Laura Howells, 20
As a sizable school on the edge of the Atlantic, Memorial University might easily be mistaken as formidably cold. It’s certainly true that if you’re not in residence or a tight-knit faculty (think music or business), you’ll be hard-pressed to smell school spirit. But if you seek out your own niche, you’ll find that Newfoundlanders are as welcoming as the tourism ads testify; even among 18,000 students, the university really does feel cozy. The province’s geographic isolation accentuates MUN’s sense of community; you can’t go here without feeling part of the island’s charmingly quirky culture. And even though MUN boasts some of the cheapest tuition in the country (I’m talking three grand a year . . . yeah, seriously), you get a lot more than you pay for. If you can get past the eclectic architecture—ranging from modern glass marvels to asbestos-ridden mazes—you’ll find an excellent undergraduate education with some truly standout professional programs. Although parking is next to impossible and the buildings can be a bit shabby, MUN compensates with strong student opportunities, attentive professors, and more than a few “snow days” in winter. Memorial may not have the elite feel of McGill or Queen’s, but it definitely has the people and resources to offer the full university experience.
MUN’s extracurricular landscape is extensive, ranging from a creative-writing club to an internationally acclaimed nautical design team. For the politically active, there are the debate and Model UN societies, while those who want to let loose can take weekly swing dance lessons. That our Enactus team represented Canada at the World Cup in Beijing illustrates MUN’s strong business program. There’s even something for people who just want to sit around and talk: the Free Discourse Society, surprisingly, is a lot of fun. Combined with active departmental and cultural groups, you’re guaranteed to find at least three on-campus “mixers” every Friday night—the perfect opportunity to meet new people and consume scandalously cheap drinks.
Although a modest city, St. John’s is a vibrant cultural hub and a darned friendly place to be. Its colourful downtown core is home to a robust arts scene and a lively youth culture that exists both on and off George Street—the street composed entirely of bars. (I’m not kidding. Come bearing liver.) The less booze-inclined can putter around cute coffee shops and explore the beautiful provincial gallery. In St. John’s, you’re a short distance from world-class hiking, whale-watching, and a steady parade of icebergs. Occasionally, a moose may even run down your street. The city is starting to adopt a more urban feel in its diverse restaurants and shopping, but it maintains a very distinct local character. The combination of gross winter weather and uncleared sidewalks, however, leave something to be desired. If you’re living off campus, do yourself a favour and find somewhere close to school.
For the happenings around town, check out TheOvercast.ca/events.