Santiago de Compostela, by Nora and Laura

Bienvenidos a Santiago / or rather… Benvidos a Galicia !

 

Hello! So you have chosen Santiago de Compostela as your next destination, where you will spend the next semester or two. Galicia is a great place to be in, but it might take a period of time to get used to a new city, a new culture, a new language (or two!) and a new educational system.

There are four national languages in Spain. Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician. Moving to Santiago means getting immersed in a strong and specific cultural context, that is charming but might puzzle you in the first place. When I first came to the university, I did not quite feel welcome:

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Gallegos are proud about their land, language, cultural heritage and traditions. Most of them feel Spanish before Gallegos, although there is a strong regional sense of belonging there. They are surrounded by an outstandingly rich nature & have excellent culinary traditions. However, you must know some Gallegos do push this pride to further extents: you can be in a class with 25 strangers and 2 locals, ask the professor if he can teach in Spanish instead of Gallego with the agreement of the 2 locals, and he might answer in Galician politely to go **** yourself. If you speak good Spanish or Portuguese, it will definitely be OK though, as Gallego is at the crossroads of both languages. It took me a week to adapt. If your Spanish is weaker, you might need more time, but it will still be OK. And honestly, as I will try to explain in this article, Santiago is GENUINELY worth the effort. I spent my best semester there, made friends of a lifetime, visited every corner in Spain and Portugal, and had A BLAST.

 

Tip: WHAT TO PACK?

 

A waterproof version of everything! It rains. A lot. It is something you will grow accustomed to, but make sure you are prepared. Pack your weelingtons and a good raincoat with a hood. Or, alternatively, be prepared to invest in waterproof shoes, an umbrella, and a “chubasquesro” (waterproof coat.)

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LOCATION

 

Santiago is at the far north-west end of Spain. Very close to the “end of the world”, the most western part of Europe. You’ll very probably have the occasion to go there with the student associations. And you should, it’s beautiful. It’s funny to think if you were to swim through the Atlantic, you’d land in Miami.

How to get there

Airplane

There are more and more flight connexions to Santiago, as the destination is getting trendier and trendier. You should take your tickets in advance, as they can get very expensive !

From the airport, a shuttle takes you to the main points of interest in the city for a couple of euros. Then you can do everything by feet, it’s a small city. And there is something beautiful to see at every corner.

Bus or train

It’s very easy to come from Porto. It’s 5 hours away by bus, and you’d not pay very much for your ticket. From Madrid for instance, you can get there by train.

Transport from the airport

By bus

By bus the only real option to get to Santiago is with Empresa Freire. One way tickets are 3 EUR and a return ticket is 5.10 EUR. The bus stops right outside the airport every half an hour.

By taxi

There are a couple of companies you can book a taxi from. The cost will be around 20-25 EUR to take you from the airport to the city.

Radio Taxi: http://www.radiotaxicompostela.com/ Taxi Galicia: http://www.taxigalicia.com/index.php/en/

Transport from the train station

By bus

Line 6 will take you from near the train station to Plaza Galicia. From there you can take other lines to different places around the city. Here you can find out more about public transportation in Santiago.

Taxi

Taxi is always an option of course.

ACCOMODATION

 

While it is true that there are plenty of flats available for students, it is recommended to get your accommodation sorted as soon as possible. Knowing that you have a place to stay can reduce your stress levels once you are in Santiago trying to get all the administrative matters sorted.

You can choose to stay at the university accommodation. This tends to be more expensive, however, and you are required to pay for the entire semester upfront. It is also situated on the south campus, which does make for a lot of walking to and from the Philology faculty. 

The other possibility is to rent a room in a shared flat or house. Shared housing usually costs €150 to €200 per month. You can check availability of rooms on websites such as Erasmusu, which is an Erasmus community site, and Xornal da USC which is the general notice board for the university.

Alternatively, you could get in touch with your fellow students for advice and landlord contact details. You can ask your student representative or local coordinators to help you contact students that were in Santiago in the previous semester.

Tip from Nora: 

Definitely, don’t DON’T try and get a room near the northern university! It’s the dullest and ugliest part in the city and NOTHING HAPPENS THERE! In my opinion, Rua do San Roque is the highest you should accept to go. The city beats at the center and the south, otherwise your Erasmus is not going to be fun. As far as I experimented, the best places to get a flat are the historic center (easy to spot as it forms a circle) and around Praza de Galicia (I lived Rua Montero Rios and it was an amazing location !).

For sure, you’ll have most of your classes in the Northern USC buildings, but still, there is the bus, and it’s a 20’ walk from Prada do Obradoiro.

It’s quite easy to find a shared flat in Santiago, it’s cheap (around 300 euros) and you should try and live with locals, it’s so much more fun.

SPANISH TIME

 

One aspect of the cultural life here in Santiago that might be hard to get used to is the Spanish time.

Grocery shops tend to open at 9:00am, but some other shops won’t be open till 10:00am.

