Before you arrive at Dalhousie for the first time, you’ll find yourself packing for your trip. If you have a large distance to travel before you reach Canada, it’s a good idea to put some thought into the things you’ll be bringing with you when you begin your new adventure! Here are a few things to consider while you’re zipping up your suitcase.
Know what’s allowed in your luggage
Some items are not allowed to be brought into Canada. For example, live plants and meat. If you take a prescription medicine, make sure that it is allowed in Canada. You should also bring your prescription for the medicine with you, as well as a large enough supply for some time if you are not sure you’ll be able to find it in Canada. Bringing prohibited items into Canada could result in the disposal of the items or even a fine!
For a full list of prohibited items, visit the Canada Border Services Agency website.
You will need warm, waterproof clothes
I grew up in a warm country, so I had no idea how to dress for Canada’s weather. As you can imagine, it would have been very difficult for me to buy winter clothes in the Bahamas. I found myself buying the bulk of my winter clothes in Canada after receiving some advice from people who had spent a winter here before. If you’re arriving in September, the weather in Canada should be pretty temperate. “Temperate” was still a little chilly so I made sure to pack clothes that could be layered on top of one another. That way, you can adjust what you’re wearing as the weather changes throughout the day. As your semester progresses, it will get colder and winter will arrive.
Halifax’s winters are notorious for being very wet. Oftentimes, the sun will melt the snow, resulting in a few inches of snow “slush.” If you aren’t wearing tall, waterproof boots you might find yourself with wet, cold feet. This is really uncomfortable and can even lead to frostbite! Make sure that when you’re shopping for winter boots, you ask if they are waterproof. The Dalhousie International Centre usually holds a free winter clothing drive for international students as the winter starts to approach. This is a great opportunity to snag some additional handy winter gear.
Keep an eye out on the International Centre Facebook page for the clothing drive and other awesome events!
You might be tempted to try to fit your entire room in your luggage to take with you. Trust me, I was extremely conflicted about what to bring. It all comes down to deciding what works best. Many airlines have fees for overweight and extra bags. These can be really expensive, so oftentimes the best solution is to leave big, bulky items at home and buy them second hand when you arrive in Halifax. A great list of essntials to pack can be found on the “Additional Things to Pack” Section of the Helpful Tips page on the International Centre website.
Kijiji is a great secondhand website that many Canadian students use.
Come Immigration Prepared
It is a good idea to make a list of all of the documents that you’ll require for your entry to Canada. Double, triple, and quadruple check that you have them all! To name a few, you will need your passport, confirmation of enrollment, and study permit approval letter/point of entry letter. An immigration officer may ask you your purpose in Canada, what school you’ll be going to, and where you’re planning to stay. You should be prepared to answer any of their questions, so keep print outs and notes of this kind of information with you. It can also be handy to bring a pen and notebook just in case you need to fill out forms or make notes. You should have all of this in your carry-on (a small bag you bring on the plane with you) as you will not have access to your checked luggage before you go through immigration.
Remember, the immigration process is different for students from every country. If you’re not sure about what you’ll need to go through Canadian Customs, contact an International Centre Immigration Advisor.
Make sure your luggage is fit to travel
When you send your bags down the conveyor belt on their own voyage to Canada, you want to make sure that your bags are just as prepared for the long journey as you are. Make sure your bags are labeled with your name, destination address, phone number, and email. This way, if you lose your luggage, the airline will be able to quickly identify that it is yours and find the best way to get back to you.
Furthermore, be sure that all of the zippers and latches on your bags will stay closed on the rough journey they endure—being tossed onto carts, conveyors, and in the plane’s baggage hold. One of the worst sights to see in an airport is that of someone’s bag who has split open, scattering their possessions. Inspect your bag thoroughly for breaks or splits before your flight to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!
Keep the important stuff in your carry-on!
There is always a small chance your luggage could get mislaid in transit and you may not receive it for a few days after you arrive. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep important things and essentials in your carry on.
Also, as mentioned beforehand, you won’t always have access to your luggage. That means anything that you need with you should be placed in your carry-on. That includes your flight information, prescription medication, travel documents, jewelry, and electronics. Note that bottles with no more than 3 oz. of liquid are allowed in your carry-on on Canadian airlines. I like to bring an empty water bottle with me through security and fill it up after I reach my gate! A snack is also a good idea if your flight is long.
With a little patience and thought, you’ll soon have a smooth voyage to Canada. See you around campus!
Catalina is from the Bahamas and loves to travel!