Maple Leaves and Textbooks: 5 Challenges Faced by International Students in Canada

Created: Aug 15, 2023 | Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Canada attracts students from countries all over the world like China, Nigeria, France, the Philippines and others. As attractive as studying in Canada can be, it comes with its own challenges, that if you are not well prepared for them, may overwhelm you. We don’t want that to be you, that is why we have prepared this article. Along the line, we are going to look at some challenges that international students in Canada may experience and of course, how to overcome them. Additionally, we will share some real-life experiences from international students in Canada. 

Table of Contents

Common Challenges Faced While Studying in Canada

Here are some of the challenges international students in Canada may face:

  1. Language barrier/cultural adjustment.
  2. Financial constraint.
  3. Difficulty finding suitable accommodation.
  4. Complications with Certified translation.
  5. Academic struggles.


Language Barrier/Cultural Adjustment

Canada is a country that openly embraces cultural diversity, so it is only right that you expect to encounter a strong flavour of different cultures. Canadian immigrants, testify to this diversity. Apart from the indigenous cultures in Canada, there are also cultures like African culture, European culture, Asian culture, Middle Eastern culture, Latin American culture and so many other cultures in large numbers, proving that Canada is truly a land for all. However, this means that students who are just moving to Canada from their home country will likely experience a major culture shock. 

An international student from Nigeria shared that he was thrown aback at the fact that it was not a problem to call his teachers by their name in his school in Canada, as opposed to what he was used to in Nigeria where you had to add honorifics or titles before the names.

SOLUTION: To deal with culture shock/language barriers, you should adopt a positive outlook, be curious enough to learn about the people around you, show them you respect them and try to make friends outside the cultural scope you are familiar with, sign up for volunteer work, or join a church community. You can even start learning French or English online. This should help you get used to your new environment fairly quickly.


Financial Constraint

Due to the currency exchange, some students have highlighted money, as a major challenge while studying in Canada. This is understandable for a student who probably does not have a job yet, is trying to fit into his surrounding and is also struggling to catch up with assignments from school. 

SOLUTION: You might be shocked by the expenses you have to cover while in Canada. However, did you know your Canadian student visa allows you to study and work in Canada at the same time? You can also try the approach of living on a budget, to supplement your earnings. Both approaches combined should help lighten your financial burden while you’re in school. And if it still doesn’t, you consider getting a work permit so you can work longer hours than your student visa permits. Exploring these three options will go a long way to give you much-needed relief.


Finding Suitable Accommodation

There are a couple of factors to be considered if you want to get accommodation in Canada as an international student. There is the need to consider the location of the accommodation in relation to your school’s location, your available budget to rent a place, and then there is the personal preference you have for your living space.

On the other hand, there are external challenges associated with getting accommodation that you cannot control like:

  • Landlords asking for a Cosigner before renting to you.
  • The reluctance of Landlords to rent to international students.
  • The duration Landlords agree to rent for may be shorter than the duration of your studies in Canada.
  • Hidden charges associated with renting & moving.

SOLUTION: To avoid frustrations from these issues, here are some questions you can ask your Landlord before renting. We would also highly recommend befriending a student who has also been through this process already. This will go a long way in helping you navigate this phase because they can share tips, contacts and companionship during your search.

Getting Certified Translations

As an international student who wants to study in Canada, you must get certified translations for your documents, especially if you are from a country that does not speak English or French. The Canadian government has specific translation requirements for immigration, and anything less might be rejected.



Certified translation is a translation done by a professional translator who is a member of a recognized accreditation body and accompanies the translation with a certification statement. This certification statement simply attests that the translation is a true and accurate copy of the original document. Every certified translation must be accompanied by the signature of the translator, their seal/stamp, the date the translation was done, their address and their certification number, to be considered valid. This is what the Canadian government requires, and approves of.

Getting certified translations does not need to be straining, but it can be if you hire the wrong services. Some people favour using freelance translators. While this is okay, it may not be ideal because freelance translators can be more expensive, slow to respond in comparison to the demand of your needs, and may even prove evasive because there really is no way for you to track and hold them accountable if anything goes wrong. This is why, a translation company, just might be your best bet.  

As a student or an intended student, who needs to get certified translation for your academic transcript, birth certificate, marriage certificate, credentials/qualifications, bank statements, or medical record, you cannot afford mistakes in your translations. These documents may be required while applying for a Canadian visa, applying for school in Canada, applying for jobs in Canada, trying to get a bank account, or when you are trying to access health care in Canada and must be taken seriously.

SOLUTION: To avoid complications in this part of the journey, you should employ the services of a professional translation company in Canada.


Academic Struggles

This is the most important reason why you are in Canada, to begin with. There may be some pressure with your academics, considering the fact that you have been thrown into a different educational system where you are navigating assignments, projects, a social life, relating with professors, work, and even battling homesickness. All these can directly impact your academic performance. 

An old student who graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design said she was initially surprised to find out that everything in her school was automated/digitized: doors, attendance, and lecture notes (notes were sent by email). 

SOLUTION: To overcome these struggles, you must be open and willing to ask for help from your professors, friends and colleagues alike. The chances that your colleagues are struggling with the same things as you are are very high. Additionally, you should consider joining study groups or academic support programs organized by your school to augment your personal studying.



Finally, as challenging as studying in a Canadian university can be, there are things you can do to make the time you spend overseas memorable and less harrowing. As we discussed in the article, it helps to surround yourself with the right community, ask for help when you need it, dont be afraid to ask questions, because; “A prudent question is one half of wisdom.”, keep an open mind, maintain a positive outlook on your situation, and no matter how hard it gets and stay in touch with family!

We wish you all the best with your studies in Canada!

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