General English at Renison (GEAR)

Learn English through culture 

General English at Renison (GEAR) is an interactive 4-week language program that gives you an opportunity to improve your English skills while you experience Waterloo Region and the University of Waterloo. Through approximately 100 program hours, you will develop the language skills and strategies to confidently communicate in many situations.  

With classes such as presentation skills and cultural studies, you will have the opportunity to practice your English while experiencing the culture of the region and learning about advancements in many areas of local society.

Renison is a very cool place to study. You will not only learn about Canadian culture, but about many cultures from other students from around the world...You get the best of both worlds because it is a small place inside a very big university. At Renison you find a great community and it’s very familiar – everyone knows each other.

Fabio (Chile), past GEAR student

Who is the program designed for? (GEAR)

GEAR is designed for individuals who are:

  • looking to experience Canadian culture and be part of a Canadian university environment
  • passionate about learning in a challenging 4-week English language program
  • 18 years of age or older

Program features (GEAR)

  • 25 hours (approximately) of intensive English language programming per week
  • multiple levels from high beginner to advanced (if student numbers permit)
  • placement test on the first day of the program to determine a student’s language level
  • orientation session and campus tour on the first day of the program
  • opportunities to meet with instructors during office hours
  • continuous assessment and final achievement report (transcript)
  • a certificate from Renison English Language Institute at the University of Waterloo

The GEAR program is recommended for students with a CEFR level ranging from A2 to C1 (high-beginner to advanced).

What makes the program unique? (GEAR)

As a GEAR student, you will learn more about Canada and Canadian culture through local visits. Your GEAR instructors connect your experiences from these visits to your course content, giving you the chance to use English in real-world contexts. 

In GEAR, you will participate in events led by our peer leaders, who are upper-year University of Waterloo students. These events include speed friending, carnival nights, meet and greet events, and conversation lunches - a fantastic opportunity to practice your English, gain invaluable social skills, and have fun!

Some of GEAR's unique features include:

  • A cultural studies course where you will learn about life in Canada and increase your intercultural awareness, giving you a competitive edge in today’s globalized world.
  • Optional trips and activities to help you practice your English and experience Canada, as well as free time to explore Waterloo with your new friends.
  • Opportunities to meet University of Waterloo students during your studies, enhancing your cultural immersion experience.

What will you learn? (GEAR)

In this course, you will:

  • build your confidence when giving presentations 

  • practice strategies for using your voice effectively in public speaking situations 

  • develop effective presentation slides to support your delivery 

  • enhance the impact of your presentations through the use of nonverbal techniques  

  • deliver planned and unplanned individual and group presentations 

women at a table talking

In this course, you will:

  • improve active listening and speaking strategies for effective interpersonal communication 

  • explore and practice different contexts for speaking that require you to describe, summarize, explain, argue and persuade  

  • increase your understanding and use of new vocabulary 

  • practice and improve your pronunciation 

  • actively participate in group discussions to share ideas and perspectives 

integrated skills in green banner above a picture of someone writing with a pencil in a notebook

In this course, you will:

  • engage in the analysis and critique of various text types  

  • identify and discuss stylistic, grammar and language choices made in relation to audience and purpose for writing 

  • develop learning strategies in the areas of vocabulary expansion and self-editing 

  • build your confidence to understand and produce written texts for different contexts 

  • write on a variety of topics to improve accuracy and fluency

In this course, you will:

  • build your awareness of different aspects of culture 

  • develop an understanding of the social and cultural features of language 

  • explore and practice communication strategies to facilitate cross-cultural communication and manage cultural misunderstandings 

  • discuss similarities and differences in cultural phenomena while avoiding generalizations 

  • represent and share your unique cultural insights and experiences of Canadian culture using images, text and oral storytelling  

Program duration and levels (GEAR)

The GEAR program is four weeks long and is offered throughout the year.

Classes are offered to students with a CEFR level ranging from A2 to B2+ (high-beginner to high-intermediate). If student numbers permit, students will participate in a placement test at the beginning of the program.

