How to prepare for your trip to study in Calgary

Study in Calgary

How to prepare for your trip to study in Calgary


You’ve decided to take the leap and study English abroad. Congratulations, you’ve already overcome the greatest hurdle – fear. Leaving the comfort of your home, language, culture and customs can be quite overwhelming. It’s completely normal to feel simultaneously excited and terrified! But we know that studying abroad will undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

And don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your big trip to Calgary and Canada.

Here’s your eight-point checklist – you’ll find more tips and details at each link below.


  1. Check visa requirements
  2. Get your finances in order
  3. Check the weather
  4. Get travel health insurance
  5. Prepare your accommodation
  6. Research Calgary and the local customs, culture and people
  7. Learn some local phrases in English
  8. Prepare yourself mentally
Person holding Canadian Flag near a lake in the Rockies in winter

Check visa & immigration requirements


Chances are if you’re going through a local agent in your country, they’ll advise you on all of the necessary steps for applying for a visa or study permit. Despite paying for help, visa applications can still take weeks or months to prepare and complete. Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your visa or study permit application to the Canadian Embassy. Make it your number one priority!

The same goes for your passport. Make sure that it’s up to date and that it won’t expire during your time abroad!

If you’re applying for a student permit or visa without the aid of an agent, check out Canada’s government website for answers to your questions.

Any final questions or doubts?

Feel free to contact our school’s very own International Student Immigration Advisor through our Visa & Immigration Services page.

Canadian Passport being held up at airport

Photo credit: Kylie Anderson

Get your finances in order


Probably the most important part of the planning process is figuring out how much money you’ll need over the course of your trip. As a rule of thumb, always assume you’ll spend more than you expect. And in Calgary money has a tendency to burn up quickly when you’re having fun.
Calgary’s cost of living is above average – especially accommodation, groceries, transportation, alcohol and restaurants. Check out this updated list of costs to help you plan and budget for your time in Calgary:

Credit cards, cash and Apple Pay are accepted everywhere, but most people use plastic (credit and debit). So when the cash runs out, just whip out your debit card or credit card to make the payment.

Check the weather


Understanding and preparing for Calgary’s weather during your visit is going to be key to how you pack.

Know this: Calgary’s weather is very unpredictable. It’s the reason why ‘weather’ is the number one small talk topic amongst Calgarians.

It may be July, balmy 25C and sunny in the mid-morning, but by lunchtime you find yourself caught in a hailstorm. Or conversely, in January you’ll experience temperatures of -20C one day and then -10C the next. We’re not exaggerating. The weather and temperatures change rapidly in this city. Play it safe and pack for all the seasons.


If you’re travelling in the dead of summer, Calgary can get pretty toasty during the day. But the moment the sun sets, those big open prairie skies release all the heat and you’ll very quickly realize you’re under dressed. Temperatures can vary from 10Celsius to 35C.

Our recommendation: pack for hot summer weather, but also pack for cool autumn temperatures. That means you should have a good variety of shorts, t-shirts, sweaters, long pants and at least one jacket.


Winters in Calgary tend to be sunny, dry and cold. We don’t get a lot of snow compared to other cities in Canada, but it’s always smart to bring a good pair of waterproof boots, a warm winter jacket, hats, gloves and lots of warm under layers. The only time you’ll use your favourite pair of flip-flops will be at the gym, so leave those at home.

Our last bit of advice: listen to locals. They aren’t ‘pulling your leg’ when they offer up advice on how to dress appropriately for the weather. They know best.

Winter in Calgary with snow

Photo Credit: Ryunosuke Kikuno

Get travel health insurance


Question: Do foreign visitors need travel medical insurance for their time in Canada? The answer is YES.

Canadians enjoy free health care and access to top-notch health care and facilities. Unfortunately, if you’re not a resident of Canada, you’ll have to pay for any medical care you receive.


For that reason, it’s imperative that you purchase visitor-to-Canada or health insurance from a private insurance company.

If you don’t have private health insurance, you’ll have to pay for all the services you receive, and it’s not cheap. For example, a typical overnight stay in a hospital for non-residents can cost up to $8500 CAD a day!!

In Canada you’ll never be denied medical care, but you’ll always have to pay (and pay a lot) for the privilege.

