The VICE Guide to Canadian Universities for American Students Fleeing Trump
Photo via Flickr user David

The VICE Guide to Canadian Universities for American Students Fleeing Trump

There has been a massive surge in Americans applying to Canadian schools. We are here to help you sort the Canadian Harvard from the Canadian University of Phoenix.
January 3, 2017, 9:08pm

As one of the most straightforward ways to relocate to Canada legally, Americans are increasingly applying to Canadian universities. Across Canada, post-secondary schools have reported a recent massive surge in applications from Americans as the Trumpocalypse approaches—inauguration day is January 20, in case you'd been trying to forget that.

There's a couple solid reasons for going to school in Canada right now. You can escape the reign of Trump, the drinking age is lower than 21 and with the low Canadian dollar, tuition and fees for international students are often lower than prices at American schools.


So if you're an American who's after a study permit in Canada, we put together this handy guide (in no particular order) so you know just what you're getting into if you decide to apply to a Canadian uni (yes, that's a nickname for university here, and don't you dare call it "college.")

University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Going to U of T can be a polarizing experience. Its reputation as one of the best universities in North America lies in its history and prestige (and large endowment), an attractive quality for anyone who can't get into an Ivy league. Others find it stuffy and pretentious. If you're American, be prepared to go to a school where the number one complaint is that it "doesn't feel like a university." There's a perception that there's no wild parties, it's hard to meet people, and that the professors don't care about you. All of that is total bullshit. Like anything else, the experience is what you make it. And most of that experience lies outside the campus grounds. After all, U of T is located in the centre of Canada's largest city—the one place where every great band is guaranteed to play, where there are countless dive bars and trashy nightclubs a $10 Uber ride away. Basically, you're not trapped on a campus in the middle of nowhere (hi, Brock), so get ready to blow that student loan on getting turnt up like an adult.

Fancies itself as: The Harvard of Canada 
Reality: The University of Pennsylvania of Canada

Photo via Wikimedia

Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Memorial became a full-fledged university when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. It was meant to be the crown jewel of the province, producing a new class of educated workers to help move the island from the 17th century to the 20th. Now, thanks to a tuition freeze on the books since 1999, it's the cheapest tuition in the country outside Quebec and a great way for Nova Scotians to get a degree at the fraction of the price of one of their own schools—and all on the Newfoundland public dime. And who says Confederation wasn't a great idea?

Fancies itself as: The École Normale Supérieure
Reality: You get what you pay for (and also alcohol poisoning).

Photo via Wikimedia

McGill University, Montreal, Quebec

Are you into flashing insignia, calling out microaggressions, occupying administration buildings, and telling people that you went to the same university as Leonard Cohen? Well, McGill is the school for you. It has a great academic reputation inside and outside of Canada which means that you can keep your parents at bay while you engage in activism and drink all of the cheap Bifteck beer that your ridiculously low Montreal rent will allow. Be sure to pick up your "Harvard of the North"-themed sweater and walk on eggshells all the way to class.

Fancies itself as: Harvard of the North
Reality: Oberlin of the North

Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario

Named after colonial administrator and War of 1812 General Sir Isaac Brock (not the Modest Mouse singer), Brock University has the distinct honour of being the basic bitch of Canadian universities—welcoming only students adorned with the talents of walking and talking. But, really, Brock is hella boring. Located outside of the already depressing city of St. Catharines, its largest department is business, and it's dominated by a staunchly conservative and often ignorant af population of students, which not only reflect but now actually are the region's politicians, after the election of 19-year-old Brock student Sam Oosterhoff.

Fancies itself as: A cutting-edge university
Reality: Meh.

Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario

As much as it tries to escape the nickname "Rye High," there's not a student here who doesn't know there is some truth to this moniker. Complete with over-zealous student publications and its reputation as a "hip" university, Ryerson is located directly next to and partially embedded in Toronto's version of Times Square, Yonge (pronounced "young") and Dundas. Three prominent archetypes you have the right to know about before you decide to go here: journalism students who swear they go to Canada's version of Columbia, engineering kids who have claimed a portion of the school dubbed "The Dungeon," and the business school dudes who alternate between reformed hockey bros and Bryson Tiller clones. Oh, if you do graduate, you'll be taking part in a strange-ass Scottish ceremony ft. bagpipes. That said, the school does have a pretty dece business incubator program that has seen some serious successes (i.e. $$$) and is in Toronto, which is like New York but without the money/extensive public transit system/city pride.

Fancies itself as: Columbia University
Reality: A try-hard, faux-urban extension of high school

Queen's University is in Kingston, Canada. Not Northern Ireland. Photo via Queen's University's Flickr.

Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

If you're trying to escape the States, this school is probably not for you. With drunk idiots dressing up in offensive costumes (at least) once a year, a long history of racist incidents, and students getting bodied after slapping police horses on the ass, well, it's pretty much as close to an American school as you can find in Canada. This is where the Canadian elites send their brood to get economic degrees on their way to Bay Street (Canada's Wall Street); this is where those kids lose the only semblance of humanity that they ever had.

Fancies itself as: An Ivy League school
Reality: A Bush League school

Western University, London, Ontario

Western is populated by mostly rich, WASP-y kids from Toronto suburbs who think U of T has too many international students (read: non-white people). You will be given a terrible nickname your first week, and much of your social interaction will consist of people screaming this at you from across bars and streets. Think of it as Queen's equally evil twin. There's some world-class research apparently going on, but it's hard to think of that with all of these types of stories happening every year.

Fancies itself as: A Serious School
Reality: A padded holding cell for children who will eventually stumble comfortably into the social and economic roles they were groomed for anyway.

Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Located in scenic Halifax (aka the Boston of Canada), Dal is considered the Harvard of the Maritimes by Billy MacDonald's grandmother in Cape Breton (the Rhode Island of Canada???) but in reality it is basically the most average university you can possibly imagine. Some good research programs, too many law students, too many future doctors and dentists scandalizing the school, too many good pubs downtown playing fiddle music with young men yelling "sociable!" while drinking Alexander Keith's (yes, this cliché is actually true), an OK quad, the ugliest building in the city, and did I mention the city has some great bars? If you go to this university, you will have gone to university.

Fancies itself as: The U of T of the Maritimes
Reality: The McGill of the Maritimes

Photo via Facebook

University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

A weird progressive oasis in the heart of Canada's Texas, except for all the men's rights activists. It's conveniently also located in the only part of Edmonton that doesn't look like an industrial wasteland.

Fancies itself as: The new University of Toronto
Reality: The new York University

Photo via Facebook

University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

It was originally a satellite campus of the University of Alberta but became its evil twin in the 1980s. Stephen Harper was a Young Liberal until he did a Master's here, so…

Fancies itself as: The University of Chicago Economics Department
Reality: The heart of fucking darkness

Photo via Facebook

University of British Columbia, Vancouver (barely), BC

UBC is like a utopia for the world's most painfully earnest students—a place where students once protested to save a grassy knoll outside the student union building. But it's also a stomping ground for the wealthiest offspring of the world's elite. A temporary landing pad to house your skis while you rollerblade around the city. It may have hippy roots but at this point, it's shaping up to be the Queen's of the west.

Fancies itself as: 20 years ahead of the curve
Reality: Just really far away from everything

Photo via Facebook

York University, Toronto, Ontario

If you want to go to a school known for the phrase "If you can lift a fork, you can get into York," this one's for you. It's where you go if you want to live in Toronto, but didn't get into Ryerson or U of T, except it's on the outskirts of the city and has been waiting for its subway station to be finished for the past 100 years. York is also in a perpetual state of narrowly escaping some PR disaster because it's automatically associated with any crime that happens within a 20-mile radius. Three kinds of kids you're likely to meet: Schulich business students who you probably won't see ever again after they realize they're members of the 'campus elite' and don't have to talk to anyone but other business students; the dead-eyed film production students who've always been on set til 3 in the morning; and the miscellaneous liberal arts student who came to university because their parents wanted them to. Its claim to fame used to be that Jian Ghomeshi and Rachel McAdams went there (obviously, it's all about McAdams now), and a kid built a tunnel to chill in on campus grounds that lots of people thought for a while was a terrorist hideout.

Fancies itself: The U of T of Toronto's suburbs
Reality: The ultimate backup school

Photo via Facebook

MacEwan University, Edmonton, Alberta

MacEwan is a smaller university that suffers severe little brother syndrome to the famous University of Alberta (see above) that also resides in Edmonton. Around since 1974 and named after author and Albertan Lieutenant Governor Grant MacEwan, it, just over ten years ago, got the bump from community college to university in 2004. It's one of those undergraduate factories blue collar folk go to before moving up to a real university for your master's. Honestly, the only real reason we're writing about it is because our night editor went there and he would throw a fit if we left it off the list.

Fancies itself as: Ryerson of the Prairies.  
Reality: One guy at VICE went there and forced this school on to the list. Do not go here.

Photo via Facebook

Université de Montréal

L'Université de Montréal est la plus grande université francophone au Canada. Tout le monde y parle donc français. Parles-tu français? Peux-tu lire cette description?!

Fancies itself as: "Un campus à l'américaine"
Reality: Au Québec, tu peux boire de l'alcool légalement à partir de 18 ans.***

***Canada has two official languages.