It was clear to me at the beginning of my studies that I absolutely wanted to do a semester abroad. When the third semester came to an end (around December), I started to think about where it should go. It was clear to me relatively quickly that as a psychology student I wanted to go to English-speaking countries abroad, because English is always present in the course of studies, mainly through specialist literature and scientific articles, and it doesn’t hurt to expand your school knowledge a little.
Unfortunately, since there were no English-speaking Erasmus exchange universities in the offer of my faculty, I looked for other options on the Internet and quickly came across the MicroEDU page. I already had Canada in the back of my mind as the target country and after I was convinced relatively quickly of the seriousness of the organization, I then rummaged through the experience reports – just as you are probably doing right now. My first choice was then the university in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, I only found out 2 months after I had already been accepted there that it would be difficult to take psychology courses at all at this university. After very friendly advice from Katharina (MicroEDU, the information on the psychology courses that could not be taken was also not available), I then switched to Saint Marys University in Halifax. My application was therefore only sent out in mid-March – without any problems and extremely uncomplicated. So no problem if you are running late!
Although Halifax was actually my second choice, I was very happy about my decision on site and, as you will read in a moment, I can completely recommend the university and location.
After a brief deliberation, I decided not to apply for the residences on campus. At first it seemed appealing to me to get to know campus life, but it sounded quite clear from the experience reports of my predecessors that a lot of 17-18 year old Canadians who had just moved out of home would live in the rooms on campus. It really was like that and I would not have wanted to swap with the exchange students who live on campus… Apart from that, living on campus is incredibly expensive, given that you only have a pretty small room.
Instead, I decided to arrive 10 days before the start of the O week in order to then look for a room in a shared apartment on site. In this way I was able to get to know Halifax in the most beautiful summer weather and had really great first days with trips to beautiful lakes in the region, for example. I lived in the HI hostel and was more than happy with it. The hostel is run by very personable people, there is a nice large communal kitchen and it is also a good hostel in terms of cleanliness. And it is centrally located:) I also got to know other travelers and students there. Read more student reviews on Liuxers.
From there, I searched various flat-share pages (vakijiji.ca) and looked at some (also very unpleasant) flat-shares and after many more or less disappointing visits I finally got an attic room in a beautiful 8-person flat directly opposite the SMU found. The price was actually above my budget, but the location can’t be beat and the alternatives definitely not glorious.
My conclusion on looking for an apartment on site: Be prepared for prices that are way too high (at least in the south of the city around the universities) and a rather low standard of cleanliness. In addition, you have probably already read that it is the landlords who choose the tenants, not the flat share members. Nevertheless, you can actually be sure that you will find something (and you don’t have to arrive 10 days in advance;)) and in case of doubt you will move again. Last but not least, it should of course also be said that a large flat share is a great opportunity to get to know other Canadian students.
In the end, I was lucky enough to live in an absolutely colorful, bustling, beautiful shared house with 7 other students from all corners of the world: 3 Canadians, one from Bangladesh, one from India, one from Somalia and one from the Dominican Republic. That would be really cool, in the kitchen you always met someone, we held an international dinner series in which almost everyone cooked something from their country and we did film or series evenings with some of our roommates.
I would only like to advise you against entering into a contract with Anne Thompson or Britta Young, I have not seen the two of them as fair landlords!
I would particularly like to highlight at Saint Mary’s University how perfectly elaborated the program is that they offer international students. From the O-Week to the International Office, the free Writing Center, the pick-up program from the airport and much more… I felt very much at home in the university, which is also very colorful and internationally mixed. Almost all employees are – in the Canadian manner;) – always very friendly and helpful.
Regarding the level and workload, I can only repeat what I believe everyone writes here: Overall, the exams are easier and the demands are lower, but nevertheless you often have to hang in more during the semester due to seminar papers, homework, reading assignments, projects and midterms, than you are used to at home. If possible, do not choose more than 3 courses.
How big the effort is certainly depends on the respective professors and your own personality. But don’t worry, there is still enough time for parties, weekend trips and other jokes…:
Student life / leisure & everyday life in Halifax
Because my tip is definitely: Don’t take the university too seriously, you usually only do a semester abroad once in your life and should definitely enjoy it as much as possible from start to finish and use it to get to know the country, people and culture and have fun to have.
