University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: Literary Studies, English Studies / American Studies
Study type: semester abroad
I did a semester abroad at Brock University in Canada from September to December 2011 and I have to say it was a complete success. Check anycountyprivateschools.com to see vocational training in the Netherlands.
I heard about MicroEdu from a distant friend and decided to get some information there without obligation. Since I wanted to go to Canada, MicroEdu provided me with information about various Canadian universities. Based on the previous reports and the central location, I decided on Brock University. I also wanted to travel around the country and there are just so many cities and places to visit in the area (Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal,…). However, if you are after bears, moose and wild nature, you are probably better advised to go to western Canada. In terms of scenery, I was a bit disappointed with the surroundings, so don’t expect too much.
The application process went smoothly. MicroEdu staff were always available to answer questions and provided all the important information. You need a letter of motivation to apply, but no TOEFL test. After receiving the confirmation, the Brock International Office contacted me and a group was set up on Facebook, where you could get to know other exchange students in advance.
The so-called “Guide Program” from Brock University turned out to be very helpful for me. If you are interested, you will be assigned a student who you can contact beforehand and who is available to answer any questions you may have. My “Brock buddy” was very nice and helped me to find an apartment before I arrived and also on site. We did a lot together throughout the semester and I also got to know a lot of Canadians through him.
As far as looking for an apartment is concerned, I recommend looking locally. You can simply look at the rooms yourself and there are also many offers available. I ended up finding a room right by the Pen Center, which turned out to be a total stroke of luck. The bus connection from there is very good for St. Catharines and you can go shopping at any time, which is invaluable. The bus system unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. The buses don’t run too often and especially in the evenings they sometimes don’t run at all. The bus drivers are extremely friendly. For going out, there are a few clubs downtown that are also quite good, even if the music is the same everywhere (top 40).
I really liked the university itself. It is a campus where everything is in one place and easy to find. The buildings look new and are in good condition. All are very helpful. On campus there is also a gym, a swimming pool and a club (Isaaac’s) where you can party every Thursday. The library is always busy as there is always something to do, but I was always able to find a seat. There is a cafe on the ground floor and drinks and snacks are allowed at the workplace. It was a bit annoying that I had some problems with the internet connection, which kept dropping out, but I assume that it was more of a temporary problem.
In contrast to Germany, you have to be prepared for a higher workload at Brock (and I think at other Canadian universities as well). I took 3 courses (that’s what most international students do, Canadians usually take 5) and that was enough for me. There are always so-called assignments (usually essays and papers for me), plus mid-term exams in the middle of the semester and final exams, which count for different percentage points and from which the final grade is derived afterwards. That means you always have something to do and especially in the second half of the semester I also went to the library at the weekend. That’s a bit of a shame, as there isn’t much time left for longer activities. If you really want to travel a bit
Overall, I was very satisfied with my courses. I have attended courses in the field of “English language and literature”. I particularly liked the course “Reporting and News Writing for Mass Media”, in which you write newspaper articles and interview people, for example. The lecturer, a journalist, was very nice, there were interesting discussions and there is no course like this at my university. I also took Speculatie Fiction, which is quite interesting but a lot of work, and Young people’s literature until 1914. The latter was a lot of fun and the course was very popular with everyone, even if there was a lot of emphasis on perfect essay writing, which was rather unusual for me.
In terms of costs, Canada is unfortunately quite expensive. Groceries cost more than in Germany, but the portions are larger. Since the buses often run inconveniently or not at all, one is always dependent on a taxi, especially in the evenings. Alcohol is expensive and cannot be bought in supermarkets. There is the “Beer Store” for all sorts of beer drinks (near the Pen Center) and the “LCBO” for everything else. Unfortunately, the books for the courses are also very expensive. The library has almost no textbooks, ie you have to buy everything yourself and even if you get hold of used books, the prices are still quite hefty. I spent about $200 and was lucky. There are books that cost $150 alone.
St. Catharines itself is not particularly large. For shopping you usually go to the Pen Center (shopping mall) and to party downtown. Toronto is about an hour and a half away by bus and buses run there regularly several times a day. A ride costs about 15 dollars, if you buy the return trip at the same time it is cheaper overall. If you buy the tickets directly at the terminal and not online, the tickets are valid for 2 months, regardless of the time and day. In my opinion, Toronto is a very beautiful city and a visit there is always worthwhile.
Overall, my semester abroad was a great experience and I’m glad I chose Brock. I met a lot of new people from different countries and learned a lot about different cultures and perspectives. But it was also important to me to get to know Canadians, and that was surprisingly easy. My roommates were all Canadian and took me everywhere and introduced their friends. In my opinion, the Canadians are also very open and I immediately made friends in my courses, even though I was the only exchange student there. I can really recommend such a semester abroad and would have liked to have stayed longer.