Since it can be very difficult to get a place abroad through your home university, after extensive internet research, I decided to apply through MicroEDU at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. Like you, since you are reading these lines, I was guided by the large number of experience reports for the SMU (short for Saint Mary’s University – nice on the university sweatshirts), all of which give a consistently positive impression of their experiences mediate in Canada. But three things
first: 1. The positive evaluation in the experience reports is correct.
2. Yes, it is also true that Canada is very expensive for us Germans, especially when the exchange rate of the euro is unfavorable.
3. But if you expect a large university in a metropolis of millions, then you are wrong in Halifax. But if you prefer a medium-sized city with lots of nature, where you can find your way around easily, but still get lost at the beginning, then Halifax is definitely an option for you.
After a good eight months in Canada, I can confidently say that I had a very nice and great time in Halifax, and that I definitely do not regret my decision to go to this university, the city and the country – on the contrary, I would go back anytime Canada go.
The great service from MicroEDU also contributed to this. They were very helpful with the application and were available at any time to answer any questions. Having to apply somewhere abroad can be daunting, but MicroEDU makes it all really simple and straightforward. The MicroEDU team gives advice on everything that has to be done, and also gives a lot of information about how it works on site or how the course selection (from home) works. I would also advise against simply applying to the university on your own, because then a lot of information is simply missing for you personally, and you have to take care of everything on your own. Read more student reviews on Mcat-test-centers.
The SMU is a relatively small university with around 8,000 students. Halifax itself – or the Halifax Regional Municipality – i.e. the entire city area – has between 300,000 and 400,000 inhabitants, which already makes up a third of all of Nova Scotia. Yes, there are also a few skyscrapers in the city center towards the waterfront, but the SMU itself is about 15 minutes’ walk away in a district that, with its single-family houses and front gardens, is more reminiscent of a suburb. So it is not an area where you have to be afraid to go outside at night.
In contrast to many of the other German students, I was not just a semester abroad, but an entire academic year, i.e. two semesters, in Canada. I had the great advantage that this year ran from September to the end of April 2013 and that I was able to start the summer semester at my home university without any problems – albeit two weeks later. So I was only away from Germany for one semester, but two abroad, although I would have to sacrifice my entire semester break. I would also recommend everyone – if it is financially feasible – to stay on site for two semesters. Even if it sounds like a long time: once you get there, you’re running out of time. When the stay abroad in December was already over for many, I was very happy to have more time. In my opinion, four months are far too short to get to know a country and to really get into the language. Even if we Germans don’t really have a problem with English on site, I had the feeling that I only started thinking in English after a good six months and so… 8 months can also be too short, but after this time you can at least say: I lived in Canada. Whereas four feels more like: I was visiting. I lived in Canada. Whereas four feels more like: I was visiting. I lived in Canada. Whereas four feels more like: I was visiting.
I personally felt very comfortable at the SMU and also found the size of the university to be very pleasant. Because the SMU is more like a school than a German university, you have the advantage that you always know who you can turn to with a problem and you will always be helped quickly. Since – at least in my course – there were no lectures with several hundred students, you had more reference to the respective lecturer / professor, which can be helpful if, for example, you need your essay or an exam again to submit it to your home university.
Not only the size of the university, but also the academic structure is more reminiscent of a school than a German university. The study system is more school-based. On the one hand, the workload during the semester is much higher than in Germany. For example, you have to read 100 pages per week in a course, write essays, and you also have midterm exams. But the system also means that the academic level is rather lower than ours, which also makes it easier for us as students on site. If you learn what you have to learn, you will also get very good grades.
In addition, Canada has fewer courses than Germany – around 3/4 per semester.
I had the courses: History of the United States: 1865 – present, Cultural Studies, History of Children’s Literature and the two full year courses National Socialism, Europe and the Holocaust and History of Atlantic Canada. Regardless of what you are studying, it is always advisable to discuss the choice of course, which will be made from Germany as early as May, with the responsible professors at your home university.
Especially if you can then – after your stay abroad – show your professors what you have done, the chances – or at least it was with me – that you will get the equivalent points recognized for your courses.
