University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: life sciences
Study type: semester abroad
Here is a small report on my experience of my semester abroad in Canada. I lived there for 4 months at Brock University in St. Catharines (or St.Kitts as the locals call it). Check act-test-centers.com to see study opportunities in Latvia.
First of all, I can say that it was definitely worth it and I had a lot of fun there. The only major criticism is the high cost. But you also experience a lot, get to know a lot of people and learn a lot. Both for university and for life.
I was never really someone who grew up away from home. Friends of mine have previously taken part in student exchanges and after-school years abroad. But I was never that interested in going to another country for a longer period of time.
However, I thought a semester abroad would make sense for my Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. When a good friend and fellow student of mine had the idea of going to Canada, I thought the idea was great and decided to accompany her. (You can find her report on her experience under “Sabine W.”) I am very happy to have done this semester abroad and can only recommend it to anyone who is interested and has around €8,000 to spare.
Now for the details:
Big thanks to MicroEdu for being supportive in everything and keeping the paperwork to a minimum. Even if you have questions, they usually reply by email within a day at the latest.
Registering at Brock was easy and very quick. I didn’t really get into it until June and the semester started in early January.
What requires a lot more work and time is the foreign student loan. Here you should really start taking care of it no later than 9 months, because you constantly have to submit any forms. Also a little tip: Even if you get a letter that says that all forms have been submitted, but you haven’t heard from the Bafög office for a long time -> call!!! Usually something is still missing.
If necessary, you should also apply for an international driver’s license 2 months in advance if you already know that you want to make a few trips there with a rental car. However, the German driving license is also valid for the first 3 months.
You don’t need a visa as a student if you don’t want to live in Canada for longer than 6 months.
Flight tickets should also be booked as early as possible. A return flight is usually cheaper than a single flight. With Lufthansa, however, you can, for example, get a rebooking option on the return flight for a small fee.
The only thing missing is the apartment in St.Kitts.
Originally, I wanted to move into a dormitory on campus because I thought that it would be much easier from a purely organizational point of view. Through a combination of fortunate circumstances, I got a room in a shared flat and therefore lived off-campus. I think that was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
I paid $530 for my room but would have had to pay $850 in the dorm. That’s a $300 difference per month! So I was able to save almost 1000€ for the whole semester. Then, you have to be lucky, I had super nice roommates with whom you could have a lot of fun. Free cooking and house parties were also no problem in the flat share.
You have to be careful with alcohol consumption on campus. It usually doesn’t bother the students there, but you’re unlucky if you live with a strict don (dormitory supervisor). You also have to buy meal plans in most dormitories. That means you are forced to eat your 3 meals every day in the canteen, which is completely overpriced and apparently not of the best quality.
The advantages for the dormitory are that you are right next to the university and don’t have to go somewhere for many parties. Except for downtown later. You can also just walk to the gym or meet up with other students very spontaneously. If you live off-campus, you have to take a bus every time.
However, the space in the dormitories is very limited and the quality of living sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the time you have to set yourself up from scratch, since the university does not provide any bedding or crockery. Another disadvantage is that you usually have to leave your room one day after your last exam at the latest. Although I have also heard that there may be exceptions for international students.
All in all, I am therefore very happy to have lived off-campus. Places between the Pen Center, Brock and downtown that have a bus connection are recommended as residential areas. Just google Bus and St.Catharines and look at the map there.
I don’t know exactly how to get good apartments off-campus, because I was just lucky when I was looking for an apartment. On “http: //stcatharines.kijiji.ca” I think you can always find flat shares. (And quite a lot of other useful knick-knacks, too.) However, the site blocks all foreign e-mail addresses. Therefore only write there with your “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
All I can say about the university itself is that I really liked it overall. When it comes to studying, I can only speak for the biology department and only for the courses I have taken. 3P50 Molecular Genetics was the worst course I have ever taken. The professor has probably been using the same overhead transparencies for 10 years and gives the most boring lecture ever at 8am every Tuesday and Thursday. Apart from the multiple-choice exams and half-hearted quizzes. The associated internship part does not really knock it out either. On 4 course days, of which you only do anything on 3, you learn next to nothing.
Unfortunately, I had to take the course to replace another course here in Germany. But paying $1,500 per course per semester for something like that is crazy.
4P28 “Developmental Neuroscience”, on the other hand, was a four-year course that required a fairly high level. It consisted of a seminar with about 20 students who were all very motivated. There were papers to read for each week and everyone had to give a 30-minute presentation once. As mentioned, the course was quite demanding, but that’s why it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.
3P90 “Investigative Neuroscience”, on the other hand, was the best course of my student career so far. It consisted of a laboratory part and an associated lecture. It was always exciting and we were given almost complete freedom to try things out, we were able to bring in our own ideas and we were allowed to try out a lot. But it is also the tutors and the professor who have made this course so entertaining. That’s where I probably learned most of my knowledge in Canada. This course is definitely recommended for anyone interested in neuro and bio.
The university also has a very inexpensive gym and free swimming pool.
What I found very good compared to my German university was that there are clubs there. These clubs are made up of students who meet on a specific topic and are therefore sponsored by the university. It’s also easy to get in touch with Canadians.
From sports clubs (football, jogging) to themed clubs (philosophy, films, music) to leisure clubs (online games, photography), there was everything possible.
A sleepy little town that really only lives from its students. At least that’s how it seemed to me.
The Pen Center is recommended for shopping. There is actually everything you need there. And in the Dollarama also for little money.
The best place to party is downtown. Then there’s the Moos’n’Goose and the Isaacs. The Isaacs is a canteen during the day and a campus disco in the evening. But you’ll find that out for yourself once you’re there.
Of course, during my time in Canada I also traveled a lot, if you ever get the chance. Destinations were Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Algonquin Park and New York. If you are interested in it, you should take a look at my blog, which I kept in Canada. (http: //janzoid.wordpress.com/)
As for traveling itself, I can say that the best way is to rent rooms in hostels. They are cheap and the quality is usually okay. For traveling yourself, buy online bus tickets from Megabus well in advance. With a bit of luck and freedom in the travel season you can sometimes dust off tickets for 1$ there. But even if not, the bus prices are very acceptable. Some buses also have free WiFi and electricity. (Mainly Megabus.) Coach Canada and Greyhound are two other bus companies, but some of them can be a bit more expensive and they don’t always have the latest buses.
A credit card is definitely recommended for a stay in Canada. You can use it to pay anywhere or to withdraw cash from ATMs. At the DKB there are free Visa cards with no minimum annual turnover or basic fees. You can also use it to withdraw money from ATMs abroad free of charge.
A lot is more expensive in Canada than in Germany. Especially fresh vegetables and dairy products. Alcohol also sometimes costs four times as much as here. For other things, the difference is not so stark.
All in all, such a semester with university, rent, living, travel and free time can easily cost 8000€. You should definitely be aware of this.
But it’s worth it. You get to know a lot of new people and can have a lot of fun there. The Canadians alone are so friendly and open that you immediately feel comfortable.
But I don’t want to write more, because everyone should have their own experiences. If there are any specific questions for me, MicroEdu can certainly forward them to you.
In conclusion, I would just like to repeat that I am very happy to have done this semester abroad in St.Kitts!