University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: Marketing, Communication Sciences
Study type: semester abroad
Canada, with its mix of overwhelming nature and fascinating cities, made me curious. In the search for a suitable university, Brock University was chosen because it not only scores with its central location, but also promises a varied range of courses. Check ehuacom.com to see vocational training in Finland.
Application, arrival and housing search in St. Catharines
I applied relatively late (early July) to MicroEdu for the semester abroad, received acceptance from Brock University at the end of July and made my way to Canada at the end of August. Thanks to MicroEdu, the application went smoothly and the communication with the host university in the planning phase was relatively easy and committed.
For example, to familiarize yourself with Canada, the university and the area, Brock offers pre-semester webinars where useful tips for new students are given and questions can be asked. With a study period of one semester, I only had to apply for the eTA online for my stay in Canada and did not need a visa.
Entry is uncomplicated if you show all the necessary documents and so nothing stood in the way of my time in Canada. In advance, I had organized the transport from Toronto Pearson International Airport to St. Catharines via Niagara Airbus – here the Brock has a discount code and the ticket can be changed very flexibly (if passport control takes a little longer). For the first three nights in St. Catharines, I first rented a room in the Welland House Student Residence downtown via Airbnb, since, as recommended by the former students, I wanted to look for a room right there shortly before university started.
It was particularly important to me that the accommodation had a good bus connection and that you lived as centrally as possible. That’s why I decided on the Queenston Residence Downtown after a few viewings, which I organized both via the Brock apartment portal and via kijiji.ca. This is a short walk from the bus terminal (which also takes buses to Toronto and all other St. Catharines lines) and all the restaurants and bars downtown, and there is also a bus route to the Pen Center (shopping mall in St. C) – although it has to be said that the street the property is on is a bit “dodgy”.
In general, I’d say that Downtown, all around Glenridge Avenue (since it connects the uni and downtown along the 316/416 bus route) and Thorold (popular with students, but I didn’t spend much time here) are recommended. The search for accommodation is not too complicated and the rooms are affordable with rents around 400 to 700 CAD.
During my first few days in Canada, I also signed up for a mobile phone contract directly at the Pen Center. There are many different providers here that I simply checked out and finally decided on an offer from BestBuy, as they had the best price-performance ratio and a student deal before the start of university (the Brock sometimes offers special deals here, just in the International Office to ask).
University and courses
Founded in 1964, Brock University is a relatively young university and consists of buildings from this period, such as the Schmon Tower (which houses the library, among other things), as well as numerous new buildings, such as the Cairns Complex. During my stay at the end of 2017, the Goodman School of Business was being completely rebuilt. The extensive campus can be easily reached with various bus lines (as already mentioned, for example, the 316 directly from the Downtown Terminal). I was positively surprised by the numerous learning places and group work rooms as well as the diverse range of food on the premises, which ranges from McDonalds, Tim Horton’s and Subway, to super delicious sushi, to “Mensaessen” in the on-campus dining halls (e.g. in the Guernsey Market).
Brock University offers a large number of events (e.g. barbecue, hockey) in the first few weeks of the university, and the exchange students also have an international orientation with lectures and get-to-know events at the beginning. In the first week of the university, called “Brockchella”, there are various parties and a big concert with a well-known artist. All in all, the numerous offers make it easy to settle in quickly at the university and become part of the “Badgers”.
I clarified my chosen courses with my university in advance and then registered online in Germany via the Brock portal. So I have Consumer Behavior MKTG 4P31, Research Methods in Communication and Culture COMM 2P15, and two film courses ( Documentary Film FILM 2P54 and Television StudiesFILM 3P20) occupied. The material (books, scripts, clickers,…) for the courses is sold in the campus store – you will find out what is needed here in the first weeks of university or you can find this out in the course syllabus. The books are a significant expense with prices between 25 and up to 150 CAD (or even more), but there is sometimes the possibility to sell selected books back to the store at the end of the semester.
Compared to my home university, the courses were very schooled with grades, compulsory attendance, sometimes short assignments, compulsory reading and numerous homework assignments. If you organize yourself well here, you could definitely master all of them, and with four courses there was still time for leisure and travel. The professors and teaching assistants in the seminars were also super helpful and were always there to help with any problems. There is also the opportunity to get involved in clubs outside of the courses or to take advantage of the university’s sports programme.
To Do in St. Catharines and the region
I highly recommend St. Catharines for its proximity to Toronto and Niagara Falls, as well as its location in the east of the continent, by North American standards, close to cities like Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Buffalo, etc. Especially during Reading Week (in the case of the October semester) you can plan trips to nearby cities or national parks (e.g. Algonquin Park, Thousand Islands National Park) or join a trip organized by the university. But there is also a lot to see in the vicinity. Highly recommended are Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls, which show different facets of the region, or Port Dalhousie, a community in St. Catharines that has beautiful houses and a great beach to offer.
Another tip would be Sunset Beach, which is easy to reach from Arthur Street, because during my time in Canada it was up to 30 degrees warm up to the end of September and Canadians have life on Lake Ontario with motor boats and jet skis enjoyed. Because of the wine that the Niagara region is known for, St. Catharines hosts a must-visit wine festival in September, and there are wine tastings at area wineries year-round.
For some action I highly recommend the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake and for a little hike the Bruce Trail to DeCew Falls. Excursions to Toronto are a matter of course – the city simply has an incredible amount to offer and can be reached quickly and cheaply by bus (e.g. with megabus.ca). Besides the typical tourist attractions like the CN Tower, Toronto Island or the Eaton Center, you should definitely visit the Kensington Market area and everything around Ossington Avenue (especially for second hand shopping)! I can also highly recommend the Yorkdale Shopping Center.
A large part of my time abroad was also spent on sporting events – whether hockey, basketball, baseball or football, the events are an absolute must even for newcomers to sports and the atmosphere there sweeps everyone away. And if you really don’t feel like doing sports at all, I can recommend a concert at the Air Canada Center or a visit to the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District during the Christmas season.
No matter what you spend your free time with, you definitely don’t have to get bored!
Here are a few more restaurant/bar recommendations:
- St. Catharines: The Merchant Ale House, Bolete, Kully’s Sports Bar, Mahtay Cafe, N’ata Cosa
- Toronto: The Drake Hotel, The Porch, The Thompson Hotel Rooftop Bar
Also good to know
St. Catharines has its own app, “St. Catharines Transit’ for the city’s bus routes, which is quite helpful. The Zehrs supermarket in the Pen Center has a 10 percent discount for Brock students on Tuesdays, but you can shop even cheaper at Basic Food and Giant Tiger. There is also a Farmers Market downtown, which is particularly worth a visit in late summer and autumn (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.).
And last but not least: in Canada you are sometimes very dependent on a car, which is why you have to use taxis or Uber. A cheaper alternative is the “Taxiservice” Zoom Zoom, which always charges 12 CAD in St. Catharines and 20 CAD in the region (number can be found online).
I had a really great time in Canada and at Brock, met new people and saw and experienced a lot. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at any time!