Step outside of your comfort zone and join us in
Ottawa, Canada for your Discover Year!
At Discover Year, we believe that all students of all backgrounds and nationalities can benefit from a purposeful gap year. That is why we are pleased to offer a unique opportunity for students outside Canada to join us in Ottawa to complete their Discover Year in person!
By coming to Canada for Discover Year, international students will have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in our community in order to explore their unique strengths, talents and values and create significance in their lives.
FAQs for International Students
Read through our FAQs below to get advice from our current and former overseas students and learn how you can complete your Discover Year in Canada.
Are you an overseas student with a question that isn’t answered below? Please contact us!
How do I know if Discover Year is right for me?
The Discover Year program is intended for all young adults between the ages of 17 and 21 who are motivated to uncover their greater purpose in life and to figure out how they can make the most of their unique potential. If you are interested in discovering your true interests, values and strengths and use them to create a significant life, then Discover Year is right for you!
Hear from some of our past overseas students about why they chose to pursue a gap year with Discover Year:
“All around me, people were living without passion and interest, and passively following conventional paths without questioning themselves. I refused to become one of these people. I wanted to make a positive impact in the world and take more control of my own life. That’s when I decided to search for alternatives and found Discover Year, and right away I was interested.”
- Ana, international student ‘20
“After I graduated from high school I wanted to study something I loved, but I didn’t know what that was at the time. I enrolled in physiotherapy, then switched to psychology, and by my second year I felt like I had no energy or interest to do it anymore. I felt like something needed to change in my life. I needed to take action, so I started researching gap years. When I found Jay’s TED Talk, I felt so relieved I could have cried. Finally, someone who gets what I feel.”
- Eveline, international student ‘20
When can I take a Discover Year?
A Discover Year can be taken upon completion of secondary school, during a pause from post-secondary education, or during an exploratory period at the outset of a young adult’s career. Our program runs from July to June, with the application period generally running from December until the end of May.
I would like to come to Ottawa but I’m afraid of leaving home. Are these feelings normal?
Your feelings are completely normal! Leaving home and embarking on a new journey in a new country can be daunting. Here at Discover Year, we believe in facing your fears, overcoming obstacles and taking action to find significance in your life. To help you do this, we have cultivated an inclusive, open and judgement-free community of students, mentors and coaches who can’t wait to welcome you to Canada and support you during your Discover Year!
Hear from some of our past overseas students about their feelings leading up to their Discover Year:
“I was 17 years old when I left to begin my Discover Year. It was my first time traveling abroad by myself, and guess what? I survived! Believe me when I say this: YOU CAN DO IT!”
- Ana, overseas student ‘20
“I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone, but to know my limits. All the Discover Year students are so supportive, it’s beautiful to see. Trust me, you will get rewarded for your courage.”
- Eveline, overseas student ‘20
How can I make the most of my Discover Year?
We believe that the more you put into your Discover Year, the more you will get out of it. And our overseas students agree! Here is their advice for making the most of your gap year:
“Always look for new perspectives and be open to the idea of changing and developing as a person. Also, understand that ‘failure’ doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. Every one of the new experiences we try teaches us a life lesson and they are essential for growth. You don't need to be perfect, just be kind to yourself and go for it!”
- Ana, overseas student ‘20
"Definitely try to get yourself out of your comfort zone, but understand that it’s OK to know your limits. The first few weeks of being in a foreign country without family or friends by your side and having to speak another language can be overwhelming, but it will get easier and you’ll become more confident. Also, don’t worry about things you are not in control of. Everything will eventually fall into place.”
- Eveline, overseas student ‘20
Is the Discover Year application process different for international students?
Our admissions criteria are identical for all students, whether they are from Canada or abroad. Our admissions process involves the completed application as well as a brief interview, to be scheduled with selected candidates following the initial screening of applications. For overseas students, these interviews will take place using Zoom video conferencing.
For more information about the application process, please refer to the Admissions Criteria.
Do I need a visa to come to Canada for my Discover Year?
