Nurturing Health & Wellness in Canada as an International Student

health & wellness

Studying abroad in Canada is an incredible opportunity for international students. It’s a chance to gain a world-class education, experience diverse cultures, and create lasting memories. However, in the midst of academic pursuits and cultural exploration, it’s vital not to overlook your health and wellness. This in-depth guide will provide you with the knowledge and resources you need to take comprehensive care of your well-being while studying in the beautiful and welcoming country of Canada.

1. Health Insurance

International students studying in Canada must have adequate health coverage. The Canadian healthcare system is known for its quality, but understanding your options is crucial.

Provincial health plans, often referred to as provincial health insurance or MSP (Medical Services Plan), offer coverage for essential medical services. However, the availability and costs of these plans vary by province. For example, British Columbia has its MSP, while Ontario offers OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). Ensure you understand the specific requirements and costs in your province of study.

Private insurance is another option. While it can be more expensive, it often provides more comprehensive coverage, including services not covered by provincial plans, like dental and vision care. It’s important to research and compare different private insurance options to find one that suits your needs and budget.

2. Finding a Family Doctor

Having a family doctor is an essential part of the Canadian healthcare system. Family doctors provide routine check-ups, monitor your health, and offer advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here’s how to find one:

Register Early:

As soon as you arrive in Canada, inquire about registering with a family doctor. Some provinces have centralized systems for finding doctors, while others require you to search for one independently.

University Health Services:

Most universities in Canada have their health services, including clinics with general practitioners. These clinics can serve as a temporary solution while you search for a long-term family doctor.

Ask for Referrals:

Don’t hesitate to ask your professors, academic advisors, or fellow students for recommendations. They may point you in the direction of a reputable doctor.

Online Directories:

Various websites and online directories can help you find available doctors in your area.

Walk-In Clinics:

While not a substitute for a family doctor, walk-in clinics can provide immediate care when needed.

3. Mental Health Support

Mental health is a significant concern for students worldwide. The transition to a new country, academic pressures, and being away from home can all contribute to stress and anxiety. Canada recognizes the importance of mental health support and offers various resources:

University Counseling Services:

Most Canadian universities provide counseling services. These services are often free and staffed with professionals who can help you navigate personal challenges.

Crisis Lines:

Canada has several crisis helplines, such as the Kids Help Phone, which offers support to young people dealing with emotional issues.

Community Support:

Many cities have community mental health organizations, which can offer group therapy, workshops, and peer support.

Online Resources:

Numerous online resources, including self-help materials and articles, can provide insights and techniques to manage mental health.

4. Nutrition and Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet is essential for your overall health and wellness. Canada offers a diverse range of foods, so it’s an excellent place to explore different cuisines. To maintain a healthy diet:

Grocery Shopping:

Visit local grocery stores to stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Buying ingredients and cooking at home can be both healthier and more cost-effective than eating out every day.

Diverse Cuisine:

Embrace the multicultural culinary scene in Canada. You’ll find restaurants serving dishes from all over the world. Exploring these diverse cuisines can be both delicious and educational.

Meal Planning:

Plan your meals ahead of time to ensure you’re getting a balanced diet. Consider using apps or websites that offer meal planning and tracking features.

Cooking Classes:

Some universities offer cooking classes or workshops for students, helping you gain culinary skills and knowledge about nutrition.

5. Staying Active

Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, most universities in Canada offer a range of fitness facilities and activities to help you stay active:

University Gyms:

Many institutions have well-equipped gyms that students can access. Make use of these facilities to exercise and maintain your fitness.

Sports Clubs:

Joining a sports club or team is an excellent way to stay active, socialize, and possibly compete in intercollegiate competitions.

Outdoor Activities:

Canada’s natural beauty provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities. Go for a walk or hike, explore the local parks, and enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the winter.

Class Offerings:

Universities often offer fitness classes, such as yoga, pilates, and martial arts, which can be a fun way to stay active.

6. Sleep and Rest

Sleep is a fundamental pillar of your overall well-being. Proper sleep can enhance your academic performance and emotional resilience. To ensure you get the sleep you need:

Create a Sleep Schedule:

Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

Bedtime Routine:

Develop a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Avoid screens and caffeine before bedtime.

Manage Stress:

Stress can disrupt your sleep. Learn stress management techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness, or deep breathing exercises, to improve sleep quality.

Sleep Environment:

Ensure your sleeping environment is comfortable, with a supportive mattress and blackout curtains if needed.

7. Cultural Connections

While adapting to a new country, staying connected with your cultural roots can be a source of strength and support:

Cultural Clubs:

Most universities have cultural clubs or student associations that celebrate various cultures. Joining these can help you find like-minded individuals who share your background.

Festivals and Events:

Canada hosts various cultural festivals throughout the year. Attend these events to reconnect with your heritage and meet others from your culture.

Cook Traditional Meals:

Preparing traditional dishes from your home country can be a way to stay connected with your culture and share it with others.

Language Exchange:

Participate in language exchange programs where you can teach your native language and learn more about the Canadian culture and the English or French language.

8. Financial Wellness

Managing your finances is a crucial aspect of well-being. Consider these financial strategies:

Create a Budget:

Establish a budget that outlines your monthly income and expenses, allowing you to manage your money effectively.

Financial Aid:

Explore scholarships, grants, and bursaries available to international students. Your university’s financial aid office can provide guidance on these opportunities.

Part-Time Work:

Many international students are eligible to work part-time while studying. This can help you gain work experience and supplement your income.

Financial Literacy:

Educate yourself on financial literacy. There are often workshops and resources available on campus to help you manage your finances.

9. Exploring Nature

Canada’s vast natural landscapes provide an opportunity to connect with nature and experience its therapeutic benefits:

Hiking and Camping:

Explore national and provincial parks through hiking and camping trips. These experiences can help you de-stress and appreciate the beauty of Canada’s wilderness.

Winter Activities:

Canada is known for its winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. These activities offer a unique way to stay active and enjoy the great outdoors.

Beaches and Lakes:

Many parts of Canada have stunning lakes and beaches. Consider a day at the beach or a kayaking trip to enjoy the water and sun.

Wildlife Viewing:

Canada is home to a diverse range of wildlife. Take the opportunity to go wildlife viewing and experience the beauty of the country’s fauna.

10. Planning for the Future

Your time in Canada as an international student is finite, but the habits you develop can have a lasting impact on your future. Consider these strategies for long-term wellness:

Cultivate Lifelong Healthy Habits:

The healthy habits you develop in Canada can stay with you for life. Commit to a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental well-being as lifelong practices.


Build connections with professors, fellow students, and professionals in your field. Networking can open doors for future opportunities and collaborations.

Career Preparation:

Use your time in Canada to prepare for your future career. Participate in internships, co-op programs, and career development workshops.

Planning for Immigration:

If you plan to stay in Canada after your studies, research the immigration options available to international students and begin preparing early.


International students in Canada embark on a transformative journey, one filled with academic, cultural, and personal growth. While academics are a significant part of this experience, your health and wellness should be a priority. Prioritizing your health can lead to a more fulfilling and successful journey, and the habits you develop can benefit you for life.

By taking steps to understand the healthcare system, finding a family doctor, accessing mental health support, maintaining a balanced diet, staying active, getting enough rest, connecting with your culture, managing your finances, and embracing the outdoors, you’ll be well-equipped to make the most of your time in the Great White North.

Remember, you’re not just gaining an education; you’re gaining a life-changing experience. Stay inspired, stay healthy, and savor every moment of your adventure in Canada. Your health and wellness are investments in your future, and by nurturing them, you’ll be better prepared for whatever lies ahead.

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