I am sure very few people would consider visiting 10 colleges in five days a fun and relaxing part of summer vacation — just ask any parent of a junior or senior — but for me, it’s an exciting adventure filled with new experiences to be had and friendships to be formed.  I don’t think my summer vacation would be complete without at least one college tour.

This summer, I found myself in Canada courtesy of EduNova, the provincial governmental agency responsible for promoting studying at Nova Scotia’s universities.  The tour itinerary promised to be a balance of campus visits and cultural excursions in order to discover what makes Nova Scotia unique from the other Canadian provinces.  Luckily, due to previous visits to Toronto and Ottawa, I would be able to compare Nova Scotia’s universities to other top universities in the country.  Most students and their families are unaware that attending college in Canada can be cost-effective due to the significantly lower tuition and room costs.  Canadian universities are heavily subsidized by the provincial and federal governments, and those savings are passed along to the students, even international ones!

My journey to Nova Scotia involved a hair-raising flight and two layovers, but I eventually found myself in Halifax surrounded by the friendliest Canadians I have ever met — and that’s saying something in itself.  The tour kicked-off in Halifax with whirlwind campus visits of the universities in the city.  Then I headed north to start the tour of the rest of the province.  Fifty-seven thousand steps later (thank you, steps-tracker app!), what stood out to me about my trip was the uniqueness of each university, not just in campus appearance but also strength of specific programs.  Unlike their United States counterparts, which try to be everything to every student, the Canadian universities concentrate on programs that are unique or strong for their specific institutions.  Each university could speak with ease about what they are “known for,” whether it’s filmmaking and tourism or engineering and agriculture science, with no apology for not expanding their focus.

This was certainly the case when I visited the Universite̒ Sainte Anne, which is a Francophone university that instructs all of its students only in French.  Not only did I get to experience my first lobster dinner of the trip there, but also the summer French immersion program it held for both students and teachers from around the world.  The University of King’s College was another surprising experience, which I can only best describe as the honors college of Dalhousie University, for lack of a better explanation of a very unique educational experience.

Our students have thousands of options when it comes to pursuing their college education, and the choices can be overwhelming.  I have the pleasure of exploring those options without the pressure and anxiety of actually choosing ones to which I might apply.   Call me crazy, but I think this is a fun way to spend a summer vacation, and I can’t wait to see where the summer of 2017 will take me!