I spent a semester at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada, from September to December 2018, taking English and politics courses there. The city of Halifax is located on Canada’s east coast and is also the provincial capital of Nova Scotia. For me, Halifax represents the character of Atlantic Canada perfectly and three large universities make Halifax a real student city. Even if Halifax is perhaps not as well known as Toronto or Vancouver, I felt very comfortable there because of the relaxed atmosphere. Saint Mary’s University is everything you would want in a college and had good courses for me.
My international shared apartment, in which I was lucky enough to find a room, has become a real substitute family for me over time. From high summer temperatures in August to a golden “Indian Summer” to the onset of winter in December, I was able to experience almost all seasons in Halifax. Some excursions and smaller trips in the area, for example to Cape Breton National Park or to Ottawa and Toronto, have also made my experience a real one. All in all, I was able to spend a great semester in Halifax, which I can only recommend to everyone. Visit ehuacom.com to get information about CSUSM study abroad program.
The hardest part of planning a stay abroad is getting started. When the first step has been taken, everything else usually happens gradually. Knowing that Canada was my dream destination, I looked at the various Canadian universities in the MicroEDU program and ultimately chose Halifax and Saint Mary’s University. After I had been guaranteed my place in Halifax after the uncomplicated application process at MicroEDU, it was time to take care of choosing a course.
You should plan a little time and patience when choosing a course, as you have to communicate with different offices and universities and not every course from abroad can be taken into account without further ado. During this step, too, I was able to contact MicroEDU with questions and, for example, view course descriptions from previous semesters. I decided to take three courses with three Canadian credit points each. Most of the students I met took between three and four courses.
Aside from questions about the university and the choice of course, you have to take care of organizational matters, such as the flight, passport, entry permit, vaccinations, insurance and, if necessary, visas, before going abroad. With things like that, I’ve had the experience: the sooner, the better. MicroEDU will also support you in all of these steps if you have any questions.
Although Saint Mary’s University offers its students places in the three dormitories on campus, I decided against such a place. On the one hand, the rooms seemed comparatively expensive to me, on the other hand, I wanted to live in a shared apartment off campus and make new contacts there.
For this reason I arrived about a week before the beginning of the semester to look at the housing market. During that first week I slept in a hostel and searched the ads on the Kijiji portal, the Canadian equivalent of Ebay classifieds. It is also worth taking a look at the Facebook groups. If you network with other MicroEDU students who are also going to Halifax, you can also get a tip this way. After four apartment visits, I was lucky enough to find a room in a shared apartment near the university for $ 650 a month.
Since the apartment was unfurnished, we had to improvise a bit with a few trips to IKEA and with the help of a couple of nice Canadians, but in the end we put together a cozy flat share. In Canada, for example, it is the custom that unused furniture is placed by the street and can be taken by anyone who can use it. My roommates from Germany, Australia, Norway and South Korea have become my second family during my time in Halifax and my flat share made up a large part of my experience in Halifax that I would not want to miss. When looking for a place to live, do not get involved in the first thing – the most important thing is that you feel comfortable.
The certain risk of traveling abroad without permanent accommodation worried me a lot before I left, but in the end I would do it all over again. I don’t know of anyone stranded in Halifax without a place to stay. You have to be aware, however, that the housing market is overcrowded, especially at the beginning of the semester, and that leases for one semester are not as desirable as year-round leases. But I don’t think that should put you off. There is no way I would recommend renting a room from Germany without first seeing it.
Saint Mary’s University and academic experience
At Saint Mary’s, I was warmly received and welcomed. Overall, the atmosphere at the university is very good and the exchange between students and lecturers also seemed closer to me than in Germany. The campus offers everything you need at a university, and I especially liked the sports program and fitness facilities. When you go to the SMU, you have the feeling that everyone identifies with the facility and lives out this feeling, for example when you support the huskies with their games. The SMU also offers free gym membership and has a variety of sports to try out. You should definitely take part in the Welcome Week, which is not only fun, but above all, during which you get to know a lot of new people.
Aside from my fundamentally good impression, I was also satisfied with my academic experience. My choice of courses included two English courses, “Contemporary British Writing” and “Reading Film”, as well as a political course, “International Relations”.
In Contemporary British Writing, we read and discussed contemporary British texts, including novels, poems and films. The course was very small (approx. 8 students) and therefore very interactive. The lecturer was very good, but it was a certain extra effort to read the books parallel to the semester.
The “Reading Film” course consisted of screening sessions and sessions in which we discussed the films together. Our lecturer had made a colorful selection of old and new films, so that there was something for everyone. It was also exciting to approach the subject of film from an academic point of view. In both English courses, the assessment consisted of the participation, various essays or position papers as well as a larger term paper at the end.
The “International Relations” course was probably where I learned the most. The lecturer was extremely motivated. We discussed various theories in the field of international relations and analyzed current political events against this background. The grading was based on weekly quizzes and a larger group project in which you had to create a research poster and give a presentation.
All in all, the Canadian higher education system differs from the German one in that participation is required over the entire semester. You have to keep up with a lot of smaller examinations, but at the end of the semester you are rewarded with having already managed most of it.
Leisure and excursions
I loved the Atlantic Canada indescribably. Often times the east coast is a little overlooked when it comes to Canada, but the region definitely has a lot going for it. The best thing to do is to rent a car with a few friends and explore Nova Scotia, there are great hiking trails and nature experiences everywhere. For example, we drove along the coast and stopped in Kejimkujik National Park and visited the Bay of Fundy. A trip to Cape Breton is also a must. If you have the chance, go there in October so that you can experience the Indian Summer perfectly. We even saw a moose on one of the hiking trails.
During Fall Break, I flew to Ottawa with friends and from there we drove via Algonquin National Park to Toronto and Niagara Falls. It was quite cold there, but the trip was very impressive. The winter hikes through Algonquin Park were just fantastic. I’m glad I’ve done so many tours – so don’t forget to check out beautiful Canada while you ‘re studying.
Even Halifax has enough facilities – the pub, cafe and restaurant scene is really good, for shoppers there is a shopping center and also the hockey games of the Huskies or the Mooseheads should not be missed.
I had a fantastic semester abroad in Halifax and I am glad I could always reach MicroEDU with any questions. Saint Mary’s and Atlantic Canada did not disappoint either. The nature in Canada and the warmth of the people there made my stay abroad a great experience. For me, the SMU was a great choice and I would also like to spend another semester in my shared apartment.