the city. Not only will you make connections with managers and brands in the region, but you’ll also be able to study the cultural components of the hospitality industry in a multicultural atmosphere.
British Columbia’s biggest city is also a great location for English language studies. Over half of the city’s population speaks English as a second language, so you’ll be in good company as you study the present perfect and modal verbs. While some schools offer college credit for English language courses, many intensive language schools do not. For this reason, it’s important to compare options prior to enrolling depending on your language needs and school requirements.
Top schools for international students in Vancouver are similar to other North American institutions in terms of structure and expectations. The school calendar consists of three terms (fall, spring, and summer), with short breaks in between each. With its fairly temperate climate, you should consider which activities you enjoy to best determine when to study here. If you’re an avid skier, winter would be prime for getting in some turns before class. For those who enjoy mountain biking or sea kayaking, spring or summer term is the perfect opportunity to get closer to nature.
Life in Vancouver
It’s safe to assume there’s never a dull moment in this Canadian city, as long as you know where to look. Vancouver is the third largest metropolitan area in the country, and with a populace that comes from every corner of the globe, you’re sure to discover interesting dishes, activities, and people at every turn. Spend the weekend sampling Japanese izakaya in the West End or head out of town for some world-class climbing in Squamish.
Vancouver is a city best described by its neighborhoods, each offering a taste of a different version of the Canadian experience. Get your gastropub on in the Gastown district or try some pani puri in the Punjabi Market. If you’d rather be outside, get on your bike and explore Stanley Park, a massive, forested expanse filled with trails and ocean breezes. If you’re in town in September, don’t miss the Vancouver International Film Festival, one of the largest in North America.
As with any large city, Vancouver’s culture is wide and varied. Many Vancouverites enjoy the outdoors and pursue hobbies on the water, slopes, or trails. Getting involved in outdoor or environmental projects is a great way to meet locals and learn more about the city. There is a large percentage of immigrants from Asia — great news for your belly and friendships alike. If you prefer to stay indoors, the arts scene is booming with frequent theater festivals, dance performances, and museums. Be sure to check out the extensive exhibit on the Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations culture at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.
Accommodation & Visas
Once you’ve decided on a study abroad program in Vancouver, you’ll need to find a place to rest your head. After all, even the most active and involved students require some shuteye! Luckily there are many options in Vancouver that fit a range of budgets, though it might take some sleuthing to find the perfect fit.
Vancouver is located on a peninsula, and because of this space is at a premium. Real estate in the city is quite expensive, which means lodging is definitely something you’ll need to budget for. Some programs offer on-campus housing like dormitories or shared apartments. The cost for this is usually separate from tuition, and can be fairly high. Yet the benefits of on-campus housing are often worth it, as you’ll be close to school and your classmates with little to no commute.
If your program for study in Vancouver doesn’t offer on-campus housing or you’d rather look farther afield, rental apartments are available all over the city at a variety of costs. The rule of thumb is the closer to city center, the more expensive the apartment will be. Less expensive options exist, though they will usually involve a longer commute on public transit.
All students who will be spending more than six months in Canada require a study permit. Depending on your home country, you will either apply for the study permit from your home country or submit an application directly at the airport. Be sure to verify with your program or the GoAbroad Embassy Directory prior to travel to ensure that you are following all immigration regulations.
Benefits & Challenges
Spending time in a dynamic, diverse city that encompasses the best of urban and natural experiences is sure to change you. With so many opportunities, studying abroad in Vancouver is the perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Learn how to make dim sum, test your coordination on skis, or join a student association. Remember, studying abroad is as much a time for personal growth as it is academics.
Which isn’t to say that classes and career preparation don’t matter! Vancouver is also a fantastic place to make connections within your field, from hobnobbing with film industry execs to participating in cutting-edge environmental research. Take full advantage of the opportunities offered by your program, because you never know where it could take you next.
While Vancouver is rife with possibilities, one hard reality is that it’s an expensive city to live in. Lodging will likely be the biggest expense along with tuition, so it’s important to look at finances when deciding on a program. That isn’t to say it’s not feasible, and those extra shifts over the summer will definitely be worth it once you’re strolling along the Stanley Park seawall at sunset.
At first glance, studying in a city like Vancouver may not seem to offer special differences from other large North American cities, but if you talk to locals, you’ll understand there’s something special about it. Maybe it’s the mix of ocean and land, rainforest and skyscraper, native and immigrant, all coming together to achieve an interconnected community. Of all the lessons you’ll learn while studying in Vancouver, perhaps that is the most important one of all.