When it comes to going out, Halifax is really big in pubs with live music, where you can feel both the Irish influence and the proximity to the harbor and the sea. There you first eat wings and drink a pitcher beer (or share one;)) and then the live band begins to play, the mood rises and at the latest when “A broken man on a Halifax Pier” is the whole pub is on the wooden floorboards on the dance floor…
Of course there are also clubs in Halifax where you can have fun and which you should definitely try, but the pubs (e.g. Alehouse or Economy Shoe Shop and Lower Deck) definitely have more Canadian flair and are really something special, especially if you are Likes live music.
Stroll around or eat ice cream and relax on the harbor promenade (“Waterfront”). On Saturdays I warmly recommend the Farmers Market (also at the harbor), where you can buy regional fruit and vegetables, international snacks, German bread and nice handicrafts – also with guitar music or Irish Gefiddel in the background.
I would have liked to run in his free time, it is served here with a lot of like-minded people (the Canadians all run like crazy, I had the feeling), as well as with beautiful routes. Both the waterfront, a tour over the town hill with the Citadell, and especially the Point Pleasant Park are wonderfully suitable for this. I was particularly fond of the latter, because here you always arrive at the sea pretty quickly while running and you can feel the pure Canada feeling;)
Another great thing about Halifax are the various festivals that the city offers. For example, I was able to take a great open-air theater performance in the park in the summer (“shakespeare by the sea”), and started with the “Nocturne – Art by Night” (light installations, concerts, exhibitions all over Halifax and free!) Experienced October, marveled at the Parade of Lights (big Christmas parade at the end of November) and in my semester, too, the annual “Pop Explosion” took place with a whole bunch of concerts all over the city in mid / end of October. Halifax has a lot to offer in terms of culture and, above all, for music lovers.
At the university you can also use the large gym for free (the only disadvantage: no swimming pool) and register for various courses there or register for football or volleyball in the intramurals. Furthermore, there are quite a few associations / initiatives at the university and student councils that you can join. However, I have made the experience that at least for only 4 months, i.e. if you only stay for one semester, it is not really worth it and you can only contribute to a limited extent.
What you should definitely do: Weekend trips while the weather is still nice and explore the surrounding area a little! The Canadian landscape in Nova Scotia is fantastically beautiful, especially on the coastline, and is a bit reminiscent of Scandinavia. My three favorites and recommendations:
- If possible, a canoe / tent tour in the Kejimikujik National Park, which is characterized by large lakes, at the end of August / beginning of September. It was fantastically beautiful and really Canadian, we could still go swimming and had to pull our provisions up into the trees in the forest at night so that no bears were attracted…
- Tour to Cape Breton, also a national park but of a completely different kind, with rocky cliffs and very hilly / mountainous. At the end of September we no longer camped there, but eight of us rented a small cottage and from there, for example, went on an outstanding whale watching tour (with a captain who was no longer quite sober…).
- You should definitely rent a car during the Indian Summer and drive south in the sun along the coast. There are wonderful, colorful landscapes of leaves and it is worth making a detour to Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay and maybe even Luneburg.
Conclusion: Halifax and Nova Scotia have more to offer than coastal and small town flair, you just have to look around, be open and grab every opportunity;)
Oh yes, also a must: Open Mic-Nights in the Campus Pub Gorsebrook (every Wednesday), at least one SMU Huskies football game – even if it pulls out, cheering on your own university team is just part of it;)) and the super exciting ones Ice hockey games by the Halifax Mooseheads !!:)
Canada in general
Overall, I enjoyed my semester abroad incredibly well, although I had to do a lot for the university, I was still partying more than ever in my life and I enjoyed the entire time very much and experienced a lot. I was also able to get to know a lot of nice people from many different corners of the world. I have to say that there were fewer Canadians among them than I might have hoped at first, but the exchange students, the internationals, now simply have the same interests (lots of weekend trips, lots of things to do, partying and so on..). Nonetheless, I have found Canadians to be extremely friendly people and Halifax residents to be very helpful too.
Sooner or later every exchange student will fall in love with the country and be happy to spend their semester abroad in this great country!
As you may have heard by now, I can definitely recommend Canada, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint Mary’s University for a semester abroad!
The only two small weak points that you should be prepared for are a lot of Germans and the high cost of living. But you shouldn’t let that deter you: you can come to terms with the former and be happy that you can meet your new friends again sooner after the semester abroad or avoid other Germans and there are various solutions for the latter too: Apply for an international student loan, work and save beforehand or apply for a scholarship abroad!
It’s worth it so that after an unforgettable semester you can say: oooh Canaaadaaaaa….
PS: For further trips through Canada before or after your semester, I particularly recommend Montréal and Québec – but preferably not only in the deepest Canadian winter:)