10 Ways Iqaluit is Like a Campus


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There are loads of young people living in Nunavut; over 50% of the population is under 25 years of age. But what has dawned on me is that its youthfulness involves many more factors than just bodies. In fact, I argue that Iqaluit, the capital city, was designed to feel like a campus. Here are ten reasons why the City of Iqaluit is like a campus.

1. There is always construction

I didn’t recognize the entrance to my office this morning because it wasn’t surrounded by a bunch of construction workers. Whether there’s a new carpet being installed on your floor, or phone technicians kicking you out of your desk, the constant upgrades to buildings up here makes it seem like some alumni just dropped some serious benevolent (read: tax deductible) cash.

2. There are no sidewalks.

And it’s not like we use them either since we know the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Jaywalking culture is alive and well here, though the new painted crosswalks are popular among many.

Those posts are a pedestrain's only protection. Image from Google Street View.

Those posts are a pedestrain's only protection. Image from Google Street View.

3. You see the same people all the time.

Bet you can’t buy groceries or eat lunch without saying hi to your landlord, neighbour, and six of your colleagues. Tip: Don’t bother saying goodbye unless you’re physically at the door; you’re bound to run into them many more times before you get to the checkout.

4. Your work department is like your faculty.

The first question asked when you meet someone up here is, “Where do you work?” This is much like the ubiquitous campus question, “What’s your major?” Your answer will likely be a one word response (e.g. HealthEnvironment), or a cryptic government acronym (e.g. ED&T, AANDC).

Note:  You will probably swap departments a few times during your stint in the north, which is similar to the many first year students who switch majors every semester. Is it coincidence that casual workers are usually on a semester-length four-month rotation too?

5. Everyone goes to the same hangouts.

Wednesday Wing Night at the Storehouse, Karaoke Night at Pat’s Lounge, and Friday/Saturday iconic strobe-lit dance parties at the Legion. Theme nights are also very vogue.

6. Everything you need is within walking distance.

15 minutes – tops! Unless you live in Apex.

7. Rental units and shared living spaces.

Unless your job has a single-unit subsidized place for you in Iqaluit, you are most likely going to have one roommate (or a few). Without subsidized housing, you are at the mercy of the exuberant private rental market. This means that you will likely need to band with other transient workers to set up what I consider a northern, adult version of the frat house.

The dorm-like housing of Iqaluit.

The dorm-like housing of Iqaluit.

8. Mass Registration (AKA city-wide Clubs Day )

Iqaluit’s Mass Registration is literally just like universities’ Clubs Day, complete with a plethora of booths, keen volunteers, and eager extracurricular enthusiasts. It also happens to fall at the same time as frosh week would, in early September. All your favourite clubs are on hand – judo, ping pong, skating, cadets – along with volunteer opportunities with community organizations and groups like the Kamatsiaqtut Helpline and the Alianait Arts Festival.

9. There are (at most) two degrees of separation.

Did you just meet someone at a party? They must already look familiar to you (or else they just got off the plane). This person will certainly know you through one or more of the following: 1) your boss; 2) your housemate; 3) a cashier line-up at Arctic Ventures; 4) several of your colleagues; 5) your significant other; 6) your ex; 7) a mutual baby; or 8) your cousin.

10. Murals Abound.

When it comes to really big art, there’s not really a huge difference between Civic Pride and School Pride.

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Does Iqaluit give you a back-to-school vibe? Post a comment below or send Finding True North a tweet! And don't forget to follow Finding True North on Instagram for your Arctic photo fix.

After spending most of her life in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sandi Chan plunders forward in her Katimavik-life-goal of living in all parts of Canada. Having arrived in Iqaluit, Nunavut in May 2013, she now only needs the Yukon and Newfoundland to complete the map. Spare a couch anyone?

After spending most of her life in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sandi Chan plunders forward in her Katimavik-life-goal of living in all parts of Canada. Having arrived in Iqaluit, Nunavut in May 2013, she now only needs the Yukon and Newfoundland to complete the map. Spare a couch anyone?