Welcome to MSVU, first-year students! As you step onto campus for the first time, feeling a mix of excitement and jitters is completely normal, but here’s the good news: you’re not alone in this adventure.

We reached out to some of our alumni (a few of them who are now MSVU employees) for their best advice on making the most of your MSVU experience. They each provided tons of great ideas which we’ve combined into 10 themes. So, take a deep breath, read these tips, and get ready for a fantastic start!

MSVU Alumni who gave tips for your first year at MSVU
Top row (From left to right): Christine Qin Yang, Todd MacDonald, Cheyenne Hardy, Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes. Bottom row: Mahx Mason, Penny Henneberry, Jeremy Neilson, Ali Crane

1. Engage in the campus community

Student walking up Pride Stairs in front of Evaristus building

One of the best things you can do in your first year is to actively engage with fellow students and the local community. Join clubs, go to events, and get involved with campus activities. These experiences will not only enrich your university life, but they will also help you build lasting friendships and networks that will help in your post-university life! 

“Get involved in a society or club. These are some of the best ways to meet new people and stay on top of the things that interest you the most. Head to msvusu.ca for more information.”
Jeremy Neilson (BA ’10, Cert. Marketing ’18)

“Creating a network of friends and acquaintances is incredibly important, especially if you’re an international student adjusting to a new environment. Take part in orientation events, become a member of student clubs, and get involved in campus activities that align with your interests. These connections can turn into long-lasting friendships that offer unwavering support during your journey here at the Mount. MSVU welcomes students from across the globe, providing an exciting opportunity to connect with people of diverse backgrounds.”
Christine Qin Yang (BBA ’14)

For Residence students: “Keep your door open and visit people on other floors and in other residences. Residence is an amazing way to get to know people and your experience will be made so much better by talking to new people.”
Todd MacDonald (BSc ’14, BEd ’16)

“Our campus may be relatively small, but there are several places to explore. Some places to consider are the Black Student Support Office, the Indigenous Student Centre, the Peace Room in Evaristus, and the campus pub! Also, eating in the meal hall when you can provides an excellent social opportunity. No matter how busy life gets, people still need to eat!”
Cheyenne Hardy BA (CHYS ’23)

“Support the MSVU athletes & go to varsity sports games. MSVU has a really great sports community, and going to games is a fun part of being a university student. It’s also a great way to socialize and meet new friends. You can also sign up to be a part of the set-up crew for games, which is a great way to make some extra money and to be involved with the athletics department.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

2. Balance your studies and seek support if needed

Student typing on a laptop in the Library

It’s not just about managing your class schedule; it’s also about finding your rhythm in a new environment. Balancing your academics with other aspects of life will be key, and don’t forget to reach out for help if you need it.  

“Don’t overload yourself too quickly. It is a big transition coming from high school; and going from possibly 3 courses to 5 can be a lot. Make sure you get your core courses, but consider taking one less to let yourself adjust (students taking 3 courses are considered to be full-time). There are lots of summer options if you want to make up a course or move a little more quickly. Also, don’t put off that required course too long. If there is a course you are nervous about, tap into the many resources on campus (extra help, supplemental instruction, tutors) to help you with that course. You are not the first person to worry or struggle with it!”
Todd MacDonald (BSc ’14, BEd ’16)

“It is important to prioritize and plan ahead! Create a daily or weekly schedule that outlines your classes, study time, and personal activities. Prioritize tasks by their importance and deadlines, ensuring you have enough time for each.”
Ali Crane (BA ’23)

“Of course, it’s better to follow deadlines, but sometimes life happens. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your prof and discuss the possibility of an extension. It’s better to ask in advance and let them know you might be struggling than to not be able to hand in your best work.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

“Studies are important, so set aside specific time for studying and don’t forget your social time – it’s very important to balance the two.”
Penny Henneberry (BSc ’87 and current MSV Alumni Association Board Chair)

3. Explore all of your academic options

A student studying in the McCain link

Don’t limit yourself to one subject or interest. This is your time to broaden your academic horizons!  