Sample class schedule (GEAR)






Cultural Studies

9:00 to 12:00

Integrated Skills

9:00 to 10:30

Listening & Speaking

9:00 to 12:00

Integrated Skills

9:00 to 11:30

Listening & Speaking

9:00 to 12:00

Cultural Studies 10:30 to 12:00

Lunch Break

Presentation Skills

1:00 to 3:00

Presentation Skills

1:00 to 3:00

Integrated Skills

1:00 to 3:00

Presentation Skills

1:00 to 3:00

Cultural Studies

1:00 to 2:30

NOTE: the schedule above is provided as a sample and is subject to change.

Student Experience (GEAR)

Our Student Experience team is here to help you reach your goals. You will be offered a variety of opportunities for support such as one-on-one meetups with your program peer leaders who are here to support your English language development. As a GEAR student, you will:

Experience life in Canada

  • Join optional excursions to popular tourist sites in Southwestern Ontario, such as Toronto, Niagara Falls, and a variety of museums and cultural centres

Practice your social and English skills

  • Speed Friending
  • Carnival nights        
  • Meet and greet events
  • Conversation lunches
  • One-on-one meetups with your Peer Leaders

Stay connected

  • Helpful emails to prepare for your studies
  • Weekly email newsletters about upcoming events and program reminders
  • Texting app communities where you can ask questions and connect with your classmates
  • Ongoing invitations to our events and workshops even after you finish the program

Dates, fees, and application process (GEAR)

Dates and fees

GEAR sessions Dates Program fees Notes
September 2024 August 26 - Sept 20, 2024 $1953 CAD Registration open

NOTE: Fees are listed in Canadian dollars (CAD) and are subject to change at any time.

Program fees include the non-refundable application fee, tuition and incidental fees, and mandatory health insurance. For more information, visit our Tuition Fees page.

University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) coverage must be purchased regardless of medical coverage from your home country. Dependents (spouse and/or children) must also be enrolled in UHIP upon arrival in Canada for an additional cost. UHIP fees are subject to change September 1 each year. Renison ELI staff will assist with your enrolment.

Not included in program fees: travel costs, airport transfers, accommodation, and optional excursions. If you require assistance, please e-mail us at

Application process

Applications must be submitted through our student portal. Follow these steps to apply for the GEAR program:

Step 1: Visit the student portal to submit your application; if you are not signed in to or signed up for a portal account, you will be prompted to do so now.

Step 2: Once signed in, you will be directed to the Program Applications page; select the blue ‘Submit Program Application’ button.

Step 3: Proceed with preparing and submitting your application.

Step 4: You will receive confirmation of your application through e-mail to the e-mail address attached to your account.

Step 5: Pay the application fee and tuition deposit(s) to secure your registration.

Step 6: Receive your Letter of Acceptance within 3 business days of payment receipt.

Step 7: Pay your remaining fees two weeks before the start of the program.

Payment options

You may pay your fees through Convera GlobalPay for Students, online by credit card through your student portal, through online banking (only available from a Canadian bank account), or in person at Renison.

For detailed instructions, visit our Payment Instructions page.

If you have any questions about your application or payment options, please contact

Accommodations (GEAR)


In order to provide an opportunity to experience Canadian culture and community living in the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener, GEAR students may stay with a local, homestay family during the on campus program component. Homestay is provided by a third-party provider, Homestay Plus, and includes a private bedroom, internet access, and 3 meals per day. Homestay families are generally located within a 20 to 50-minute bus ride from the University of Waterloo. Prior to coming to Canada, students will complete a questionnaire that will match them with a homestay family. All students will receive a profile of their homestay family before coming to Canada.

Homestay fees can be paid through Renison. For more information about homestay fees and registration, please contact us.


Stay active in our two major sports facilities

  • Physical Activities Complex (PAC)
  • Columbia Icefield (CIF)

With the purchase of a one month membership, you’ll have access to on campus sport facilities including gyms and a pool (subject to availability).

The University of Waterloo has a health care clinic on campus just two minutes from Renison. Health Services provides convenient, confidential and comprehensive medical care that is included as part of your fees.