Ahh, to be a freshman again. Your first year of university can be incredibly fun, full of new friends and experiences. It can also be scary, confusing, and downright hard. The best way to truly experience university is to get out there and try new things, meet new people and have new experiences. Along the way you’ll run into some roadblocks. Here are 50 lifesaving things freshmen at Dalhousie University need to know. Congratulations, you’ve got a head start on all your classmates! Now use this information to make your year as positive and memorable as possible, after all, you’re only a freshman once (hopefully).
1. You will have a love/hate relationship with the buses.
The number 1 bus is NEVER on time. You’ve pretty much got two options, start walking or wait and hope for the best. That being said, it’s not like anything in Halifax is really that far.
2. Go to O-Week.
Even if it’s just for the first couple of events! You’re pretty much handed a bonding opportunity, so take advantage of it. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your best friend/drinking buddy. And maybe you’ll end up rocking the boat with your O-Week pals every time you all get together. You never know. Note: this especially applies to off-campus kids, you’ll regret not going.
3. Choose your res wisely. This decision could completely change your freshman experience.
Here’s a quick breakdown of which residences are known for what. That being said, it’s definitely worth doing some more research.
Shirreff: Good food, very very low key and quiet, has an all girls area, rooms have sinks.
Howe: Known for parties, Fountain House has sinks- other houses do not, food is okay, overall a good time.
Risley: Has sinks, somewhere in the middle on the party scale, some floors are louder than others.
LeMarchant Place: Apartment style, mostly upper year students, best if you already know people on campus, still required to purchase a meal plan.
Gerard Hall: The only residence on the Sexton (engineering/planning/architecture) campus, no sinks, see tip #4
Mini Rez: Somewhere in between sharing a house and having a dorm room, students tend to form really tight-knit communities, parties non-existent
Also, looking up residences on Instagram is a great way to get a feel for the vibes of each residence!
4. If you’re in engineering or planning/architecture, don’t assume that all of your classes will be on the Sexton Campus.
Dozens of students make this mistake every year and choose to live in Gerard residence, and then end up walking 20 minutes to class every day. If you’re a freshman, most, if not all, of your classes will be on Studley campus. Therefore, I would highly recommend living on Studley campus.
5. Seek out extra credit.
For example, if you’re in Psychology you get the opportunity to add percentage points (yes full percentage points!) to your final grade by participating in studies. Other opportunities exist in other faculties. Take full advantage, it could mean the difference between passing and failing the course.
6. Triple A Pizza has the best late night pizza around.
If you live on campus you will frequent Triple A more often than you would like to admit. There’s no better way to ditch a hangover than with some greasy food. They also deliver.
7. The meal you eat before you go out is the most important meal of the day.
This is more of a life tip than a Dal tip, but it’s still incredibly important. Make sure you’re eating dinner before you go out and make sure whatever you’re eating has carbs and protein in it. This could make or break both your night and the following day.
8. Bring a fan to res.
There’s no air conditioning and it can be uncomfortably warm, especially once you cram 20 people in a 15 x 15 room (which will inevitably happen). Also, Walmart/the bookstore sell out of fans really quickly so make sure you’re coming prepared!
9. Join at least one society.
I know every article tells you to do this, but seriously, do it. Res friends are incredible, but so are friends you aren’t literally around 24/7. If you don’t branch out, you’ll get cabin fever faster than you can imagine.
10. Get your faculty requirements done as soon as possible.
Get your math, language, social science, humanity, and/or writing requirements over with in first year. Second year+ classes tend to only have one time-slot. Trying to fit these requirements into your schedule is going to be a nightmare. Just get them done.
11. Use social media to make connections before you even get here.
As early as possible, but definitely before you actually move onto campus, join the “Dalhousie Class of (insert grad year here)” Facebook group, as well as any applicable res Facebook groups (for example, Howe Hall 2016/2017).
12. Use these groups to find a roommate that has similar interests/sleep schedules/opinions about partying and school.
Some people come out of first year best friends with their roomie and some end up hating each other – it’s a total toss-up. My advice, find someone who seems like they have similar interests through Facebook. This could be as simple as posting a bio in the group talking about what you’re looking for in a roomie. If/when you find someone you can request them when you fill out your residence application. Happy roommate hunting!
