University: Saint Mary’s University
Continent: North America
Field of study: Religious Studies, English / American Studies, Teaching Degree for Secondary School I / Secondary School II
Study type: semester abroad
Information on the application process
I first heard about MicroEdu on Facebook and went to an information event in Münster. Canada really appealed to me because of the friendly people and great travel opportunities. After an individual consultation with Katharina, who is the MicroEdu Officer for Canada, I chose SMU in Halifax. The application documents were sent to me directly by email. After I filled them out, Katharina forwarded them to the SMU. She also supported me well with the letter for the foreign student loan, so that everything went smoothly and quickly.You always get answers from MicroEdu within a very short time, so no questions remain unanswered. Check jibin123.com to see IELTS academic vs IELTS general training.
Studying at the SMU
Beforehand, I used the SMU self-service banner to look for two courses in English and one course in religious studies, which I discussed with the study advisors in my departments. I also received detailed information on course selection at SMU from MicroEdu. You have to take three courses to be a full-time student, only then do you receive foreign student loans. Each course results in three credit hours, which correspond to approximately six credit points.
The courses at the SMU are more schooled than in Germany, since we had to submit short essays every two weeks that dealt with the literature that we read in the course. Larger papers or exams were written during the mid-terms and finals, but the final grade is made up of all achievements and not just one exam like in Germany. Our English courses were very small with 10-15 people. This number made lively discussions possible, so I could definitely improve my English. I remember the Indigenous Literature of Canada course particularly wellby talking about literature written by Canadian Aboriginal people. The teacher’s name is Sandra Muse Isaacs and she comes from the Cherokee tribe in the USA. She is a very warm person and always made the course interesting and lively. In general, the relationship with the lecturers in Canada is more relaxed than in Germany.
Some fellow students in the course were from the Mi’kmaq tribe of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia or were Inuit. Before the course, I wasn’t aware that the indigenous people still suffer from discrimination or generational trauma, as they were sent to so-called residential schools up until 1996, where their culture was expelled from them. The Religious Studies course was larger as it was an introductory course. There we learned exciting things about all world religions. The cultural diversity at the SMU is very large, so you get to know people from all over the world. Most internationals come from Asia and Germany, which is sometimes a shame if you want to improve your English. But we also had several Canadians in our courses. The other German fellow students, who were more in the economic field, often had larger courses with a lot of group work and presentations.
The support at the university was also good. The International Office has always supported us with questions and forwarded them to the right people. If something went wrong with course selection, Paul Dixon, the Internationals Advisor, was available to help.
It is possible to live either on campus in the residences or off-campus. I lived off-campus myself and found the apartment through kijiji.ca. Many landlords offer their rooms here. The difficulty in Halifax is that it is often not the flatmates who are allowed to choose the new flat share member, but the landlords themselves. They always prefer annual rents and are happy to add another 100 dollars to the monthly price for short-term rents. It’s a good idea to place an ad yourself at kijiji.ca and say what you’re looking for. Then you get offers. Airbnb is a great way to bridge the gap when looking for accommodation, as you can still get valuable tips from the hosts. Ifinally found a basement apartment with a friend for CAD 525 per person per month in the central South End, 15 minutes walk from SMU and 5 minutes from Spring Garden Road. We lived there with an Indian woman and a Chinese woman. Unfortunately, we still had to get our own furniture and equipment. Walmart is always recommended for this. Basically, rents in Halifax are quite expensive. From 650 CAD to 1000 CAD for a room, everything is included.
Some Germans also lived in the university residences. The nice thing about the residences is that you have more contact with the other internationals and students and thus speak more English. In addition, there is no stress when looking for an apartment. However, the prices for the residences are very high and you have no choice but to book the meal plan as the kitchens are not equipped. In addition to the canteen, there is also a food court for people without a meal plan, a Tim Hortons (Canadian fast food chain, similar to Dunkin Donuts), and a café in the Bib. Everything is quite expensive except maybe Tim Hortons, but you can’t eat fast food every day. theSupermarkets Sobey’s and Atlantic Superstore are only 1-2km away and offer a 10% student discount on Tuesdays. The students had to buy their own bedding in the residence. Even the 19th floor isn’t safe from mice as they can get through the heating ducts, but that’s a problem throughout Halifax. Fortunately, we have never seen a mouse in our apartment, only heard it rustling or saw one darting through the bib. But you get used to everything.
Living in Halifax
The people of Nova Scotia have a reputation for being the friendliest people in Canada. It’s not a cliché that if you’re lost looking at a city map, they’ll stop and offer help. Even a bus driver got off with us and showed us the way and everyone else on the bus smiled politely : -D. When we wanted to cross a busy street for the first time, we were quite taken aback that the cars slowed down and waited until we had crossed the street. Canadians will hold the door open and apologize if you accidentally bump into them. It was great to be able to live in this friendly atmosphere. We felt welcome right away and you become friendlier and more open to people.
