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International students in Canada may have access to a wide variety of options for accommodation, from campus residences to shared apartments, and from studios to homestays. Here’s how to choose the right student accommodation in Canada for you.

Student accommodation in Canada: On-campus

The majority of universities and colleges in Canada offer residences for students, particularly students entering their first year. On-campus accommodation can be a great choice for international students, as the paperwork involved in arranging your lease from abroad can be managed smoothly. By renting on-campus student accommodation, which generally comes furnished, you’ll have somewhere to call home as soon as you arrive. Rent may often be cheaper than the alternatives (although this is not always the case), and residences are usually conveniently located so you can get to that 8:30 a.m. class on time (well, that’s the goal anyway).

Usually, on-campus residences take the form of single- or shared-occupancy ‘dorm rooms’ (short for ‘dormitory’) with shared living spaces such as lounges, games rooms, or kitchens. Many on-campus residences have restaurants, and rent may include a meal plan. Beyond these generalizations, the features of residences can vary greatly between – and even within – institutions, offering a variety of options to suit different lifestyles. Each institution’s website will offer an overview of their residences, including photos and often virtual tours and testimonials from students, so there is plenty of information out there to help you decide.

Student accommodation in Canada: University of Toronto St. George campus
The University of Toronto’s offers student accommodation at its St. George campus in the heart of the city.

Student accommodation in Canada: Renting off-campus

Some institutions may offer student accommodation beyond first year, but many students choose – or are required – to find ‘off-campus’ accommodation nearby. Apartment hunting can offer an exciting chance to discover a new neighbourhood, meet new people, and find a place to settle that truly feels like home, so embrace the opportunity. Finding an apartment off campus can be a challenge, but a rewarding one.

Canada’s cities typically have busy rental markets, and listings pop up regularly. In many cases, supply and demand fluctuates seasonally, with summer often witnessing greater demand. Smaller towns may have a more limited market, but if you’re living in a university or college town, however small, it can be assumed that places will come up for rent as other students leave or graduate. Most universities and colleges offer advice for students and may have internal listings of their own, so get in touch with the student housing or welfare office if you have questions.

The “McGill Ghetto” in Montreal is hugely popular among students of nearby McGill University. © Tourisme Montréal, Mario Melillo

Student accommodation in Canada: Subletting

Subletting is a particular arrangement whereby a tenant takes over temporarily from a tenant named on the lease for an apartment. This is common among students, particularly when a student graduates or leaves while their lease is still active. Subletting leases exist, although these arrangements are often casual.

Students in Canada usually find themselves renting with roommates at some point, as it is cheaper to split rent and bills and can be great fun at the same time. Just make sure that you talk with your potential roommates about lifestyle, habits, and pet peeves before you move in together – remember, as with any relationship, communication is key.

If you’re considering looking for an apartment before arriving in Canada, it’s worth noting that rentals in Canada often take place through private landlords, rather than agencies. This can be tricky to arrange from abroad. Landlords may be less willing to rent to someone they haven’t met in real life, and at the same time you should take steps to ensure that any agreement is legitimate as unfortunately, scams exist. Leases can also be arranged fairly quickly and at short notice, so another option to consider is to book temporary accommodation in a hotel or Airbnb to give you time to look for an apartment when you arrive.


Student accommodation in Canada: Homestays

International students in Canada may also be able to find homestay arrangements with local host families. These can offer a friendly home away from home, as well as a chance to fully immerse yourself in the language and lifestyle of living in Canada. Such arrangements can be found and/or organized through associations such as the Canada Homestay Network.

Finding your new home

From online listings and social media, to advertisements on campus notice boards and signs in apartment windows, the key to finding the right apartment for you is to know what you’re looking for. All the factors listed below can vary by province and/or by city, so focus your research on your destination.

While finding the right accommodation is crucial, managing your finances well is equally important for a smooth experience in Canada. A key aspect of financial health is your credit score. Let’s keep in mind that it’s never too early to start building a good credit score, especially as a student. To help you keep track of your credit score, free tools like Borrowell’s free credit score service can be very handy. They offer an easy way to monitor your creditworthiness, which is an essential step towards financial independence in Canada.

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