13. Dal has an active Greek Life community.
There are fraternities and sororities on campus! Joining a fraternity or a sorority is a great way to make friends and develop and awesome support group. They generally have booths set up in the society fairs. Also, keep your eyes peeled on social media. Rush events generally start the first week of each semester. It’s worth going to a couple to see if it’s for you!
14. Use Find My Friends to make sure everyone makes it home safe.
Add all of your brand new BFFs on Find My Friends, and use it to keep track of people on nights out. Partying is fun, but it’s still really important to look out for each other and make sure everyone gets home safe.
15. Know where the best food is, and get creative to spice up your cafeteria food.
Shirreff has the best food and is open the latest. On weekdays, Shirreff wins hands down. That being said, Howe has brunch until 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays which is perfect for the mornings after you went a little too hard. Some lifesaving tips to spice things up: make a breakfast wrap using veggies and scrambled eggs, make chicken wraps out of chicken burgers, get over easy eggs to make an Instagram-worthy open faced egg sandwich. Mix it up and keep it interesting.
16. You can find pretty much everything you need on Dalonline.
When mom inevitably comes looking for proof of enrollment, you don’t actually have to go to the registrar’s office. You can get it online. Same goes for paying fees, signing up for classes and pretty much everything else you need to do.
17. The tunnels will save your life when it’s cold/raining/both.
The tunnels between the LSC and the Killam will keep you dry and warm when getting hit by unpredictable Halifax weather. That being said, the first time you go down there make sure you don’t have anywhere you need to be right away. Chances are you’re going to end up lost in the maze that is the Chemistry Building. Don’t worry, it’s a rite of passage.
18. Mix up your study spot.
If you’re constantly moving around between different study places, you’ll be more motivated and productive. The Wallace Mccain Learning Commons are a great study alternative to the library. Just Us Cafe on Coburg is also great. If you’re able to head downtown, the new Halifax Central Library is gorgeous.
19. Take advantage of your RAs (or CAs).
They’re there to make sure you don’t go too crazy on the partying, but also to make sure that you’re safe and having a good time. They have a ton of resources, as well as useful tips and tricks. It’s their job to help if you’re having an issue with a roommate, feeling depressed, or running into other issues. Take advantage of them. They also put a lot of time and effort into planning events for you, make them happy and show up. If you’re living off-campus you will have a Community Assistant (CA) who is the equivalent of an RA.
20. Mary’s Place does an incredible cheap breakfast/brunch, perfect for when you’re a tad hungover. Enough said.
21. Get out of the city as much as possible.
Point Pleasant Park is an incredible way to feel like you’re out of the city without leaving the city. Organizations like the Dalhousie Outdoor Society and the Dalhousie Student Union regularly run trips to places like Peggy’s Cove and Wentworth ski hill.
22. Stay true to your self.
This one goes for students at any university/pretty much anyone. Don’t let yourself get pressured into doing anything you don’t truly want to. Not into drinking, I’m sure you’re a blast sober. Or your not into smoking weed, sounds good to me. If you’re not into casual sex, that’s your choice and everyone should respect that. Down to do all of the above mentioned things, as long as it’s legal and consensual, you do you. You’ll thank yourself in the long run for adhering to your values and respecting yourself.
23. Strategically schedule your classes.
More specifically, do your absolute best not to schedule classes on opposite sides of campus back to back. We’ve all done the biweekly jog from the LSC to the McCain because of requirements with inflexible time slots, but trust me, if you can avoid it then do! You’ll thank me when you aren’t the one consistently showing up to class late, sweaty, and out of breath.
24. Start thinking about where you want to live and who you want to live with in second year.
Start looking out for people that you think you might want to live with next year. People start signing leases for the following year as early as November, and the nice (and affordable) houses go quickly.
25. Choose your off-campus housing strategically.
If you aren’t living on res, you want to be as close to campus as possible. It may sound great to be down around the waterfront/Grafton Street/Queen Street area, but when you’ve got to do the walk (see #1) in the freezing cold, one of two things will suffer: you (freezing your butt off), or your GPA (because class is overrated, and far).
