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Initially planning to apply to Canadian programs only (I am an anthropology student) I decided to take the GRE and change most of my applications to US programs after learning that funding and quotas for international students were limited there.

I have been accepted to the PhD program at UBC with 4 year funding at CAD18,200 and informed that there would also be  possible TA'ship positions later at CAD 12,000. It would be great to study in Canada, as while I know that PhD programs (perhaps just for the social sciences) are more 'valid' when from the US, my homecountry is a mess right now, and my spouse (who is an architect) and toddler will be accompanying me and Canada does give the chance of PR'ship after 3 years which we might consider as well as work permits on arrival etc. etc.

I'm wondering if I'm not mistaken in thinking that a monthly CAD1500 is a bit too low for a student to manage in Vancouver, even if I were to go alone? (We will have a little extra funding set aside but it will be spent on childcare) The rents for one thing are so high!  

I'm still waiting for the results from Queens (Cultural studies) and York and a few other US universities (I have received one acceptance) but am wondering if anyone could advice me before I decline.. I know there are gov grants that can be applied to but most seem to be for Canadian citizens and also I'm not sure if I should count on those.

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You should ask your program how likely you are able to get a TAship. If there is a high chance of TAship, then 30,000 CAD of funding is 2500/month, which is more reasonable to live on. It will be a little tight to support 3 people on that income in Vancouver, but it's not impossible. However, unlike the USA, most Canadian programs pay students the full amount and then we still have to pay tuition from the stipend. So, check if a tuition award is included, otherwise, find out how much tuition you will have to pay.

Almost all government grants are for citizens, so you will have to find out about UBC or school-specific grants. For the schools in Ontario (Queens, York), there is the provincial government's OGS (Ontario Graduate Scholarship) which specifically puts aside 1% of its funds for international students. This is not very much which means it is very competitive.

Finally, there is the Vanier Scholarship from the Canadian national government that is also very competitive and open to international students. It pays 50,000 CAD per year but most schools can only award it to one person across each of the three major fields (health science, science/engineering and humanities/social sciences). Definitely can't count on those but worth applying if you are eligible.

Overall, grad stipends in Canada are quite low in Canada. Without TAship in addition to other sources of funding like a fellowship, it can be very difficult to live in an expensive city like Vancouver. But it has been done! 

Some pieces of good news though: Canadian fellowships/scholarships aren't taxable, unlike the US stipends. Also, you say that you are spending some money on childcare. If your spouse can find work in Canada, then that could help with costs. I believe that it's much easier for a spouse of a student to get a work permit in Canada than it is for the USA. So, look into that too as an additional source of income.

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