My host university was the Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, at which around 15,000 students, mostly at bachelor level, study. The Master in Business Administration is then the only course at Master’s level in which an international exchange student can enroll for a single semester. The main campus of the VIU is located in the city of Nanaimo, which has a population of around 85,000. The university also includes three smaller campuses in nearby cities on Vancouver Island. The Nanaimo campus is relatively spacious As a student in a business program, however, I always had lessons in three central and adjacent buildings, which is why I did not experience the spaciousness at least in connection with the lessons. According to Abbreviation Finder, VIU is the abbreviation of Vancouver Island University.
Internationality is a top priority at Vancouver Island University, as students from over 80 countries are enrolled in a wide variety of subjects. Intercultural skills are certainly required, as certain cultural differences are quickly noticeable. The semester itself began with an introductory week in which the relevant information was conveyed to you with the help of a campus tour, an introduction to the library or the setting up of all the necessary student accounts. It was positive that the majority of the new MBA students took part in the introduction. It was a first opportunity to make contacts. After the end of the introductory week, the semester officially started on September 7th and lasted until December 21st, 2015. In the last two weeks there were no lectures but exams.
As indicated, I had all of the lectures of the three courses I attended in centrally located buildings. Apart from the noticeable lack of space, especially during the examination phase, the university’s infrastructure is excellent. A well-equipped library with computer workstations and group rooms, a sports center including a squash court and fitness room or various catering options are just a few examples. As a full-time student, you can choose between three to five courses at VIU. While most exchange students take four courses with three Canadian credits or six ECTS, I only needed three courses. The course selection takes place before the start of the semester. This was my first time I’m really glad that I organized my freemover semester through MicroEDU, as you get a list of all courses that can be taken right at the beginning and, if you are interested, you can request more detailed information on course content and examinations. As soon as you have decided on courses, you can provide this MicroEDU, whereupon the choice will be forwarded to the university and the place will be booked. The administrative effort is really taken away here. I finally chose the following three courses:
MBA 500 – The Effective Manager (6 ECTS)
The course deals with the general and daily requirements and challenges of a successful manager (e.g. time and conflict management, motivation skills). This is achieved above all with the help of the discussion of concepts from the textbook and the enrichment with personal examples. The course lived from the discussions and was only partially instructive, as many things were self-explanatory and could be solved with a reasonable understanding. However, with an efficient approach, the effort for the many smaller examinations can also be kept to a minimum.
While the course described above lasted for the entire semester and included three hours of lessons per week, the two courses described below were so-called short-term courses that only lasted seven weeks, but required attendance for six lessons per week.
MBA 540 – International Human Resource Management (6 ECTS)
I chose this course to get deeper insights into the topic of human resources. The subject matter was then also very interesting, as the diverse aspects of HR management are being expanded to include an international component. Even if the course is very exciting, it must be said that the workload is enormous. With two course books (theory and cases), the preparation of each lesson block, two presentations and a final exam, the seven weeks will be very intensive. With only three courses in total, however, this is easy to do and I would choose the course again despite the high workload. And after seven weeks the course is already over. I also found the intensive examination of the topic in this short time positive.
MBA 563 – Digital Marketing (6 ECTS)
What was true of “International HR Management” was not much different in this course. The subject matter was equally interesting. However, the focus of the lesson was more on providing an overview of the various digital marketing instruments than on deepening individual elements. The individual instruments were then deepened with a practical approach, in which the examinations focused on the application and development of the instruments. The individual planning and implementation of a website on the one hand and the specification of a campaign as group work on the other hand illustrate the practice-oriented approach. In this course, too, work performance should not be underestimated. Overall, however, I would recommend the course and attend it again.
Organization of the exchange
Since I missed the deadlines for an exchange organized through my home university, I found out about possible host universities at MicroEDU on the recommendation of fellow students. Since I had Canada in mind as a potential destination from the very beginning, I looked at the right options, although my choice fell relatively quickly on Vancouver Island University. After I have received all the necessary documents (Bachelor certificate, English proof of English, Online application) and sent it to MicroEDU, we had to wait and see. A few weeks later, MicroEDU forwarded an offer letter from VIU to me, which has to be accepted or rejected within a certain period of time. Relieved by the smooth handling of the registration process, I accepted the letter with the payment of the semester fees. The acceptance letter I received shortly afterwards triggered my flight booking and research into possible accommodations. Apart from the course selection mentioned above, which had to be done before departure, there was not much to prepare, since European students who do not stay in Canada for more than six months also do not have a visa require.