In order to live in Canada for more than 6 months, you will need a visa. What type of visa will you need? Well, a key component of the Discover Year program is the work period, and in order to legally work in Canada, students will need to acquire a working holiday visa through the International Experience Canada program. Students must be at least 18 years old to apply for this visa, which will allow them to stay in Canada for more than 6 months and work while they are here.
If you are under the age of 18, don’t worry! You can apply for a tourist visa, which will still allow you to live in Canada for more than 6 months, then you can simply change your status by applying for a working holiday visa once you turn 18.
NOTE: US citizens are not eligible for a working holiday visa. We are currently in the process of applying for international student visa status, which would enable US students to work in Canada while taking their Discover Year, but timelines for the approvals are unknown. We will update this page as we learn more, so check back soon!
How can I apply for a working holiday visa or a tourist visa?
All visa applications need to be completed and submitted through the Government of Canada’s website. If you are accepted into the Discover Year program, we would be happy to provide you with a complete guide to help you apply for your visa.
In the meantime, check out the links below to get more acquainted with the visa application process:
- International Experience Canada: Who can apply
- International Experience Canada: Application process at a glance
How much will a visa cost?
Costs can vary depending on the type of visa, but generally, the application fee to apply for a working holiday visa or a tourist visa is approximately $100-$150 CAD. Students may also need to get their fingerprints scanned and their photo taken (these are called “biometrics”), which will cost approximately $85 CAD. Students may also need to pay for vaccines, police background checks or other requirements as part of their visa application.
When do I need to apply for my visa?
It is recommended that you apply for your visa well in advance of coming to Canada, as this can be a fairly complex and time consuming process. We would recommend starting to apply for your visa as soon as you are accepted into the Discover Year program.
Please note that acceptance into the program for overseas students is contingent on their ability to successfully obtain their visa. Additionally, though Discover Year will gladly support students throughout the process of obtaining their visa, the onus is ultimately on students to initiate and complete the application process.
How will I pay for Discover Year — in Canadian dollars or in my home country's currency?
All fees associated with Discover Year are calculated and displayed on our website in Canadian dollars. To determine how much it will cost in your home currency, check out this free currency conversion tool.
Are there scholarships available for overseas students?
Financial aid is prioritized for Canadian citizens, but scholarships are available to overseas students on a case-by-case basis. Once you have been accepted into the program, we would be happy to discuss payment options with you.
Can I work while I’m in Canada to pay for my Discover Year?
If you are over the age of 18 and your application for a working holiday visa has been accepted, then you will be able to legally live and work in Canada while you are a student in the Discover Year program. You can start applying for jobs online in advance, or you can wait to find a job once you arrive in Canada. A portion of the Discover Year program is devoted to job hunting and interview preparation, so we will be happy to support you in your job search.
If you are under the age of 18, you will not be able to apply for a working holiday visa—but that doesn’t mean you cannot work. Some of our international students who are under 18 have offered babysitting, house-sitting and dog-sitting services in the Ottawa area, and some have even worked online as a language teacher.
Where would I live if I travel to Ottawa for my Discover Year?
Ottawa is home to three universities and one college, and is known as a young and vibrant city with plenty of affordable housing for students in the downtown core. International Discover Year students can choose to find accommodations alone, rent an apartment or house with other international students, or live with a host family.
Many of our overseas students have chosen to live with fellow Discover Year students and their families and have loved their experiences. Not only is it beneficial for the student to get adjusted to life in Ottawa, it also gives them a great support network and allows them to truly live like a local.
Hear from some of our past overseas students about their homestay experiences in Ottawa:
"Living with a local family is helping me meet new people more easily in a place where everyone is a stranger at the beginning. It is also providing a supportive environment, as the family is familiar with the city.”
- Ana, overseas student '20
“I think staying at a host family or staying at an apartment with another international Discover Year student are the two best options. This way, you will feel less lonely and you can explore the city with other people. You can also talk about insecurities with each other because, after all, you’re in the same boat and there are a lot of obstacles you will both have to overcome.”
- Eveline, overseas student ‘20
Do you still have questions that weren't answered above? Please contact us!