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Graduate Matters

Relocation tips for grad students

Moving to a new city can be overwhelming – but it is also an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in a new community.


The decision to enter graduate school is an exciting moment – one that might include relocating. Moving to another city, province or country adds an extra layer of detail (and excitement) to the entire experience, and oftentimes, comes with several challenges. In this column, I share tips from my personal experience of moving to Canada that hopefully will help with your planning.

1. Learn about the city and the province where you’ll be moving.

If you have the opportunity, consider visiting for a few days to immerse yourself in the environment. This will give you enough time to see the climate, culture, cost of living and local amenities. Use this visit to see housing prices, the university facilities, and the transportation situation to familiarize yourself with getting around the city. You can also take this opportunity to set foot on your future campus and connect with people (e.g., thesis supervisor, student advisors, fellow graduate students, etc.) – engaging with them can give you insights about what it’s truly like to live in the area. If you are unable to physically visit the campus, there are still several alternative ways to gather information and prepare for their upcoming studies; many universities provide virtual tours on their official websites, while some provide the option to schedule an appointment with a representative who can offer a more personalized tour of campus facilities and address any specific questions you may have. Another way is to use online resources such as forums and social media platforms to learn  about the campus culture, school environment, and local community.

2. Find a place to live.

Begin your search for accommodation well in advance. Whether it’s on-campus housing or off-campus rentals, securing a place early can alleviate the stress of last-minute arrangements. Consider factors like proximity to your university, safety, and affordability. Reach out to the university’s housing office to see their recommendations. There are also lots of online resources like Google Maps, real estate websites (Zillow,,, marketplaces (e.g., Kijiji, Facebook marketplace), or university websites’ information on housing can be valuable tools to help you find rental options. Securing housing has also been very challenging in recent years, so as soon as you find a place that you like, connect with the landlord or residence manager right away to increase your chances of securing the place.

3. Set a move-in day.

Make a decision on transportation options. Are you driving or will you be flying? If you are flying, are you bringing extra checked baggage? If you are driving, are you renting a car or a truck? More importantly, give yourself time between your move-in date and the start of your academic term. Allotting this extra time can prevent the common challenge of balancing the demands of starting studies while settling into your new place. Once you have finalized your move-in date, inform your institution. Notifying your supervisor and your course instructors may prompt them to offer flexibility on deadlines (if you are moving in the middle of an ongoing school term) to accommodate your transition.

4. Obtain the necessary IDs, accounts and other legal documentations.

This list of official documents is particularly important, especially for international students:

  • Obtain your Social Insurance Number from the nearest provincial office or online.
  • Learn about the local healthcare system; determine if you are eligible for the provincial health care program and activate your health insurance coverage.
  • Visit your university’s student services office to acquire your official school identification card, which is often necessary to access campus facilities and services.
  • Open a local bank account, if needed, and take advantage of any partnerships your university may have with specific banks. For some universities, graduate student orientation sessions offer in-campus visits of bank representatives.
  • Lastly, make sure to obtain any other identification documents and proof of residency necessary, such as a driver’s license, residence ID, or proof of lease.

5. Start making connections and network.

Once you’ve checked off everything on your to-do list – from settling into your new place to acquiring all your documents – start making connections with people. Student orientations and campus events provide excellent opportunities for this purpose. Beyond the chance to socialize, you can gather valuable insights from both new and current students. You can also explore student organizations present during these events, as they can be helpful in providing ongoing support and guidance for your inquiries as you settle into your new academic home.

Remember, this adventure is not just about academic pursuits; it’s an opportunity to embrace a new community. Enjoy the process and make the most of this exciting chapter in your education journey!

Zyrene Estallo
Zyrene Estallo is an academic project specialist at the University of New Brunswick with research interests in curriculum development, inclusive education, and higher education.
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