Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Student's Newcomers Guide to Studying in Canada P1

So now that you've got everything planned out, your tickets bought and your bags packed, all you need to do then is to show up on the flight and endure at least the next 24 hours on air. At first it may be exciting and interesting traveling on a long haul plan for the first time, but trust me your patience will wear thin as the time passes by. It may be best for you to rest it out a bit so that you won't be too tired when you arrive.

If you are like us, traveling when the Swine flu just broke out, its always good to stay safe rather than be sorry later. So, in that case, carry along your surgical mask with you and use it.

You probably would have planned out and time when you would arrive. Like us, we arrive in the middle of the night. If you're headed to Halifax, NS, then wait it out a little at the airport (Halifax Standfield International Airport). There's a 24hrs Tim Hortons restaurant there with Wifi services. That'll be a cheaper solution than putting up the night at any other hotels especially in the middle of the night. But if you’re going to Toronto, then most likely you’ll be landing at the Toronto Pearson Airport.


Come morning you could use the Airporter service to bring you downtown. As of today, Sept 2009, it would cost approx CAD21 per person. If you go by taxi, that'll cost at least CAD53. But, if everything goes well, there would be a public transit service from the Airport to Downtown Halifax next year. (Note: If you're using the Airporter, they would only stop at certain designated spots in Downtown Halifax - mainly hotels and places of interest. But you could request them to help stop you at bus stops which are along their path or not too far out from their path. Remember to ask the driver.) If this is first time to the university, you’ll probably have brought alot of baggage. If that is the case, then it may be wiser to not take public transit. Go with Airporter or otherwise if where you need to be is not within the Airporter’s destination, take a cab.

First things first! You’re thousands of miles away from home and in a foreign land. It’s very important that you quickly find a suitable place to stay. I am assuming that you have come to terms to getting accommodations outside of the campus as the cost of staying in on-campus lodgings may be ridiculously high (at least in Dal). If your accommodations have been prearranged then you are good to go, just like us as we were lucky enough to have found accommodations. Otherwise you’ll have to search for a place to stay while you’re putting up a night at a temporary place (e.g. If its Halifax you’re studying in then try Hostelling International, YMCA International House, or Dalhousie Summer Accommodations which is only available during Summer). A word of advice is to do some searching prior to your arrival. Just make a list of the potential rooms that interest you and their contact number. Or if you could, send them an email. A famous website which Canadians uses is . Otherwise check your university’s website and I am pretty sure they’ll have resources and information on where to find for off-campus accommodations. By working on a list before you leave, you’ll increase your chances of finding a place or reduce the time and money you spend in a temporary accommodation. For graduate students who are married (with or without children), you can opt to look for co-ops here in Canada. Just like us, we are currently staying in an apartment which is a Coop that’s managed by the students themselves. That way we know we’re staying amidst more matured students.

Before deciding which place you want to go for, there are a few things you need to know. Wait a minute, if you’re a first year undergrad, chances are you are going face a few challenge, getting roommates (you haven’t met any friends yet and new acquaintance yet). This is tricky but there are few ways out of this. Look for rooms from existing seniors or look for a rooms rented out by a family. On to the few things you need to know. 3 common types of apartments which you can look for – bachelor, single room apartment, or 2 rooms apartment. In Halifax, rental would be slightly cheaper than places like in Toronto. But of course the further away you are from the campus or downtown Halifax, the cheaper it is (e.g. rental in Dartmouth would cost about CAD100 cheaper). That would also mean that the more inconvenient it is for you to get to campus (although most of the towns/cities in Canada has reliable transit services as oppose to Malaysia). A downtown 1-bedroom apartment would cost on average CAD750-800 and a bachelor (that means no bedroom) would cost about CAD650-700. By downtown I am referring to areas within the South End part of Halifax Peninsular. Cost of rental may be higher in areas like Toronto. A thing to note is that generally in Canada, regardless whether in Halifax or Toronto, rental payment doesn’t include heat (water and electricity most likely will be part of it). Chances are that apartments don’t come with furnitures too. But if you’re renting a room only from home, that may be different. So for apartments, you’ll have the basic which are kitchen cabinet, fridge, oven, small storeroom, built in clothes cabinet, and lights (mainly for kitchen, toilet and front area only). What this means is that you’ll probably be putting up your first night without a proper bed – just like how we experience it.

Remember as I mentioned earlier, you could get things second hand here. It’s a cheaper alternative from buying everything new. If you’re staying in an apartment lookout for notice boards or when you were researching for places to live in kijiji, check out what others are selling as well. But if you’re particular and do not want to purchase a pre-own mattress, one place in Halifax which you could get a cheap NEW mattress is the Salvation Army down by Queens St. There’s 4 types of mattresses sizes here, Single, Double/Twin, Queen and King. NOTE that you’ll probably have to pay for the delivery services for the mattress to be delivered to your place. This applies to almost anything here. You may be able to argue with them to waive the fee or reduce it if you’re buying everything from their store (e.g. lights/ dining set/ studying table/ kitchenware etc.). But be prepared to be disappointed. The average cost for delivery is CAD50. And places especially here in Halifax, there’s hardly any services business operating on Sundays. Also take note that most of the furniture you buy here are DIY. So, do buy a simple toolset or check with the staff if its provided in the kit. If you’re staying in an apartment, make sure to put down your buzzer number (a buzzer number is the number a visitor needs to key in at the front door of your apartment to reach you) on the delivery sheet. Otherwise, if you have a local phone number, that’ll do.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, keep your receipt here. If there’s anything that went wrong with your purchases, you’ll need to proof that you’ve purchase from them and there’s no other way to do that than to show your receipt.

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