26. Halifax is full of great restaurants.
Wasabi house on Quinpool is one of the best sushi places in the city if you’re on a budget. That being said, order less than you usually would because they bring you sushi on the house on top. Black Sheep on Dresden Row is great for Brunch and Dinner when you want to splurge just a little. When your parents are buying check out Bicycle Thief, La Fresca, Five Fisherman, and Salty’s. Great Cafes include Just Us, Coburg Coffee, and Dilly Dally on Quinpool.
27. Halifax has the most bars per capita in Canada, so go enjoy the Maritime experience.
Halifax nightlife is awesome. From Saturday afternoons at Split Crow to Thursday nights at the Dome to Sundays at Lower Deck to Sex Toy Bingo in the Grawood, get out and experience it all. While not a lifesaving tip, it’ll definitely add some fun to your first-year experience.
28. Exams are stressful, but you’ll be okay.
Your first exams in the Dalplex are an experience you’ll never forget. There are hundreds of stressed out students crammed into a big open room that’s either sweltering or freezing but never in between. A word of advice: bring your water bottle, dress in layers, take a deep breath, and just remember it’ll all be okay. Knowing what you’re walking into makes it a whole lot less intimidating.
29. Use Driver Dave to get to and from the airport.
Driver Dave is an airport shuttle service that will take you from the airport to your house for 20$-35$/person depending on how many people you have. Especially since you probably won’t have a car first year, this makes it so much easier to and from the airport. You can generally find people to split it with if you post in the Dal Facebook groups.
30. Google Maps will stop you from getting completely and utterly lost.
You can use Google Maps to navigate around campus until you get the hang of where things are. All the building names and footpaths are there. This will save your life if you have a tight class turnover and you aren’t quite sure where you’re headed.
31. The LSC is a maze, enter at your own risk.
If you have anything in the LSC that you have to be on time for, show up 20 minutes early because chances are it’ll take you that long to find the room. Same goes for the 2nd and 3rd floor of the McCain.
32. Know where your nearest liquor stores are so you can pop over in a pinch.
From campus, the nearest NSLC is either on Quinpool or Dresden Row. Both are a 15-20 minute walk. If you can jump on the #1 bus, Dresden Row is faster. If not, head to Quinpool and stop by the Superstore for snacks.
33. Once you’re done first year and out of res, you’ll grow to miss residence parties.
They’re a special blend of crazy, hilarious and awesome. There’s no better way to make a whole bunch of good friends all at once. The lesson here is that bars are expensive and lack the familiarity of res parties, so take full advantage while you can.
34. Know the liquor laws (and general bylaws) and follow them.
Nova Scotia liquor laws tend to be stricter than other places. This means when you go to the NSLC or to the bars you’ll need two, sometimes three, pieces of ID. As annoying as it is you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. There is also generally a pretty big police presence on campus, especially during O-Week and Homecoming. The tickets are huge and not worth it (Open liquor=$450, Public intoxication=$125, asking your parents for money to pay them off=priceless).
35. Make sure you have waterproof clothing.
Bring rain boots and a waterproof winter jacket. If you’re from Halifax you already know all about the freezing rain, but if you’re from somewhere else it can be pretty shocking. Waterproof is your friend.
36. Seek out free food.
The Loaded Ladle serves free lunch three times a week in the SUB. Check it out because groceries are expensive and finding free food is what university’s all about.
37. How you buy your textbooks could save you $$$$.
The prof will generally tell you on the first day whether or not you actually need the textbook. You’ll save money by waiting and only buying what you need. Try and buy your textbooks from upper year students who don’t need them anymore. There’s even a Facebook group called “Dalhousie Book Exchange.” Join it. Use it. Save $$$.
38. Get your microwaves/fridges early.
Unless you’re able to buy one secondhand, or you’re able to pick one up in the early summer and drive it out, you’re better off buying from the Dal bookstore. You’ll pay the same amount and save yourself the trouble of going to three different stores looking for them. They’ll deliver it right to your room, so you don’t need to worry about carrying it up three flights of stairs. Contact your roommate beforehand to make sure you aren’t bringing duplicates.