Arrival & accommodation
During the semester I discovered that there were two travel options gives. Some cover the entire distance to Nanaimo by plane and change at Vancouver airport. Personally, I chose the second option, which started with a direct flight from Zurich to Vancouver and ended with a one and a half hour ferry ride from Vancouver (Horshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay). Precisely because I stayed in Vancouver for three days after my arrival and only then went on to Nanaimo, this was the ideal choice. The best way to get from Vancouver airport to downtown is by train, which costs four Canadian dollars for around 30 minutes. Buses run from downtown Vancouver to the ferry terminal and arrive in Horshoe Bay in around 50 minutes. After the ferry ride, either buses to downtown or a taxi are available in Nanaimo. Since I had a lot of luggage, I took a taxi for around $ 15 to the apartment that had been pre-booked through Airbnb, where I finally spent the first few nights. Since I was no longer able to get a place in the student residence, I arrived a few days earlier and wanted to look for suitable off-campus accommodation on site. Together with another student, I found an apartment in a new house and in retrospect I was glad I didn’t have to live in one of the small rooms in the residence. If, like me, you are looking for accommodation that is not within walking distance of the university, you should pay attention to the limited number of bus routes, as the way to the university can quickly become tedious, especially in the morning. We paid CAD 1050 a month for the fully furnished apartment. Since my roommate occupied the somewhat larger room, I only had to pay CAD 500 per month for living.
During the semester
In addition to traditional classes, students at Vancouver Island University have numerous opportunities to spend the rest of the time elsewhere. In addition to the weight room, the extensive sports offer also includes numerous offers for team athletes. Football, basketball and volleyball are played weekly in internal university leagues. In addition to the sports offer, the University’s Outdoor Recreation Team offers countless trips and excursions into the breathtaking nature of British Columbia or especially from Vancouver Island. Some of these activities should definitely not be missed as a student, as the trips can quickly become more expensive due to the special student prices if they are organized by yourself. In addition to football, basketball, paintball and some hiking trips, I have planned some trips with friends myself. Especially multi-day trips to skiing in Whistler, to the Christmas market including a hockey game in Vancouver or to nearby Seattle were just a few of the other highlights of my exchange semester. There is definitely no shortage of excursion options in British Columbia, especially the variety on Vancouver Island makes ideal day trips possible.
The approximately 85,000 inhabitants of Nanaimo do not sound wrong to someone from Switzerland. What would be a big city in Switzerland, however, is a rather quiet spot in Canada in the midst of wonderful nature. Lively bars or even clubs are rarely found in Nanaimo during the week. An exception is the student pub on the university campus, which attracts many students every Thursday. Otherwise there are certainly opportunities to celebrate in Nanaimo at the weekend, but these are not comparable to those in a real big city such as Vancouver. With the right people, you don’t need clubs to have fun in the evenings or on weekends.
Conclusion of the exchange semester in Canada
Apart from the significantly higher semester fees abroad and the numerous excursions that one takes, the cost of living is in Canada deeper than in Switzerland. The fellow students from Germany that we met could not confirm this, however. One of the main reasons for this is the favorable exchange rate to the Canadian dollar against the Swiss franc. The good exchange rate may also tempt you to buy one or the other item, which would be significantly more expensive in Switzerland. In addition, you are in a new country that you usually want to see and explore, which means that you need more money than at home. In addition to the flight, a good 40 Canadian dollars are also charged for train, bus, ferry or taxis. The bus pass for one semester costs CAD 170 for students. An exchange semester in North America has its price in any case, this should be taken into account. The months, however, in Canada and not in the USA to spend was much cheaper in my case.
Living in Canada
Before leaving, you ask yourself countless questions, which can usually be answered positively in retrospect. Because yes, I mostly chose interesting courses and passed them with good grades, was able to meet many new people from all over the world, found nice and affordable accommodation in good time, was able to celebrate despite the small town of Nanaimo, when I felt like it, I had indescribably beautiful ones Seen spots of nature and adapted to the Canadian way of life almost without any problems. All of this made my exchange semester the highlight I was hoping for after completing my master’s degree and that I will have fond memories of Canada.