LLM GUIDE Focus on Student Life: Canada

A closer look at some of Canada’s chilly but exciting locations for LL.M. students

Maple, moose, and snow might spring to mind when thinking about Canada. Clichés aside, it is ethnic and linguistic diversity that are among the country's defining features and most important assets. Communities from various ethnic groups have strong ties and bring a special flavor to Canadian life: African, Caribbean, Chinese, Lebanese, European, Indian, and more. As a result, international students can find a home away from home in one of Canada’s university towns during their law studies.  

Vibrant, urban life is Toronto's mainstay. With a population of 2.5 million, Toronto is well-known as Canada's largest city. The urban landscape has appeared in many films masquerading as New York City, but Toronto holds its own with a delightful mix of ethnicities and a wealth of cultural and entertainment opportunities. Neighborhoods, such as Little India, Chinatown, and Koreatown, are places that foreign students can feel at home, while the nightlife and winter sports provide a uniquely Canadian experience.  

Toronto is also Canada's most expensive city. However, the relative cost compared to US programs makes Toronto (and Canada) an excellent, more affordable option for students interested in studying in North America. 

The University of Toronto estimates rent for a single student to average around 700 dollars per month. In addition, for those students arriving from warmer climates, purchases of heavy winter clothes should also be factored into living expenses. Since Toronto is a large metropolis, cheaper apartments further away from downtown may require greater public transportation expenses to get around the city. The University of Toronto estimates 100 dollars a month in public transportation. 

In contrast to the urban sprawl of Toronto, Montreal is a relaxed alternative with a slightly European feel. Students arriving in the summer will be treated to festivals galore, outdoor cafes, concerts, and a friendly atmosphere. The city is officially bilingual with English and Canadian French spoken and mingled on a daily basis. Unofficially, the West of the city is Anglophone, while the East, starting with the gorgeous row houses in the Plateau area, is Francophone. McGill University sits directly in the middle on top of a hill, which can get slippery during the icy winter months.  

A couple of hours west of Montreal is Canada's capital, Ottawa. LL.M. students have the benefit of studying amid the seat of government, in the shadow of the Supreme Court. At the University of Ottawa, LL.M. students can choose from concentrations such as Civil Law Theory in English or Common Law and International Business in French. 

On the west coast, Vancouver is a nature lover's paradise. Compared to other major cities in Canada, the climate is mild, making it great for outdoor activities year round, from hiking to skiing. For two years running, the Economist has declared Vancouver the “world’s most liveable city.” 

Home to a large Asian community, Vancouver has three Chinese daily newspapers and a bustling Chinatown. The diversity, educational opportunities, and laid-back coastal atmosphere attracts more international students each year. As far as costs, Vancouver is similar to other major cities in Canada. The University of British Columbia, which offers an LL.M. program, estimates monthly living expenses at 800 dollars for rent, 300 dollars for groceries, and 200 dollars for entertainment.  

Victoria is another example of a harbor city exemplifying the West coast lifestyle. With a population of less than 80,000, the city can have a small-town feel compared to Vancouver. Winter sports are de rigeur. At the University of Victoria, students can enrol in the Law and Society LL.M. program. 

A few more important practical matters related to studying and living in Canada:

  • International students are usually required to enrol in the university's health insurance plan, regardless of any other private coverage. Costs can run from 600 to 800 Canadian dollars per year. 
  • The province of Quebec has immigration requirements in addition to the federal Canadian immigration procedures.  It is necessary to apply for both Quebec and Canadian study permits if accepted to an LL.M. program in Quebec. 
  • On-campus, off-campus, and post-graduation work permits are available for international students under several conditions, including good standing at the university and the length of the study program. 

Photo: "Toronto by night" by Skeezix1000 / Creative Commons (cropped)

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