ConU 101: A Guide for International Students

As a newcomer living in Montreal, here are a few tips you should know

Photo Dorothy Mombrun

Many international students are embarking on a new journey in their lives this September.

However, adjusting to a new environment while trying to balance their studies can be challenging for many newcomers. This guide will prepare you for the basic necessities of living in Canada, as well as life at the university. 

Resources On Campus

International Students Office: This is where students can potentially find assistance resources with their immigration documents, events and workshops on campus, tuition fee estimators, financial support, etc. 

Concordia Student Union: The CSU is a union that focuses on student rights by providing them with a variety of resources that would help them throughout their studies. 

Student Success Centre (SSC): If you are looking for empowerment and professional support, the SSC is who you should contact. They provide tutoring services on subjects like mathematics and science.The SSC also assists with writing and conversation sessions.

Banking and account information

You don’t need citizenship in Canada to open up a bank account, but it might be easier for international students to open an account in person rather than apply for one online. You will need two pieces of identification out of the following: a passport, a study permit, or a driver’s licence.

The big six banks in Canada are TD, RBC, CIBC, BMO and National Bank. Make sure to pick one based on your individual needs and their benefits.

For students who are opening up an account for the first time, it’s important to look up a few tips. Namely, how monthly fees and unlimited transactions work, convenient ATM locations, mobile applications, and sign-up bonuses. Make sure you go over the tips above before you sign up to a bank.

SIN numbers

The Social Insurance Number (SIN) is a personal number issued for working purposes. In order to work in the country or receive benefits and services from a government program, you would need to apply for a SIN number.

The application is available online. You can also apply in person at a Service Canada Centre or by mail. The SIN comes in a paper format (Confirmation of SIN letter). 

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, and Friday, Sept. 8 from 9 a.m to 4 p.m, Service Canada will be at the International Students Office (de Maisonneuve O. Blvd., Room 340), to help students get or to renew their SIN. You will need to bring your study permit and your passport for processing. 

Note that your SIN is confidential, and it’s illegal for anyone else to use it. Do not use it as identification or provide it for job applications, rental applications, etc. You are responsible for your SIN, and if you have lost it, Service Canada will not issue a new one unless there is proof that the SIN was used fraudulently. If it is in the wrong hands, your SIN could lead to an invasion of privacy, or identity theft, or loss of government benefits, tax refunds and bank credits. 

Student ID

Your official student identification is key to accessing facilities and services on campus, such as the library, the bookstore, final exam access, and the shuttle bus. You can also get student discounts outside of campus.

To get your student ID, head to the Library Building Atrium (LB), between Aug. 28 and Sept. 15. 

To get your student ID, you need to register for at least one course, then wait 24 hours. Then go to Card Services, and the staff will take a photo and issue your card right away.

You need to bring your student ID number and a piece of government-issued photo identification, such as your passport or driver's license. You will be charged a fee of $13. 

An OPUS card is a rechargeable card that is used for STM transit fares, and by most transit authorities in the Montreal area. 

Full-time students at Concordia can get a discount by purchasing a monthly ticket. It’s also important to notice that you need to renew your OPUS card every year before it expires on Oct. 31. A new OPUS costs $15.

The Concordia University website provides a registration link for the student OPUS card, which takes 10 business days to ship.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 1, published September 5, 2023.