University: Saint Mary’s University
Continent: North America
Field of study: Business
Study type: semester abroad
From September to December 2016 I completed my semester abroad at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. I’m studying international business administration in Germany, so the semester abroad was mandatory for me. I chose the SMU because of the good reviews and the rather low price, and I really wanted to go to the sea. Check existingcountries.com to see 8 best European cities to be a student.
Canada is a wonderful country, the people are super friendly and welcome everyone immediately. I arrived 1 1/5 weeks before the start of the semester because I actually wanted to look for an apartment on site. However, I had panicked shortly before and looked for an apartment on the Internet. In the end, however, everyone had an apartment, including those who were looking locally. However, if you want to search locally, you should look for a room from Germany for at least a week. Halifax only has two hostels and they were fully booked this summer.
I decided to live off-campus with the hope of having a lot of contact with other students through shared flats. However, it is often different, at least some of us had really great flat shares and a lot of contact with their roommates, often the flat shares are very anonymous and you live more or less at different times.
In the case of the on-campus rooms, it can be said that you have to get your own duvets, etc. I decided against the Residence because it is very expensive and you were tied to the meal plan. I wanted to decide for myself what to cook.
When looking for an apartment you should say goodbye to German standards, most Canadian apartments do not meet our standard of cleanliness. It’s not said for nothing that almost every home in Halifax has a mouse problem and/or bed bug problem. However, I have to say that only one of us Germans had bed bugs. There were often mice, both in the residence and in the off-campus apartments.
I was picked up at the airport by the university’s shuttle service (free of charge), which is best arranged about a week in advance. Which some of us had forgotten and therefore had to travel by bus. The bus is inexpensive for CAD 3.50, but the airport is a bit out of the way, the McDonald Bridge is closed from 7 p.m. and it is very difficult to get into the city. A taxi costs around CAD 65 if organized privately.
The cost of living in Halifax is very high, so an offer a lá broccoli for 99 cents is huge. We often cooked with several people or ate at the SMU kiosks. The food in the SMU canteen must have been really good, but I only had breakfast there once.
In order to be recognized at my university, I had to take 4 courses that I had to have approved at my home university beforehand.
I took Ethical Responsibilities Organizations, International Business Management, International Marketing, and Consumer Behavior. With the exception of Consumer Behavior, I can recommend all courses without exception. Ethcial Responsibilities Organizations was my absolute favorite course with Prof. Steve Farren. However, apparently every professor can set their own grading guidelines there:
As an example, in ERM I had to write 2 group papers, 3 tests and 1 final exam, in CB I had to do 2 group papers, 1 midterm exam and 1 final exam, International Marketing 2 group papers, 3 tests and IBM 1 group paper, 3 tests. The overall grades are then made up of all work plus oral participation and attendance.
You can see from this that group work is very important at the SMU and also because of the many tests, you have a lot more to do during the semester than at a German university.
At the end of the semester, I was more than satisfied with my grades at the SMU, so all the work and all the time paid off in the end.
Through the group work you get to know many fellow students from all kinds of nations. In a group work we were 5 members from 5 nations. However, it is difficult to make real friends because the students there know that the Germans come, stay for 4 months and then leave again. Which I can totally understand, but which is also a total shame.
Recreational Activities: Halifax is a dream in the summer, we have been to the Harborwalk and parks a lot. The Public Garden is located in the middle of the city and is a beautifully landscaped city park. The Point Pleasant Park is located directly on the Atlantic, is very spacious, there you can relax on the lawn, jog or just go for a walk. At the Harbourwalk we often lay in the hammocks there, also in the evenings, and talked. Another attraction is the Farmers Market, which is open all week but only really gets busy on Saturdays. In my opinion one of the must haves to see and experience in Halifax. There is also the Maritime Museum, with an extra Titanic area, since it sank off Halifax. Also very interesting and worth seeing is Pier 21 – The Immigration Museum.
In the first few weeks we explored the surrounding area, went to Kijiji National Park to swim in the Atlantic, since it was still over 30°C at the beginning, went to Lunenburg and Fishermen’s Cove. Peggy’s Cove was organized by the International Office of the SMU and is really fantastic, unfortunately very overcrowded with tourists.
We spent a weekend on Brier Island on the Bay of Fundy for whale watching and a weekend on Cape Breton. Whale watching was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life, from humpback whales with babies, to dolphins and an orca, everything was there. You don’t forget something like that in your whole life.
We were in Cape Breton for the Indian Summer in early October. The national park is huge and beautiful. However, this time we didn’t see a moose, once we just missed it according to other tourists. The Skyline Trail is fantastic from the view and also the nature and the colors of the leaves, like from a postcard.
We made a day trip to the National Park Bay of Fundy and to the Hopewell Rocks. It is also wonderful to see this world heritage site, especially the park has just closed here. We were almost all alone there, we could just let the peace, the sea and the rocks affect us.
We always drove with a rental car, you should calculate 150 CAD per day for the car, for a van a little more than for a small car. You can rent a car from the age of 21, over 25 it gets a little cheaper.
In Halifax, at SMU, we saw an American football game and a soccer game, the soccer game being a lot less busy than football, typically American. Hockey season starts in October and we were at the Scotiabank Center for the Halifax Mooseheads opening game. We also saw the SMU Huskies play the Dalhousie Tigers at Dalhousie Stadium, the Dalhousie is the other major university in Halifax.
In the evenings we often went to bars, alcohol can be consumed in Canada from the age of 19, but only in closed rooms. Alcohol is also incredibly expensive. There is bar after bar on Argile Street and each is worth a visit. One should try as many bars as possible during this time. Concerts and discos are also regularly offered in the Coorsbroke Lounge at SMU during the semester.
At the beginning of November there is the so-called Study Week, which is actually intended for learning shortly before the final exams. However, most of us traveled this week: I was in Toronto with a friend, for example, others flew to New York, Mexico or Ottawa.
After the study week, we still had 2 weeks of university and then another 2 weeks of final exams, although I only had two finals and was done after the first week.
At the beginning the semester seems to be infinitely long, but you should really plan exactly what you want to see, because in the end it is over so quickly that you can no longer do everything. For example, I was unfortunately not on Prince Edward Island and Cape Splitt, but I would have liked to have seen them.
I can only recommend this experience of the semester abroad, even if you get homesick and have a hangover in between, but the experience and what you have experienced outweighs everything else.
For me, home is the best, but I don’t want to miss any of the experiences from Canada. If you decide to do a semester abroad, I can definitely recommend Canada, Halifax and SMU. The Canadians alone and their mentality are so likeable and fantastic, you just have to experience that. The people approach everyone immediately, are totally uncomplicated and super helpful.