I decided to apply for the dormitory because when I arrived I wanted to know for sure where I would live. I also applied for this through MicroEDU, about a year before my stay abroad. The earlier you apply, the greater the chances of not only getting into the dormitory, but also of getting a good room.
Since I applied early and stayed for two semesters, I got a place in a senior suite, which was really a luxury. I had my own room and even my own (!) Bathroom that I didn’t have to share with anyone. The suite as a whole – with a small (tiny) kitchen niche, was shared by two of us. You weren’t alone, but still had a lot of privacy to take your time in the bathroom, for example.
In addition, our room was on the third floor, so I actually only had to go down one flight of stairs to take my courses. It was especially pleasant when there was another fire alarm (about 4 – 5 times during my entire time on site), because then the elevators would not work and also the people who lived on the 20th floor had to get out of their rooms (and then more or more less up again because elevator rush). I also found it pleasant not to have to go out into the cold in the morning. Since the three dormitories and all buildings of the university are all connected, you don’t need to wear a jacket when you go to your course rooms, even in winter. What many do with the dormitories in flip-flops in winter too.
Incidentally, the kitchen units, if available, are not equipped with pots, pans, etc., so you have to buy everything you need first.
For this reason, too, I decided to have a meal plan in the Dockside Hall. Since I was staying in a room for the older students, I originally didn’t have to book a meal plan. I decided to do it after all. However, I would advise against the Freedom Plan, as eating three or more times a day in the cafeteria there would otherwise be too monotonous. I had the 10 meal plan, so I was allowed to enter the cafeteria 10 times a week (Saturday to Friday). At the Dockside Hall you always pay at the entrance. Once in the cafeteria, you can eat and drink as much as you want. There is a good salad buffet with fresh vegetables, desserts, ice cream, pizzas, burgers, and warm dishes that change every day at lunchtime and in the evening (every three times a week), which are served by the kitchen staff. For breakfast there are mostly pancakes, scrambled eggs, etc. Does fast food sound moderate? It is. But you shouldn’t forget that it’s a cafeteria and not a restaurant. And of course you don’t always like everything. But by being allowed to eat how much you want, there is always something to satisfy hunger. And the food is always fresh, which is particularly noticeable in the salad and vegetables.
I know that many do not like the food in the cafeteria, but I would definitely recommend it. With 10 meals a week there is not so much monotony in the menu, and you still have enough opportunities to cook, buy snacks, eat out or just not be hungry.
What I found particularly good about the cafeteria is that it is open more or less all day, and that you can still get a warm meal even if you have a course over lunchtime. The cafeteria is also open on weekends and public holidays.
The city’s supermarkets and shopping centers are also open on Sundays. However, when shopping – regardless of whether it’s food or clothing – you will quickly find that the prices are much higher than in Germany. The euro is worth more than the Canadian dollar, but the daily cost of living is still higher than here, as in almost every other country. So it is better to plan more than less money for the stay abroad. The dormitory is not really cheap either, but you simply have more security and don’t have to worry about anything.
One thing I never got used to was VAT. Taxes are never included in the prices that are displayed on the signs, but are only added again in the form of 15% at the checkout.
I really liked Halifax as a city. As already indicated, it is not a big city, but because it is the second largest natural harbor in the world, which is ice-free all year round, many cruise ships call at the city in the summer months, and there are also tourist attractions. The ships are then practically directly behind the buildings in the harbor, which is a nice sight if you walk from the university towards the Atlantic Superstore. Halifax also offers a waterfront where there are also many tourist restaurants where you can try the taste of Nova Scotia, such as fresh lobster.
Halifax is surrounded by the ocean, and Point Pleasant Park has a particularly beautiful view. The sea can also make it very windy, and rain or storms are not uncommon. However, the weather can also be really good, and when I was there, winter didn’t arrive in Halifax until the end of December. In winter you have temperatures around -15 degrees (often even less due to the wind), but for Canadian conditions this is one of the warmer parts of the country. So don’t let that put you off!
Overall, Halifax has a lot of international students, so you meet a lot of people from many different countries. However, Halifax is not so big that you can lose yourself, but still big enough that you can experience a lot.