BSc Earth Science student from University of Glasgow, Scotland
If you want to fit into Canadian society instantly, bring your best checkered shirt. It’s also very practical for under that winter coat.
Setting up your exchange year can be a massive stress at times. Waiting on the acceptance letter, sorting out the student visa, waiting for your class choices to be approved, finding a place to stay, and all the anxiety associated with leaving your beloved motherland can really get to you. All of that negativity was quickly washed away for me as I dipped my head under one of the many lakes in Nova Scotia.
I chose Dalhousie because I wanted a break from Glasgow as a city. I was looking for somewhere smaller, cleaner, and slower paced. Halifax ticked all of the boxes for me. Arriving in Halifax almost one month before classes started allowed me time to go swimming in the lakes, camp in the Highlands, and hike most days in the woods before the winter kicked in. The stillness of the Canadian summer will stay with me for a long time.
Culturally, Nova Scotia isn’t too different to Scotland. People are keen to go for a pint of their home brewed pale ale, eat filthy food after a night out, and loosen up after school. The people are also very inclusive and will invite you to do said things on a regular basis. If you are into sports it is easy to get engrossed in the baseball, football, basketball, hockey etc and the International Exchange people at Dalhousie will put on events to go watch these sports live. Dalhousie has the facilities to participate in any of these sports too if you prefer to play.
Okay, the weather in Nova Scotia get’s an unfair write up in my opinion. Being from Scotland, I am used to tremendous amounts of rain, strong winds, and 2 weeks of summer than wouldn’t burn a ginger. Summer in Halifax was constantly in the mid 20’s (celcius) and touched the 30’s a few times.
The fall (autumn) was gorgeous and stayed in the high teens until november. Rain was seldom, I kept tabs on rain days since arriving until the first snow and it was less than 10. Winter has been milder than I anticipated and ‐10 (celcius) is nothing if you have a wooly hat, some mits, and a good coat. The snow makes your photos much prettier so there’s no problem there.
Best piece of advice you have for living in Canada?
The best piece of advice I could give for living in Canada, or anywhere, is to have a limit of 4 people in your shared accommodation. A second piece of advice I would give for living in Canada is to say yes. To a drink, the cinema, a road trip, even academic conferences just say yes. Unless you are ill or have multiple pending assignment, then say no.
Is it easy to travel in Canada?
If you are from the UK or Europe and used to having a well linked train service then no, Canada is not easy to travel in solely relying on public transport. However, if you have access to a car, or someone willing to drive for you, then yes, Canada is easy to travel in. The roads are perfect and the in betweens are vast and gorgeous.
How is the weather in Halifax?
It’s cold if you don’t have a wooly hat and it’s wet if you don’t have a hood. The summer is perfect, swimming in a lake is more than doable, and the snow makes everything 10 times prettier.
Best thing you packed?
Checkered shirt. If you want to fit into Canadian society instantly, bring your best checkered shirt. It’s also very practical for under that winter coat.
How was the course load?
Compared to my home university (Glasgow, Scotland) Dalhousie is more focussed on short assignment and class participation. If that’s your thing there’s no need to worry. If you prefer to read your notes every night and write a few essays a term, forget it.
How did you adjust to life at DAL?
The degree I’m in helped me adjust to life at Dalhousie. I study Earth Science (Geology) which is focussed on fieldwork. Living in the Antigonish Highlands for 10 days with my future classmates at the start of term really helped me adjust to life at Dalhousie. If you’re not in Earth Science, I’d recommend joining a society and attending events you’d be less likely to attend back home. I’ve found that Canadians are generally welcoming and don’t mind including a strange newcomer.
Favorite part of being a Dalhousie student?
How inclusive the people are. I’ve been invited to many events since being at Dalhousie and not simply because I’m the new kid. Being invited by classmates for a game of pool or a movie downtown is very common too.
Things you MUST see/do when living in Halifax?
Arrange a trip around the whole island... drive to Cape Breton and experience the Cabot Trail, check out the Bay of Fundy, swim in the Northumberland Strait, go camping, see some lighthouses, look for bald eagles, blue jays, cardinals and chickadees, and most importantly... play some pool at Oasis and drink one too many Keith’s before getting some poutine.
What are the things you miss the most from home? Big hills.