I came up with the idea of doing a semester abroad in March 2011 when I noticed that my 5th semester was not so packed and that with a bit of shifting modules, a semester abroad would be possible without “losing” a semester.
I chose Canada because I wanted to go to an English-speaking country, England too close, Australia somehow too far and America… well… America doesn’t suit me;)
Since my university (Goethe-Uni Frankfurt) does not have a natural science partnership with Canadian universities, it was clear that I would have to organize the semester myself. While scouring the Internet, I came across MicroEDU and through that I came across Brock University. Before I contacted MicroEDU, however, I first went through the course list and then discussed the crediting of the courses with our dean (which luckily was pretty straightforward).
I then answered all questions via MicroEDU and received the application documents (thank you again, especially since all of my question emails were answered within a day or less :)). I did not apply for a foreign bafög, probably would not have been approved anyway, so I got myself saved the bureaucracy.
Otherwise, my dorm room was permanently sublet and then, in principle, it could start. 🙂
I already applied online for the dormitories at Brock, but I was looking for an alternative online on the side. Ultimately, I found an ad on the off-campus housing agency (https://butler.brocku.ca/ocl/) and then quickly withdrew my application for a dormitory. In any case, it was much better, because I had nice roommates and lived in a fairly cheap way (you should make sure that you live well by bus to Brock, Downtown and, if possible, the PenCentre). Good areas are near Glenridge, Glendale, Pen Center or Downtown. Many students also live in Thorold, but without buses you are relatively out of the way… without a car, I would advise against it.
On-campus you can either find accommodation in so-called “traditional residences”, where you may share a room and have to eat expensive meals in the cafeteria every day, or in student houses, in which 4 people can live together and take care of themselves (Quarry View or Village).
Besides, I would recommend everyone not to stay in the residence. Off-campus you pay around 450-550 CAD per month, on -campus, if you live in Quarry View or Village that is almost 800 CAD, which is in no way justified, as the furnishings in the houses are really not the best… And besides, you have to adhere to the campus rules, which means, for example, not to bring beer and glass bottles into the houses, no drinking games (najaaaaa ^^), no guests in the first week and the exam weeks, etc. etc…..
I think that looking for a room on the internet doesn’t always have to be as good as it is with me. Therefore, everyone who can hang out a week or so before the semester should arrive in advance and look for them on site. As far as I can tell, there are enough houses / rooms that are rented to students, there is no shortage. According to Abbreviation Finder, BU is the abbreviation of Brock University.
I took 3 courses at Brock:
- Investigative Neuroscience
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Molecular Genetics
Invest. Neuro was a course designed entirely for internship. The groups were small and the TAs and Profs great, there is nothing to complain about (the equipment wasn’t the newest, but I got to know basic measurement methods and I wouldn’t call that annoying). The workload was ok here. Lecture and internship once a week, which of course had to be prepared and minutes to be written. There was a presentation for everyone and an exam at the end of the semester. The course was great fun and I also learned a lot, so it’s great 🙂
Developmental Neuro was a four-year course and you could clearly feel that. The course consisted of a seminar (once a week) in which everyone had to present a paper. In other words, you had to read papers almost every week (you had to hand in some questions), or just to prepare the president, there were also so-called take-home quizzes in which you had to take a paper apart critically. The workload was relatively high, there was no final exam for it. My English is actually pretty good, but I had to concentrate incredibly in order to follow the presentations, as the relationships were very complex. However, the atmosphere in the seminar was very good, the professor was great and all in all it was a very good course. 🙂
Genetics, on the other hand, was a disaster. Twice a week the professor threw smeared, half-laid films full of abbreviations on the screen and then went through them totally monotonously. We got some quizzes as take-home, but most of them were written in class and in order to improve the course average he then increased the number and simply wrote a quiz every day for the last two weeks. There was also a mid-term and a final, all mostly multiple choice, I guess so that poor Mr. Prof doesn’t have so much correction work -.-. Otherwise there was a book that you should buy (for around 100 CAD) and in the end we didn’t need it either (because of a lack of motivation I hadn’t bought it anyway, that’s good…).
I wouldn’t recommend the course to anyone. I took it myself because I replaced a German module with it…
Otherwise, the library should be mentioned, which didn’t have many books to borrow (ok, I’m a bit spoiled by Frankfurt, too. We had most of the books in semester strength, so you hardly had to buy any. ), but excellent study rooms and opening times and shuttle service until 2 am during exam times 🙂
The International Office should also get recognition, they really help you with everything as well as they can. In the first few weeks, many events were organized for us, so that we could make friends straight away. 🙂
Ok, St. Catharines is not really a “city” per se. But you can still go out well, almost every day there is something somewhere. Then there is also the Pen Center, the mall, but that’s about it. However, St. Kitts is well located for this, with the public you can also get to Niagara Falls and with Coach Canada / Mega Bus even to Toronto / Buffalo, from where you can continue in pretty much all directions (Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Algonqui Park etc.etc.). If you want to go further afield you can get cheap flights from Buffalo, for example to Florida 🙂
Those who study in St.Catharines in the spring can especially use the “reading week” to go on a longer excursion, because at this time (end of February) there is one week free (for study purposes of course;)).
Otherwise, it should be said that you shouldn’t fool yourself into buying cheap just because of the dollar. Life in Canada is expensive. For a week of grocery shopping you can count on 60 CAD (and I was thrifty!) And the bottle of vodka starts at 21 CAD… You can’t expect great bargains when it comes to clothes either, you should go to America for that.
Of course, the Canadians should also be mentioned, who fortunately are super open. Most of them have some international roots and are very interested in other cultures. They are incredibly polite, friendly and helpful (and you often miss that back in Germany…)
What might still pass as a culture shock is the way Canadians dress when they go out. The men in the club are often out and about in sweaters and the girls in very tight dresses and high heels, but you get used to them at some point. ^^
Anytime again, I’ve met great people from all over the world, I’ve traveled a lot and have also learned units technically 🙂
The organizational stuff isn’t as bad as you might think. If you have MicroEDU and the international office at your side, nothing can go wrong;)