The decision to spend a semester abroad was clear to me from the start of my studies. However, my original plan was to do this in Spain via the ERASMUS program. Since my language level was unfortunately not sufficient for this, it was important to find an alternative as soon as possible. Since my time was short and my second wish, a semester abroad in the USA, was no longer possible due to the requirements (TOEFL test etc.), I decided to go to Saint Mary`s University in Halifax in the English-speaking part of Canada. I was able to apply to Saint Mary`s quickly and easily via Collage Contact. Regarding my application process at Saint Mary`s, it remains to be said that everything was very easy and quick to process. My emails were always answered immediately and I received the acceptance after a short time. After I had worked my way through the huge course catalog of the SMU (Saint Mary`s University), I was able to choose a course surprisingly quickly. Furthermore, as a German citizen for Canada you do not need a visa for a stay of less than 6 months, which also reduced my preparation effort. (However, if you want to work in Canada, you have to apply for a visa.) According to Abbreviation Finder, SMU is the abbreviation of Saint Mary’s University.
The Saint Mary`s University is a medium-sized university that offers a very wide range of courses with departments ranging from economics to criminology to sciences (etc.). The university made a very well organized impression on me. I also have positive memories of the design and equipment of the lecture rooms. There is a contact person for everything and the university takes great care to ensure the well-being of its students. In addition to its own hospital ward, security service and two hairdressing salons, the “Husky Patrol” offers a daily driving service for students (to the supermarket, etc.). There are also countless football, basketball and other sports teams in which you can participate and experience the “we-feeling” of a Canadian university. In the “Homburg Center” (large fitness studio on the UniCampus) you can train for free as a student and also take part in some fitness courses. There is the “International Center” for international students. On the first day of the semester you will be warmly welcomed here together with other students from all over the world and informed about important things to do with studying in Canada. The “International Night” was also held in the first week. The University’s International Center gave all international students a great evening in Halifax (including dinner). During the semester, the International Center offered other leisure activities (e.g. ski trips). The staff at the International Center maintain a friendly relationship with the international students and are always ready to listen to problems. Another meeting place for students is the Student Lounge on the university campus. In addition to some special events on the weekend, the “Student Night” was held every Wednesday.
Since I wanted to experience student and campus life as close as possible for the four months in Canada, I decided to rent an apartment on the university campus. The SMU has a total of 3 student residences on campus (Loyola Residence, Vanier Residence, Rice Residence). You have the option of moving into a single or double room. Here you share the bathroom with your fellow residents in the hallway. You are also obliged to buy a meal plan to eat in the university canteen. I decided on a so-called “Senior Suite”. These are mainly available to older students and an early application is recommended as there are only a limited number available. A Senior Suite is a small apartment with a kitchen and bathroom and two to four single bedrooms In retrospect, I can recommend this type of living. The kitchens are equipped with an oven, hob, microwave and refrigerator. So you can take care of yourself and you don’t have to face the greasy canteen food every day. All student apartments or rooms are directly connected to the university building. So you can go straight from your room to the lecture without leaving the building. In itself, I think that life on campus is best for those who only want to stay there for a semester. The student dormitories don’t look very inviting from the outside (20-story skyscrapers), but it’s great to live there for four months. Since most Canadians who live there are only 18 or 19 years old and have just moved out of their homes, loud music is often heard or other noise is made. who only want to stay there for a semester is best. The student dormitories don’t look very inviting from the outside (20-story skyscrapers), but it’s great to live there for four months. Since most Canadians who live there are only 18 or 19 years old and have just moved out of their homes, loud music is often heard or other noise is made.
In general, it is important to know that studying in Canada is very different from studying in Germany. I found the level in Canada to be significantly lower. Still, you have a lot to do for your lectures. I chose a total of three courses that took place twice a week for 1:15 hours (equivalent to 6 credits per course). If you also want to see something of the country and its people, I do not recommend choosing more than three courses. In addition, the tuition fees are calculated for each course, so it made the most sense for me to only take three courses for cost reasons. The workload per course is around six hours a week. In Canada there are not only exams at the end of the semester but mostly so-called mid-term tests in the middle of the semester. There are also presentations and several term papers to be done. The professors were all very nice and courteous and those who hand in all the homework and take the exams can easily get a good grade. In general, good grades are mostly given in Canada and the professors go to great lengths to prepare their students well for the exams. I was personally a bit irritated by this, because the material to be learned for the exams was sometimes repeated 5 times so that everyone who appears rather irregularly at the lectures can write a good grade. In general, good grades are mostly given in Canada and the professors go to great lengths to prepare their students well for the exams. I was personally a bit irritated by this, because the material to be learned for the exams was sometimes repeated 5 times so that everyone who appears rather irregularly at the lectures can write a good grade. In general, good grades are mostly given in Canada and the professors go to great lengths to prepare their students well for the exams. I was personally a bit irritated by this, because the material to be learned for the exams was sometimes repeated 5 times so that everyone who appears rather irregularly at the lectures can write a good grade.
