Meghan Wallace – Drama – Level 3
Acadia University, Canada
Last September, the start of my third year at QMU, I took the leap to go on a semester exchange to Acadia University, Nova Scotia. With my first year being cut short due to COVID and my second year completely online, I was desperate for a bit of an adventure and this was the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, I came across a bit of a road block with the financial aspect of the exchange. Like many others, the pandemic had hit hard financially and I knew I was going to have to work hard to avoid a huge financial impact. After working over the summer and saving up enough to go on exchange I was left with less money than I would have liked to take out to Canada with me. I decided it was time to look into getting a job at my host university.
One of the first things I did when my exchange was approved was stalking every possible social media account related to Acadia University. These included the Acadia Student Union (@acadiastudents), some creative student run accounts (@acadiamealhallcookbook, @cuttentitans), and most importantly the on campus bar and restaurant, The Axe Bar and Grill (@theaxebarandgrill). If you’re anything like me, you get totally carried away in the anticipation for starting something new, so checking the socials became a regular part of my routine. One day, I happened to notice that the Axe had posted a story highlighting that they were hiring waitstaff, kitchen staff and supervisors for the upcoming semester. With 2 years of bartending experience and almost 4 years of customer service experience under my belt at that point, I figured it was worth a shot and applied for a FoH or supervisor position. On the Acadia Student’s Union website there was the job listing with application forms and I filled it in and sent it off that same day.
In order to legally work as an international student in Canada I had to have a VISA, which was a lengthy application process including a trip to London to give biometrics. Luckily, due to COVID I was required to have this VISA just to go on my exchange so I had already had it approved. This meant I was eligible to work unlimited hours on campus and allowed me to be hired as a supervisor after the interview process was over. Before I could start working, however, I needed to get an SIN number. This is the Canadian equivalent of your National Insurance number. The application can usually be done online, but you need a Canadian mailing address to receive your SIN which you don’t have unless you pay for a post box at Acadia. To get round this, the Wong International Centre organised multiple trips to Kentville where we could apply for and receive our SIN numbers that same day. On top of these, I also needed to fill in my tax forms which the financial office at the ASU assisted me with, and I needed to open a Canadian bank account so I could be paid straight into it. I opened my bank account with BMO in Wolfville. They had me bring in my passport, VISA, and SIN number and they did the rest for me. So, in short, the must haves that I needed to work were a VISA, an SIN number, a Canadian bank account, and my tax forms. Although, don’t take this as the be all and end all of what you need! The Canadian Government website has all the information you need.
Along with the obvious pro that I already mentioned about actually having money while on exchange, the Axe offered me so much more! I was really concerned going into my exchange that it was going to be difficult to meet people, especially due to COVID being really uncertain at that time. I was fortunate that my job offered a really nice social environment between all the work. We had staff parties, staff group chats and some of the best laughs on shift. We also set up bars for Homecoming weekend and some of the ice hockey and football games. The atmosphere at these events was second to none, so it really didn’t feel like we were working. I met some of my closest friends from exchange at my work, and I miss them incredibly! The Axe also allowed me to get some much needed management experience, resulting in me getting a promotion from my old job when I got back to the UK. I’m sure this management experience will also be great on my CV. Another, more questionable experience that I had was when my manager, David, got me and the other supervisors insured on the ASU van. As a nervous driver anyway, driving on the wrong side of the road was definitely a bit of a stressful one, but everyone made it out unscathed!
Overall, my exchange was the best experience and I wouldn’t change it for the world, unless it was to make it longer! Working at the Axe made it extra special just because of how kind, accepting and hilarious all of the staff were. They were the friendliest bunch and made me feel right at home. I still keep up with a lot of them and would do anything to be back with them! I just want to reassure any students that are worried about money, that if you can save up enough before you leave, there is always the option to work while you’re away and it won’t take away from your experience, if anything it would make it 100 time better.