“For those other courses you require for credit, consider taking something outside of your area of study. As a science student, I took public speaking.”
Penny Henneberry (BSc ’87)

“It’s okay to not know what to major in. You have plenty of time to get settled in a specific program or major. Keep your options open and talk to an academic advisor if you need help deciding on a certain academic path.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

4. Venture out into the local community and beyond

An aerial view of the Halifax waterfront

Explore beyond campus to discover everything Halifax and its surroundings have to offer.  

“If you’re new to Halifax, adventure the city! There are tons of nice local cafes (I recommend Cabin Coffee, Café Taiyaki 52, and Xena’s Bread and Butter), great study places (check out the Central Library!), and activities throughout the year.”
Cheyenne Hardy BA (CHYS ’23)

“MSVU is located in one of Canada’s fastest-growing and most innovative cities. For those of us who come to Halifax from small towns, the idea of hopping on the bus and exploring the rest of HRM might seem daunting. The UPASS makes it really easy to access the city for no cost.”
Jeremy Neilson (BA ‘10, Cert. Marketing ’18)

“Halifax has a lot to offer and MSVU will [soon] have e-bikes available to sign out to make exploring easy.”
Penny Henneberry (BSc ’87)

“Check out festivals in the area and what events will be the highlight of the festival, such as the performance at the Citadel on Canada Day, the Bluenose Marathon, fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and more.”
Mahx Mason (MEd ’15)

“Visit the Bedford Basin Café for off-campus study breaks. Located at 397 Bedford Highway, this café is a great spot to study and grab a coffee, tea, or a sweet treat. Also, eat Seton Café tater tots. Yum!”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

5. Prioritize self-care

Students walking near McCain

Prioritizing your well-being is essential for a successful first year at MSVU. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally lays a strong foundation for your academic and personal journeys. 

“Bring things from home that bring you comfort, even something as simple as a photo. Ensure your personal space is comfortable for study and relaxation. Exercise – something as simple as a walk helps you to relax or reset your mind – and make it part of your routine (the gym also has a great workout facility). Finally, eating healthy is important; there are lots of options [including free food services provided by the Students’ Union].”
Penny Henneberry (BSc ’87)

“Don’t be afraid to take breaks. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a nap!”
Cheyenne Hardy (BA CHYS ’23)

For Residence students: “Fans are a must for your room. Halifax loves to trick you with the weather and it is so much easier to get warm than cool down. A fan will be helpful (especially for the first month in residence).”
Todd MacDonald (BSc ’14, BEd 16’)

“For some of you, this might be your first experience being so far away from home, and this can be particularly challenging, especially for international students who might grapple with homesickness. If you come across obstacles, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to on-campus Counselling Services if you need to, and don’t hesitate to talk to your fellow faculty and students. Remember, asking for help is an indicator of strength, not weakness.”
Christine Qin Yang (BBA ’14)

6. Take advantage of campus resources

Making the most of your university experience starts with tapping into the many resources available right on campus! From academic supports to extracurricular opportunities, MSVU offers many resources and support services to help you thrive.  

“Meet with an academic advisor. Picking out classes can be stressful and it’s important to know you are on the right track! Meet with an advisor to make sure you are taking your required courses.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

“Sign up for Mount Alert and download the MSVU SAFE app. Mount Alert is our university’s mass notification system that lets you know when major things are happening on campus, including school closures due to severe weather or power outages. The MSVU SAFE app has amazing safety and security tools like a Virtual Walk Home tracker, Report a Tip, Campus Maps and more.”
Jeremy Neilson (BA ’10, Cert. Marketing ‘18)

“I wasn’t aware of the importance of student services, and I wish I could have known more about the student services on campus. This includes services like Learning Strategist Services, Academic and Language support by the International Education Centre (IEC), the Writing Centre, Counselling Services, Immigration Services, job opportunities on campus (Career Services), and bursaries (some students may not know what they are and might think it is the same as scholarships, or difficult to obtain).”
Mahx Mason (MEd ’15)

