Information for Families
We understand that the accompanying spouses, partners, and children of our international students need support too. We provide information, support and organize events to address the questions and concerns of our international family community.
Residence Services offers accommodation in Varsity Courts and Crowsnest Hall for students with families.
To live in varsity courts buildings students must:
- Be in a full-time program leading to a UCalgary degree
- Live with a spouse or common-law partner or have children
To live in Crowsnest Hall students must:
- Be enrolled in a full-time program leading to a UCalgary degree
- Be a graduate student with no children
- Note: accommodation for couples in Crowsnest Hall is limited and high in demand
Apply to live on-campus through the Residence Services website.
Some benefits of living in Varsity Court and Crowsnest Hall include:
- A significant residence life program, with regular activities for children and their families (and for adults as well) offered multiple times a month
- Close proximity to the main campus, hospital services, public transit, and a local shopping centre (Market Mall)
- Rental contracts are monthly agreements which provides more flexibility for how long students choose to stay or move out
- On site laundry services (paid separately)
- A chance to live in an extremely diverse community
If you are moving to Calgary with a family and are arranging to live off-campus, there are several factors to consider when choosing a place to live:
- Proximity to the university, a school for any minor children, grocery stores, childcare, public transit (bus or train stops), community, parks, and how much space you may require (eg. a house versus an apartment)
Explore different Calgary neighbourhoods:
The University of Calgary does have an on-campus child care centre; however, there is currently a wait list of 1-3 years. To learn more, visit the University Child Care Centre website.
In Calgary, there are different childcare options available. A list of options is available through the government of Alberta Child Care Lookup. Here is another website to look for childcare options specifically in Calgary.
In Alberta, children attend Kindergarten usually starting at age five, then attend grades 1-6 (known as middle or elementary school) from ages six to 11 , grades 7-9 (known as junior high) from ages 12 to 14, and grades 10-12 (known as high school) from ages 15 to 17. Some schools will combine all grades (K-12) or just certain grades. There are 357 schools in Calgary, ranging from kindergarten to high schools and they are located in different neighborhoods across Calgary.
In Calgary, there are two types of schools for children:
- Publicly funded (government subsidizes the tuition, parents only pay school fees*)
- Privately funded (government does not subsidize, and parents pay fees and tuition).
There are three types of publicly funded schools:
- Calgary Public Schools run by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) (non-denominational)
- Calgary Catholic Schools run by the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) (based on the Catholic faith)
- Charter Schools, run based on specific or unique mandates.
Private schools run independently.
Every child in Calgary has a designated school based on their home address and the program they choose. You can apply to attend any school, even if it is not your designated school. However, most families register their children in the school in their neighborhood. Each principal determines if their school has capacity to accept out-of-boundary students. To confirm school attendance areas or program offerings, or for more information about registration, please contact the school directly.
The registration process for each type of school will be slightly different; refer to the websites for detailed information. However, in general, for public and Catholic school system , once a family arrives in Calgary, they would meet with a school board representative at an admission centre to register in the appropriate grade levels. For more details for prospective inquiries, contact the school boards’ general lines:
- The Calgary Board of Education (secular): 1-403-777-7373
- The Calgary Catholic School District: 1-403-500-2007
Cost: It is best to always confirm any costs directly with the applicable school board. Generally, however, the costs of attending public school only includes general school fees, not tuition. These fees can be found on the Calgary Board of Education website and the Calgary Catholic School District website.
You will be charged general school fees if you (the parent) have a valid study permit and if you are registered in:
- A full-time provincially recognized diploma program or full-time degree program of study that is a minimum of 2 years in duration; or
- A full-time graduate or post-doctoral program of study that is a minimum of one year in duration
* If you do not meet the above requirements, you may also be required to pay tuition for your child, even if your child is enrolled in a public school. Please confirm your options with the specific school board you are interested in registering with.
Language Schools: There are a number of bilingual or immersion language schools in Calgary. For example, there are several French immersion, Spanish bilingual, and Mandarin language programs offered through both the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD). Visit their websites to explore your options.
Most on-campus language support resources are specifically available to UCalgary students. As such, partners and spouses of UCalgary students are not able to independently access these services, but may gain exposure and informal practice with language skills by attending social and informational events that are open to the public.
Visit office websites to search upcoming events that are open to public.
Calgary Public Library (CPL): The CPL provides several programs open to residents of Calgary (good for adults as well as families with children). Some programs require registration and some do not (you can just show up and attend). Learn more about these programs or register online. Select “Newcomers & ESL” then “Apply”. Below are some available programs that require registration, and some programs that do not.
- ESL Conversation Club (Intermediate): Practice your English speaking skills in this program
- ESL Writing Club (Intermediate): Practice your English writing skills in this program
- Learn English Story time: You can practice your English with other parents and children (ages 0-5) who speak the same first language; offered in different languages (eg. Korean, Punjabi, Spanish)
- EEL School Success: (for ages 6-8) children who are learning English are paired with teenager volunteers who help with learning new words. Includes presentation for parents on how to support their child’s learning
Do Not Require Registration:
- ESL Coffee and Conversation (90 minutes): no registration required. Practice your English speaking and listening skills in informal drop-in setting. Coffee is provided.
- New Friends & Neighborhood Groups for Women: Join this group to practice English, make friends, and learn about resources with other women. Free childcare provided.
