Victoria Silton

from Australia National University

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I really love Halifax – it’s got a lot of life about it but still feels like somewhere you can be at home.

What is the best piece of advice you have for living in Halifax?
Bring less clothes and more money (I wish I was joking)! That’s probably the biggest piece of advice I’d give myself if I were to do it all again.

I honestly didn’t do a lot of research into Halifax as a city before I applied – I just narrowed my exchange options down to English-speaking countries which offered my course and pretty much decided on a lucky dip basis from there, so when I was offered a place at Dal I had some Googling to do! Halifax is a city with a lot of hidden gems, so the best thing to do is just to get out and explore – and don’t be afraid to grill Canadian students and the incredible team at the International Centre for tips.

Is it easy to travel in Canada?
Coming from Australia, I’m used to travelling long distances from one side of the country to another, so the size of Canada didn’t really faze me. Halifax is really well situated for travelling to Montreal, Toronto, or even New York for the weekend, and flights and trains within Canada are easy to navigate and not too expensive considering the distance.

Is it really that cold/snowy/wet in Halifax?
I was lucky enough to have three snow days in a week in my second month at Dal, so I’d have to say yes! Having said that, you adjust to the cold really quickly, and you’ll catch yourself thinking 2 degrees Celsius is ‘warm’ before you know it.

I’m so thankful I packed my… 
Australian power board – but that might just be because I’ve had terrible luck with adaptors! I bought a new coat as soon as I got here, because none of the winter coats in Australia are really made for four months of Halifax winter. It’s nice to have a few reminders of home to decorate your room though, so packing some pictures or posters can help you settle in and make the place your own.           

Is the course load very different than home?
The course load is one of the things I’ve found most different at Dal. There’s a lot of smaller assessments that are distributed continuously across semester, rather than at home where I tend to have two major assessments for each course. This is probably a blessing in disguise as it should help you keep on top of your work, but when you’re doing five subjects it can get a bit overwhelming at times. I’ve found professors to be really understanding if you approach them within plenty of time, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re struggling to stay on track. Dal also doesn’t have a university-wide policy on lecture recordings, which means that you actually need to attend your classes to stay on top.       

What helped you adjust to life at Dal?
The International Centre and having such a great group of exchange students helped me settle in within my first few days. Just remember, everyone is in the same boat. Having friends who are exchange students means you can do all the touristy stuff that your Canadian friends don’t see the novelty of any more, as well as get together to organise things like getting your Nova Scotia ID card. Making friends with students in classes really helped as well, as it gives you a chance to meet the locals whilst also holding you accountable for turning up! 

Favorite thing about Halifax?
I basically moved in to Coburg Coffee House within a fortnight of coming to Dal, and I have to recommend their avocado toast. Mary’s Place Café II and Dilly Dally Café are great for an all-day breakfast, and the Split Crow power hour experience and Freemans 24-hour restaurant are also a must. Take a walk down to the waterfront for the Saturday farmer’s market and a wander along the boardwalk – a very difference experience depending on the weather that day! If you can hire a car, heading up to Cape Breton is something I’d thoroughly recommend – the scenery is breathtaking, and seeing snow on the sand wasn’t something I ever expected to see. The Peggy’s Cove lighthouse is less than an hour away, and a gorgeous day trip. The Halifax Central Library is a beautiful place to study, or just grab a coffee and look at the city. Get the ferry across to Dartmouth and do some discount shopping at Value Village. There are also loads of walks offered by the Halifax transit group that allow you to see beautiful scenery just a bus ride away from the city!        

How has studying abroad changed you?
Studying abroad has given me a lot more confidence in my ability to adapt, to make friends and to assert myself in new environments. Being forced to dive in and make the most of my limited time here means you don’t have room to doubt yourself – which for me was definitely a good thing!

Why would you recommend going on exchange – to Dal specifically?
Going on exchange is such a brilliant experience – it will never be this easy to just pick up and move countries! Dal is a really fantastic welcoming environment which always has something going on, and a huge, diverse community of students from all around the world – by the time you leave, you’ll have couches all over the world you can crash on.