University: Brock University
City: St Catherines
Continent: North America
Field of study: biotechnology
Study type: semester abroad
Field report about my semester abroad at Brock University in St. Catharines
September to December 2009.
1. The planning
Already at the beginning of my main study in the fifth semester I used to plan to complete my ninth semester abroad. I had two options for this: a semester abroad or an internship abroad. After many discussions with students who had already been abroad, I decided on the first option. The advantages are, on the one hand, getting to know the educational system in another country and, on the other hand, being able to experience student life in the host country up close. The disadvantage, of course, is the tuition fees that are often incurred. But considering this project as an investment in the future helps enormously. The second step for me was the decision of the host country. I definitely wanted to test and improve my English language skills during this semester abroad. Since I had already completed an exchange year in the USA in eleventh grade, I now wanted to get to know another country. After intensive research, I decided to go to Canada. The first-class education system and the fact that the Canadian university semesters start two weeks after the end of the examination period in Germany convinced me. This gave me the opportunity to get to know a very good education system in an attractive country without delay during my studies. The fact that the Canadian university semesters start two weeks after the end of the examination period in Germany convinced me. This gave me the opportunity to get to know a very good education system in an attractive country without delay during my studies. The fact that the Canadian university semesters start two weeks after the end of the examination period in Germany convinced me. This gave me the opportunity to get to know a very good education system in an attractive country without delay during my studies. Check act-test-centers.com to see top 5 MBA programs in the USA.
Because my decision for the semester abroad was already made at the beginning of my main studies, I divided the lectures of my ninth semester into the fifth and seventh semester. I was able to start in the direction of Canada without a license or exam. This fact also brought about the great advantage that I could choose the university in Canada according to my own criteria, because I didn’t have to take the German lecture schedule into account. I used the internet to help me decide which university to go to. When I was looking, my focus was on the subjects on offer. So I looked for educational institutions that offer biotechnology or biomedical engineering. In my search I came across Brock University in St. Catharines. St. Catharines is located in Ontario, approx. 100 km south of Toronto. This university convinced me because it offers a course that corresponds very well to my field of study in Germany (industrial engineering-biomedical technology): Biotechnology with an Introduction to Business. Brock University is known in Ontario for its very good business faculty, so a few years ago the European Business School (EBS) started a partner program with Brock University. EBS students complete the first half of their bachelor’s degree in Germany and the second half in Canada. After that they get a degree from both universities. Such references have convinced me of the quality of the university. Fortunately, since January 2009, Brock University can also be found in the MicroEdu directory,
At the beginning of my seventh semester, i.e. a year before I wanted to start my stay abroad, I started a TOEFEL preparatory course at the TU Ilmenau. All Canadian universities require a certain number of points in this test for admission in order to be sure of the applicants’ knowledge of English. So once a week I prepared myself intensively for the test with the help of this course and even had an appointment for the test at the end of the seventh semester (ie in February 2009). Brock University was added to MicroEdu’s repertoire in January 2009. In this context, the regulation was introduced that German students do not need a TOEFEL for admission. MicroEdu convinced Brock University to
I sent the final version of my application to Brock University in mid-January 2009 and 6 weeks later I received my acceptance. In addition to the formal acceptance, the letter also contained brochures about the region and small posters from the university. So the anticipation grows immensely and the further preparations can begin.
For me, this meant first and foremost applying for a new passport. If you only want to study in Canada for one semester, you generally do not need a visa. Only those who want to work alongside their studies have to apply for a visa. Then I informed myself about possible flights. I finally booked my flight through the sta travel agency. After a long research they were able to offer me the cheapest and most comfortable connection from Berlin to Toronto. I booked my flight to land in Canada nine days before the semester started. Then I started looking for rooms in St. Catharines on the internet. I can really recommend moving into a shared flat and not renting your own apartment. The distances in Canada are long and without roommates and a car you can be quite lonely (there was another exchange student who had exactly the same experience and was very unhappy about it). However, I have to admit that it was very difficult to find a room in advance from Germany. Several problems arose: For example, the landlords were upset about renting the room for only four months. I started looking around three months before the start of the semester and the homeowners are still optimistic about being able to award long-term leases. But even shortly before my departure for Canada I didn’t manage to find a suitable room. I should sign the rental contract for the four months for all apartments offered to me, without having seen the rooms in photos. I have therefore decided to try to find a room on site. Under 3.2 I wrote down my experiences with the search and the flat share.
