University: Vancouver Island University
Continent: North America
Field of study: social sciences, social sciences
Study type: semester abroad
From January to April 2014 I did a semester abroad at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo, Canada. I found the four months incredibly enriching and eventful and am happy to be able to pass on some of my experiences here and hopefully inspire others to stay at the VIU. Check mcat-test-centers.com to see Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
The application process turned out to be relatively simple thanks to the help of MicroEdu. I only decided in April 2013 to spend a semester abroad. All I had to do to apply was fill out a few forms and send a few documents, and then I could choose my courses from May. You could also send a registration for the dormitory directly with the application, which I did directly. The MicroEdu staff was at my side with advice and action throughout the entire process, you have a personal contact person for all application steps and fast and competent advice. The costs for a semester in Canada are of course quite high, but if you compare that with the tuition fees in the USA or Australia, you get away with it relatively cheaply.
I traveled from Berlin to Vancouver via London at the beginning of January and then stayed there for one night before taking the ferry to Vancouver Island. The cheapest option is to take the Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay ferry route, which takes about 90 minutes and costs $16. From Vancouver City Centre, which can be reached from the airport via the Skytrain, there is an express bus that takes you to the Ferry Station (Bus 257, runs from Granville & Georgia). The best way to get to campus from Departure Bay in Nanaimo is by taxi, and I was lucky enough to meet a nice Canadian woman who offered to drive me straight to campus. In general, you don’t have to be afraid of getting lost when you arrive, you really meet helpful Canadians everywhere who are happy to help you!
Studies / courses taken
I’m studying psychology in Germany, but I enrolled in social science at the VIU to broaden my horizons a bit. So I took various courses in Philosophy, Global Studies, History and Sociology. I found the course content extremely exciting and the form of teaching was very different. The classes are much smaller and the contact with the lecturers is more personal. I found the demands of the courses to be less scientific and theoretical and more practical. The lecturers have put a lot of effort into making the courses interesting and methodologically diverse and to meet the wishes of the students. The workload is still quite heavy in comparison: For all courses you had to complete a lot of assignments, midterms and finals. A lot of work comes together quickly. However, the grading is usually good to very good.
No matter what you needed a contact person for, there were actually special contact points for everything and everyone. The international students are looked after by the international office, the lecturers have office hours, there is also a writing center, an IT desk, organized discussion and learning groups and much more. I could always have written to my supervisor at Collage Contact with questions and problems.
As already mentioned, I already applied for a place in the dormitory on campus when I applied in April. Early registration is recommended, although there were still rooms available when I arrived. So apparently it’s worth trying again later. I myself have lived in one of the largest buildings, where about 30 people live on one floor and share a common kitchen and common room. A bathroom is shared with another person of the same sex. The rooms there are very small, but I still felt very comfortable there. However, there is also the option of staying in a 20-bed house, where the rooms are a bit larger and you have your own sink in the room. There are also apartments in which four people live and have a spacious kitchen, sharing a living room and two bathrooms. These two variants are then somewhat more expensive.
I found it a bit annoying that you have to buy all your furnishings on site: duvets, pillows, covers, towels, dishes, cleaning supplies, etc. In the big houses you also don’t have the possibility to store your cookware in the kitchen. So you have to take everything back to your own room after cooking, which also makes it difficult to share dishes or cooking basics such as spices, oil, etc. with others. So if you don’t mind paying a little more, you’re probably better off with the apartments.
If you ever have a problem, lose your keys, need change for the bus or forgot to buy detergent or toothpaste, there is an office which is staffed 24/7 and where you can always get help. There you can also borrow games or sports equipment, barbecue, do laundry, withdraw money and much more. A shuttle runs twice a week from there to a larger supermarket, where you can shop relatively cheaply.
Of course, you can also look for accommodation far away from the campus, but I wouldn’t recommend that because it’s often more expensive and you’re hardly mobile without a car in Nanaimo because the distances are very long. In addition, there is always something going on in the residences.
Leisure and excursions
It should be said right away that Nanaimo is not a city for big city dwellers who like to party. But if you find the right people, you can have a lot of fun there too. You can do a lot in nature and go hiking (Westwood Lake, Ammonite Falls, Protection Island, Newcastle Island, Mt. Benson) and generally do sports (free gym on campus, ice center & swimming pool near campus) or watch (there are the opportunity to watch hockey, basketball or volleyball several times during the semester). Nightlife is rather mediocre, the student pub on campus only stays open past 7pm once a week and there are a few decent pubs and clubs downtown, but none of them stay open past 2am. Instead, there are often parties in the residences (even if that’s not so popular after the quiet hours) or house parties. I would definitely recommend the Dinghy Dog Pub on Newcastle Island, which is like a floating pub that you can take a ferry to – super cool atmosphere, great food and panoramic views of Nanaimo! There is also a music trivia every Thursday which is always very busy and fun.
Furthermore, the International Office organizes various excursions every month, eg to Victoria, Vancouver Island, Tofino, Vancouver, Ammonite Falls or whale watching. There’s plenty to do on your own, too, so during my stay I’ve taken trips to Tofino, the Rocky Mountains, Seattle, and even San Diego and San Francisco (flights to the US are pretty cheap from Vancouver). I can recommend Club ESL Tours, a company that organizes trips around Canada for young people (http: //www.clubesl.com/trips-destinations/).
Overall, it is very difficult to get around Nanaimo or the island without a car. But somehow I still managed to see everything I wanted to see. Either you look for people who have a car or you get together in a group and rent one, which is also quite cheap.
Do’s and don’ts
An absolute must: A weekend in Tofino and a hike up Mt. Benson in Nanaimo when the views are good.
Otherwise, I can only recommend doing as much as you can in terms of time and money and, above all, making friends with Canadians, whose hospitality and willingness to help is simply overwhelming. That way you can see more of the island than if you just hang out with Germans and English is much easier then.;)