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.

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The International Student Services Office (ISSO) shares information with international students on the following social media accounts:

Follow the ISSO to stay up to date and learn about the many opportunities available to help you transition to student life at Carleton University.

Regardless of whether you decide to live on-campus or off-campus, it is important that you secure a place to stay, even if its a temporary arrangement, before you arrive in Ottawa.If renting a place off-campus, consider arriving a few weeks prior to the start of the semester to find a place. 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, 2018, 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.

If you will be living in Residence, review the Residence section of this guide.

First-year international undergraduate students who are attending the International Student Orientation 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 and complete their orientation registration by the early August deadline to be considered. Note taht additional costs apply for early move-in.

Off-Campus Housing

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 – the Off-Campus Housing website that specializes in providing students with high quality rental property listing information. 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 an iStart International Student Orientation Session!

The International Student Services Office (ISSO) looks forward to welcoming all new international students to Carleton University at iStart. Register for a session and get connected with resources that will support your transition to student life in Canada. For more information, visit the iStart Website.

Orientation Week

The Student Experience Office (SEO) offers a campus wide orientation program for all new students. Read more about Carleton’s orientation programs to learn how they can help you transition to Carleton University successfully!

International Student Mentor

International Student Mentors are upper-year students ready to help you make a successful transition to Carleton and Ottawa.

  1. Attend the ISSO orientation.
  2. Pick up your U-PASS & Campus Card. Pre-ordering your card will allow for easy pickup.
  3. Print your UHIP Card. This is important to have on hand for when you need it.
  4. 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.
  5. Stay connected with the ISSO. ISSO events are a great way to meet other students and get to know the city.

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.


If you are a parent or guardian of a future Raven check out CU Parents to learn more about supporting your student as they transition to life at Carleton.

Top 4 International Students Tips