Lunchtime is at 2:00pm. This means that usually from 2:00pm – 5:00pm shops will be closed. At 5:00pm they re-open and stay open until about 8:00pm. Keep this in mind when making plans. Your courses will most likely all be held during the afternoon (4:00pm-8:30pm), which usually prevents you from getting to shops for the afternoon time. Afternoon here refers to the time after lunch, but before dinner, which is taken at around 10:00pm.

MOBILE PHONE AND INTERNET PROVIDER

 

These are the 4 main providers with their own network:

Movistar

Vodafone

Orange

Yoigo

Spain operates on a GSM network. If you have a European phone or one from many other countries, this means that your current phone will probably work in Spain. If you are coming from North America or parts of Asia you will probably have a CDMA phone, which will not work. If you have a GSM phone, you need to check whether your phone is unlocked – some phones are locked in to the network you already have – if it is unlocked you just need a Spanish SIM card.

Prices on new phones differ greatly depending on the retailer and the mobile operator. While each operator has its own retail outlets, prices tend to be better elsewhere. Large retailers like Carrefour offer relatively good deals. For Vodafone and Orange phones in particular, The Phone House chain is very competitive.

There are other low-cost chains like Lebara and Simyo, which entered the mobile phone market a few years ago. One thing to note with these si that if you order your SIM card online you will be required to pay using a debit or credit card issued in Spain.

Having explained the above, it is important to point out that one popular provider with students is Orange since they offer a pay as you go (pre-pago) option called Mundo. SIM Mundo is a very good alternative since it allows free Mundo to Mundo calls, which means that if many Crossways students opt for it you can talk to each other free of charge. Additionally it offers different data packages from which you can choose: 500MB (€6/month), 1GB (€9/month) and 2GB (€15/month). (Disclaimer: the prices quoted on this guide are subject to change.)

Over the last few years many low-cost chains like Happy Móvil, Lebara and Simyo have entered the mobile phone market to compete with the four main providers mentioned above. Furthermore many supermarkets offer mobile phone tariffs as e.g. Día Móvil, Eroski Móvil or Carrefour Móvil. Prices and services vary from company to company. Most providers offer tariffs including internet access.

BANK ACCOUNT

 

There are a variety of banks to choose from here in Santiago. You can go for the Santander bank account, which is the one offered to students at the university. There is a branch in the Economics faculty, and it is in this Santander Bank where you go get your student ID once you have registered.

 

SHOPPING

 

There are many, many shops for you to explore and choose from.

There are two big shopping centres As Cancelas and Area Central. Usually landlords provide you with basic things such as towels and bed sheets and pillows, but if you need anything house related, then you can head to Primark from As Cancelas, which is one of cheapest place to find these sorts of things.

The main supermarkets are:

Carrefour: north campus in As Cancelas and near Plaza Galicia

Gadis: scattered everywhere. There is one in front of philology faculty. This supermarket is one of the cheapest. Most no -brand products have a better price here than in Carrefour. Mercadona: South Campus, has different things, but it is far away from most things.

Día: there are a couple around the city. They do not really have a lot of variety, but a Día can help you out in a pinch. They do have a 7 EUR minimum when paying by card.

Froiz: Similar to Día and Gadis. You can find them in the new area of the city. Lidl: there is one near Mercadona.

UNIVERSITY

 

Santiago is – as far as I understood from some discussions with Mundus fellows – the place where it’s the most difficult to design your courses plan. You have a lot of classes (about 25 hours a week in 1st semester when I studied there in 2012) and you can choose very few of them. So for instance I ended up with a class about literature in videogames, and even though I’m a curious and academic-enthusiast I really found this class stupid and horribly annoying but I had to be there anyways because they did check if you attended each and every hour… I have a lot of troubles coping with this manner of forcing grown up people into studying things they were not interested in – and trying to prevent them to “miss classes” like children… But you’ll have to get used to it too.

This being said, you can insist to take some classes you like among the optional ones. I had the right to follow a cinema class in the History faculty, because I harassed Anxo Abuin until he let me do so. The class was amazing.

Some professors are excellent, some less, but it’s the same everywhere. What you have to know about the structure of the semester is that the evaluations happen at the end of the term. Sometimes you have to pass an oral or written one on the spot. But mostly the teachers ask you to provide them with a 15 pages essay on a topic you will have chosen with them, related to their class. It’s quite flexible, but demanding too, and the ones who choose to write everything last minute do suffer.

One of the first things to do once you arrive in Santiago is to set up a meeting with Antonio. You need him to sign your arrival and matriculation forms. Once you have the matriculation form signed you can get the process started with the UXA (), which is the department that will grant you your student credentials. These credentials will grant you access to eduroam, the university’s wireless network; it will also allow you to open up a bank account, which in turn allows you to get Wi-Fi at home.

Matriculation

Once you finish your initial meeting with Antonio head to the UXA, which is the building south form the Philology Faculty. You can ask any student nearby and they should be able to point you in the right direction. At the UXA you will have to provide them with your passport and the forms Antonio signed. You will have to fill in some details on yet another form. Once you are done with this they will tell you to go home and wait for an email. Actual registration will take a while. As Erasmus Mundus Students our matriculation is done separately and it takes some time.