39. Be respectful.
Be respectful of your roommates, floor-mates, teachers, classmates. Peoples opinions of you can open doors, but they can also close them. A recommendation (or lack of) could make or break a scholarship or employment application.
40. Rate My Prof is a lifesaver.
Using Rate My Prof to pick and choose which classes to take, and which profs to take them from (and avoid) will make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your classes. It also gives you information on difficulty of the class, whether or not you need the textbook, and average grades.
41. Choose your meal plan wisely.
Choosing the best meal plan for you can save you money. Although the unlimited meal plan may be calling your name, chances are you aren’t really going to take advantage of it. Getting 14-19 meals a week and stocking the mini fridge with snacks is a good, cost-effective compromise.
42. Take care of your health.
It’s so easy to live on chicken burgers and Ramen purchased at 11:30 from The Guardian, but long term your health will suffer. Make a conscious effort to exercise and eat things that are green. Short term you might not like salad, but long term you will be thankful for it. If you do get sick/hurt, Dal Health Services is in LeMarchant Place. You can call beforehand to book an appointment or walk in.
43. Avoid “floorcest” at all costs.
Want to hook up with that cute person from the next res over? Go for it. Want to hook up with that person on your floor you’ve been flirting with nonstop? Unless you’re 100% positive it’s not going to be a one-night thing OR you’re both the most chill people ever and there are zero feelings involved (and even then it can still get messy), in almost all cases “floorcest” is not your friend. Keep in mind that you will have to see this person every day and it will be uncomfortable and weird. Just don’t do it, it’s not worth it.
44. Go out and try new things.
In order to truly make the most of your year, you need to go out and have a bunch of new, fun, sometimes intimidating experiences. Never eaten sushi? Now’s the time. Never gone surfing? Get to it. Trying new and exciting things is what university is all about.
45. Go out and meet new people.
Never partied with someone from South America? You’ll quickly learn that those Latin hips really do move and that the international students you meet are some of the coolest people around. The connections you make in university are invaluable, so get out there and hang out in the lounge, go to that event alone and meet the best people so that you can become the best version of yourself.
46. Personalize your dorm room.
There’s nothing cute about concrete walls and fireproof curtains. Tapestries, pictures, colourful comforters, and pillows can make a world of a difference. Check out the dalresidence Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration.
47. Dal has puppy rooms during exams for students.
Because who doesn’t like puppies? Here’s a picture of a cute puppy to brighten your day.
48. Remember what you came for.
As tempting as it is to spend all your time out doing fun things, you’re there for an education. There will always be classes you don’t like, profs that you just can’t wrap your head around, and parties you really want to go to, but being able to buckle down and push through instead of putting it off will help you succeed in the long run. So grab a coffee, get comfy, and get it done so you can go do things you actually enjoy!
49. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Take care of it. This means doing your best not to beat yourself up for a bad grade, eating healthy, and taking the time to relax. It also means sometimes being willing to reach out and accept help. There are always people in your corner, whether you need a professional evaluation or someone to vent to. Your friends, RA’s, CA’s, Dal Counselling Services (based out of LeMarchant Place) and the Avalon Centre are all great resources. Letting yourself off the hook is so important.
50. Chill out when you need to.
School is stressful. As much as you can try and study regularly, and stay on top of your schoolwork, you will hit times when you feel overwhelmed. Rather than spending 10 hours straight in the library, spend 7 studying and 3 doing something that will help you relax and blow off some steam. We’ve all been sitting in that exam unable to think because we’re too tired, or so stressed that we make stupid mistakes. Taking time to chill will help avoid this blank. Your mental health and your GPA will thank you.
Note: Breathing space is great. Also, the DSU runs free yoga a couple times a week. Even something as simple as going to Point Pleasant for a couple hours can make a big difference.
Now that you now have a bunch of lifesaving tips and tricks to make your first year awesome, get out there and use them. I wish you all the best of luck in your first (or not first) year of university!
Have any other lifesaving tips for freshman at Dal? Leave them in the comments below!
Featured photo source: www.mapio.net
Dani is doing a double major in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Business at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When she's not studying you'll find her hiking, skiing, canoeing, eating great food, and hanging out.