Another important matter during the preparation phase is, of course, enrolling in the courses. Brock University has developed an online tool for this, which is well described in several e-mails from the Office of International Service and is therefore easy to understand. It is therefore important to select the interesting courses and find the best possible combination. Then I had to send my list of desired courses to the Office for International Service. They then obtained the “release” for the respective lecture from the relevant departments. These are necessary so that courses can also be taken which normally require special previous knowledge, ie certain courses, as a prerequisite for admission. In the run-up to the semester abroad, you do not have to take out international insurance, because the university provides compulsory insurance. This is transferred to the university together with the tuition fees and is then valid for the duration of your stay. During my preparation time, I also signed up for the BrockGuide program. Here, Brock University assigns future exchange students to current Canadian students who have already completed a semester abroad in the past. The student Hannah who was assigned to me had just completed a semester abroad in France and therefore knew my questions, concerns and the situation in which I found myself. We contacted each other via e-mail and after a short time communicated with each other over the phone. Hannah was able to help me with many questions, and finally she offered to pick me up from the airport in Toronto. I really liked the thought that someone on the other side of the world would be waiting for me and receiving me.
So the semester abroad in Canada could begin!
- The local situation
3.1 Getting there and arrival
When I arrived in Canada, Hannah picked me up at the airport with her family. After a half-hour drive, we arrived at her house, where my arrival was celebrated with champagne and homemade cake. I was received so warmly by this Canadian family that I immediately felt comfortable. As a thank you, I had brought a few gifts from Germany. Of course there are endless possibilities, I decided on the following: Calendar with pictures from Germany, homemade raspberry jam and German chocolate. I then spent the first two days with Hannah and her family in her home town.
After these first days with Hanna’s family, we drove to St. Catharines by car. Hannah had offered me to live with her in the shared flat until I found a room of my own. And then, surprisingly, it turned out that there was still a room available for me in their 6-person shared flat. However, before I promised the landlady, I decided to look at a few other rooms and then make a final decision. In principle, I can say that even a week before the lectures started, I found a large number of rooms available, which were also rented for four months. Since the flat shares in St. Catharines are mostly detached houses, the size of the rooms is also great. Many of these houses consist of a ground floor and a basement. There is therefore a huge range of rooms in the basement. Unfortunately, these rooms have small windows and suffer from a lack of natural light, but are livable with plenty of artificial lighting and bright colors. After three viewings, I decided on the room in Hannah’s flat share, which was also a basement room. My experience has taught me that it is very easy to live there for four months. For a successful semester, the roommates are more important than the quality of the room. In addition to Hannah and me, another student lived in the basement. Together we shared a living room, a bathroom and a small kitchen. There was a larger kitchen on the ground floor, where there was also a large living room,
From the shared flat, it was a 5-minute walk and a 10-minute bus ride to the campus. There are many houses in this immediate area of Brock University that are rented to students. Of course, there are also many apartments directly on the campus and can also be rented by foreign students. However, I would recommend that you familiarize yourself with the very strict rules of the student dormitories in advance and would like to mention at this point that a large number of young students take advantage of this housing option. I therefore got the impression that life on campus is associated with short distances but also with major restrictions.
3.3 Course Choices
As already described, the courses are taken online. There are detailed descriptions of the courses on the homepage and, of course, the lecture times are also given. When describing courses, the first number after the course name reflects the academic year in which the course should officially be taken. In the course MGMT 1P96, for example, the 1 indicates that a large number of freshmen are taking part in this course. I chose my courses so that on the one hand I could cover my interests and on the other hand I could take courses from different years in order to get a comprehensive picture of the education system. In the end I actually took such a freshman course: “Principles of Communication in a Business Environment”. There was no disadvantage in choosing a beginner’s course, as writing and presentations were taught in English. I also took a course from the 4th year, which is the last year of undergraduate studies. You could notice an extreme leap in performance. In general, the system at Brock University, and I assume all of Canada, is much more schooled than the one in Germany. The lessons are accompanied by a lot of homework in the form of essays, presentations, group and project work. I therefore had to work at home for between 5 and 15 hours a week for each course. The number of students per course was between 12 and 40, which made a good learning environment possible. The small group size leads to an expectation of lively participation in the lessons. The verbal participation was included in the final grade with approx. 10%. The other 90% then consist of the homework and exam grades. In most subjects there was an intermediate exam (mid to late October) and a final exam in December. In the lectures I attended, a lot of emphasis was placed on working in groups. Thanks to this learning method, friendships were quickly made and language skills expanded.