For a pretty reasonable rate, you can purchase insurance when you register at our school. Or you can find a broker yourself.

Either way – Get yourself insured!

Prepare your accommodation


Before arriving in Calgary, it’s wise to make arrangements for where you’re going to live or stay.


Most language school students opt for ‘homestay’ – living with a Canadian family – during their time studying. It’s the most budget-friendly option and you get the added value of immersing yourself in the local language and culture. Most homestays are arranged by the school.

Global Village, for example, is a homestay provider that places students in homestays close to the school.  Ask your agent about GV homestay, or find out where we place students on the Homestay Services page.


If you prefer to live alone or in shared accommodations, check out local websites that advertise short and long-term rentals. Be aware that the closer the accommodation to the center of town, the higher the cost!


Here are some websites that advertise short and long-term rentals: Rentfaster, Airbnb.

Homestay hosts and international students playing a board game in dining room

Global Village Homestay

Research Calgary and the local customs, culture and people


If you want to make the best of your time in Calgary, we recommend spending time researching as much as you can about our city, the people and local customs.

Find out what there is to see and do in Calgary and the weekend excursions that might interest you. The city has a lot to offer for all tastes and we’re close to dozens of world-class mountain destinations such as Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Waterton. Plan ahead!

After a free trial lesson, you can select any GV English program at 50% off of the usual price.  Pay for a 2-week program and receive 2 weeks for free; pay for 4 weeks, get 4 more weeks free; etc.


Learn English in a small group of students with the same English level as you.  It makes a huge difference to your confidence.

Read about some favourite weekend excursions here.

Don’t forget to research how Calgarians like to spend their time and interact with one another. Understanding habits and customs will go a long way in helping connect with the locals. Just know that Canadians are easy to approach and quite friendly. We’re always willing to lend a hand if we see a fellow human struggling.


In general, Calgarians are very social and will gather at bars, restaurants and festivals as much as possible. They also love being active and will spend a lot of their time at the gym, biking and playing in the mountains.

Dragon Dancers in Calgary, Canada

Photo credit:

Learn some local phrases in English


If you’re reading this article, you likely already have a good grasp of the language. BUT, it doesn’t hurt to prepare yourself by learning some regionalisms that probably didn’t pop up on your favourite English language learning APP. These will go a long way in helping you fit in with the locals and prevent embarrassing miscommunications.


A couple of fun examples of words and phrases that are unique to the region and that every Calgarian knows:


• Cowtown – another word for Calgary (because of western cowboy heritage)

• Bunnyhug – a local word for a hoodie or sweater with a hood
• Timmy’s / Timmy Ho’s – a shortened version of Tim Hortons – our national coffee shops.
• C-Train – what we call the above-ground train system.


Tim Hortons Logo

Prepare yourself mentally


Get excited! You’re about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

As with every world traveler before you, you’ll run the gamut of feelings during your time studying abroad – not just happiness and excitement, but also stress, homesickness and culture shock. Try to prepare yourself ahead of time by remembering that these feelings are all inevitable. Embracing the good with the bad will only make your experience richer.


There WILL be times when you miss your own culture and when a local custom just doesn’t make sense to you. Try to remain open minded and flexible. Allow yourself to see from a different perspective and embrace the local way of living.


Overcome any loneliness by getting involved as much as possible. Most language schools offer a full calendar of activities for students to participate in after class. Join a few, make some friends and go from there. This is your chance to try new things and meet people you’d never get to meet back home.

Now you’re ready for Calgary!


There’s no way to completely plan for what lies ahead. Unexpected surprises are unavoidable when you’re new to a culture and country, but that’s half the fun! We simply recommend doing a lot of research about Calgary.


Immerse yourself as much as possible before you ever step on to the plane by going online, reading guidebooks and talking to friends who may have already traveled here. The more organized and prepared you are, the better experience you will have overall.

And don’t forget to just have fun – go with the flow and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised at all the differences you will encounter.


Check out this comprehensive Student Handbook that Global Village Calgary shares with its new students before they arrive.
Happy travels!


Find out more about the English language programs at GV Calgary.

Calgary Alberta near peace bridge
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