University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: industrial engineering
Study type: semester abroad
1. Why Brock University at St. Catharines?
The decision to go to Brock University in St. Catharines was influenced on the one hand by the good location and on the other hand by wanting to live in North America for a while. In my opinion, the location is ideal for exploring many cities on the east side. New York, Washington DC can be mentioned as an example. Another incentive was a personal desire to see the country. Because I have many acquaintances who live in Canada and have already been able to gain some impressions from a few stories. Another reason was of course the financial aspect, as the tuition fees in St. Catharines are quite cheap compared to other places. Check ehuacom.com to see study opportunities in Russia.
In my case, the semester abroad was voluntary, since my course does not include a semester abroad. So I really had to take care of everything myself. But www.MicroEdu.com helped me a lot. The employees are very friendly and always tried to accommodate my requests at any time. There are a few forms that will need to be filled out by the home institution, but I’ll spare you the details here because if you decide to do so, you’ll be well looked after by the MicroEdu staff.
There are direct flights between Frankfurt and Toronto, which then only take a pleasant seven to eight hours and are a bit more expensive. I think if you book early you would be around 800 euros for a return flight (with airlines like Air Canada or Lufthansa). But there are also quite cheaper flights, for example I found my flight on the website flug.idealo.de for just under 700 euros. Incidentally, it is not only advisable for financial reasons to book the return flight at the same time. The Canadian border authorities sometimes ask for the return ticket upon entry. Furthermore, it is also advisable to make sure that if you want to travel through America later, you try to find a flight that does not have an intermediate stop in America,
Apartments in St. Catharines are actually a dime a dozen. You just have to decide which part of the city you prefer to live in. The rent is between $400 and $450, as I have heard from other students. I stayed with a host family with three other students and paid $450. In my opinion, living with a host family is a risk because you never know how the family will welcome you. We were lucky that the family was very kind to us. However, there were some house rules and you had to be considerate. But you certainly have to do that in a shared flat. The apartment search can be done comfortably from home. There are a few pages, unfortunately I can’t remember what they were called because my fellow student took over the job of looking for an apartment.
2.3 Orientation Week
The orientation week is very is very exciting here. In fact, it’s just like in the movies. Stands are set up where you can sign up for activities such as a chess club etc. There are also many tours on campus where you can get to know the university. The campus itself is not that big, so it’s easy to find your way around. I would definitely recommend doing everything, because you can meet a lot of new people and the guides are always in a good mood, so it’s always really fun and not a waste of time.
The current situation is that as a German you do not need a visa if you stay in Canada for a maximum of six months, even if you are officially completing a semester abroad there. However, as mentioned above, you may be asked at the border for proof of a return flight.
2.5 Local Knowledge
St. Catharines has about 140,000 inhabitants, which says a lot about the place. As already mentioned, it is purely a student city. During the semester break, the city is deserted. But the city itself is very cozy. There is a big mall and downtown there are enough bars and a few clubs where you can spend time in the evenings. However, if you want to travel further, you can get one of the usual travel guides before you leave (e.g. Marc O Polo) to get a better overview of the different cities and to find out about possible excursion destinations. There are probably also offers for excursions and tours at the university. One cool attraction just 20 minutes from St. Catharines is Niagara Falls.
2.6 Baggage and Money
I was allowed to take 23 kg of luggage plus about 10 kg of hand luggage with me on my flight, and I had a small suitcase and a laptop bag. This should also apply to most other airlines. I used my DKB account to withdraw money, which is a prepaid credit card account, from which you can withdraw money relatively easily from any ATM without paying international fees. However, there are banks that charge a fee of around CAD 2 for every foreign card (e.g. the Bank of Montreal or small ATMs in shops or pubs), but you are always warned. You can also pay by credit card relatively often (in the supermarket or restaurant), but in this case, at least with the DKB, you have to expect to pay a small percentage for use abroad. Otherwise the Canadian Dollar (CAD) is weaker than the Euro, when I was there the rate was around CAD 1.4 to the Euro if that helps as a guide. In general, Canada is more expensive than Germany in terms of prices, so you should be prepared to leave some money here if you want to eat well. I estimate that depending on how expensive the rent is, about 800 – 1000 euros per month are needed (of course that also depends on how economical you want to be).
2.7 Airport and public transport
There are two airports in Toronto. Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ). The former is large and a bit out of town and is where most flights arrive. From here you can either take a shuttle bus to St. Catharines (www.niagaraairbus.com) or you can book a Megabus (www.megabus.com), but you have to get to the Toronto bus terminal first. A taxi is a bit expensive, but you can also take the train, but I’m not sure about that as I’ve always taken either a taxi or the shuttle bus. The following applies to all means of transport: There is no fixed timetable, rather rough guidelines apply, but the drivers of streetcars and buses are usually much friendlier than we are used to in this country.
First of all, it can be said that the workload is much higher than at German universities. The neoliberalization of the university is much more advanced and it can be seen quickly that in addition to the high workload of full-time studies, debts due to high tuition fees and a part-time job, fellow students are sometimes reaching the limits of their resilience. However, if you stay on the ball, no surprises are to be expected in the final exam, as the professors prepare you well for the exam. What surprised me negatively were the book prices. They are Ethiopian high in Canada and you can start saving on them. Luckily I only had three modules and was already at almost 300€, but I met you students who had 5 modules. The professors here are very dedicated and I had the feeling that they took care of me. But it could also have been because our class consisted of about 15-35 students.
I deliberately chose only three courses because it was important to me to have time for new experiences outside of the lecture halls. I have never regretted this decision and have never felt underemployed when it came to everyday university life.
3.1 Health Insurance
You have to insure yourself through the university with the so-called UHIP, which costs about 170 euros for one semester and is mandatory. But you still have to be insured in Germany. I was insured through Hanse Merkur and fortunately there was no case where I had to access the two insurance companies.
Since this is a trimester, the CPs count slightly differently than usual. Unfortunately, I can’t say much about it yet, because I haven’t finished bringing in the courses yet. On the other hand, it is not absolutely necessary in my case because I did not have to do the semester abroad.
- Next to the university
Toronto really is a beautiful city and makes it easy to feel comfortable there. The location on the lake is really nice, a trip to the islands in front of the city is definitely worth it. The Niagara Falls are also nearby and is definitely an experience worth seeing. In general, the cheapest means of transport for trips to other cities is the long-distance bus (e.g. Megabus). If you book early, you can get very cheap tickets (from CAD 1.50). Traveling is comparatively precarious and takes a long time (e.g. about eleven hours to New York), but it is very cheap.
- Mobile phone contract
If you are considering setting up a contract for your mobile phone, I would definitely recommend that you do not get a prepaid card, because strangely enough you have to pay for an incoming call. I had a contract that I could cancel every month with the company “FIDO”. All I needed was my identity card and a home address and I was good to go. I paid 40CAD, it included 250MB for surfing and 250 free minutes as well as unlimited texting. The only thing I was over was the 250 MB. If you’re over there you have to be careful, because the providers don’t throttle the speed of the Internet as usual, but you have to pay 5CAD more automatically and you get another 100MB to surf.
All in all, I found the semester abroad to be a great experience. I was able to see a lot and was able to meet a lot of new and interesting people. But I think it always depends on the person what you make of the semester abroad, so I can only report from my point of view. Canada is a very beautiful country, but I have often wondered what it would be like if I had completed my semester abroad in a warm country. Well, what else I can give you along the way: Be brave, be active and don’t let adversity and obstacles slow you down.