3.4 The Special Offers for International Students
The Office of International Service has taken exemplary care of all international students and really made me feel welcome and special. They also organized worthwhile events at regular intervals. I wasn’t able to take part in all of them, but many of the activities would have been really missed. For example, I can highly recommend the Christmas Banquet in December. The vibe, venue and food were great and well worth the money. But you could also contact the office if you had questions or problems. The employees were also very happy about short visits, combined with a little small talk.
3.5 The sports, leisure and cultural offerings
Brock University offers a wide range of sports. The swimming pool integrated into the campus, the sports halls, the fitness studio and the indoor running track are used for this offer, but are also available to the students in their free time. So I made regular use of these sports facilities. There is also a theater at Brock University where performances of all kinds take place regularly. However, the high entrance fees are a deterrent, so I only saw one play. The event that takes place at the beginning of the semester is also of great importance for leisure activities, at which opportunities for voluntary work are shown. Although my stay at four months was relatively short, there were various opportunities to work. In Canada, nature plays an important role in leisure time. To get to know them, I can highly recommend the activities of the Brock Outdoors Club. The association, which is organized by students, offers trips of one or more days almost every week. Both targets in St. Catharines and more distant targets are targeted. Algonquin Park is particularly beautiful and can only be recommended. This national park has been visited several times by the Brock Outdoors Club and is a unique paradise. Whether you’re a hiker or a canoeist, Canada’s natural beauty shines through in this park. Both targets in St. Catharines and more distant targets are targeted. Algonquin Park is particularly beautiful and can only be recommended. This national park has been visited several times by the Brock Outdoors Club and is a unique paradise. Whether you’re a hiker or a canoeist, Canada’s natural beauty shines through in this park. Both targets in St. Catharines and more distant targets are targeted. Algonquin Park is particularly beautiful and can only be recommended. This national park has been visited several times by the Brock Outdoors Club and is a unique paradise. Whether you’re a hiker or a canoeist, Canada’s natural beauty shines through in this park.
Due to St. Catharines’ proximity to Toronto and the regular bus service between these two cities, I have visited Canada’s largest city frequently. There I visited museums and listened to concerts. This city also offers many opportunities for going out. From here coaches also go to New York, which are really comfortable and represent a real alternative to flying. Furthermore, St. Catharines is only a ten minute drive from Niagara Falls. This natural spectacle is great!
3.6 The public transport system
The public transport system in St. Catharines is very clear. The buses often only run every thirty minutes and end their service in the evening at around 11 p.m. After that, all residents have to switch to their own car or taxis. At this point, I still have to give praise: The bus drivers were always in a good mood and I already miss the friendly voices. The ticket for the public transport system is included in the university tuition fees.
- The situation after returning
The semester in Canada ended in December, so I flew back to Germany on December 23, 2009. During my semester abroad, I gained a lot of new experiences and gained exciting impressions. A lot of things will probably only reach my consciousness in the next few weeks, but some things have already become very clear to me. I was particularly struck by the many different cultures in Canada, which make this country appear extremely diverse. It was also interesting to get to know a completely different educational system in which lectures represent a kind of service. Students pay for their education and professors appear as service providers. I also don’t want to miss the experience of driving my rental car for hours on deserted streets, only to discover a pretty little town at the end of the journey. During my time I met great people and made new friends and improved my English skills at the same time. It was always exciting to rediscover and share your own culture qasi in everyday life.
This semester was a valuable enrichment for me, which I look back on fondly with many unforgettable and unique memories.