I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes, wondering how I could possibly start this blog – I’m not going to be able to fit everything in that I want to, but I’m going to at least try to explain the feelings and experiences I’ve had since arriving in Canada.
Let’s start by proceeding in an orderly fashion.
Goodbyes were tough. But they were always going to be tough, so you have to look at the whole process of leaving home as a new chapter. I’m not a hugely sentimental person, but I definitely used all the spare time I had at home to save up some fond memories of my friends and family. As my wise friends told me – “this isn’t goodbye, just see you later”.
So after the hardest goodbye at the airport, I set off for Halifax, NS. And, as predicted, it didn’t hit me until I was on the plane that I was FINALLY LEAVING! It felt like I was keeping the biggest secret in the world on the plane; I was practically bursting at the seams with excitement 😀 😀 😀 and I must have looked like it too.
My flight went via Iceland and was really chilled and stress free (although it could have been the opposite as Iceland’s volcano was threatening to erupt that day!) I spent the journey watching Little Miss Sunshine and American Hustle, starting to zone out from the world around me…before I knew it I was arriving in Halifax, just as the sun was setting, and yes – of course it felt like I was in a movie (where else would I be going with that?)
So after lots of goodbyes and some questionable Icelandic food (avoid the pizza) I’ve FINALLY made it to Canada! Immigration was all very straightforward because I had my study permit letter and Dalhousie confirmation of acceptance letter – so keep these both in your hand luggage and you should breeze through (a slow breeze…a slow, painful breeze of about an hour of waiting.)
Dalhousie reps were at the airport to pick up new students who were going to stay in halls (or ‘res’). Since I live round the corner from Howe Hall, I could have jumped on the bus with them, but I had already been offered a lift from my property manager – who is one of the NICEST people I have ever met!
So – first three things I noticed during the drive from airport to house: the stereotype of the super friendly Canadian is true (I’ve been told even more so on the East Coast but I guess East Coasters are gonna say that, right?), Tim Horton’s is EVERYWHERE – but I don’t really get the hype (haters gonna hate) and Halifax has quite a neighbourhood feel to it, with little war time era houses and pretty tree lined streets – this place is quaint eh (just slipped in a sneaky little fourth observation that people say ‘eh’ a lot at the end of their sentences – take note.)
I arrived to Chestnut House (how cute is that!?) and there were a bunch of people chilling on the porch who offered to help carry my bags to my room. Turns out my new housemates are pretty friendly too then 🙂 My room is really nice, I picked it because it has big french windows so the light is amazing! It’s fairly small, but I’ve always preferred having a small room (fun fact). However, having seen some of my friends houses, there is a real range in the size of buildings/rooms available – so you won’t be short of finding a location or style that suits you (all hail kijiji.ca)
The next morning, I was up early for international orientation. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the most awe-inspiring process, but I would still encourage everyone to attend regardless! I went on a campus tour, got my Dalcard and bus pass, and most importantly started to meet new people! This is the sole reason you should go – it encourages you to put yourself out there, make some new friends, and get your little face known amongst all the other little faces – no matter how cringe-worthy the ice-breaking games may be, chances are you will bond with other people who have the same wonderful sense of cynicism.
A couple of things have been pretty chaotic since arriving… sometimes it feels like I have a million things to sort out, so I’ve become a big fan of the good old fashioned checklist. I had a lot of stuff to buy (your first week will be expensive for this reason) and a lot of things to set up/pick up, but my list kept me sane and on top of things (most of the time). For one thing, i had to buy a bed – so I was sleeping on an air mattress for a week before I found someone to help me collect it etc. I would definitely recommend trying to find a room that is furnished, even though they are more difficult to come by – it will make the whole moving in process so much easier (why did no one remind me of this before!?)
For anyone heading to Dal, here is a very, very condensed list of the essential things on my rather extensive post-arrival checklist:
Buy bedroom furniture and kitchen stuff (head to Canadian tire or check out kijiji)
Pick up Dalcard, bus pass and health card
Buy books and stationery
Set up phone contract (I went with Koodos who are super cheap and flexible!)
Set up bank account (Scotiabank!)
Pick up Nova Scotia ID (this is quite a trek away but the number 1 bus will get you there – you can use it on nights out instead of your passport/license – it’s for other stuff too but that’s my only reason for it).
So yeah, the first week was pretty crazy! There is a lot of admin to sort out, but this is also the time that you will be overwhelmed with the amount of people you meet and the amount of things you can do. I didn’t take part in o-week (aka freshers) and I do not regret my decision. The ticket costs $100 + tax and the events are all dry because they are aimed towards first year students. You will most likely meet enough people during your first few days to be able to go out with them instead, and you can have your own o-week! Keep your options open – you can still take part in loads of o-week events without a wristband, but you won’t feel guilty for doing your own thing and exploring the city instead of going to a “dry” event at 8pm with lots of 18 year old boys grinding you (this has been reported back to me by my dear friends). Aside from nights out, try and get up early (or before 12) and take advantage of the free time you have, even if it is just to take a walk around the city or try out some of the many hangover brunches on offer (brunch is a big thing here and this makes me very, very happy.)
I can’t say I’ve experienced culture shock since arriving. Everything is different, but it hasn’t come as a shock. The weather is beautiful in August and September (although it can be unpredictable, this isn’t exactly unusual for a Scot) the people are so welcoming, and my house feels like a home – so these things don’t estrange me in the slightest! However, one difference that stands out is the language – the words or phrases that constantly come up in conversation that I will have to quietly confirm with people what they actually mean. There’s some little things that are easy to “translate”: university is school, the bathroom is the washroom, the pavement is the sidewalk, a plaster is a bandaid, a loonie is a dollar, a toonie is two dollars. Opt for a Bloody Caesar instead of a Bloody Mary. You get your booze from the NSLC – do you want a tall boy? A cooler? Or a two-four? After a night out we get poutine (essentially chips with cheese and gravy) and in the morning we can get a Tim Horton’s or a hammerhead coffee. Are you down with that? I’m down with that.
Class will officially start this week so in my next post I’m planning to fill you in on how I find the workload etc – and any other encounters that happen between now and then! As always, drop me a message or send me an email if you have any questions. Peace out x