University: Saint Mary’s University
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
From the beginning of September to the end of December 2011, I spent my semester abroad at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. Before that I traveled through western Canada and the USA for a month. Check existingcountries.com to see Netherlands higher education.
Canada really is a beautiful country and I would recommend everyone to study there and especially to travel there if possible. Before the semester started, I was in Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The people there are very open and helpful and the landscapes are varied and beautiful.
You don’t need a Toefl for the SMU and the organization is very easy via MicroEdu and you are also very well looked after if you have any questions.
All beginnings are difficult…
The first few days alone in Halifax were very difficult for me. I know this situation, being on your own very far away from home, already from Australia. It didn’t make things any better, but I knew it would get better quickly. And after 2-3 days I felt very well. I stayed at HI hostel to look for an apartment from here. Highly recommended, but book early. I also met some nice people here. The Orientation Week at the SMU is very well organized, excursions are made together and you get to know everyone.
Halifax has about 300,000 inhabitants and is very cosy. The city is very young and lively thanks to the three universities there, as is the nightlife. There are several nightclubs and a great many bars and pubs, so there is more than enough nightlife. Public transport is relatively fine. You can get around pretty much anywhere in the city with the buses, but there is often a lack of punctuality, especially when it snows. And from 11pm or midnight you have to rely on a bike or taxi.
The SMU is a rather small university with around 7,000 students. It is very modern equipped. The range of courses is also wide. I took the courses “Principles of Microeconomics” (Prof. Pinard), “Principles of Macroeconomics” (Prof. Steele) and “Financial Institutions” (Prof. Dai). Micro and Macro were Year 1 courses. The level was well below the level of German economics courses. If you really want to learn something, you should rather take courses from more advanced years. On the other hand, it was easy here to get good grades (by Canadian standards). Financial Institutions is a 4th year course and already higher in level than the other two. In general, the workload in Canada is much higher than in Germany. Every week there are quizzes to be written, Submit assignments and then there are the midterm and final exams. On the other hand, the level in most courses is well below the level of German universities. The range of sports offered at the university is very positive. There is a gym which is well equipped (with a sauna) and plenty of classes to take or sports teams to join. The university pub is also regularly and very well frequented.
Most students live in one of the residences directly on campus, of which there are three. You can choose between single and double rooms and you have to add the meal plan, except for the senior suites. I never looked into this too closely because I wanted to live off-campus. If you want to do that, you should arrive at least two weeks before the orientation week in order to have a certain choice. Don’t be discouraged, everyone has found something. I lived with a Canadian woman. Everything was very clean, I could use everything and my landlady was almost like a substitute mother for me. She was super nice, chatted with me every day and even took me on trips to visit friends in Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island. Whenever I needed anything else, she always helped me. Based on my very good experiences, I can highly recommend living off-campus. I paid $500 a month by the way. If you want it cheaper, you have to (usually) save on cleanliness or other things.
If you don’t have to write assignments right now, you should definitely use the time to travel. From Halifax I’ve been to Cape Breton Island (an absolute must), Prince Edward Island (also very beautiful) and Toronto. There are enough destinations for day trips in Nova Scotia as well. Flights are unfortunately very expensive in Canada. To Quebec or Montreal it costs around €400, Toronto €250, Miami €300.
Only book your one-way flight and not a round trip just because it’s cheaper. I know several people who simply canceled their return flight or rebooked it and ended up paying more. You will find out around the end of October when the finals are and after that a lot of people still want to travel.
Do not sign a cell phone contract with Koodo! Even if it sounds cheap, the service is too bad. You can’t pay the bill by credit card, something is always not working and they try to deduct money from you wherever possible.
Unfortunately, there are far too many German students at the SMU. Anyone who attaches great importance to speaking a lot of English should look specifically for international or Canadian company, move into a Canadian shared apartment or reside in a double room with an international.
Don’t walk around town alone in the evening, especially not near the university. When I was there, there were several peepers who watched women and who knows what happens when you bump into them. Of course I don’t want to scare anyone, but if you’re not traveling alone, you can take precautions, and in Germany you shouldn’t be traveling alone at night, especially as a woman.
The 4 months in Halifax were wonderful and an unforgettable time. I highly recommend everyone to go there.