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Coming To Canada? Here’s 25 Key Items for First Year International Students

Written by Bradley Pines
coming to canada international packing list

Post-secondary school. It’s a big step. And if you’re travelling overseas, it is an even bigger step. But being an international student coming to Canada shouldn’t be intimidating. Canada is such an inclusive, multicultural country, that you should expect to be welcomed with open arms.

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Before you arrive, there’s probably a lot going on in your mind. What do I need? What do I wear? You have too much going on to spend time browsing at a bunch of different stores. By shopping with Amazon, you can get anything and everything you need, without even getting up from the couch.  By using Amazon’s Prime Student offer, students get 50% off Amazon Prime products, along with free two day shipping.

So what exactly do you need? Keep reading for the list of all the key items an international student needs to have a successful start to their post-secondary career.

1. Adapters

Here’s a bit of a shock: different countries have different outlets. Adapters are key to any international student hoping to use the electronics they brought from home. After all, what good are they if you can’t plug them in anywhere? Whether you want to charge your phone, or plug in your computer during a lecture, adapters are one of the key items you must have.

2. Small Travel Case

When you’re travelling, there are too many documents to account for. You have your passport, your boarding passes, maybe a map, or even a list of directions. Having a little travel case will allow you to carry all those key items in one spot. You can keep it in your pocket or backpack and you’ll always have quick and easy access to your documents. You can even keep a charger and some emergency cash in there as well.

3. Wallet

Every student should have a good wallet. It is extremely important to have a place for all your student cards, debit cards, licenses, etc. Coming to Canada, you’ll also have to get a health card, which should ALWAYS be with you. If you’re heading to a big city, you should invest in a transit pass, like a Presto Card in Toronto, an OPUS card in Montreal, or a U-Pass card in British Columbia. And where else will you put your new student card?

4. Laptop

I definitely could not survive university without my laptop. Although schools offer a bunch of computers for you to use, having your own laptop is extremely useful. Most students type their notes on their computer during lectures and having your own laptop will allow you to bring your work anywhere you go. Personally, I use a Macbook Air, which, as a student, I love. It’s light, easy to carry, and has everything I need. Truthfully, any laptop will do: Asus, DELL, or any other brand works just fine.

5. Laptop Case

If you’re going to have a laptop, you need to have a good-quality case for it. Laptops can be expensive and just throwing it into your bag won’t going to keep it in good condition. Get a simple standard case and your laptop will be fine.

6. Backpack

A backpack is extremely important for students, even in post-secondary. With textbooks, laptops, and more, you’ll have too much to carry in your arms. And despite what the movies say, two-strapping will always be cool, and better for your shoulders.

7. Water Bottle

I don’t go anywhere without my water bottle. Whether it’s school, out with friends, or just driving around. I always have it. Students have busy days and long weeks, and getting dehydrated is the worst feeling. Have constant access to water all the time by buying a reusable water bottle.

8. Planner

Having a planner is super important for any student. Planners will help you stay organized with all your work and commitments. Whether it’s a group project, speaking to a prof, or just meeting a friend for coffee, write it down in your planner. A planner will help you stay on track of everything and keep you at ease when you have a lot going on, especially during exams.

9. Binders

Not everything you do will be online. Having a binder is vital. This is where you will put any hard piece of paper you get in class, like handouts and worksheets. You might not be able to type notes in some courses and having a binder with paper inside will allow you to keep your untyped notes very organized. A standard 3 ring, 1.5 inch binder will do just fine.

10. Dividers

Then again, you don’t need a binder for every subject. Use dividers inside and you’ll only need one or two binder to keep everything together. Having dividers is a good way to organize your binder for each course. You can write the subject on the tip of each divider and use different colours to help distinguish.

11. Paper

So if you are going to have a binder, you are going to need paper. Where else would you write things down?

12. Pens

Pens and paper. The school version of peanut butter and jelly—if you’ve got one, you need the other.

13. Pencils

Ever written a test on a Scantron? You’ll need to use pencils for one of these tests. It’s a small sheet where you bubble in answers for multiple choice questions that then gets scanned onto the computer. You CANNOT use pens for these sheets. I repeat, you need pencils.

14. Erasers

The little erasers at the end of your pencils usually suck. Make sure you get a good eraser. You don’t want to smudge everything with a bad eraser that does more harm than good.

15. Highlighters

Highlighters are very crucial. Especially when studying, take notes and highlight important aspects. This way you can focus on those parts to better prepare. Having different colour highlighters will help you stay organized by colour coding your planner as well.

16. Pencil Case

I am a 22-year-old man, and I still use a pencil case for school. Pencil cases are so useful and you don’t need to be a little kid to use one. I believe every organized student should have one. You don’t need a big fancy colourful pencil case, just a small standard case that can hold your essentials like a couple pencils, pens, eraser, highlighters, and a calculator will do.

17. Calculator

Calculator? Math? Don’t freak out! Some of you may never need to use one during post secondary, and some of you might heavily rely on one. This is only essential depending on your program, such as business, engineering, or science. For those not in a math heavy program, you’re still better to be safe than sorry, especially because you aren’t allowed to use calculators on your phones for exams.

18. Winter Coat

If you’re coming to Canada, know one thing: Canada can be cold! You NEED a winter jacket. You might be really excited because you have never even seen snow before. Trust me, after about 30 seconds, you won’t be too excited anymore. But at least with a winter jacket you will be prepared.

19. Winter Boots

Yup, you need these too. The snow can get pretty high in Canada. And thanks to global warming, half the time the snow is more like wet and dirty slush. You want winter boots, trust me.

20. Winter Hats

While we’re on the topic, a winter hat is extremely key to have. The more warmth you can add to yourself, the better. If you really want to blend in, don’t forget to call it a “toque”.

21. Winter Gloves

If you haven’t caught on yet, Canada is COLD. Let’s finish the winter ensemble with gloves. Gloves are so important. At times, it can feel like your fingers could fall off at any second. Not trying to scare you away, but get gloves! These gloves are perfect because they have touch screen accessibility, which means you can still use your phone without freezing your fingers off.

22. Fan

So I know I just went on about how cold Canada can be, but it can also get super hot. Having a fan will really help when the heat gets a little unbearable, especially since not too many students can afford air conditioning. A powerful fan can do wonders.

23. Seasonal Allergy Medications

Canada’s weather is constantly changing, and seasonal allergies are no joke. I don’t know about you, but I suffer from them every…single…season! Your eyes get watery and itchy, and your nose always feels runny. Take a pill a day, it will really help.

24. Lip Balm

My lips get dry really fast, especially in the winter time. With the weather always changing, dry and cracked lips are the worst. Lip balm is such a small, yet important item to have while living in Canada.

25. Deodorant

Let’s be real here. Students don’t have time to shower everyday. Especially when you have 8 AM classes every morning. Do your best by throwing on a few swipes of deodorant before you head out.

Does your backpack list check off all these items? I know 25 items seems like a lot, and it is. However don’t run all over the place trying to get them all. Complete your list in the easiest way by going onto Amazon. Get all these items and anymore you think you would need with one simple click.


Since you’re coming to Canada, you should know a little bit about hockey! Also who doesn’t love to destress with some fun colouring in between your studies. This is a fun, simple way to learn a bit more about Canadian culture and start to blend in with the locals.

READ MORE11 Essential Things International Students Need to Study in Canada


There’s Being a Student, Then There’s Being an Amazon Prime Student (It’s Better)

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.