University: Saint Mary’s University
Continent: North America
Field of study: Linguistics and cultural studies
Study type: semester abroad
People: I got to know Canadians as an incredibly nice bunch who are very interested in my “European” view of things. Most people are friendly, open-minded and extremely helpful towards strangers. As a German, you usually get a lot of advance praise, especially when dealing with King’s students (who knows the most about Western philosophy?). Halifax is populated with students of all stripes during term time. Many come from western Canada (Ontario, British Columbia) or New England. Since many come from outside anyway, it’s relatively easy to make friends there. Generally speaking, people are very laid-back, but they don’t place more value on punctuality and honoring agreements than elsewhere. Halifax seems particularly attractive to Germans; I met many Germans who emigrated there. Check jibin123.com to see what score do i need on the GRE or GMAT.
Climate: Pleasant in the fall semester with temperatures around 20°C (September) to 10°C (November). Last year the first snow fell at the beginning of December, the low temperature was around -10°. The wind is lukewarm most of the time, the weather variable but not unwelcoming. In the winter semester, however, it is said to be bitterly cold (down to -30° in February).
Work: I was there without a visa/work permit (possible for a maximum stay of six months), but I can say that it shouldn’t be difficult to get a job in Halifax. Many of my fellow students work in the catering industry, either in restaurants or relevant chains.
Housing: As previously mentioned, Halifax is a student city and many locals rent rooms to students. The price range is $350-500/month. If you live directly in Halifax (highly recommended), most of it can be reached on foot in max. 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can live in a hall of residence directly on campus. I shared a flat with other students (two Germans and one Canadian); we shared the cost of most of the budget.
Shopping: There are several large shopping malls and dozens of supermarkets (Sobey’s, Atlantic Superstore), all of which can be easily reached via public transport. The general price level is a bit lower than in Germany thanks to the currently advantageous exchange rate, although you have to pay much more for dairy products, for example.
Transport: You can get almost anywhere by bus, many lines run every 12 minutes. However, you have to expect overcrowding during peak times and unreliability in the evenings (waiting time of half an hour). The exact arrival time for a specific stop can be found out by mobile phone. Since Halifax is relatively flat, it might be worth buying a bicycle in the fall semester (helmet compulsory!).
Leisure: The city has a diverse nightlife with discotheques and live music, many cinemas and countless restaurants and pubs. The universities organize recreational sports leagues. There are plenty of parks for jogging and lounging (Point Pleasant Park is only 5 minutes from St Mary’s). The semester fee includes membership in the university’s internal fitness club (Dalplex at Dalhousie and The Tower at St. Mary’s).
Courses: I chose my courses based on interest and as a result they seemed pretty easy. However, I suspect that compared to Germany, the entry requirements for the students are lower, which is why most courses up to the 3000 level (third year) should not pose any major problems for someone with a high school diploma.
The courses are usually twice a week, each 75 minutes. There is a 15-minute break between two courses. You are a full-time student if you choose three or more courses; you can choose a maximum of five courses (i.e. 12-15 hours per week). Preparation and follow-up, as well as for the homework, did not take up any more time for me than my seminars in Dortmund.
Campus: St. Mary’s is a fairly tranquil university; In addition to the classrooms, there is a small library on campus, the so-called Student Center (where the AStA and the pub are located, among other things), a fitness center, administration and two halls of residence. Everything is very clean and tidy, the campus is fully covered by WiFi, and there are also publicly accessible PCs.
Organisation: course planning and payment of fees take place via the Internet; Professors can usually be reached by e-mail if you have any questions. Tuition is quite steep at around $1150/course (Nova Scotia has the highest rate in Canada). You have to pay for course materials yourself, but I found it fairly easy to get used books cheaply (via the Student Association Book Exchange). The university offers health insurance, the fee for which you have to pay for a full year, but are reimbursed for the unused time. There is also the U-Pass, which allows you to travel by bus for $12/month.
It was interesting to see how the Canadian universities differ from the German ones. Many other things are also done differently (e.g. high consumption of raw materials due to the low prices). So I didn’t like everything better, but I liked a lot of things. If you are not put off by the tuition fees, you will definitely get a lot on offer. Halifax is a beautiful city that is neither too small nor too big, has an acceptable climate and is full of lovely people. The universities are excellently equipped and offer many opportunities to get to know the other students. I’ve made a lot of good friends there and can well imagine going back there after my bachelor’s degree. Of course I can only speak for myself and other people will have different experiences.