I chose Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, for a few reasons. The first being that the Law Faculty recommended this institution, the second being that the I wanted to experience the North American college lifestyle and thirdly, I wanted to go somewhere that I spoke the language. I thought that exchange would be difficult enough without having to learn a new language or assimilate into a new culture.
Halifax: Halifax, Nova Scotia is a quaint city located east of Toronto. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, an island province east of the Canadian mainland. It is a university town with three universities located in the city. This means that during semester, it is buzzing with students. Halifax is an old shipping town, so there are a lot of historical buildings around the city centre. In fact, Dalhousie University was founded in 1818.
Dalhousie University is beautiful university. The historical buildings are set amongst large green common areas and more modern buildings. There is a large indoor sports complex there with a full gym and heated pool. The great thing about the sports complex, Dalplex, was that it was free! This was bonus as it meant I could indulge in the fall delights i.e. thanksgiving and pumpkin pie, without stacking on the kilos.
Accommodation: Before I left for exchange, I went to the exchange preparation meetings looked online on the Dalhousie website for accommodation options. Unfortunately as I was only staying for one semester, I could not apply for on campus housing. Luckily, I met another student from QUT, Nick, also studying law who was off to Dal as well. We decided that we would look for a place together and look for a couple of other housemates. The Dal website has a handy link to a roommate finder; you put up a small blurb about yourself and ad what you are looking for accommodation wise and you find other students who are looking for a similar set up. Nick and I also joined the Dal Exchange Facebook group and put up a post searching from roommates.
We ended up in a five bedroom, three bathroom townhouse with a biology student from France, a psychology student from the UK and an engineering student from Sweden. Our rent was $800 per month, which we found out later, was actually quiet expenses. Our house however was about a 5-minute walk from Campus and 10-minute walk from Dalplex. The only additional expense we had to pay on top of the rent was Internet. This was easy enough to set up. My advice to anyone travelling to Dal is to try to make connections through the Facebook groups or exchange meetings early on. It is so much less daunting moving to another country when you already have friends.
Academics: As I am studying a dual degree Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/ Media and Communications, I was only able to enroll in law electives at Dal. I chose to do four subjects. If I had my time again, I would have only done three so as to maximize fun time in Halifax.
The way the Schulich School of Law and the QUT Law School approach teaching and learning is quite different. You attend to classes for each subject per week; they are either 1.5 or 2-hour classes. At Dal, the Professors (as opposed to being called lectures) were able to present their content in which way they chose. There was a lot of writing on a chalk-board (shock!) or a white board. Only one of my professors used powerpoint and made those slides available. The other three Professors, just spoke for the entirety of the class, without any visual aid. This was quite different from QUT, as our Lecturers provide us with our learning content on blackboard and also have recordings online. The Professors advised us in the first class that there was to be no recording of the lectures. I personally found this very difficult, as I like to go back and listen to lectures when I am studying for exams. For anyone going to Dal to study law, I would advise only doing 3 subjects as I found that study load to be heavier than that at QUT.
Strengths: I feel that one of the strengths of Schulich School of Law was that small cohort size. There were only 150-200 students per year as opposed to the 1000 first year students we have at QUT. They also prepared their students for professional life, by organizing summer internship all across Canada. I was also really impressed about the student programs and benefits offered throughout Dal; free public transport, free access to the sports centre and student discounts across Halifax businesses.
Finances: I had saved about $12,000 for exchange and my week in the USA before travelling to Canada and the three weeks travelling around the USA for Christmas and New Years following the end of my exchange. I am happy to say I didn’t run out of money. Rent worked out to be $4000 plus a $440 deposit and aside from that, groceries were my second biggest expense. In Halifax there are three major grocery stores; Walmart, Sobeys and the Atlantic Super Store. Initially my housemates and I would travel out to Walmart on the bus, which took around 30 minutes each way. As the semester wore on, I ended up just going into Sobeys on a Tuesday, which was about a 10 minute. On Tuesdays they run a 10% off promotion for students. This was great.
In regards to getting around Halifax, our house was very central so I only really caught the bus to go out to the malls. As an added bonus, once you have your student card, all public transport is free. Some businesses within Halifax also offer discounts for students. All in all, the living expenses in Halifax are pretty on par with Brisbane. The only thing to remember is the exchange rate.
Challenges: The biggest challenge for me while on exchange was getting used to the teaching and learning model adopted by the professors. I really enjoy having the open of re-watching lectures and having the lecture notes available per week.
My Fav Halifax Moments
Tattycat Tower Halloween Party
Keeping with the North American tradition we decided to throw a Halloween party. My housemates are I decided to dress comic book theme.
Three of my housemates and myself decided to go to on a road trip to the north of Nova Scotia to Cape Breton on a mission to find a moose and see all of what Canada has to offer.
Tips: My top three tips for anyone going on exchange to Dal is:
- Make connections with other students online
- Make sure you attend the Student Exchange Meetings and Activities
- Get Netflix – I found Netflix to be my savior when I was in Halifax. It is very rainy in Halifax so its nice to stay in and binge watch!
Benefits: My exchange was an amazing experience. I have made friends for life all over the world. I found my exchange experience to be a refreshing change from QUT but I am very glad to be back. I missed the sunshine and heat like crazy.