It might not seem so, but deciding about where to study English abroad is tough. There are lots of options, from the United Kingdom to the United States, plus so many other considerations: budget, accommodation, and time. It’s a pretty big decision to make.
When students are trying to decide, they often come across Canada as a real option. It has reasonable prices, a lot of educational resources, and a lot of entertainment—both in Canada and in the nearby United States—to seek out during the off hours. All in all, Canada is a viable option for students wanting to learn English in a native setting.
However, like traveling anywhere, Canada holds some distinct challenges for any student studying there in the long term. These challenges are not severe and with the following tips, can easily be overcome:
Costs and expenses
Canada is pretty competitive in terms of budget. Students wanting to study English should note that most English schools are established in major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary. In a similar way to most North American metropolises, these cities aren’t the cheapest places to live. Fees like transportation, food, and accommodation plus local sales taxes need to be thought about ahead of time.
Many students fear studying abroad in major cities because they assume it will be unsafe. This is a reasonable concern, especially if you’ve been watching nightly news programmes showcasing crime in various North American cities. However, Canada and all of its cities are very safe. In 2016, World Atlas ranked Canada the eighth safest country in the world.
Canada has always prided itself on the education it provides to both native and non-native students. This carries over to language education, so students looking for comprehensive English instruction are sure to receive what they desire in Canada. Everything from reading to writing to speaking is covered. In terms of lifestyle in language schools, it’s important for students to speak English as much as they can, get involved in activities, and be punctual for each class in order to succeed. Many schools are strict with English-only policies and attitudes towards lateness.
Distance and geography
Canada is the second largest country in the world. This is an important consideration for students both in terms of where they want to study and when they opt to travel. Since Canada and the whole continent of North America is so vast, students often have to decide where they want to base themselves, whether it’s near the Pacific in Victoria or right in the nation’s capital of Ottawa. If students plan to do some traveling, it’s good to take a look at how far they can go on any given weekend or holiday, without missing too many classes. For example, while these places look close on the map, it usually takes students based in Toronto eight hours to get to New York City, six hours to Montreal, and ten hours to Chicago.
Canada became officially bilingual in 1969 thanks to the Official Languages Act. Students will see this in effect from the moment they step off a flight and into a Canadian airport. Signs and announcements are in both English and French. For the most part, Canadians are English-speaking. However, students wishing to study both of these languages simultaneously or even just experience both in effect should focus on traveling to cities in the province of Quebec, such as Montreal or Quebec City, Ottawa, and pockets of areas around Winnipeg. It often helps to learn a little French in these areas to assist in communication with the locals.
Canada isn’t the best understood in terms of the backgrounds of its inhabitants. Many people think Canadians are mostly Caucasians from Anglo-Saxon or French backgrounds. While those people unquestionably exist, even from its earlier colonial periods there were large factions of immigrants from Scandinavia, Russian and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asia, and Southern European countries, not to mention its diverse indigenous population. Historically speaking, Canada is a young nation with a low overall population and a continually high immigration rate. Students coming to Canada should recognise this and also see the advantage of a country with many people with different backgrounds.
Canada’s winter can be extremely cold and harsh. Its winter can begin from as early as November and run as late as April or even May. Moreover, when compared with certain English speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, Canada’s climate seems very unappealing. As brutal as the Canadian climate can be, students can overcome this by meeting up with friends and generally keeping themselves occupied with various activities. Students can also arrange to come to Canada in the spring-to-summer months when the weather is more hospitable, since most language schools are open all year round. Many students from warmer countries often say that they mentally prepared to come to Canada by rationalising that this may be the only time they will visit a country with different seasons. It’s therefore the perfect time to take full advantage of the cold weather by going skiing, skating, and even building a snowman!
Another common stereotype of Canada is that of the people in general. They all watch hockey, aren’t always very warm or friendly, eat lots of donuts, and say ‘Eh?’ at the end of each statement. This has made for some hilarious comedy routines and jokes that even Canadians themselves laugh about. But it’s hardly universal. Canadians are very friendly, eat healthily, enjoy nature, like adventure-type activities like hiking and rafting, and most of all, are very receptive to people coming to Canada from another part of the world. The key is that if students come to study in Canada, they simply have to make an effort to meet others.
The Language Gallery is proud to have a school based right in Toronto, Canada. It offers general English and English for work classes, Exam Preparation programmes, and a host of Electives, including one specifically on Canadian Culture.