Student I.D. Card

Once you have matriculated you will receive an email with a pdf file attached that will have your details. Print this file and take it to the Santander Bank located in the Economics faculty. They will take your picture there, so be prepared. After that you just need to wait a few minutes and they will print your ID out.

Actividades Culturales

You get 2 credits if you attend a seminar, workshop, conference, etc. on any topic that interests you.

It’s an easy and interesting way of getting credits.

Eduroam (USC Wi-Fi)

Here you can find a guide to help you connect to eduroam.

The instructions are only available in Galician. So to make things simple the best thing you could do is head to the library and ask for help. It is the quickest way to get access and people at the desk tend to be nice about it.

Library

In order to take books out of the library you need to register there first. To do this you take the same paper you used for your student ID and present it to the reception desk. They will fill out the information and you will be allowed to log in to the internet library services, where you can reserve and request books from other libraries in different faculties.

The libraries are great. There are many books on many subjects, that one can borrow. There are scanners too, and most of the time students do exchange the PDFs of the numerous critical essays to read for the classes – homework is important too.

My absolute favourite library is the History one, you should really go and study there because it’s LOVELY. It’s full of old books, it smells after them, and even the light has something special in this place. However, it’s very often crowded, all the more before exams.

STUDENT LIFE & TRADITIONS

 

Just like me before studying in Santiago, you must fear this city is religious, old, and all in all fairly dull. 0/20. Epic judgemental failure.

As many bars as churches & convents

Half of the inhabitants are students or young people. The most amazing thing in Santiago is that there are as many bars as churches. And there are many churches, I swear. This creates the most astonishing yet charming paradox. Just like in many student cities, such as Salamanca, Barcelona or Madrid, young people drink cocktails on the terraces during whenever the weather allows it, and inhabit the bars whenever it doesn’t.

My favourite bar is definitely la Medusa (close to Plaza Cervantes) and Momo, that’s got an amazing patio, close to the History faculty. At the Medusa, Fran, the barman, makes the most stunning caipirinhas de fresa of the whole world. I’m not kidding, this is not an exercise, rush there and you’ll feel as lovely as in Brazil. Ultramarinos (going down from Praza Cervantes on in direction of Calle San Pedro) is cool too. Of course, there are a LOT of other bars, you will have good surprises in many places.

Student associations

Be ready: ESN and Sharing Galicia, both student associations in Santiago, will transform your Erasmus into a giant disco where parties, travels, weekend in the forest, afterworks, dinners, brunches and crazy events I won’t talk about not to scare you – just kidding – will mix happily ever after.

Quelques photos de voyages

With them, I went to Porto & Braga, to Salamanca, to Alicante, to Pedrafita Do Cereibro, to Lugo, to Vigo and the Islas Cies (there you’ll have the impression to be in New Zealand)… I missed the trip to Bilbao, but I travelled to Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon with friends so that it was OK. The trips organized by both organizations are great, good value for money and you meet many amazing people. I don’t know if Pablo still works for Sharing Galicia, but he also used to take groups of 7 people in a mini bus through tours of the Galician nature and it was amazing.

Here are some photographs.

The parties are – this is not a pleonasm – rather festive. You can start at midnight in a bar, and by 11 o’clock the next morning you will have gone to 3 bars, 2 discos, 2 after works and a brunch, but you will remember only half of it. I’m not entirely kidding. I’ll leave you guess which part is true. Anyways, you’ll really have good times, 7 nights a week if you wish to do so.

EVENTS

 

In October (as far as I can remember), the city transforms into a giant cinema festival. There are two main events: one about arab movies, and the other about European films. There are a lot of cheap projections, you can buy several tickets at a time to have lower prices, and so you can see the best movies of the year, from Cannes, the Berlin or Toronto film festivals, etc. You can also grade the movies, and the whole events are amazing.

PLACES OF INTEREST

 

Everything in the old town is a place of interest. The cathedral’s square, Praza do Obradoiro, is of course very impressive. But there are many more churches, convents & architectural marvels to discover.

I would advise you to enter the Sta Clara Convent, to watch the cathedral from the Praza Das Praterias, to chill on the Praza Cervantes and around the history university or to go up Rua San Pedro, a charming part of the town.

Do not miss the view on the cathedral from Parque del Alhameda, nor from Parque de Bonaval. Here are the photographs, but of course it’s far better to experiment it.

And do go to Ciudad de la Cultura, a place of temporary exhibitions and a library worth it for its architecture.

Photo de ciudad de la cultura

RESTAURANTS

 

Casa Manolo, on Praza Cervantes, serves great fish. Going down Praza Cervantes on your right, there was a small restaurant that serves pieces of bread with Spanish ham and melted cheeses you can choose. I hope it still exists, because it’s amazing. The bar “Marta” makes my favourite tortilla and is great in summer “para tomar” (to have a drink).

If you want real Galician food, fresh pulpo and queso de tetilla, you should go there :

Bodegon dos concheiros, rua dos Concheiros. It looks aweful but it’s delicious. My Galician friends took me there and it’s worth it.

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St Andrews, by Nora

Welcome to Scotland dear Mundus Fellows!

