Haida Gwaii Semesters F.A.Q.
Living in Haida Gwaii is thrilling, and you will soon find yourself surrounded by a dynamic community and new friends. However, it is important to realize that the communities on Haida Gwaii are fairly small and isolated, with just 4,500 people living on the entire archipelago. The remoteness of these villages provides an opportunity to swap hectic city life for a quiet escape and the experience of peaceful island life.
The 'off-season' (fall and winter) on Haida Gwaii is spectacular and offers many opportunities from outdoor excursions and community involvement to quiet down-time and serene walks along the shoreline. Students must come with the awareness that it can also be quite dark, rainy and quiet — being up North means daylight hours can be quite short in wintertime months. Haida Gwaii has very different kind of nightlife, with most businesses closing at 5pm. Students should be good self-entertainers who are happy to spend time on their own or with each other. Students will have plenty of opportunity to pursue personal hobbies and interests and are encouraged to bring along items such as extracurricular reading material, musical instruments, art supplies and/or a kayak, a bicycle or a skateboard.
Despite their size, the Village of Queen Charlotte and HlG̱aagilda (Skidegate) are surprisingly lively. You will find that as you begin to meet locals and become immersed in the community, you will receive an endless stream of invites to activities, potlucks, community events, workshops, dances, hikes, and more! Being open, talking to locals, and engaging with the community around you are the best ways to settle in to your new home. Be warned, more than a few students have fallen in love with and moved to Haida Gwaii after the end of their HGI programs!
It is important to understand that immersing yourself in Haida Gwaii is a key part of the Haida Gwaii Semesters experience, and will enable students to experience the full richness and vibrancy of this program and of life on island. However, students should take into consideration that access to services and lifestyle on Haida Gwaii will likely be very different than they are used to at home: slower internet and mail service, limited medical services, less variety in grocery stores etc. HGI staff works hard to provide students with detailed information packages after students have been accepted, and are happy to answer any questions students may have along the way.
Students have a range of housing options throughout both the Village of Queen Charlotte and Skidegate communities. Most accommodation is furnished and has kitchen facilities. The options range from hotel-style to boarding with a family. A detailed list of accommodation options is provided to students accepted into the Haida Gwaii Semesters at least one month in advance of students’ arrival. There are a wide range of options to choose from, including room and board with local residents or renting an entire house with other classmates. We’ll help you find a scenario that meets your needs.
Make sure that your accommodation is furnished with the necessities, has reliable internet connection, and is within walking distance to the town centre. It is also advisable to review and sign a working rental agreement with your new landlord. Those interested in getting a head start can visit these sites for a few options in HlG̱aagilda (Skidegate) and the Village of Queen Charlotte qciobserver.com, gohaidagwaii.ca or haidagwaiitrader.com.
We asked alumni of our programs what they would relay to incoming students, and this is what they shared with us!
“I wish I had spent more time talking face to face with people on-island about different projects. There are so many talented people on Haida Gwaii and there is potential for people to collaborate and create opportunities for themselves. I also wish I had known I did not need to bring a suitcase full of piano books. It definitely is not necessary to pack a lot of things, just essential things like gumboots." Kim, Alumni 2013
"You really need to be dedicated and willing to 100% commit yourself to this experience. You have to be willing to change the way you think about things, take a seat in the listening chair, and learn to truly value others' stories and ideas. Top quality for a potential student is respect, patience, creativity, and thoughtfulness. Also a sense of humour." Rhiannon Moore, Alumni 2012
"It's important to trust in the experience and know that all things come in good time." Emily Collins, Alumni 2010
"The remoteness of Haida Gwaii was still surprising to me even though I knew where I was going. My biggest regret from my semester is not coming out of my shell sooner. Haida Gwaii is a small community but one thriving with activity. It is important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to mingle with locals. That is how you find out about all the amazing stuff going on in the community. Engaging with everyone within and outside the program is the best way to maximize this incredible experience." Emily Salt, Alumni 2014