A Successful Transition to Canada and University Life
The information on this page is intended to help international students prepare for their move to Ottawa, adjust to life in a new city, and begin their studies at Carleton. Checklists specific to undergraduate, graduate, exchange and study abroad students are available on the International Student Services Office (ISSO) website.Get Started
When you arrive at Carleton you'll join a diverse campus community. Take advantage of the international opportunities to learn more about other cultures and experiences – you can take steps to connect with peers from a different background than yours, participate in an international academic exchange, join the Alternative Spring Break Program (ASB), and attend social and cultural activities offered by the International Student Services Office (ISSO) and the Student Activity Board (CAB). Learning more about the world will open your mind to new perspectives and will contribute to you having a well-rounded university experience!
Visit the International Student Services Office
Regardless of whether you decide to live on-campus or off-campus, it is important that you secure a place to stay before you arrive in Ottawa. It is suggested to arrive 2-3 weeks prior to the start of the term, should finances allow you to do so. If you will be arriving in Ottawa prior to your housing move-in date, you will want to make arrangements for temporary housing before arriving in the city. Keep in mind that the first weekend in September is a holiday in Canada and hotels will fill up very quickly. Ottawa Tourism provides a listing of hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels in the city.
On-Campus Housing (Residence)
At Carleton, a double traditional room is guaranteed to all new first-year students entering directly from high school, provided you receive an offer of admission on or before May 15, 2017, and accept your offer of admission, accept the residence offer, and pay the deposit by the deadline in early June to confirm your space. If you do not qualify for a guaranteed space in residence, you can still apply to live on campus. A lottery draw is used for all other residence applications.
First-year international undergraduate students who are attending the International Student Orientation (registration is required in order to qualify) are be eligible for an early move-in date. Students must be arriving in the Fall term, have accepted their offer, and paid all relevant financial deposits. After you have accepted a room assignment in residence, you will be contacted by email with further details (including additional costs if applicable).
If you are planning to live off-campus, Carleton’s Housing and Residence Life office, provides a list of resources on their website including advice and cautions when looking for a place to rent and maps and locations of the city’s various neighborhoods. They have also partnered with Places4Students.com – the Off-Campus Housing website that specializes in providing students with the highest quality rental property listing service possible. If you encounter conflicts during your tenancy, the office of Ombuds Services at Carleton may be able to assist you in finding a solution.
Register for International Student Orientation
The ISSO runs an orientation program that is mandatory for incoming international students, which focuses on supporting students’ academic and social transition to life at Carleton. Registration is required. Please visit the ISSO orientation website for more details.
If you will arrive after your mandatory orientation date, you must visit the ISSO (128 University Centre) upon your arrival.
Optional Orientation Programs
You should visit the Student Experience Office’s orientation page to learn more about various other orientation programs (including a campus-wide orientation week) for which you might be interested in registering.
Sign Up for an International Student Mentor
Our mentors are upper-year undergraduate and graduate students who act as resources for new students as they make the transition to Carleton and Ottawa. You can learn more about the program and register on the Mentorship Programs page.
- Attend the ISSO orientation.
- Pick up your U-PASS & Campus Card. Pre-ordering your card will allow for easy pickup.
- Print your UHIP Card. This is important to have on hand for when you need it.
- Buy your textbooks. There are several different locations, including the campus book store, where you can buy your text books. Be sure to check your course outlines for information about which textbooks you need and where you can buy them. Professors may post exactly what books you need to buy for courses on cuLearn.
- Stay connected with the ISSO. ISSO events are a great way to meet other students and get to know the city. You can stay up-to-date on these events by reading the bi-weekly ISSO Newsletter which you will be sent to your Carleton email.
See more steps below!
Sales tax and tipping
Sales Tax: In the province of Ontario, a harmonized sales tax (HST) of 13% is added to the ticket price of many goods at the time of purchase.
Tipping: In Canada, tipping is the norm for food and drink service. In restaurants, it is normal to tip between 15% and 20% of the pre-tax total based on the quality of service received. In food service establishments where you receive counter service (e.g. coffee shops, ice cream shops, etc.), a tip jar is usually provided on the counter. Tipping here is optional and it is typically considered rude if you choose not to do so. Other services where tipping is expected includes taxi service, hair styling, manicures, etc.
Dressing for Canadian winter:
If you arrive in the fall, you’ll have time to shop for appropriate seasonal clothing before winter. In general, you should look for a warm hat (that covers your ears), a scarf, mittens or gloves, a winter jacket (windproof and water resistant), and warm boots (with a rubber sole for a good grip on icy sidewalks). Clothes that can be layered are best for outdoor activities. Department stores like WalMart, Winners or The Bay are good places to start to look for winter clothing. Second hand or used clothing stores may also have what you need. Keep your eyes open for sales at sporting goods stores as well (especially after the winter holiday).
Climate in Ottawa:
The summer in Ottawa tends to be sunny, warm, and humid. The average daily high in July is 26.5 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that humid conditions may make it feel warmer than the thermometer reads. In January, usually the coldest month of the year, the average daily high is -5.8 degrees Celsius, while the average daily low is -14.8 degrees. In the winter, you’ll often hear the temperature being reported as “with the wind chill.” This means that the air temperature may feel significantly colder than it reads. Ottawa typically experiences a snowy winter with the majority of snow days occurring between December and March (although it is not uncommon for snow to fall as early as October or as late as April). To check weather conditions in Ottawa, refer to the Weather Network or Environment Canada.