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 If I had to give 10 words to talk about St Andrews, I would say : 1. Seaside. 2. Grey stones. 3. Traditions. 4. Cathedral. 5. Whisky. 6. Scones. 7. Societies. 8. Balls. 9. Windy. 10. Fucked up.

You’re about to make a choice, or just landed in a country – and a city – full of immemorial stories, of charming castles and of a stunning nature. But also of kind, caring and smart people who will welcome you their way : with scones & malted whisky !

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LOCATION

The first time I looked where St Andrews was on a map, I got afraid. I thought: “it must be freezing cold up there!”. Well, sorry to spoil this, but most of the time, it’s very true. Do take a warm coat and waterproof shoes, otherwise you won’t be there to testify you should have done so.

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How to get there?

Airport

Edinburgh is well linked to the rest of the UK, to Europe and most capital cities of the world. You won’t have troubles to get there.

St Andrews by bus or car

St Andrews is 1h30 away from Edinburgh, 2 hours away from Edinburgh airport, about 30 minutes away from Dundee, 1 hour away from Perth, 1’45 minutes away from Aberdeen and Glasgow and in 3 hours to the North, Inverness.

If you plan to go on a roadtrip, you get to the Loch Lomond national park (precious) in about 2 hours, to the far west (Fort William) in 3 hours, to the Island of Skye, and to reach the northern far end in 6 hours.

St Andrews is quite well connected to Edinburgh and Glasgow by bus. However, the rest of Scotland is quite chaotic by bus, you’d better rent a car if you want to go around easily. And there is MUCH to discover.

ACADEMIA

I stayed 10 months in St Andrews, from January 2013 to December of the same year (I came back home for the summer). St Andrews was my home university. I had chosen it not for the classes but for the place. I picked it too because I wanted to have the opportunity to travel through this beautiful country & around Scandinavia. And also because St Andrews seemed to be the best university in the consortium.

The goal of this article is definitely not to rate the Mundus universities nor to compare them. Objectively, they all have specificities, and the strength of the program is to allow you to experiment different ways of being taught and several academic approaches. This being said, St Andrews is well regarded in the UK and elsewhere and stays one of the most “prestigious” unis of the consortium.

You will have a couple of classes (except if you come for the first semester, which is the most demanding in this uni) but most of your time will be dedicated to researching or thesis writing. You’re free most of the time, but when the professors give you a bibliography with 20 books they expect you to actually read them.

I was quite disappointed with the choice of courses as well as with their quality (except very few classes). But that’s very personal and since my fellow students did not necessarily have the same feeling the best is to make your own mind.

Other than that, the libraries are very nice & comfortable – not many books depending on your subject but you can order them from other unis (http://libguides.st-andrews.ac.uk/Inter-LibraryLoan), or ask them to buy a book for you (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/library/services/other/bookrecommendations/)! Also, it has very efficient tools if you seek meaningless relationships (just kidding… half kidding). I do love the one about the magic wand.

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More seriously, the university is charming! Those are photographs of St Salvador’s Quad, where you will probably have classes, and St Mary’s Quad. All buildings are scattered throughout the whole city.

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STUDENT LIFE & TRADITIONS

No doubt about this, St Andrews is a small but dynamic town!

Students are numerous and societies too. Just to give you a few examples, my friend Isabelle went to the kayak club, Cristina to the triathlon, I went to Swing and took part in a magazine (Startmusic, I think it still exists).

More infos here : https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/study/why/life/clubs-and-societies/

And if you never tried Polo but always wanted to… Now is your time!

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The Mermaids is the theatre society, they build amazing plays and you can definitely take part in the castings at the beginning of each semester.

The Blind Mirth is the improvisation team. They are hilarious and play once a week in public. It’s free, go & see them! It’s great. And if you’re bilingual you might even join them…

And as far I heard, they seem to even have reopened the Byre Theater thanks to a donation by Sean Connery (who is Scottish and a patron for arts there).

Other than that, you’ll be there for some of the festivities. St Andrews has a wide range of traditions, balls, parties and events you should really attend. I’ll speak only of two of them, which are my favourites:

Pier walk & May dip

On the last night of April, when the sun goes down, everybody puts on their red or black gowns and takes part to a procession to the pier with candles. We honour a man who saved two people who were drowning on that day many years ago.

 

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During the night, everybody lights up bonfires on the beach, parties and dances until sunrise… Then, we undress, yell as much as we can and run into the freezing sea. It feels like dying, but everybody does it anyways. True story.

Here is what the 2013 May dip looked like on East sands. Gorgeous, right?

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Raisin weekend

It’s in November. Everybody meets in the quad and “foamfights”. It’s really FFF (Funny, Famous and Fucked-up). We used foamers for weeks after that, during terrifying battles with our neightbours and roommates.

During this weekend, everybody dresses up and the city is transformed into a giant carnival.

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PLACES OF INTEREST

Heritage

Saint Andrews is small, but beautiful!
The university buildings are places of interest in themselves. Most of them date back to 1600. St Salvatore’s quad’s chapel is wonderful, and you should really take the opportunity to hear a choir at some point. It’s a marvellous spectacle.
The cathedral and the castle are the two main places where tourists go. Not much is left now, but those ruins will surely be some of your favourite places to study, jog, read or just wander around, as they are precious! Here are some photos of them, as well as of the graveyard around the cathedral.

