Live in Canada for a couple of months once . A lot of nice ideas come up – and they all came true during my semester abroad at St. Mary’s University (SMU) in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
But in order:
The accommodation search
I wanted in advance a hotel and not have to live on campus, because I would rather live in the city.
There were three other female students at my FH who were supposed to be at SMU during the same period. With a girl from the group I found a furnished holiday apartment after a long search via fewo.de. It was very expensive (€ 700 per month), but in good condition and in a perfect location.
A little tip: When searching, make sure that you are close to the university, as the public transport in Halifax sometimes leaves something to be desired. It can be good that the bus doesn’t come at all, or too early or much too late. Fortunately, I only had to walk for about 15 minutes.
Other friends have also found a flat share via kijiji.ca or AirBnB.
Otherwise, I recommend that you arrive a few days before the start of the university and look for it on site.
Saint Mary’s University
The SMU is a campus university with around 5,000 students. This makes it a lot bigger than my little university of applied sciences in Germany, but I never felt lost because the campus is very clear. After a while I was able to orientate myself quite well. Otherwise you will always find someone to help you. Canadians are very friendly and polite.
According to the SMU, 25% of the students come from 100 different countries. In the business sector , it was felt more. I would estimate around 40-50%. It depends a lot on the course. There were significantly more international students in the economics courses than in the management or marketing courses. But it’s easy to get in touch with a lot of different people.
On campus you can find a lot more besides the lecture rooms. Including a pub where you can eat well and relatively cheaply and where the nicest waitress in the world works (Carol). There is also a Tim Hortons, which is THE Canadian coffee shop, a bookstore where you can also buy “fan articles” from the SMU, a well-equipped gym, a large library, an ice hockey rink and a football field and of course all the services of the SMU, like that Medical center with several doctors.
The university also offers a bus ticket that is valid throughout the city and also for the ferries to Dartmouth (a small community on the other side of the harbor).
The support from the SMU
Overall, the on-site support was good , as you will always find a helpful contact person if you need one – regardless of the department.
Before leaving, there was the possibility of the university picking you up at the airport free of charge . Make sure you take advantage of this, as a taxi into the city is very expensive and the bus takes about 1.5 hours.
When I arrived in Halifax, all I knew was that I should report to the Student Center the day before the start of university. Unfortunately, no further information came from the university, as everyone was on Christmas vacation up to that day. I found out the time from another German who had been there for several months. It is best to clarify this directly with the Student Center before Christmas if you cannot find any information. You should actually get a schedule of events for the first two weeks. You can find the contact details on the SMU homepage.
On this day you will also be informed about the health insurance of the SMU. You can get this for free if you have already taken out international health insurance in Germany. Then you just have to show the confirmation. HanseMerkur’s international health insurance is the cheapest. You can use it to go to the doctors in the Medical Center, but you have to pay around 20 euros for your appointment.
In the second week the university provided buses with which we were driven to an authority just outside the city. There we were able to apply for the Nova Scotia ID , a kind of identity card. Definitely go there, as you can get into pubs and clubs better with the ID, otherwise only the passport will be accepted.
During the rest of the semester there were all sorts of events every week, but I didn’t always take part in them because they were mostly attended to average.
I had chosen four courses in business: Marketing Management (Lecturer: Suzanne Milner), Family Business (Claudia De Fuentes), The Atlantic Economy (Armand Pinard) and International Economic Issues (Atul Dar).
I would always choose the first three courses, but I had imagined International Economic Issues to be a bit more interesting. It was basically expanded macroeconomics and the professor was nice, but a bit difficult to understand and didn’t make the lecture really exciting. The grade consisted of four assignments, the mid-term and the final exam.
Marketing management was interesting and instructive, so recommendable. The only thing that disturbed here was the group work in which we were supposed to develop a marketing strategy for a new product . My group was nice, but not really hardworking, so the cooperation was mostly a bit tough. This project played a major role in the grade, alongside the smaller test during some lectures, the assignments and the mid-term.
Family business was pretty easy as the standard wasn’t very high. It was very interesting and if you wanted to get a very good grade, you could do it here with relatively little effort. Here again there was a project in group work, which made up the largest part of the final grade. There was also a mid-term and two case studies.
The best course was The Atlantic Economy under Armand Pinard. The professor is actually retired, but he enjoys teaching so much that he still teaches a few classes. And you can tell that he has fun and his incredible knowledge! It was more of a historical business course, but it was really interesting to learn more about Canada’s Atlantic provinces. The grade consisted exclusively of homework, as the professor does not like exams.
Overall, the workload during the semester was high, comparable to my FH. I was lucky that I only had one exam in the exam phase at the end of the semester, as the exams in all other courses took place during the lectures, including several oral presentations.
You have a lot of time for the housework and the preparations, as the lectures are a maximum of twice a week and each last 1:15 hours. If the course only takes place once a week, the lecture lasts 2:30 hours. Business students are always free on Fridays;)
The recreational opportunities
Now finally to the most important thing: free time.
According to top-engineering-schools, Halifax offers a wide selection of pubs and bars of all kinds. Canadian beer is a matter of taste, but cocktails and schnapps taste good;) But be careful: such an evening / night can be quite expensive as alcohol is very expensive in Canada. So use happy hours. Unfortunately, there are only a few clubs in Halifax that are okay, but not always my style. But you can make the most of it when you’re out with a cool group.
Now let’s move away from partying to other activities: Halifax and the SMU each have an ice hockey game . The Halifax Mooseheads are only a junior team, but already a lot better than German ice hockey! So it’s worth going to the games or to those of the SMU Huskies.
If you would like to do sports yourself, you can train for the entire semester in the university gym for $ 20.
Halifax also has a beautiful harbor and two parks (Point Pleasant Park and Public Gardens), which are great places to stay on sunny days. Also recommended is the Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21, where there is also a Farmer’s Market, where you can buy local products (including ham!)
Just outside is the Halifax Shopping Mall with a great selection of shops. So leave some space in the suitcase;)
Otherwise I can only recommend you: travel as much as possible! Canada is an incredibly beautiful and diverse country, which offers you great opportunities. Grab some friends and rent a car. We always did this via ADAC.de and were able to pick up the car from Hertz at the Marriott Hotel at the port. At the weekend it’s not that expensive, and the amount can be split up with several friends.
One weekend we went south and had a house on AirBnB right on the beach. Unfortunately there wasn’t really anything going on in Lunenburg, Mahone Bay etc. in winter, but Peggy’s Cove was beautiful. In addition, it was just great on the beach in winter and you get to know the others in the group better.
We went to Cape Breton over Easter. Definitely go there! I think that was one of the most beautiful stretches of land I have ever seen. But drive better when there is not much or no snow left if you are at SMU in the spring semester.
In the spring semester you also have a week of winter vacation in February, during which I flew to Calgary with three friends and from there traveled to the national parks of Banff and Jasper, where we went skiing and hiking. Just great!
After the semester, I also traveled to Toronto, Algonquin Provinical Park, Ottawa and Montreal, as well as New York and Washington. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
So you see, you will hardly be bored 🙂
I would spend a semester abroad at Saint Mary’s University and in Halifax again at any time, as the country and its people have become dear to my heart and I had an unbelievably great time. I was able to make many new experiences and get to know nice people, for which I am very grateful. But be aware that everything in Canada is quite expensive and the tuition fees are also very high. Nevertheless, I had an unforgettable 5 months and it was worth it not only in terms of my academic training but also in terms of my personal development.