Explore the Calgary Public Library website: calgarylibrary.ca/
Meet Up: There are several meetup groups for anyone who is passionate about learning English and improving their language skills (www.meetup.com/find/language/). People with any level of English are welcome to join. Some popular groups include:
- Calgary International Students and English learners
- The Calgary English as a Second language Meetup group
- Calgary Language lovers
There are some groups specifically for families and single parents (for example, Calgary Moms and Tots Playgroup). Kids play and parents can chat. Learn more here.
Cultural Associations in Calgary: Different organizations may provide resources in various languages. For example, the Calgary Chinese Cultural Association offers Stepping Stones English Literacy Program (instructors use both Chinese and English in the classroom). Learn more here: www.cccsa.ca/english-literacy/
ESL Program List in Calgary: A list of English as a Second Language (ESL) programs in Calgary is available on the Immigrant Services Calgary website. Note: some programs are limited to Permanent Residents or Citizens. Immigrant Services Calgary also provides interpretation and translation services, literacy programs, and citizenship test preparation classes.
Active Living Summer Camps: In the summer months (July-August), UCalgary Active Living has many popular summer camps for minor children (Kindergarten to grade 12).
Dr. Seuss in the Park: the Students Union Volunteer Services team runs a free literacy program for children with reading, games, and crafts outside. Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Learn more here.
Since most on-campus services are funded through student services fees, there are a limited number of supports that partners or spouses can access with their student partner.
Active Living (Recreation Services): Through the payment of fees, students are automatically enrolled as Active Living members and can access services and programs. Students also have the option of adding their families. The cost to add family members is $122 per term, per family.
Please note that people under 17 years of age have restricted access to active living facilities due to risk of injury. There are, however, areas children and teenagers can access such as the swimming pool, children's summer day camps, open court times, and so forth. For more information visit their website.
Career Development/Job Search: Liliana Gonzalez, Career Development Specialist, International Students can support international students & their partners/spouses.
- International Advising Appointments: International students can book an appointment under the international student career services calendar on behalf of the spouse on careerlink.ucalgary.ca.
- International Student Workshops: Spouses/partners are also welcome to come to the “international student” workshops; they can find the workshops under the careerlink career services calendar and the titles would include (international students) in them. The student can register for the workshop on behalf of the spouse.
- Online Resources: students and spouses/partners can access information online through the Career Services website
Faith and Spirituality Centre (FSC): The majority of services and events are available to students and their spouses. To learn more about what the centre offers click here.
International Student Services (ISS) Immigration Advising: ISS offers immigration support to all students including your spouse and/or children. If you need to access this service, make sure to drop by the office with your family along with your UCID card.
Student Legal Assistance (SLA): SLA is the on-campus law clinic that provides free representation and legal assistance to UCalgary students. They are located in Murray Fraser Hall 3390. You can contact them by calling 403.220.6637. SLA is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Learn more visiting their website.
Please note that the SLA is unable to assist in the following family matters: parenting matters involving Child and Family Services, divorce matters, and matters filed with the Court of the Queen's Bench.
Wellness Centre Physical Health Services: Chiropractic, nutritional, and massage services can be booked for a fee by non-students by calling 403.210.9355 or visiting their website for more information.
Women's Resource Centre (WRC): The WRC has two lactation rooms open to anyone who wishes to use them, for free. They are available on a first-come first-served basis. The WRC is located on the 4th floor of MacEwan Student Centre. To learn more about services and programs offered at the WRC, click here.
As a full-time UCalgary student working towards a degree, you have two components to your health insurance:
- Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) which is the free provincial plan that all Alberta residents must register for.
- Supplemental Health & Dental coverage through either the Student Union (undergraduate) or Graduate Students Association (graduate)
Learn more about health insurance options for new Alberta residents here. If you are in Calgary with family members (married spouses and single children under the age of 21), you will register for AHCIP together. More details are available here.
You can also choose to add your family members to your supplemental Health & Dental plan through the Students Union or Graduate Students Association during the first few weeks of studies, for an additional cost. More details are available through the SU and GSA health and dental websites.
- Graduate Student Association: gsa.ucalgary.ca/health-dental-services/
- Students' Union: www.su.ucalgary.ca/programs-services/student-services/health-dental/
Unfortunately, partners or spouses of students are not eligible for the UPass (term-based public transit pass for students). Instead, if they will be taking public transit regularly, they can purchase tickets for each 90 minute trip or monthly passes. Please see the Calgary Transit website for fare information. Low income transit passes are available for eligible families.
Global Families Program: Learn more about low-cost social events and activities that are child-friendly.
International Student Services Newsletter: Sign-up to receive emails with international student and family-focused information and events.
Writing Symbols Lodge: Sign-up to receive emails with events open to students and spouses hosted by the Writing Symbols Lodge (formerly, the Native Centre). Visit their website for more information.
Graduate Student Association (GSA): Sign up for the GSA newsletter to stay up to date on all the event and programming opportunities (scroll down). The GSA hosts events year-round, they also offer discounted tickets to several attractions in and around Calgary, including the zoo, the Telus Spark Science Centre, the Calgary Tower, and more! Visit their website to purchase your tickets.
UCalgary Strong Festival: The annual festival takes place during the last day of classes and is free to all members of the community. There is live music, interactive games, wellness activities, and snacks! Visit their website for updates.