 

Beaches

Now let’s move to West and East Sands, St Andrews’ beaches. My personal favourite is West Sands. It stretches on kilometres and the view on St Andrews is absolutely gorgeous. And I find its fences very pretty (see photograph). I won’t put any images of this beach, that you’ll have the pleasure to discover yourself. Its’ beauty is beyond words, and a photograph would be a pale capture of it. However, if you’re too curious, you can look at this beach in the introductory scene of “Chariots of fire”.

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East Sands is smaller and overlooks the Albany Park accommodations, but it has the great advantage to be close to the pier. And still, you’d spend beautiful moments on this beach (for instance the May Dip or bonfire parties). Here is a photograph I took in May over there.

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Parks

There are several parks that are worth visiting… And if there is good weather do go to the botanic garden, it’s lovely. Preferably from May to September though, to see all the flowers and attend cool picnics.
The golf is also well known as one of the first links ever, amateurs come from all over the world to play here. So have a try, it’s cheaper for students and it’s worth the experience.

Bonus

Last but not least, I have a secret garden – everybody has one, metaphoric or not – and I’ll give the address if you have something valuable to exchange. I’m not especially greedy but this is worth the world. I’ll accept pretty anything (a book title, an artist’s or a movie’s name… But it has to be very special).This photograph shows the garden in winter. But in summer it is beautiful and has wifi for you to work there if needed…
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RESTAURANTS

I’m not going to go through all restaurants, but I need to tell you that Little Italy is excellent. Excellent. I’d really advise you to taste the tiramisu. I lived in Italy and did not find any as good as this one. Forgan’s is quite good too. The Seafood restaurant is expansive but if you do ask for the view (months in advance), it’s amazing. You actually eat on the sea. Taste is the cutest & smallest café in the whole UK. That’s why it’s always crowded.

ACCOMMODATION

You have several options. Some people choose to find accommodation themselves in St Andrews. I did it and lived in a shared flat during my 1st semester there, on Market Street. It was great to share the flat, as accommodation is usually very expensive in this village (even the uni accommodation).

Some others choose to stay in Edinburgh, as it is bigger, more dynamic, culturally dense. It’s doable, if you accept to take the bus twice a day 1, 2 or 3 days a week. One of my friends did it, and she sometimes slept at ours to avoid going back daily twice a week.

Otherwise, you can request a uni accommodation. Albany Park is 10 minutes away. It’s not in a brilliant state, but it’s OK and has got beautiful views on the sea. It’s also close to the supermarkets. David Russels Apts are quite far away but new and quite nice. Otherwise, some dorms are downtown, but more expensive. I would advise you to ask for Dean’s court or St Mary’s… But you have very few chances to get any of these. Fife Park used to be the worst, I went there for the second semester… But they demolished it and built it up again, so let’s hope it’s now in better state!

TRAVELS THROUGH SCOTLAND

I’ve talked already about the difficulty to travel through Scotland without a car. What I’d like to dwell upon now is the fact you should REALLY discover this country, anyhow. If you don’t have money, hitchhiking works perfectly too and is safe. Scottish people are very, very generous and kind. I have the most improbable memories of couchsurfing; it has been great every time. Once I slept at a fisherman’s on the Isle of Skye. He did not have a spare bed for us, so we slept on the floor. But he gave us a map with secret locations only locals know about for us to discover the island, and cooked lobster for us on the top of it. Amazing.

To conclude and make you want to come, those are a few places you should really go to if you have the chance. And above all, have fun and enjoy the amazing people you’ll meet through the program and on the road. That’s what real life is about.

Edinburgh, obviously… Because it’s gorgeous !

But also the Argyll in winter:

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Glamis Castle:

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The far west of the country and the isle of Skye, starting with Eileen Donan Castle (left):

An estate in the Loch Lomond National Park:

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Dunnottar Castle, at the far east:

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Thanks for reading. I hope it helps !
For further questions, feel free to write to nora.leon@hec.edu.

Guelph

Toronto Pearson International

Well, it seems you’ve done it. You’ve chosen to spend the next four to twelve months not only in a new country, but a whole new continent. And now you’re standing in something that looks like a giant carpeted garage looking over the dullest landscape known to mankind. This in no way reflects what your stay in Canada is going to be like. Let me start with those words of comfort. Now get out of there, because if you stay too long, you might just become one of the carpeted benches and carpeted lamps that have the look of starting out as desperate people who waited for too long.

pearson airport

Public transportation to Guelph

There is an (almost) direct route from the airport to Guelph if you want to avoid going to Toronto altogether, and it’s definitely the cheapest and fastest option as it will come out between $10 – 15 and take less than two hours.

Take the GO Transit bus, whose stop is on Terminal 1 of the airport:

http://www.gotransit.com/publicroot/en/travelling/stations.aspx?station=AIRP

The line is Brampton – Pearson Airport – North York in the 34 Brampton Terminal direction, and you can buy the ticket from the driver. Go to Bramalea Go Station, where you will switch to the Guelph – Bramalea line, direction 39 Guelph Central Go. This will take you to Guelph, where you can get out either at the University Center or downtown.

