Where I come from
I am studying applied linguistics at the TU Dortmund with the minor subjects applied literature and cultural studies and psychology. The semester abroad is compulsory for us, I really wanted to go to an English-speaking country and so I came up with the idea of going to Canada through an information event organized by MicroEDU – a dream destination in the eyes of many. And mine;) After a few rejections of applications at my own university for partner or ISEP universities, I was thrilled to learn that – as soon as I signed up for a university in Canada from MicroEDU had decided – definitely would be accepted. It all seemed so easy!
How did I get to Saint Mary’s University, Halifax?
It was really that easy. In the search mask I entered: semester abroad, Canada, linguistics course. The result was 4 universities in the MicroEDU program and I decided on the most beautiful one 🙂 The Saint Mary’s was relatively affordable, had semesters instead of trimesters, had great reviews and another bonus: is right on the coast. Sounds great! I got the application documents sent to me without any problems, even with a fill-in guide in which everything was described in German in great detail that had to be entered in English. Every email was answered IMMEDIATELY and so I was able to relax and prepare for the semester in Halifax :). According to AbbreviationFinder.org, SMU is the abbreviation of Saint Mary’s University.
What about the flights?
I booked my flights well in advance with a very, very nice lady in the ADAC travel agency. Was really great, highly recommended. I flew from Düsseldorf to London to Halifax. (After the semester in Halifax I visited my former exchange partner from the USA, who now lives near Calgary 🙂 I flew back directly from Calgary to Frankfurt. Very relaxed and really recommendable to fly the most direct way possible – especially in anticipation of being home and when you are simply exhausted from the pain of saying goodbye! : D I flew with Lufthansa / Air Canada. Everything is wonderful!
Where did I live and how did I get it?
Since I’ve never been away for so long and been quite nervous, I really wanted to have my accommodation fixed before I started my trip. I admire very much the people who go to the hostel and choose something on site in a very comfortable way, although I might now be one of them;) In any case, it was still a horror for me then to just drive into the blue and so I got myself looked around. I was looking for a flat share through Kijiji – a really REALLY great and well-used site where people can post small ads based on the motto: I’m looking for – I’m offering. I don’t know if I did anything wrong, at least I didn’t get any replies to my emails (but I know that a friend I met there found her flat like that. I don’t know.).
Then, as a student exchange experience, I thought I could also imagine a host family. I looked around at homestay-finder.com for a long time, wrote to many families and finally found my family there too. Totally nice, with 3 other internationals in the house, I was welcomed, picked up from the airport and fully catered for. The fact that I had to take the bus to the university for an hour didn’t bother me at all; After all, here in Germany I also commute from Hamm to Dortmund, where I can easily spend an hour on the road.
I arrived 2 weeks before the start of the semester and my initial homesickness was quite well dispelled by the enterprising family. But when the university started, I made friends and we also went away in the evening, the last bus at half past ten (even on the weekend) was, unfortunately, just total crap. Whenever we were out I had to spend the night somewhere, always dragging stuff around and was just always far too inflexible. If you are considering living in Dartmouth instead of Halifax yourself – DO NOT. It’s just too far. There’s just not really something going on there and Dartmouth is popularly called The Dark Side. : D It’s not that bad, it’s just wide and snored. On the other hand, it is also calm and beautiful (I could walk 10 minutes to the next lake, where you could swim <3) and I could say “I took the ferry home instead of the bus!”: D Dartmouth is across from the great bridge. Too far away 😉
When I realized that, as well as the fact that I would much rather stand on my own two feet and that at 22 I don’t really need someone to put something on the table for me every day, any more than the pubescent squabbling of a 15-year-old Daughter (was a real family), I decided to look for something else. Via Kijiji.ca – as already mentioned – I found a flat share very close to the university and city center and suddenly I was right in the middle of it. Much better! I posted a free ad and replied to dozens of ads and was able to quickly contact landlords and look at rooms. Really practical, because there is a distinction between furnished and unfurnished rooms – I didn’t want to set myself up there. 😉 I didn’t even have to set up a Canadian bank account to pay the rent so that I could pay with checks, I agreed with my really nice landlord that I could just pay cash. Very straightforward 🙂
My roommates weren’t really that big now. What is also very different from German flat shares: It is not the residents who look for a new roommate, but the landlord says: “Here, of course, you can have the room” and the household is then pretty much thrown together. Certainly it is not EVERYWHERE, but as I have experienced it, yes, and you can always have bad luck with your fellow human beings. On the whole everything was fine. Location and price were real – proportionate – good. Expect high rental prices, Canada is simply expensive. I paid the family $ 650 (but only because I lived under the roof and not in one of the $ 750 rooms) and then in the shared apartment $ 600 a month.
How was the university like?
Saint Mary’s has a relatively small campus and not that many students either, but that’s exactly what makes it so charming, I think. When you go to university, you always meet someone you know somewhere. You don’t feel like a stranger any longer 🙂 The university is also in pretty good shape! I took three courses from the Linguistics Program:
- Doing Discourse Analysis
- Research Methods in Experimental Linguistics and
- Modern English Language.
Since my minor is literature and cultural studies at home, my fourth course was from this corner, namely: Contemporary German Culture. The best course ever! Learning about your own culture and literature, exchanging ideas and conveying your own experiences was really great! There were only six of us in the course, which made it even more intense. In fact, only one of my four courses had more than 6 participants. Unusual, but not bad at all! (But it is not the rule, I was the only one in my circle of friends with such mini-courses)
In itself, the university in Canada is very labor-intensive – especially when you realize at home that one or the other time it is not bad to let the required reading slip. Just because all the courses take place twice a week, you get a lot more done and because individual evaluations are constantly included in the final grade, you are always on the ball. At the beginning it seems like a mountain of work that can never be mastered. but in the end we Germans were almost everywhere among those with the best grades. I felt very well received and found all my courses on the whole very interesting and even though I often moaned about all the work, you are just proud of what you have achieved – especially when you get great grades! The lecturers were super nice in all of my courses. 🙂
How is life in Halifax otherwise?
Wonderful. Halifax is a beautiful port city that is absolutely neither too big nor too small. You can walk everywhere wonderfully, whether to party, to ice hockey, to the waterfront, to the university, really great. It’s a student city – so you always met someone everywhere. You can really celebrate well – even if you may be surprised at first that many shops close at 2 a.m., some also open longer;)
Otherwise it is easy to say bluntly: A life there is very expensive. There’s nothing to gloss over it, but somehow I’ve got a motto in Halifax: At some point money doesn’t hurt anymore! You should take all the experiences you can get with you, treat yourself to something and see the area – definitely go to Cape Breton Island and the Kejimkujik National Park!
As a conclusion, I can say that my time in Halifax was an unforgettable, great and enriching time, in which I learned a lot and made really great friends. I advise everyone to go there and make up their own mind – it’s really worth it!