After I made the decision to do a semester abroad at very short notice, I quickly chose Canada and, due to its good location and good ratings, finally Brock University or BU.
At StudiVZ, I had made contact with former exchange students at Brock before my application and their positive experiences also convinced me!
Finally I had MicroEDU send me the application documents and off I went! The application is not particularly difficult in itself, a short letter of motivation is required and otherwise nothing unusual.
Since you have to make your choice of course for the semester in advance, I had a lot of email contact with the International Office to clarify a few questions. The staff at the International Office were very helpful and stood by me with a lot of patience.
So after I got the approval from Brock University very quickly, the flight could be booked. Fortunately, St. Catharines is not too far from Toronto, making it easy to get to from the airport. I went with the Niagara Transit, a little more expensive, but you will be driven right to the front door!
I had decided in advance to look for a place to stay in Canada for the 4 months, as I had heard from former exchange students at Brock that it was very easy to find a room on site. So I arrived in Canada almost 3 weeks before the start of university and stayed in a hostel on Niagara Falls for the first week after my arrival.
Unfortunately, looking for an apartment from there was not that easy: Niagara Falls is about 1/2 hour by bus from St. Catharines and all on my own it was a bit more difficult than I thought, at all about dates for a visit to come and find landlords who only rent their rooms for such a short time (4 months).
However, I was really lucky that the employees of the Off-Campus-Living office on the Brock were so helpful. They made all the viewing appointments for me, only selected apartments from reputable landlords and in a good location & even drove me to the viewing appointments after their working hours. We looked at 4 apartments in total, only one of which was really suitable for me. The other rooms were partly very dirty and littered. Eventually I found a nice room with a nice young couple in the house with a good location near the city center.
Overall, I can say that looking for an apartment in advance is much less stressful and easier on your nerves. However, I am glad that I looked for something on site, as I had a better idea of the location and was able to get an idea of the room and the landlords. Without the help of the Off-Campus-Living office on the Brock, I would not have been able to do this. The office and the staff are really great. They also have a well-organized homepage where you can read landlords’ requests and also submit a request yourself.
I personally recommend staying either near the Pen Center (the big shopping center in St. Catharines) or the Downtown Terminal, as this is where you have the best bus connections (and you can get to St. Catharines without a car definitely rely on the bus!).
Abbreviated as BU by abbreviationfinder, Brock University is very big and modern. I immediately felt very comfortable there, the library and the Market Place (a kind of cafeteria) were only built a few years ago.
It’s all pretty confusing at first, and it’s difficult to find the right room. However, campus tours are offered by students in Orientationweek.
As I said, I liked the university very much. There are various options for eating in the BU and, in addition to the Brock University, a Mc Donalds, Tim Hortons etc. However, the prices at Brock are quite expensive, a meal in the marketplace usually costs around 10 $.
The Orientationweek offered a lot for the students and it was a great opportunity to get to know other exchange students. The International Office offered wine tasting, a beach barbecue, and tours to Walmart and a tour of Niagara Falls. In addition, there were many parties on campus and in the city during the first week and booths were set up on the meadow in front of the Brock University every day.
The workload for the individual courses in Canada cannot be compared with that in Germany. You almost always get homework, have to hand in several assignments during the semester, prepare group work and presentations and write midterms (i. e. exams during the semester) and finals. At the beginning of the courses I was really very intimidated and wasn’t sure whether I could do it, although with 3 courses I only had the minimum number of courses. So you really have a lot to do, but I also noticed that the learning effect is a lot higher through constant learning during the semester. However, it is also a semester abroad that should not only be about learning, but also about fun and great experiences. Therefore I recommend, if it is possible to take only 3 courses,
But, in my experience, the lecturers are also very nice and sometimes grant a delay if something is not timed.
St. Catharines is not really a big city and everything is very spread out. Therefore, unfortunately, you are quite dependent on the buses, which can turn into a problem at one point or another: the buses only run until midnight, sometimes only until 6pm, even on weekends. And on Sundays, the first buses sometimes don’t leave before 10 or 11 a. m. This is really annoying, so the taxi had to help out with me one or the other time.
There are a few good places to celebrate in the city, even if some of them are more of a village character. Nevertheless, we always had a lot of fun, after all, the people you do something with are the most fun;)
St. Catharines is great for traveling as much as possible. It takes 1-2 hours to get to Toronto or Buffalo and from there you can easily take the bus (Greyhound or Coach Canada) to Montreal, New York, Washington and and and. If you can find cheap flights, this is also a great alternative.
If you are traveling with several people, it is also worth renting a car, as the bus journeys often take a long time. Nevertheless, by Canadian standards, St. Catharines is very central.
Overall, I can highly recommend a semester abroad at Brock. The International Office is very helpful in the preparatory phase of the stay abroad and is also available on site with advice and action. However, I would have liked them to offer a few more excursions for the international students during the semester.
For some administrative matters, the Brock University staff sometimes need a little longer, but then you have to be patient.
In any case, I felt very comfortable and already miss my time there. However, this is primarily due to the great people I met there and the many funny experiences!