I strongly recommend you tell the driver where you’re going, they will tell you where to get out and go next!

Guelph bus

Public transportation to Toronto

192 Airport Rocket bus will take you to Kipling Station – the last station on the Bloor – Danforth Line (green) of the subway. It costs only $3 which also covers the subway. This seems like the easiest and definitely the cheapest way to head for the center of Toronto, but for alternative routes with public transportation check out:

http://www.ttc.ca/Riding_the_TTC/Airport_service.jsp

Once on the subway, if you want to go to Guelph, you can get out on St. George station, then change trains and switch to Yonge – University Spadina Line(yellow), direction Southbound, and get out on St Patrick station:

Once you’re out, you will be on University Avenue, and it’s best to ask people where the Central Coach Terminal is (4 minutes away). However, if you have Bear Grylls superhuman orientation skills, then head east on Dundas St. until you get to Bay St. – the bus station is on Bay St. between Dundas and Edward St. Here are the visuals:

https://www.google.hr/maps/place/Toronto+Coach+Terminal/@43.656155,-79.384201,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xb1be9d65977437ee

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Greyhound bus from downtown Toronto to Guelph

At the Central Coach Terminal, there are only two companies – Greyhound andMegabus. Go to the Greyhound ticket office and buy your ticket to Guelph (see if they will give you a student discount without your Guelph Student ID; I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s worth a try!). The ticket without a student discount will cost you (I think!) about $22, with a student discount about $15 (again, impossible to check over the Internet), and if you book it online (definitely the best way and it’s very easy!!) about $12 – 13. Here’s their site:

https://www.greyhound.ca/

If you’re booking online, make sure to print out the receipt because you can’t get on the bus without it, and be warned that if you’re lugging around more than one gianormous bag, they will charge you for it!

And while we’re at it, let me warn you about something else important: the prices in Canada are not what they seem!! The price of any item on a shelf of a store, or of a service you’re booking online, etc. (unless specified) is always before tax, so be ready for the unpleasant surprise of a few (or a lot of) extra dollars on your bill – depending on how much you’re spending!

The bus takes about an hour and a half, and you can get out either at the University Center or downtown.

*There are two alternative modes of transportation from downtown Toronto to Guelph, one by bus – GO Transit (www.GOTransit.com), and the other by train (www.VIARail.ca). For a first try, I’d recommend Greyhound and then later you can experiment with the others.

Taxis and van service

Considering there is no shortage of public transportation from Pearson, there would seem to be wiser ways to spend that hard-earned cash than using taxis (including an awesome selection of beers from local microbreweries and equally amazing gourmet burgers which are impossible to describe or explain to a thoroughbred European). However, considering the crazy winters in Canada, should you find yourself at the airport in the middle of a January snow storm with little desire to drag people-sized suitcases into the unknown, there are a few cozy options that will stop you from having a panic attack and get you to the safety of your new home for somewhere between $50 and $100.

If you are going to Toronto, the price of a ride downtown should be between $50 and $60, but you can check the exact prices for different city zones on this site:

http://www.torontopearson.com/en/toandfrom/taxilimo/#

If you want to get to Guelph, your best option might be the Red Car Service, whose desks you will find on the Arrivals Level of Terminals 1 and 3. It is a shared van that will take you to your door for a price of about $80. For more information check out:

https://www.redcarservice.com/Toronto-Airport/

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When in Guelph…

The great house hunt

If you want to get a head start on the whole „I don’t want to be homeless in the middle of the winter in Canada“ situation, then check out the university housing classifieds on The Cannon (http://www.thecannon.ca/classifieds/housing) or the general housing classifieds on Kijiji (http://www.kijiji.ca/h-guelph/1700242) in the month before coming to town. Kijiji might have a wider selection of rooms on offer, but The Cannon has the advantage of showing you not only the location of the houses/apartments, but also their exact distance to the university. Another good thing about it is that it caters mostly to students, meaning your roommates are also more likely to be students (rather than middle-aged people with weird pets and strange eating habits), and the landlords will aim at providing you with what students usually look for – proximity to university/bus stop/supermarket/booze outlet/fast food joint of choice.

As for the neighborhoods to consider, anything surrounding the university is great (College Avenue, etc.), and the area around Stone Road Mall (Janefield Ave., Scottsdale Rd, Stone Rd, Chancellors Way…) is pretty good, downtown is awesome, and for the rest, well, depends what you’re looking for. The south end is full of student accommodation but for a small town, it’s as far as you can get from downtown! Student dorms and official university housing are crazy expensive – avoid at all cost!

The prices are in the range between $400 (something wrong with the house or tenants), $450 (usually normal and nice), $500-550 (also normal and nice), all the way up to $600 and $700 (I just don’t get it).

Be warned that many or even most rooms come unfurnished but there is always furniture in the kitchen and living room; when looking for a place, make sure to ask if it is or can possibly be furnished. Otherwise, there’s IKEA (in Toronto) and stores and websites with used furniture (like Kijiji and The Cannon).

