Location and Geography
Covering most of the northern part of the North American continent, Canada is the second-largest country in the world (after Russia), with a total land area of 9.9 million square kilometers. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean on the west, and to the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Northern Canada reaches into the Arctic Circle, while southern Canada stretches below the northern points of the United States (with which it shares the longest border in the world). The capital city is Ottawa (in the province of Ontario).
Because it’s so big, Canada’s climate varies considerably across its regions. But generally the country is known for its cold and sometimes long winters, beautiful and mild “shoulder seasons” (fall and spring), and hot but often short summers.
History and Population
Canada’s first inhabitants were Native Canadians, also known as Aboriginal peoples and/or Indigenous peoples, including Inuit peoples in the North. It was then settled by the British and French, and for a period of time was governed then heavily tied to England. In 1982 it formally severed its legal dependence on the British Parliament with the Act of Canada. Canada was a founding member of NATO and the United Nations.
Canada’s population is just over 35 million, which is relatively small for a country of this size. Because much of Canada’s area is still wilderness, most Canadians live in highly urbanized centers in the south; nearly 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 kilometers of the U.S. border. Canada has two official languages: English (59%) and French (22%). Almost 20% speak another language.
Society and Culture
Today, Canada is truly a multicultural and multi-ethnic country. Over the past century and a half, it has welcomed millions of immigrants, thanks to a national policy of multiculturalism. Canada’s diverse customs, cuisines, traditions, sports, and celebrations are a product of its immigrant tradition.
Canada is considered a peaceful, safe, and orderly country. Firearms are strictly controlled. Canadians enjoy a standard of living which is among the highest in the world.
One of the world’s wealthiest countries, Canada is a major industrialized trading nation. It is a member of the G7/8, the G20, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and many other international bodies. It boasts a highly educated workforce and an increasingly diversified economy, but it is unusual among developed nations in the continuing importance of its natural resources sector (e.g., logging and oil). The Canadian economy is market-oriented like that of the U.S., yet government tends to provide more support and intervention than does the U.S. government. International trade is an important part of the Canadian economy, especially with the U.S. The currency is the Canadian Dollar.
Formally considered a constitutional monarchy, Canada is governed by its own House of Commons. While the governor-general is officially the representative of Queen Elizabeth II, in reality the governor-general acts only on the advice of the Canadian prime minister. While two main political parties tend to go back and forth in terms of who is in power, Canada’s government is overall incredibly stable and secure.
Living Conditions and Cost of Living
Many people find the cost of living in Canada is significantly lower than their home country, but of course this is not the case for all students (e.g., students from India or Nepal). International students require approximately $15,000–$30,000 (CDN) per year, including tuition fees, to cover their expenses.
Canada claims one of the highest rates of post-secondary education completion in the world. More than half (53%) of Canadians between 25 and 64 years of age have completed some form of post-secondary education; the OECD average, by comparison, is 32%. Post-secondary institutions are located throughout the country; there are just under 100 universities and 127 colleges in Canada.
In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for all levels of education including colleges and universities.
In addition to post-secondary options, Canada offers a wide range of independent private boarding schools for younger students noted for their excellence in preparing young people for university and college placement.
Canadian universities offer high-quality education and are very well respected around the world. A degree from a Canadian university holds substantial prestige, thus making Canada a primary target for many international students.
University degrees are offered at three successive levels – bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral. Bachelor’s degrees normally require three or four years of full-time study, depending on the province. An honors bachelor’s degree involves a higher degree of concentration in the major subject, as well as a higher level of academic achievement, and in some cases, an additional year of study. A master’s degree typically requires two years of study after completion of either a general or an honors baccalaureate program.
Virtually all Canadian universities are public institutions, which is the main difference between Canadian and American universities.
Canada’s colleges and institutes are increasingly relevant education institutions. Their education model involves experienced professionals and educators working in partnership with local businesses, communities, and industries. Colleges are designed to offer students the skills required for careers in a rapidly evolving job market.
Many colleges now offer undergraduate and post-graduate degree programmes as well as one- to three-year diplomas.
College programmes are generally more affordable than university prorgammes and more career-oriented.
Information Specific to International Students
In 2015, there were over 353,570 international students Canada, with 75% of these enrolled in post-secondary institutions. There were also an additional 90,000 international students enrolled in short-term programmes in Canada in 2015.
International students applying directly from high school to a university or college in Canada should begin planning early, since universities in Canada or particular programmes within a university can be competitive.
Due to the different laws and regulations in each province the correct visa information can be obtained by visiting the Canadian government website devoted to studying in Canada: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/study-who.asp.
International students may be able to work in Canada while studying and after graduation. Please see the following website for information: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/work.asp.