In Canada, studying sometimes reminds me more of what I am used to from my German school education. You have to consider that the tuition fees in Canada are very high and almost all Canadians have to work a lot on the side in order to be able to study at all. The textbooks are also incredibly expensive. For my three courses I bought four books and paid the equivalent of around € 200 for them. At the end of each semester, however, there is the option of selling the books in the university’s bookstore. However, I only got a fraction of what I paid back. In summary, my courses were very interesting and informative, the professors were nice and with a little effort you can finish your courses with good grades.
The city of Halifax
Halifax is the perfect mix of big and small cities. In addition to a lot of industry, you will also find a lot of nice little restaurants and pubs. When the weather is nice, the harbor is also a great place to relax. You can go partying, there are a few clubs and bars. However, one should keep in mind that Halifax is not a big city like Berlin or Hamburg. Big city dwellers should rather visit other Canadian cities, since Halifax is the only real city in the province of Nova Scotia and the real big cities (Montreal etc.) are very far away for our distance thinking.
Canada – country and people
Since I hadn’t actually planned to do my semester abroad in Canada from the start, I had no relation to Canada or any ideas about the country and the people there. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised and Canada is now one of my absolute favorite countries. The province of Nova Scotia and Halifax are extremely worth seeing, especially since Halifax is located directly on the Atlantic. But how vast the country Canada and how different the Canadian provinces can be, I only found out at the end of my stay. Originally, I had already planned a trip to Montreal with friends for the lecture-free “Spring Break” week, which unfortunately had to be canceled at short notice.
Even in Halifax, I found Canadians to be very helpful and friendly. At first even Halifax was so new and unknown that you sometimes got lost on the way to the supermarket. I can clearly remember such a situation at the beginning of my stay in Canada, when I was looking for the supermarket with a friend and a few seconds after we had unpacked our city map, at least two Canadians came up to us to help. In the metropolis of Toronto we actually had to rely on the help of locals several times and were always positively surprised by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people in Canada.
Now to Toronto and Montreal: Toronto is absolutely worth seeing and a real American city. Unfortunately we only had three days to see Toronto and our sight seeing tour had to be short. But Toronto still cast a spell on me after just a few hours. You should definitely see the CN Tower, the Rogers Center and China Town. In addition, the Niagara Falls are only about two hours by bus from Toronto and are therefore an absolute must if you are already in Toronto. Since most of Toronto’s attractions are close to downtown, we were able to easily reach everything on foot and thus saved transport costs.
Montreal, on the other hand, is also a beautiful city with a very European touch. Since French is spoken in the province of Quebec and therefore also in Montreal, everything is signposted in French accordingly. Nevertheless, almost all people in Montreal speak great English and communication is therefore not a problem for anyone who does not speak French. “Must-sees” in Montreal are the islands of Île Notre-Dame and Île Sainte-Hélène, which can be easily reached by metro. You should also have a look at China Town. In the summer there are countless cultural festivals in Montreal, which unfortunately we weren’t able to experience but only heard positive things about them. So if you have the chance to visit Montreal in the summer, you should definitely do so. In general, it remains to be said
Travel in Canada
In order to travel cheaply within Canada, it is worthwhile to compare several options in order to find the best and cheapest in each case. Generally there is the possibility to fly, rent a car or take a bus or train. Renting a car is definitely one of the cheapest, even if the price is a lot more expensive than what the car rental companies on the Internet show. The German driver’s license is recognized almost everywhere, but drivers under 25 still have to pay more to rent a car. If you have enough time, this is definitely an attractive option, but you should consider that Canada is a huge country and, for example, the drive from Halifax to Montreal alone would have taken 14 hours.
I can’t say much about traveling by train, except that this option was always dropped for ours because it is very expensive and still takes a long time. Flying within Canada is also very expensive, but if you look long enough and compare prices you can find humane deals. The “Greyhound” buses are highly recommended. These travel cheaply between major cities and popular travel destinations. For example, you can take the Greyhound Bus from Toronto to Niagara Falls for around € 20 and from Toronto to Montreal for around € 30. Since we only had six days, we chose the flight and bus option for our trip. We flew from Halifax to Toronto, from there took an overnight bus to Montreal and then flew back from Montreal to Halifax.
In general, I can recommend everyone to do a semester abroad, because you can gain experience for life and because you study, you can immediately make friends. Canada is a wonderful country and is definitely suitable for a semester abroad. I would definitely recommend Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Due to the very high percentage of foreign students, you get great support and the professors and the classes are also highly qualified. So if you are satisfied with a small Canadian town you should visit the SMU in Halifax. Nevertheless, Canada certainly offers many other cities and universities where a semester abroad is worthwhile!