Getting around the place

The best thing about public transportation in Guelph is that it’s absolutely free for students! Yaaay! The worst thing is that it’s terrible. I mean, the buses are really nice, and so are the drivers and passengers, but it takes forever to get anywhere because they stop for 15min at the Central Station and at the UC (Univ. Center); they drive until midnight and then there are night buses only to certain areas, there are no buses Sundays after 7 pm, etc.

The nice thing, again, is that stops are really close to each other and the whole town is well covered, so you needn’t worry about walking long and freezing in the winter. They also tend to be punctual – again, good for not letting you die in the snow.

Here you will find the schedules for all bus routes and the map of the whole system:

http://guelph.ca/living/getting-around/bus/schedules/

And here is more useful information for students:

http://guelph.ca/living/getting-around/bus/schedules/routes-that-service-the-university-of-guelph/

In order to get a free bus pass, you will go to the graduate student office on the fifth floor of the UC and they’ll put a sticker on your Student ID, and that’s it, you’re set!

scary house

Getting around campus

It just occurred to me that in order to get a bus pass or a Student ID, or anything else at the University, it might be a good idea to introduce you to your future campus.

Sooo… the first step is getting there. Take any bus that goes to the University Center (1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, 3A and 3B, 5, 6, 7, 15) and don’t worry, you’ll know it when you see it. Once there, you can ask anyone for the MacKinnon building – that is where the Department of European Studies and the School of Languages and Literatures are. MacKinnon is just 50 meters from the UC, across from the Library, both big modern buildings:

http://www.uoguelph.ca/campus/map/uc/

http://www.uoguelph.ca/campus/map/mackinnon/

http://www.uoguelph.ca/campus/map/library/

The trick, however, is not getting to them, but rather dealing with the crazy Hogwarts-like architecture of strange hallways and hidden doors. When you come into MacK, go up the stairs to your left, then turn left again and go through a blue door and through a weird little hallway where people are studying and angry that you’re passing through a hallway. There is only one other door which leads to a staircase, use it to go up one floor and there you are, welcome to SOLAL!!

SOLAL

(REDRUM!)

While we’re at it, let me give you some info about what to expect here. When it comes to cordiality and hospitality, overall attention and cooperation from the staff and professors – well, it will blow your mind. Nothing you’ve experienced in Europe will prepare you for this. Seriously, your first thought will be: „It’s a trap!“ If, like most European students I’ve met, you’re used to chasing your professors down for information, recommendations, etc. then this will be a very positive experience. Nothing but the best to say about my generation’s experiences here!

university-of-guelph-campus-image

As for my personal experience, I can tell you that Guelph is the ideal place to be if you are considering continuing your studies after you are finished with Erasmus. The fact that you can get experience as a teaching assistant, and perhaps even pursue research assistantships within the university is invaluable, and so is the opportunity to try out the North American system of education. You will also constantly be encouraged to participate in the university’s academic life, as well as advancing your research and gaining experience at conferences outside it. The courses here are great, the guidance you can expect for your research even better, and the university as well as the department do their very best to support you if you show an interest and determination to develop academically. Take it from me that it’s an important factor to consider when choosing your universities.

For anything else you might need on the practical side, here’s the campus map where you can check the whole outline and each individual building:

http://www.uoguelph.ca/campus/map/

The place gets very pretty as soon as it gets warm enough to actually walk around, so take your time and discover different parts for yourself, and while you’re at it, make sure you visit the beautiful Arboretum that continues on the north (?) side of the campus:

http://www.uoguelph.ca/arboretum/

arboretum

Downtown life

Well, on the one hand, I’ve yet to find a useful map of downtown Guelph, but on the other hand, it is composed of about five streets, so you don’t really need a map. Just for orientation’s sake, I will put the Google map location of a downtown bar called Doogie’s so that you can see what the main streets are:

http://www.doogiesguelph.com/public/map.php

Right there on Wyndham, Quebec and Macdonnell St. you will find the majority of bars, clubs, eateries, etc. Doogie’s and Pablo’s, Van Gogh’s Ear and Vinyl/Jimmy Jazz all have live music on the weekends and a somewhat alternative feel. Get ready for a whole lot of indie music, hippies and vegetarians, you’re in Canada now! There’s also a bunch of sports bars and some dance clubs around but I have to admit that standing in line with scantily dressed 20-year-olds with frostbites does not appeal to me. Enter at your own peril!

Guelph nightlife

When it comes to food, Van Gogh has a nice salsateria, Cornerstone on the corner of Wyndham and Carden serves a mean breakfast and is always good for a drink and a bite, and then there is the eBar on Quebec St. and Baker Street Station on (you will not believe this) Baker Street. These two are probably the best places to eat in town – great atmosphere, amazing food, great for drinks also. Can be pricey (not in Canadian terms), but then again so is everything else in Canada! (*another important piece of info – unless you tend to spend your money like a drunken sailor, your salary as a TA should cover your accommodation and living expenses)

bakerstreet2

Baker Street Station

Actually, if we’re talking about food, one of the most important places in town is also nearby – the Farmers’ Market. If you continue down from Norfolk St. into Gordon, you will find one of the entrances, and then later check out other ways to get there. The important part is, it’s open only on Saturday mornings, and pretty much ends at 12 p.m. so make sure you get there in time, it’s worth it. The fruit and veggies tend to be cheaper than in the supermarkets, and then there’s cheese, meat, and different kinds of prepared food to reward you for getting up waaaay to early on a Saturday morning. It’s a nice introduction to the town.

