University: Vancouver Island University
Continent: North America
Field of study: business administration
Study type: semester abroad
My name is Ines, I’m 24 years old and I’m studying business administration at the university in Cologne. So much for the facts. I knew from the start of my studies that I wanted to do a semester abroad. It quickly became clear to me that I really wanted to go to British Columbia, Canada. The university in Cologne had the University of British Columbia (UBC, Vancouver) as a partner university in the program. Of course, only until it was time for me to apply for it. But just at that moment she wasn’t there anymore and I had to look for another possibility. After researching on the Internet, I came across www.MicroEdu.com, which Vancouver Island University (VIU) had brand new in its program for the 2009 fall semester. There I even had the opportunity to enroll for the coming semester (case 09) at the end of February. Check mcat-test-centers.com to see Hillsborough Community College.
The application process was easy and I was well looked after by Lisa in all questions. Correspondence with the VIU was also flawless. All questions were quickly and patiently answered from there. While still in Germany I chose my courses (only a pre-selection), but I haven’t found any accommodation yet. Booking a flight and taking out health insurance was also a matter of no more than an hour thanks to StaTravel.
So finally, on August 27, 2009, I was sitting at the airport in Frankfurt with four months’ worth of luggage in my suitcase, ready to board the Airbus A-340 600 and begin my adventure in Canada.
My arrival in Vancouver at the airport could not have been nicer. At that time everything was already decked out for the Olympic Winter Games – with totem poles and water features right in the airport. I spent the first five days on the mainland. I have a friend in Vancouver who gave me a warm welcome and showed me all the sights in and around Vancouver during my four months. In addition, the weather was wonderful and we were even able to go swimming at the “Third Beach” in Stanley Park. It wasn’t until September 1st that my journey continued. So I made my way with my luggage to the ferry to Horseshoe Bay, to then stay in Nanaimo at the Painted Turtle Guesthouse for the first few days. The hostel was nice and I quickly met a lot of nice people (mostly Germans). We spent the first days at the university together and slowly started to settle in. Even the room worked. I was the only German living on campus in a dorm with three Canadians in a flat share. Even if it wasn’t the cheapest solution, I would do it again and again. This gave me the unique opportunity to get to know Canadian student life, which is characterized by 24-hour television and nightly dorm parties.
Unfortunately, public transport in Nanaimo is not well developed (the buses only run about once an hour). But you learn to deal with it and at some point you get to know all the bus drivers who, like most people in Canada, are very courteous, helpful and friendly. “Save on Foods” is the right place to go for delicious shopping. This is a large grocery store with all conceivable groceries. In particular, I’ve missed the spacious department in which you can weigh everything yourself (sweets, such as pasta and muesli). Just like the visits to the Students’ Pub every Thursday evening. “Open Mic Nite” was the motto and there really was something for every taste in music.
My courses at university turned out to be a good choice (and I just swapped Accounting 201 for a Social Science course). The professors there are very nice, you are on first name terms and greet each other when you meet on campus. Very different from the mass processing in Germany. I chose my courses so that I didn’t have any ‘finals’ – this gave me the chance to travel for most of December. I had a bit more to do with that during the semester, but the degree of difficulty of the courses still allows me to go on many trips at the weekends. Nature is breathtaking and there is always something to discover. Overall, I spent a maximum of five weekends in four months in Nanaimo. Otherwise I was whale watching, on a Hot Springs tour, surfing, kayaking, in Vancouver.
The weeks and months went by far too quickly. Before you knew it, departure was within reach. But before that I was skiing in Whistler with a friend for four days. That was a very special experience: we tested the World Cup runs and had a wonderful finish in Canada.
I was back in Vancouver for Christmas itself, before boarding the plane to Germany on December 25th with tears in my eyes. It will always be an unforgettable time for me, during which I was able to make friends for life and learned to love a new country. It is already clear to me that this will not be my last time in Canada – there is still too much to experience and life there is too worth living.
Course content: (1.3)
It is easier to get good grades. Nevertheless, you don’t get this for free and you have to get involved. The content is very practical and the content of the course can be partly determined by smaller groups. The course “International Peace and Security” by Cathy Schittecatte deserves special mention. It fundamentally influenced my understanding of world politics and stimulated my interest. There could not have been a better course for me.
Study conditions: (1.7)
Small groups and committed professors ensure a pleasant learning environment. Admission to courses in which there is no more capacity can usually still be achieved after a personal interview. The professors also offer support with the course content. Cooperation and personal contact play a central role in the success of the courses. However, caution should be exercised when buying books. Not all books, which are also very expensive, are needed. The level is much lower than in Germany, but you still have to work in an organized and structured way in order to get a good grade.
Life in Nanaimo is affordable. The groceries are a bit more expensive than in Germany, but other things such as clothing etc. are cheaper. Public transport is not well developed and you have to get used to it. However, nature and the possibilities for excursions are unbeatable and make every day an experience.
It depends on how you define “fun”. Anyone who needs parties and classy discos for a fulfilling everyday life is wrong here. But everyone who likes nature, fresh air and scenery will feel 100% comfortable here. Leaving is expensive, however, since there are no buses at night and you have to rely on taxis.
Benefit / Reference: (1.7)
It is always worth breaking out of everyday life and finding your way in a new culture. Not only did I improve my understanding of the language, I also got to know and love a new culture. The content of the university was organized in such a way that I still had a lot of freedom for my own ideas. The political courses in particular call for “intercultural intelligence” and sometimes show a slightly different point of view than what you are used to from Germany. Conclusion: You grow with your tasks.
The stay becomes expensive, mainly due to the constant trips. Still, life is pretty cheap. Larger tasks are to be done in advance and at the beginning (tuition fees, KV, flight, rent…)