“Visit the Captain Crow’s Café! It is a free prepared meal service. The food is delicious. They serve hot meals, salads, sandwiches, and desserts! Did I mention it’s free? There is also a food bank on campus for students to take free groceries home with them, or to even just grab a free snack if they’re hungry. Additionally, did you know the campus pub serves non-alcoholic beverages? For special events, they create themed menus that always have at least one mocktail, as well as their usual menu of drinks without alcohol. If you are under 19 years old or simply don’t drink, it can still be a fun space for you!”
Cheyenne Hardy BA (CHYS) ’23

7. Communicate with your professors

a Professor speaking to their students in a McCain classroom

Navigating your first year at MSVU becomes much smoother when you establish good communication with your professors. This connection can positively impact your learning experience and even open doors to unexpected opportunities. 

“Connect with your professors. MSVU is a small, tight-knit community, where our students get access to our faculty on a consistent basis. Make sure you send them a note, stop by after class, or pop in for office hours and say hello. It will go a long way!”
Jeremy Neilson (BA ’10, Cert. Marketing ’18)

“Don’t be afraid of your professors: they are there to support you! Building connections with your professors is hugely beneficial to your learning experience! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for extra support. It’s always helpful to have someone rooting for you.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

8. Take initiative

Two students having a conversation while sitting on a couch

Be proactive in making the most of your first year. Whether it’s joining a club, planning ahead, engaging in discussions, or seeking out additional resources, your experience is ultimately what you make of it.  

“If you’re curious or unsure about something, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Whether it’s during class or outside of class, or in a conversation with professors, it shows your initiative to learn and expand your knowledge.”
Ali Crane (BA ’23)

“If you’re driving to campus, make sure you come 20 minutes early for class. Make sure to schedule time to find parking, especially for a 10:30 am class, the parking lot fills up quickly! Better to be early to class in your first days than late.”
Elisabeth Heroux Rhymes (BA ’22)

“Engage in as many volunteer activities as possible, it will help you build a path to your future job here in Canada.”
Mahx Mason (MEd ’15)

9. Learn about other cultures

Mik'maw Dancers Denise John and Jesse Benjamin Dancing at an MSVU event
Foreground: Denise John Background: Jesse Benjamin

In your first year at MSVU, taking the time to learn more about the cultures around you can lead to a more inclusive and enriching university experience for yourself and others. 

“For international students who are new to Canada or Nova Scotia, you might not be familiar with the land acknowledgment and recognition statements that you might have heard, like when MSVU mentions that it’s located in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), part of Mi’kma’ki, the unceded ancestral territory which remains the homeland of the Mi’kmaq Nation. African Nova Scotians are a distinct people whose histories, legacies, and contributions have enriched that part of Mi’kma’ki known as Nova Scotia for over 400 years. Take some time to learn more about the history of the Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities.”
Christine Qin Yang (BBA ’14)

“Keep an eye out for any cultural events [like Multi-Cultural Night!], seminars, workshops, clubs and student organizations on campus. These are fantastic opportunities to learn about diverse cultures, as well as connect and celebrate with students and faculty from all around the world.”
Ali Crane (BA ’23)

10. Embrace the university experience

MSVU Students walking outside of Seton Academic Centre with the Pride flag on the flagpole


Making the most of your time at MSVU is about immersing yourself in the vibrant community, forging meaningful connections, and stepping out of your comfort zone to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

“Enjoy your time at the Mount, it is a community of great people! The class sizes will allow you to easily connect with peers and instructors. Ensure you take time to connect with people in your class or varsity team.”
Penny Henneberry (BSc ’87)

“In your first year, try and step outside of your comfort zone. University is a time for personal growth, and that often involves trying new things. Challenge yourself to take a class outside of your major, attend campus events, get to know your peers, volunteer, or even study abroad if possible. Embracing new experiences can broaden your horizons and help you get the most out of your university journey!”
Ali Crane (BA ’23)