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The basics
Canada: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Calgary

Calgary is a futuristic-looking city – compact, shiny, and surrounded by green spaces. This energetic tech and business hub offers a great mix of culture, cafes, and incredible Canadian landscapes.

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Calgary is the biggest city by population in the province of Alberta. Some visitors might overlook Calgary, but they’ll be missing out on a beautiful city that’s known for its powerful economic influence and rich urban culture. Calgary is quickly becoming one of the coolest cities in Canada, with a rapidly growing café and coffee culture, dozens of bars and restaurants springing up every year. There are huge entertainment districts, along with sports venues and community initiatives.

 

The city has built on its agricultural and industrial background to become a major hub for the manufacturing, finance, mineral products, and a wide range of service industries. Students at universities across Calgary are well placed to make the most of graduate opportunities, work placements and cutting-edge university courses developed in partnership with industry leaders.

 

Calgary is a city of innovation and energy. For a city so far inland and in Canada, your first thought probably wouldn’t be surfing. However, for the people of Calgary, that’s no problem. On any day in the warmer months, it won’t be unusual to find local surfers riding a wave that naturally forms in the river. There’s a community project fundraising to enhance this further and add an urban beach and more wave action to this landlocked city! This determined and self-confident attitude is reflected across Calgary and gives it a unique charm.

 

Find out why Canada is such a popular destination for international students

 

What is Calgary like?

 

Location and demographics

Calgary is a city in the Canadian province of Alberta. It’s about 200km north of the United States border and is on the western side of the North American continent. 300km to the north is the provincial capital, Edmonton, while just over 670km to the west is Vancouver. Calgary is a multicultural city with a third of its 1.3 million population coming from countries outside Canada. 

 

Culture and history 

The region that is now the province of Alberta has been inhabited for many generations by Indigenous people. European settlers established a police outpost in the area in 1875, and it was soon named Fort Calgary and became known for cattle ranching. It became a city in 1884 and grew as an agricultural town and then as a petroleum industry base in the 20th century.

 

Today, the high-rise buildings of Calgary can be seen from far off and have become a home for finance, manufacturing, and natural resource extraction activities, as well as a cultural hotspot.

 

Explore what makes Canada so unique

 

What universities are in Calgary?

 

Calgary is home to several highly ranked universities and is a popular choice for international students due to the wide range of courses available. The strong local employment opportunities and high wages for part-time or graduate work are also an attraction.

 

The University of Calgary is one of the leading institutions in Canada and benefits from its location in an industrial and tech centre. It’s rated among the 10 best research universities in the country and is ranked in the top 250 universities globally (QS World University Rankings 2023). It provides a choice of over 200 programmes to more than 33,000 students. 

 

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology has been operating for over 100 years from its centrally located campus, near downtown Calgary. It welcomes over 1,500 international students from more than 160 countries. With 82 programmes to choose from and small class sizes, it offers great academic and professional outcomes for graduates. Mount Royal University has over 14,000 students and is known for the high quality of its bachelor’s degrees.

 

Other institutions located in Calgary include Bow Valley College, Bay River College, King’s University College, Huron University College, and Brescia University College. So, your options for higher education in the city are broad.

 

Discover more universities in Canada.

 

What does Calgary offer international students?

 

What transport is available?

Calgary has many different transportation options for you to choose from while getting around the city. Whether it’s a bus and train kind of day, or perfect weather for walking or cycling along hundreds of dedicated pathways and trails, you’ll be able to explore Calgary your way.

 

What’s the entertainment and food like?

Calgary is constantly buzzing with innovations and activities. The new Culture and Entertainment District that’s opened in the city will be a buzzing home to exhibition centres and events spaces, shops, restaurants, bars and more – right on the river. As a town with agricultural history, still surrounded by farms and rich waterways, Calgary benefits from outstanding ingredients and is home to dozens of acclaimed restaurants.

 

Discover the top five things to do in Canada.

 

What about accommodation?

There are all kinds of accommodation options for you to select after you’ve received an offer of study from a university in Calgary. For students who want a sociable, student-filled lifestyle near class, on-campus accommodation is a great choice. Privately run student residences are also a good option, offering various amenities and a rental price that includes bills. Private rented accommodation or homestays around the city are also possible. 

 

If you need financial aid, why not review the top scholarships in Canada?

 

How much does it cost to live in Calgary?

 

General cost of the city

Calgary is a moderately affordable city in Canada. You’ll be able to get a lot more for your money here compared to cities like Toronto and Vancouver, but you’ll probably need to spend a bit more than in cities like Edmonton or Montreal. Overall, it’s a great value-for-money city and continually popular with overseas students.

 

Explore how to find a graduate career in Canada and the top five graduate jobs

 

Student budget

As a single international student living in Calgary, you could expect to spend anywhere between CAD 300 and CAD 750 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Calgary you live.

 

Find out what tuition fees in Canada cost

 

Financial requirements

The Government of Canada asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of CAD 10,000 per year before starting their studies in Canada. This is equivalent to CAD 833 per month.

 

Discover more about the cost of living in Canada

 

What are the main attractions in Calgary?

 

You’ll never find yourself without something to see in Calgary, whether it’s high up a snow-covered mountain slope or in an underground music venue.

 

The city is well connected to its heritage and culture, past and present. You can spend your downtime visiting places like the National Music Centre, Heritage Park Historical Village, or the Glenbow Museum to explore art, music, and artefacts from Canada or elsewhere around the world.

 

If you’ve had your fill of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops, Calgary is home to a huge amount of green space and natural attractions. Whether it’s over 1,000 species of animal in Calgary Zoo, over 260 bird species in Inglewood Bird Sanctuary or the serene wilderness of Fish Creek Provincial Park, the natural world is at your fingertips in Calgary.

 

The city is also just a short distance from the stunning Rocky Mountains, which are home to world-famous places like Banff National Park. With just a few hours’ drive, you could find yourself among some of the most beautiful forests, lakes, and mountain landscapes in North America.

 

Around Calgary you can get stuck into a huge array of outdoor activities, ranging from hiking, kayaking, swimming, and fishing in the summer, to name a few, and all kinds of snow sports in the winter.

 

Calgary is a city with a clear identity and great energy which feeds into each part of the city, from its tech hubs to techno clubs, street-corner cafes, and university campuses. Explore more study options in Canada with our course matcher tool

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