Another gem is the Flour Barrell on Wyndham St. It’s got great prices for everything if you’re cooking from scratch and lots of stuff you won’t find in supermarkets. (*Free tip – it’s invaluable if you like muesli – so much cheaper to pick all the ingredients yourself than buying crap full of sugar at the store)

The last thing is the Bookshelf – eBar is actually a part of it. This is an institution; it’s got a pretty decent bookstore, with a cinema and bar/restaurant attached. They have independent movies, a free paper and all sorts of events, definitely check it out:

http://www.bookshelf.ca/index.html

As for the rest of it, and as for Guelph in general, what can I say? It’s the best a small town can offer – people actually come here from other parts of Canada because they like it so much. It’s got a nice vibe – it’s full of young people, and for a small town it’s got a bunch of cafés, restaurants, bars, bookstores, and events of all sorts. There’s at least three festivals going on at any one moment – and granted, one of them is going to be about pottery, the second one about rain dances and the third about indie music – but still, there is always something going on. As I’m sure you have gathered, it’s a very (and I cannot stress this enough), very hippie place. Not hip. Hippie. As in: 1969 never ended here. There are poetry slams and open mike nights with 60-year-olds playing folk rock (as my dear Italian colleague said – they don’t let them out of the house at that age in my country), vintage stores and knitting courses, house parties with indie bands, vegan restaurants and vegan furniture and vegan vegetables and vegan water. You get the picture. If you want, you can skip all this and stick to the university and student life instead of town life, but if you want more, this is what is out there.

Last piece of advice, bring warm clothes if you’re coming in the winter or use the winter sales in January to buy what you need here – Stone Road Mall should have everything. Be ready for a long winter. I mean it. It never ends. Well, it does. In May. People tend to be sleepy (comatose?) here in the winter, but then lose their minds as soon as it gets warmer – then you can’t get them in the house. Autumn should be nice.

When not in Guelph…

bookshelf1

As nice as Guelph can be (or as sleepy, depending on your outlook and time of the year), it is good to know that there is a bustling, colorful metropolis just an hour away, where you can find amazing exhibitions, concerts, and other types of events any day of the week.

ROM

Toronto’s museums are pretty awesome, starting with the AGO (*tip for those planning to stay the year – get a year-long member card for $50, they have great exhibitions and it will take you five visits to see the permanent collection anyway), and then on to MOCCA, ROM, and other acronyms, not to mention an army of galleries (Power Plant, etc.). If art is your thing, Toronto is the place to be.

AGO

The food is amazing, and when in doubt, just get out on Spadina Station (Westbound on Bloor), and walk towards the west. If you go west, you’ll find some awesome used book stores (BMV!!) and comic book stores, bars and restaurants (Sushi on Bloor!!!), all studenty and cool, and if you head east, or south on Spadina St. you can walk around the University of Toronto.

bloor

The West End is Toronto’s answer to New York’s Williamsburg and Brooklyn in general – a.k.a. – hipsters’ paradise. For shopping go to Queen St., for the scenery to Dundas, College and Ossington (watch the hipster in its natural habitat!), for the sheer Berlin loveliness go to Kensington Market and when it gets warm Trinity Bellwoods Park (start yammering on about gentrification, they’ll mistake you for a native and bring you home with them). That’s as far as our expeditions have taken us.

Kensington 2

(Kensington)

Outside Toronto and Guelph… well, the locals make it sound like Toronto is swimming in an ocean of antimatter, but there are myths about some nice lakes with cabins where people go in the summer, and beautiful resorts where they go in the winter, and also something about national parks. Unfortunately, that’s all I can say about that, but look at it this way: you’ll be a pioneer!

Blue Mountain Resort

(Blue Mountain Resort)

Outside Ontario… Quebec is reasonably close and definitely worth the time and money! The buses to Montreal are very cheap (Megabus and Greyhound, depending on how far in advance you book, about $30-35 one way), and then to Quebec City your only option is the railway which is more pricey (same goes for the even more remote Nova Scotia). There are also always shared rides and couchsurfing for when you’re there.

Montreal

If you were hoping to see Vancouver (sucker!!), prepare to change your plans because it costs more than going to Europe!

I don’t want to end this on a negative note, so let me end with this: Canada is a whole new ballgame for anyone coming from Europe – everyone has a job, and if you’re good at it, sometimes you get promoted (seriously!); people are more polite than friendly, but if you keep at it and badger them into becoming your friends – they will do it, because most of them are from somewhere else too, and they’re looking for friends as well. There are so many opportunities to learn, work and gain experience in anything you want, and it’s a brave new world out there in the Americas! Good night, and good luck!