There's no two ways about it: Canada is a big place (the second-largest country in the world, in fact). However, much of northern Canada is wilderness - perfect for a hike (or perhaps even a research trip) but not likely to be where you spend most of your time during a PhD. Instead, like most residents, you'll probably find yourself living in the southern part of the country.
So, what's student life like in Canada?
Culture and tourism
Canada's ten provinces are highly diverse, both geographically and culturally. They range from the rugged prairies and forested mountains of British Columbia and Alberta through the lakes and rivers of Ontario and Québec to the maritime regions of of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
There's a lot to take in and you probably won't see all of it during your PhD (at least, not if you plan to finish your thesis on time). But, wherever you're based, it's a safe bet that you won't be far from attractive national parks and famous landmarks such as Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario, the Hopewell Rocks and Ellesmere Island.
Canada's university cities are also historic cultural centres with a range of famous landmarks. Some, such as Old Québec City and Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica date back hundreds of years. Others, such as Toronto's striking 550 metre high CN Tower, are more modern.
Sport and leisure
Home to 25% of the world's wetlands, 20% of the world's wilderness and 10% of its forests, few places can match Canada when it comes to experiencing the 'great outdoors'. Unsurprisingly, hiking, mountaineering and sailing (whether on the Great Lakes or at sea) are popular pastimes, as are skiing and snowboarding in the winter months.
Of course, the country is also famous for some of its indoor sports, particularly ice hockey; the North American NHL was founded in Montreal and Canadians make up almost half of the league's players. Other popular sports include lacrosse, basketball and Canadian football (not to be confused with American football).
Food and drink
If you're familiar with American (US) cuisine, you'll find that food and drink in Canada is fairly recognisable. The menus in most restaurants, diners and cafes will include hamburgers, french fries and other well-known dishes.
Look a little closer though and you'll come across plenty of national - and regional - specialities. These include pancakes and maple syrup (of course) as well as poutine (a seasoned dish of fried potatoes, cheese and gravy) and bannock (a baked or fried bread served with various toppings). Seafood and game are also popular in regions that take advantage of their abundant local produce.
If you're looking to relax or celebrate after a hard day of research you'll be able to choose from a range of locally produced ales and wines.