Living in Waterloo

The University of Waterloo is located in the heart of southern Ontario, Canada’s most highly populated and developed province. The City of Waterloo has a population of 113,100, but combined with Kitchener, Waterloo’s “twin city,” the population rises to approximately 350,000.

Kitchener-Waterloo is a thriving multicultural city with residents from all parts of the world. Settled by German-speaking immigrants from Pennsylvania and Europe in the nineteenth century, Kitchener-Waterloo still retains much of its German heritage, celebrated each year during Oktoberfest.

There are two universities and one college located in Waterloo, making the city a very student-friendly place. Wilfrid Laurier University is just a few blocks away from the University of Waterloo. Conestoga College also has a campus in Waterloo.

Visit the University of Waterloo campus weather station to see what the weather is like here in Waterloo.

Adjusting to a new life and a new culture in a new country can be overwhelming, difficult, and exciting all at once. We have some suggestions and things to keep in mind as you prepare to make this adjustment to Canadian culture.

Find out more about what it's like to live in Waterloo including:

Practicing your religion in Canada

Many different religions are practiced at the University of Waterloo and in the surrounding community. There are chaplains on campus to offer you support in spiritual matters. There are also multi-faith prayer spaces available on campus. You can also visit the Federation of Students' website for more information on the student clubs on campus with religious affiliations.

Canada's official languages

Canada has two official languages - English and French. English is the language of instruction at the University of Waterloo, and the language most commonly spoken in Ontario.

If you want to improve your English language skills, we offer various programs that can help you.

Canadian Law

As an international student, you have the full protection of Canadian laws and are also expected to abide by the rules and regulations of Canadian law. It is your responsibility to stay informed about the laws in Canada, including laws governing the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Alcohol laws

In Ontario, you must be 19 years of age or older in order to purchase and consume alcohol. When you buy alcohol or when you are going out to a place or an event at which alcohol will be sold and consumed, you will be asked to show photo identification to prove that you are 19 years of age or older.

There are also laws against over-consumption of alcohol. You must never operate a vehicle after you have consumed alcohol. In regards to alcohol use, it is important that you remember not to:

  • Carry open liquor (bottles of alcoholic beverages with the top off or seal broken) in a car
  • Walk in a public place with open liquor
  • Provide liquor to anyone younger than 19 years of age
  • Behave in a disorderly manner while drinking in a licensed premises
  • Refuse to take a Breathalyzer test from the police, which measures the content of alcohol in your body

Drug laws

The use of illegal drugs is strictly prohibited in Canada, and the abuse of drugs or alcohol is a serious offence in Canada. If you are caught in possession of drugs you can be seriously penalized.

Tobacco laws

In Ontario, you must be at least 19 years of age to purchase cigarettes and you may be asked to show photo identification to prove your age. All of Ontario has laws prohibiting smoking in all indoor public places.

Legal resources on campus

The Graduate Students Association (GSA) offers a monthly legal aid clinic, giving graduate students the opportunity to consult privately with a lawyer.

The Conflict Management and Human Rights Office (CMAHRO) acts as a resource to all members of the university community to discuss concerns in confidence regarding matters of harassment, discrimination, and other general forms of conflict.

Law enforcement

Waterloo Regional Police Service

The main branch of law enforcement in Waterloo is the Waterloo Regional Police. In you have an emergency, or if you have any questions or concerns that you think a police officer may be able to assist you with, do not hesitate to contact the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

Emergency calls: 911
Non-emergency calls: 519-653-7700

The University of Waterloo Police Service

The University of Waterloo Police Service is committed to a leadership role in crime prevention and law enforcement. Police Services is located on the university campus and available 24 hours a day.

In case of emergency, dial 22222 from a campus telephone to reach the campus police. Dial 911 to contact the Waterloo Regional Police, an ambulance, or the fire department.

The Safety Office has more information on issues important to your personal safety and comfort.

Living arrangements

On campus

All University of Waterloo residences, townhouses, and apartments are within walking distance of campus, and many offer meal plans and housekeeping services. Apply early as spaces are offered on a first-come first-served basis. Please refer to Housing and Residences for more information.

Off campus

If you do not get a place in residence, or you prefer to live off campus, you will have to arrange your own accommodation. The sooner you start looking for a place to live the better, especially for the fall term. Usually, landlords require a one year lease (contract) to be signed and two months of rent to be paid up front. Resurrection College and Waterloo Co-operative Residence Inc. are two other options for off-campus accommodation.

When arranging accommodation, you should know that in Canada, overcrowding is not acceptable. Most landlords will object to more than two people sharing a bedroom. Keep this in mind as you consider your choices.

Contact Off-Campus Housing if you are looking for help coordinating housing accommodations.

Temporary accommodations

On-campus residences usually allow students to move in during the first week of the month that classes begin (September, January, and May). Off-campus housing leases usually begin on the first day of the month.

If you need temporary accommodation, it is best to make arrangements in advance of your arrival. There are a number of places to stay on and around campus. Temporary accommodations both on and off campus are available. Resurrection College also accepts short term visitors.

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