5 Reasons to Choose a West Coast Canadian Boarding School

When looking for a boarding school in Canada, what do you view as the most important? Is it modern accommodations, rigorous academic programs or perhaps abundant scholarships

At St. John’s Academy, an International Baccalaureate (IB) Boarding School, we’d argue that one of the best, and perhaps most overlooked things to consider, is the location. Where a school is located defines the kind of outdoor programs they can offer; the kind of practical science experiments they can do; the access to other formal learning centres and state of the art museums; and of course the overall quality of life for boarding students.

Deciding if you want to send your child to boarding school should always include some serious consideration of where the school is located.

Nestled along the shores of a pristine lake in western Canada’s Vancouver Island sits our St. John’s Academy Shawnigan Lake campus. It has so much to offer and we’re certain that you’ll fall in love with it as much as we have. So what makes it so special? 

SJA Students canoeing on our lake.


1. Access to Incredible Nature

Being that Vancouver Island is a rainforest climate, this makes it entirely unique to the majority of the rest of Canada. While Canada is usually known for harsh, cold winters, Vancouver Island is quite mild by comparison. There are well-known beaches to wander and surf and of course trails to hike year-round. Unlike the rest of Canada, it rarely receives snow (except for on those wonderful ski hills!) so is the perfect climate to enjoy the great outdoors all year round.  

The coasts of Vancouver Island are also famous for spotting whales and finding a mountain to gaze at is just a matter of looking up. They are everywhere. Not only is it an outdoor lover’s paradise, but the setting inspires endless creativity in our students! In fact, it has been proven that spending more time in nature helps with mental health, and we know students can experience increased stress when studying away from home. 

You can learn more about how we make the very best of this paradisiacal Island at St. John’s Academy by checking out our Outdoor Education Program. There are so many opportunities for our students to learn how to navigate, identify species or design art projects. It’s an optimal learning environment.  

SJA students participating in the first Truth and Reconciliation Day, learning about the Indigenous peoples of this land.

2. A Deeper Understanding of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples

There are 50 First Nations of Vancouver Island, which are divided into 3 individual tribal regions: Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwakaw’akw and Coast Salish. St. John’s Academy acknowledges that it resides on the traditional territory of the Coastal Salish peoples.

Given that these are the original peoples of the land, we have so much to learn from them. If you choose to study on Vancouver Island, you will be surrounded by the rich culture and history of the people of this land. This is a true honour and a gift.  

SJA boarding student visiting a nearby butterfly conservatory.

3. A Small-Town Feel Near Big Cities

It’s great to be near big cities in order to have access to quality airports or other amenities. Luckily, St. John’s Academy is situated just 45 minutes north of Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city. Victoria has a stunning harbour, a quaint downtown and an overall charming vibe. Victoria has an airport which can connect you with other major airport hubs in North America. 

Vancouver, the largest city on the west coast of Canada, is a ferry ride away, providing access to a major airport for transiting to and from your home country. Vancouver is a bustling city filled with a vibrant arts scene, lots of history and some incredible national parks.  

Both of these cities are fantastic, and St. John’s Academy benefits from their proximity with all the advantages of being in a smaller town where things are quieter, safer and more idyllic for learning.

SJA boarding students explore a nearby pumpkin patch as part of the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada.


4. True Community Spirit 

We know that when students move away from home, they can experience culture shock and miss their family and friends. A healthy and active community is a very big part of the culture, and we make a special effort to ensure our boarding students feel right at home and part of a meaningful community. Joining together with other students from all over the world, our St. John’s students get to create a collective culture of their own as they learn with and from one another. 

In our residences we have many activities that students can participate in as they get to know one another and grow as a family away from family. So while they might worry about fitting in at first, they’ll easily forget all about that as they join a sports team, perform in a musical or volunteer at a local retirement home. 

SJA student attending a university briefing session.


5. Proximity to Wonderful Universities

If you start studying on Vancouver Island, you might just fall in love with British Columbia and never want to leave! Luckily there are 14 universities and 11 colleges in B.C. This means that you can apply to post-secondary education within the province and potentially find a way to stay just a little bit longer in beautiful British Columbia. Having already lived in B.C., you’ll have a leg up in knowing what it means to live here. Many of our Alumni have moved on to these world-renowned Universities.

So, when are you moving to Vancouver Island? We can’t wait to meet you!


St. John’s Academy is a growing IB (International Baccalaureate) school nestled against Shawnigan Lake on Canada’s Vancouver Island. It intentionally brings together both local and international boarding students so that all of our students have an enriching and academically rigorous experience.



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