Halifax is located on the promontory in the state of Nova Scotia, Canada’s smallest state. Many small shops and bars bring the city to life. Live bands perform in most bars, creating a great atmosphere, for example in the Split Crow, in the Alehouse or on Sundays in the Lower Deck. In August it was still very lively at the port. We had very good weather and were even able to swim in the Atlantic. Point Pleasant Park is very pretty and very close to SMU. It extends directly on the Atlantic coast. The Sir Sandford Fleming Park is a bit outside but also recommended. As winter approaches, towards the end of October, the city quiets down. On Thursdays on “Thirsty Thursday” there are many student specials in the bars. In the evenings we often went to Freemans (pitcher beer only $10), Argyle Street, Niche, Seahorse or Oasis to sing karaoke. Be sure to catch a game of the Halifax ice hockey team, the Mooseheads. Tickets are only $13 for students and it’s a great spectacle.
Shopping in Nova Scotia is quite expensive. In addition to the price, there is always a 15% tax, with the exception of fresh food such as vegetables. If you go out to eat, you have to add a 15% tip to the 15% tax, since that’s what the waiters mainly live on. Cheese and alcohol in particular are very expensive compared to Germany. You definitely need a credit card, because you can use it to withdraw money from many banks free of charge. This can be done, for example, with the prepaid credit card for students from the DKB. I didn’t need a Canadian account because I was always allowed to give my landlord the rent in cash and I had a prepaid contract with Rogers for my mobile phone, but it is possible to open an account with Scotia Bank, for example, free of charge. I would not recommend the mobile phone provider Rogers. The lady in Spring Garden Road didn’t give good advice and you didn’t really have internet very often. I paid $30 for 1GB of data. I think the web Bell is better, but I don’t know the prices.
SMU itself offers a number of excursions, such as to the small fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, home to the world’s most photographed lighthouse. Even if it’s a bit crowded, it’s great to climb over the stones and walk a bit in the village. We also went to Annapolis Valley to pick apples that we later used to make apple pies. We Germans have made many weekend trips. We simply rented a van from Budget or Enterprise and booked accommodation through Airbnb. For example, we went to the town of Lunenburg, which is a World Heritage Site, and to the Bay of Fundy for a whale watching tour. This was a special experience as we saw dolphins, humpback whales and an orca. The Bay of Fundy has the largest tidal range in the world. We were also in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, with the famous Skyline Trail, where you can also see moose.
You can marvel at many waterfalls, see beaches and admire the colorful foliage in October, which is called Indian Summer. Our day trip to Kejimkujik National Park was also great. There we could go canoeing and it was very impressive how the colorful autumn leaves were reflected in the clear water. With a bit of luck you can see beavers. You should take the chance to see the national parks as early as possible, as they close at the end of October. We had a week off in November because of Remembrance Day, when Canadians commemorate those who died in World War I and II and everyone wears a red poppy. This week is actually used for learning, since the finals are coming up soon afterwards. However, many of us internationals have travelled. I flew to Ottawa with friends and from there drove to Toronto and Niagara Falls. I would recommend that to everyone. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is reminiscent of New York with its skyscrapers. However, everything is much closer together.Take the ferry over to Toronto Island before sunset for a great view of the skyline and the sunset. The difficulty is always getting out of Nova Scotia, because the only way from Halifax is by plane or the Maritime Bus, which is quite expensive compared to the Greyhound.
After the exams at the beginning of December we traveled along the east coast. We started in Québec, which I can recommend to everyone at Christmas time. There is a great Christmas market and you can go dog sledding or skiing. From there it went via Montréal to Boston and New York City. Montréal was very beautiful and a fairly young city with many students. At -25 degrees it was very cold, but also worth the experience. It’s unusual that most of them speak French there, but you can always get by with English. In Boston we walked the Freedom Trail, where you can learn a lot about the American Revolution. New York is quite close from Halifax by North American standards(1-2 hours flight), so I would recommend everyone to go there, because it is really impressive with the big skyscrapers that you only know from movies. We also saw Washington, DC. We ended our trip in Florida so that we could soak up the sun again after the Canadian winter. The white sandy beaches and the turquoise water were a crowning glory. The best way to travel is by Greyhound bus or rental car. It’s nice if someone in the group is over 25, because then the insurance for the rental car is cheaper. An international driver’s license is required for the USA, but not for Canada. Gasoline is generally very cheap. Domestic flights in the US are also not as expensive as in Canada.I would advise everyone to travel as much as you can, because traveling is where you get the best experiences.
Overall I had a great time in Halifax and traveling! Canada has such a wide range of impressive landscapes that you learn to appreciate nature again. I met great people and gained valuable experience. I would recommend a semester abroad in Canada to everyone ! Especially now in 2017, because Canada is 150 years old and therefore entry into all national parks is free.