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New Students, Postdocs and Visitors

This page contains information and advice for new students, particularly for those new to the area.

Moving to Canada

Be sure to check out the SFU webpage for international students.

Medical Insurance

In BC there is primary and secondary (also called extended) health insurance plans. The public primary insurance plan is BC Medical Services Plan (MSP). Primary insurance is required by law and covers doctor’s visits, hospital trips, and medical diagnostic tests. You must apply for MSP when you arrive in BC, but there is a 2-3 month wait time before your coverage begins and during this time you must be covered by a private insurance provider. Secondary insurance covers vision and dental care as well as prescriptions. Graduate students are automatically enrolled in the Graduate Student Society Extended Health and Dental plan. Most post-docs will have an extended health plan through Pacific Blue Cross.

Links

Housing

Online websites like craigslist and kijiji are often used for finding a place to live. There are also a few Facebook groups/pages for students looking for a place to live or a roommate. Before signing a rental agreement and paying a deposit, be sure to ask what utilities are included in the rental cost. Wifi, heat, water, and other utilities may or may not be included. Rental properties tend to go very quickly, so it is a good idea to set up some viewings for your first few days here. If you do get stuck in a hotel or need a car rental, CAUBO (https://www.caubo.ca/discover-caubo/member-discounts/) has discounts for post-docs and university employees.

While online sites are a great resource for finding housing, you do need to be careful of scams. Never transfer any money before seeing the place in person and be wary if the landlord is asking for an unusually high security deposit. For more tips, check out this site: https://www.thespruce.com/apartment-rental-scam-recognize-and-avoid-155640.

Slang to know

Hydro: in BC most of our electricity is produced by hydroelectric dams, therefore the Crown corporation that controls electricity distribution is called BC Hydro. When you hear someone refer to their “hydro bill”, they are discussing their electricity bill.

Strata: if your property is part of strata housing then the property owner owns the property itself and all owners in the strata collectively own the common areas. Each strata has their own rules and bylaws, and require residents to pay strata fees. Find out more about stratas here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/housing-tenancy/strata-housing

shipping belongings to canada

If shipping your belongings to Canada, be sure to have the proper documentation in order to avoid duties. For more information on duties see the Government of Canada website. Some shipping companies may require that you have arrived in Canada and have a work/study permit or visa before shipping your belongings to you. For a guide on importing your belongings, you can check out this page: https://www.pcb.ca/post/how-to-import-personal-goods-vs-personal-belongings-8568

Areas to avoid

Many students choose to live in areas across Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey, New West and Downtown Vancouver, which are all easily reachable from SFU by transit. However, when visiting Downtown Vancouver you may choose to avoid an area called the Downtown Eastside. Centered on East Hastings Street right outside the downtown core, the Downtown Eastside is an area of about 6 blocks between Main Street and Clark Drive that has a large concentration of homelessness and drug use. 

Social Insurance Number (SIN)

When you arrive in Canada you will need to apply for a SIN, which is required for employment. Additionally, most banks require a SIN before allowing you to open an account. See this link for details: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/sin/apply.html.

Opening a bank account

There is a Scotiabank on Burnaby campus and CIBC ATMs.

Transportation in Vancouver

A compass card or contactless credit card is needed to ride public transport in Vancouver (SkyTrain, SeaBus, bus, or West Coast Express). If you choose to purchase a compass card you will have to load it with funds before you can use it. Your trip cost is determined by the distance travelled (how many zones passed through). Go to https://www.translink.ca/ to see rates, where to buy a compass card, and how to plan your trip. Graduate students pay for U-pass BC with their student fees. For more details on U-pass BC, go to https://www.sfu.ca/students/upass.html.

Public transport

A compass card or contactless credit card is needed to ride public transport in Vancouver (SkyTrain, SeaBus, bus, or West Coast Express). If you choose to purchase a compass card you will have to load it with funds before you can use it. Your trip cost is determined by the distance travelled (how many zones passed through). Go to https://www.translink.ca/ to see rates, where to buy a compass card, and how to plan your trip. Graduate students pay for U-pass BC with their student fees. For more details on U-pass BC, go to https://www.sfu.ca/students/upass.html.

Car

Car insurance in BC is provided by ICBC (there are no private insurers). ICBC also handles driver licencing. Newcomers to Canada will only be able to drive in BC on a foreign licence for up to 90 days. To get a local license and insurance, go to ICBC’s website and check out https://www.icbc.com/driver-licensing/moving-bc/Pages/default.aspx for more details about driving in BC.

Other transportation methods

  • Ride-hailing was legalized in BC in December 2019. To discover ride-hailing services in Vancouver, check with companies like uber and lyft.
  • Taxis are common
  • Car-sharing services like evo, modo, and zipcar are also common. In particular, evo and zipcar have parking spots on the Burnaby campus.

SFU Services

  • GoSFU is used for many administrative purposes. You can find course enrollment, transcripts, and term fees there. 
  • Course information may be posted on Canvas. If your professor chooses to use Canvas, they will likely post handouts, assignments, notes, or announcements there.
  •  A SFU email address will be created for you. You can log into your email using either the email address or your computing ID (they access the same account).
  • Download the SFU Snap app! This app includes a room finder feature to help you navigate campus.
  • See more about the SFU app suite here: http://www.sfu.ca/apps.html
  • Get more technology help here: http://www.sfu.ca/about/technology-services.html
  • When you arrive and have enrolled in courses you should get your ID card. To find out how, go to https://www.sfu.ca/idcard/getting-card/new-students.html.

Emergency information

  • Emergency line: 911
  • Non-emergency phone number depends on your location. You can find your local non-emergency numbers here: https://www.ecomm911.ca/non-emergency-calls/find-your-local-non-emergency-numbers/
  • Health care non-emergency line: 811 (for medical advice and help navigating the health care system)
  • SFU also has an emergency and non-emergency line
    • Emergency: 778-782-4500 
    • Non-emergency: 778-782-7991. Call the non-emergency line if you would like campus security to walk with you to your destination (Safe Walk program).
  • MySSP is an app that will provide immediate mental health counselling and support in multiple languages, 24/7.