University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: physics
Study type: semester abroad
I studied at Brock University for two semesters from September to April. The field report is not necessarily in a meaningful order, I just wrote everything down as it came to me. Check ehuacom.com to see 10 best countries to study in 2020.
The application process itself is not that difficult. There are a few slips of paper to fill out and if necessary, MicroEdu will help with any questions. A little more annoying is Bafög & Visa. Bafög was very important to me personally for financing and they just want confirmation from the university in which department you are studying, how many subjects you are taking, etc. You get this form from the international office, but only relatively late. Now you need proof for the visa that you have enough money to support yourself in Canada. Of course, I needed the Bafög proof for this, but I got it quite late because of the problem mentioned above. It can all get a little stressful. In the end you can probably also get a pre-confirmation for the foreign student loan,
Studying in Canada / North America is of course a little different than in Germany. Especially when you come from a big university, “more schooled” means small classes, homework (assignments), partial attendance, mini tests, midterms and stuff like that. Above all, all grades are included in the final grade. Of course that has advantages. Even if you fail the final exams, you don’t get a bad grade right away. And in general, 1-2 days of study is usually enough for such an exam, since you already work a lot during the semester and then master most of it. The disadvantage is that you are not as flexible as in Germany. You can’t just block a week to travel (you want to see something of the country!). But more on that later.
I’m studying physics and have taken the following subjects: (Phys) 2P31 analog electronics, 2P32 digital electronics, 3P41 stat. Physics 1, 4P41 stat. Physics 2, 3P91exp. Physics plus a 1st year info course. Since there are probably only a few studying it here, I won’t write anything about it. If you have any questions, you can contact me personally or MicroEdu and they will then make contact.
The university is very chic. The buildings are fairly modern/new and clean with the exception of the residences, which is another matter. It is also very nice that the individual buildings are connected to each other, so that you don’t have to go outside in winter. There is also security on campus, an infirmary, small shops and enough places to eat, but they are quite expensive.
There you have several options. On the one hand you can move into one of the residences. Then you live directly on campus and that’s where a very large part of university life takes place. The disadvantage is, of course, that the rooms are generally not that nice (youth hostel style?!). You live mostly with first year students and other international students. And when 17 or 18-year-olds leave home for the first time, they are anything but tidy at first. It can also be noisy at night. You just have to know if you can handle it or not. However, you can make friends very quickly and the lectures are only 5 minutes away. Another factor is the cost (700-800 dollars/month I think) and you also have to buy a meal plan,
Another option is to live off campus. You are then dependent on the bus system and not directly in university life, but in my opinion the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Living off campus is only about $400-450/month, you can buy your own food and you don’t have to rely on uni fast food because everyone gets sick of it after a while. In addition, you tend to live with older students who may also have a car.
I personally lived off campus with 4 other Canadians and 1 Chinese and it was definitely a good decision. We did a lot together, so you get a lot of Canadian culture with e.g. Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas etc.
Off-campus housing search:
Immediately after arrival I stayed in the hostel in Niagara Falls and took the bus to st. catharines driven. Definitely look for an apartment locally. I arrived about two weeks before the semester and found something within a few days. The housing market is relatively relaxed, you can definitely find something. Good places to live include: Thorold, around pen center, or along glenridge avenue. Downtown I rather advise against. Apart from celebrations there is not so much there. I myself have in west st. catherine’s usual (~pelham road). That is definitely clear. There is a bus route to Brock, pen center, downtown. From the north of the city I strongly advise against! Everything is too far away and it just takes forever to drive to the university.
is more contemplative and quiet. But there are a few things to do here too. In summer you can definitely take the bus to port dalhousie and chill on the beach. But it will probably be offered again by the international office. The Decew falls are also very nice, you can swim under the falls in the summer. You can celebrate either in downtown or directly at the university (isaacs bar). Otherwise, as I said, it is more of a small town with distances that should not be underestimated! You will definitely have to familiarize yourself with the bus network, which is not quite as well developed as you are used to in Germany. Of course it helps if your roommates have cars. Apart from that, you can also take a taxi, especially at night after a party, when there are no more buses.
This is of course also an important part of the stay abroad. After all, you want to see something of the country. And this is exactly where St. Catharines scores with a good location. The places I’ve been:
Niagara Falls: With the bus pass you can take a bus from the university there, takes maybe 30-40 minutes. It should be clear that the Niagara Falls are a beautiful sight;-) But even in winter you should take a look at the frozen falls, very worth seeing. Apart from that, it’s relatively touristy there, lots of casinos, if you like it.
Toronto: It’s right around the lake, takes about 90 minutes to get there and only costs a few dollars if you book early (megabus, coach canada, greyhound). There is enough to discover: toronto island, cn tower, path, hockey hall of fame,..
Algonquin Park: Breathtaking! Just google indian summer, then you will know why.
Montreal: It’s a bit further away (8 hours or so), but it’s still worth it. It’s French Canada, but many people in Montreal speak good English, so finding your way around shouldn’t be a problem.
New York City: It’s a long way (10h+), but it’s New York, you shouldn’t miss it;-)
In February, I flew with 2 friends to Orlando, Florida for a week of the to escape the cold. Disneyland, Universal Studios, cape canaveral and much more also beckon.
If you have more time, you can of course see a lot more: Chicago, Washington, Boston etc. are all within easy reach and then there’s also the west coast…
Canada in general:
Has about everything to offer. There are big cities like Toronto, tranquil towns like St. Catharines and if you want some peace and quiet, just drive a few hours north in the direction of pure nature. You can also just stop on the highway and take a break, there’s no car coming anyway;-)
The weather is generally “more extreme”. In the summer it can easily reach 30°C, while the winter can be freezing cold, as you would expect from Canada. You should like snow, because we had it for months. The year was also a record winter, I think even the German media reported about it. It got too cold even for the Canadians : -D
Canadians as a whole have a relatively easy-going and friendly lifestyle. You immediately feel welcome. When the bus driver wishes you a nice day in the morning and everyone thanks him for the journey, that’s something. And anyway, Canada is a classic immigration country, so you never feel excluded. You’re much more likely to be aroused curiosity when someone notices your German accent and asks where you’re from, etc. That way, you can always get into conversation easily.
If you were to ask me again if I would do a longer stay abroad, I would say yes without hesitation. The whole thing seems “threatening” at first, you don’t know anyone, plus the foreign culture and language. But you make friends really quickly and as soon as you look around, you’ve made new friends with whom you’re already planning your first road trip. The whole thing is really an incomparable experience, so dare;-)
And moving in with Canadians is the best way to learn the language and the culture.