Canadian Students Urged to Go Abroad and Experience the World

With Canada as multicultural as it is, one might think that Canadian post-secondary students would be among the world’s leaders in expanding their educational horizons and doing all or part of their undergraduate studies abroad.

But, in fact, only 2.3 per cent of Canadian undergraduates studied abroad in the school year from 2014 to 2015—far less than the 10 per cent of American or 13 per cent of Australian undergraduates who pursue some or all of their studies in foreign countries. And even when they go abroad, Canadian students confine their studies to American, UK or Australian schools (according to data from the Canadian Bureau for International Education, or CBIE).

And that—according to a report from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa—is a lost opportunity for the students as well as for Canada. One of the key initiatives underlined in this report recommends the government support 15,000 Canadian postsecondary students per year to go abroad within five years, rising to 30,000 per year within 10 years.

The report, published in 2017, concludes: “Young Canadians need knowledge, skills and experience to succeed in a more complex and competitive world… The current generation of young Canadians will need self-awareness and self-confidence, a willingness to take smart risks, and knowledge of the world and other societies… These are not luxuries in the 21st century, they are vital skills.”


Why this hesitancy?

Yet, despite the advantages of doing so, many students appear reluctant to study abroad: 80 per cent of students surveyed by the CBIE cited concerns about the costs of travelling abroad (though 86 per cent said they would like to study abroad for periods of time), and they also worried about delaying their graduation and getting into the workplace. Students also expressed concern about the possibility that foreign credits would not be transferable to their scholastic records, not to mention missing their friends and family while abroad.

What they may be missing is that both at federal government levels and through non-governmental organizations, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance are widely available to help Canadian post-secondary school students realize their hopes of going abroad and seeing the world. A good place to start searching out those opportunities is the CBIE’s website.

For students prepared to go abroad, there are tangible benefits that can strengthen their postgraduate careers. According to the CBIE, 90 per cent of students surveyed who had spent study time in a foreign country said the experience had contributed positively to their careers. And a 2015 survey by Léger Marketing done for Universities Canada revealed that 82 per cent of managers responsible for hiring for small and medium-sized companies favoured applicants with some experience in a global marketplace.


Getting started

For Canadians travelling abroad for short, medium or even the long-term studies or exchange programs, most countries are welcoming and visa requirements are not onerous—but that depends on the country selected. Some can be quite tough to negotiate. But in all cases, preparations need to be started early.

Virtually all countries, and certainly all colleges and universities, will require students to have adequate health insurance in place and though there may be some limited coverage provided for short-term absences by provincial health plans, they can’t be counted on to fully cover all medical expenses at the level required by the host countries or the schools selected.

Because of the differing requirements of foreign governments and school regulations, the best place to start health insurance planning is with Canadian insurers who specialize in both incoming student coverage and insurance plans that travel with the student. The most appropriate coverage must be tailored to the area being visited, the length of time for which coverage is necessary, any possible ancillary travels to other countries, and—most important—your own health status. This is no job for amateurs, so it should be started when applications are being filed.

Are you an international student? Let us help you feel at home while you study abroad. We cover all your health insurance needs, give you easily accessible resources for navigating the healthcare systems, provide physical and mental wellness support through the Stay Healthy at School program, 24/7 claim services should you need assistance, and much more. For more information, visit, call us at 1-855-649-4182 or email us at

Leave A Reply