University: Saint Mary’s University
Continent: North America
Field of study: sociology
Study type: semester abroad
Study year abroad at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax/ Nova Scotia (Canada)
from August 2011 to April 2012
In this report, I have tried to summarize all the important aspects that need to be considered as well as important points of my study year abroad in a comprehensive and understandable way. If you as a reader still have questions, don’t be afraid to write to me. Check existingcountries.com to see where to study Buenos Aires or Santiago.
Halifax (HFX) is the capital of the province of Nova Scotia, which is located in eastern Canada and is one of the Maritimes due to its proximity to the ocean. 120,000 people live in Halifax, and the number multiplies during the semester when students come to the city.
The city itself (downtown) seems quite small and manageable, but the city with Canada’s most important port has a lot to offer. Countless pubs and restaurants line the streets of downtown and there are three clubs (which are beyond my experience). Halifax is definitely a city of musicians, there is live music in the pubs almost every day, there are concerts and the sounds of band rehearsals can often be heard in the streets, and open mics are part of the program in many pubs. Those who like it more alternative and are deeply immersed in the Halifax scene will also find the OpenMics that are organized weekly in the basement or living room of private flat-sharing communities.
In the summer, the city offers a few different festivals. As the name of the province suggests, this city often reflects Scottish culture in music and festivals, as well as in drinking and eating culture.
Friends of walking can take a nice walk on the harbor front and look at museum-worthy ships or share the large Point Pleasent Park with sports and leisure lovers. This offers many walking paths (also for jogging) and picnic opportunities by the sea.
The range of leisure activities is enormous and ranges from boat trips, whale watching to skiing or snowboarding in the area. It would go beyond the scope to list all leisure activities.
The countless fishing villages and beaches in the area also offer nice day trips. Weekend trips to nearby islands such as Cape Breton or Prince Edward Island are also worthwhile.
Canadians are very friendly and open-minded people. In any everyday situation you get into informal conversations that sweeten your day. Especially in Nova Scotia the people are very accommodating. Lots of apologies, even though nothing has happened yet, and if you look lost, you don’t even have to ask for directions to get help.
I could rave endlessly about the city and its people, but I don’t want to make the report any more difficult for you readers.
Application and deadlines
The application to Saint Mary’s University (SMU), for which you do not need an English test (TOEFFEL etc.), can be made much easier by applying via the MicroEdu portal (http: //www.college -contact.com). On this website you will find all the information and leaflets you need to apply to the SMU (or other universities). The employees are also happy to answer any questions by telephone. This agency only asks for a report upon return.
To enter Canada for a period of more than 6 months you need a valid passport and a study visa. After approval by the SMU, you will receive an official letter, which you then have to enclose with your visa application. You apply for a student visa at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin (http: //www.canadainternational.gc.ca/germany-allemagne/visas/index.aspx?lang=deu&menu_id=72&view=d)
Information such as how you intend to finance your stay in Canada must be given here.
It takes a few weeks to process the visa application. Therefore, I advise you to submit the applications and applications as early as possible.
When planning a study year/semester abroad, I recommend a preparation period of 1 year.
Preparation arrival, apartment
Once the paperwork is done, you have done the most unpleasant thing and should book a flight as soon as possible – the sooner, the cheaper!
Arriving at the airport, which is a 30-40 minute drive from HFX, you can take a free taxi transfer in advance from the SMU International Office (http: //www.smu.ca/international/services.html). Otherwise it costs about 20 CAD.
It is highly recommended to visit the International Office before beginning your studies. They are very friendly, helpful and always open to further questions.
On the SMU campus there is the possibility to move into a single room in one of the halls of residence. This offers advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed individually. I try to present them neutrally. The dormitories are large towers, where many (international) students can find space, this is certainly a quick way to establish contact, but also carries the risk of finding little peace (for those who are looking for it). These residential towers do not offer any cooking facilities, so you have to book a meal plan to move into the room, which is offered in different variants. We then eat in the (often fast food) restaurants on campus.
I tend to be one of the older students and wanted to be able to cook on my own and was looking for more contact with the Canadian population. Living in a flat share was very important to me because my English could be improved a lot. I went to HFX without having arranged a room beforehand. I had previously booked a room in one of the two hostels and found a room within 2-3 days at http: //halifax.kijiji.ca. If you want to look for a room yourself, we recommend arriving a little earlier.
The International Office offers an orientation week before the start of your studies, for which you also have to register online. Unfortunately, this does not consist of explaining the study structure or the study portal to you, but offers a lot of fun, excursions and leisure activities. I had the helpful students on site explain the important things about studying to me.
Because of MicroEdu and the English test that does not have to be taken, a large number of Germans also study at the SMU (however, the number is very small in the second semester). I was able to avoid them (I was there to learn the language and culture) because I lived off-campus.
The campus is quite small, just like the city, but this helps a lot to get in touch with other people and to find your way around.
If you take three courses at the SMU, you are a full-time student. This has the advantage of a free bus pass and free membership in the campus’ own gym. You can also enjoy the games of the SMU huskies (football) for free.
However, you should be aware that the Canadian university system is very schooled. That means essays, assignments, reflections, etc. every week. There are also intermediate and final exams. These are evaluated individually and combined into a final grade. Depending on your knowledge of English, this can be done quickly or in a time-consuming manner. You get support everywhere, from professors or fellow students. The SMU also offers a language center.
If you do not belong to the species of business administration or economics student, you will enjoy the advantage of small classes and thus be part of stimulating discussions. Most professors also attach great importance to group work.
In general, the courses require a lot of preparation but are not rocket science.
Generally speaking Canada is expensive compared to Germany in cost of living. Food far exceeds the prices here in the country and a room ranges from 350 to 500 CAD. Usually they are between 400 and 450 CAD.
The university costs are very expensive. Tuition fees are charged per course. For visiting students, this contribution is doubled and amounts to approximately CAD 1700 (per course).
Health insurance is mandatory. There is the possibility to use the university or to take care of your own in advance, which is much cheaper.
I think every student will have a different experience at HFX as this city and campus offers different incentives for each individual – from celebrations to political activities. For me, the year I spent mainly in this great city with its wonderful people was an unforgettable time. I was able to get involved politically, was inspired by the country and its people and became part of the city through my friends.
In general, I can recommend Canda because this country is made up of so many different cultures and nations and therefore has such a tolerance that I never felt like a foreigner for a minute.
Rich in experiences and adventures, as well as new knowledge, I returned with a heavy heart.
I really had a lot of time to settle into HFX. I dealt intensively with the city and got involved in socio-political activities, as well as spending my free time with alternative and politically motivated people and living with them in a community house (10-15 flatmates).
After the end of our studies we traveled queerly through the country (from east to west) and bought a van, which is not so easy for “non-Canadians”.
If you are interested in some insider information on the above points or need contacts in HFX, just contact me.