Alexandra Ploner – Events Management – Level 3
Brock University, Canada
My exchange in Canada – How I juggled university life while exploring as much as possible
I was very lucky to spend the second semester of my third year at Brock University in Canada, which was my first choice. I knew that I only had four months there so my goal was to see as much of Canada as possible. University life and coursework at Brock University was quite different from what I experienced in Scotland. Despite having more modules than at QMU the coursework was balanced differently. My modules in Scotland usually included two examinations whether they be exams, essays or presentations each worth about 50%. On the other hand, my final mark in Canada was made up of four to five examinations being one mid-term exam, one final exam plus either a presentation, essay, research project or homework. Finally each modules also marks the participation during class which counts towards the end mark. Having more uni work to do week by week, here are some suggestions on how I still managed to explore a lot of Canada:
First of all, I was able to choose my modules and the day and time of my classes. I managed to put all my classes on Mondays until Thursdays, which means that I was free on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. At first, I used Fridays to do most of my uni work in order to be free on the weekend. However, as the assignments built up, I also had to work on weekends which left little time for exploring.
One of my biggest suggestions is to take every opportunity that the exchange office offers at the host university. The exchange office at Brock organized two trips during my first couple of weeks in Canada, one to the Niagara Falls and one Wine Tasting afternoon at Niagara on the Lake. These two trips proved to be essential in meeting new people and making friends. All the people on these trips were exchange students and all of them had a similar goal, to see and travel as much as possible. As much as it is recommended to engage with local people in order to get the real experience, I honestly felt more connected to the other exchange students and I ended up spending most of my time with them. The first trip to the Niagara Falls was amazing, because everything was frozen and the Falls looked incredible. The second trip to Niagara on the Lake felt like a true Canadian experience as we tried to walk around the small town during a snow storm.
Team up with other exchange students and visit cities nearby. I organized a weekend trip to Toronto with a couple of friends which was a great way to explore the city while getting to know each other. We managed to find a pretty cheap AirBnB in the city which turned out to be an amazing cute little house. The best opportunity to travel is during reading week. Usually reading week is after all the mid-term exams, which means that it’s a chance to truly relax and get a week off. My friends and I planned a road trip to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and Montreal. If you have the chance I would recommend to rent a car which is cheaper than train or bus and gives you the possibility to explore places on the road. While driving from Ottawa to Montreal, we decided to take a little detour and took a safari through the Canadian wildlife at Parc Omega. In Montreal we watched a NHL game, a dream of mine came true. When in Canada or the US I would highly recommend watching an Ice hockey game as it feels like being part of the community.
Explore your backyard! I decided early on to save up as much money as possible for two big trips while in North America being my road trip during reading week and an East Coast trip after my exams. This meant I had little money for small trips on the weekend, therefore I decided to explore my ‘backyard’, literally. Luckily enough there are numerous trails starting from Brock University and around the campus. I often took a break from studying and went on a walk to explore. Right behind my accommodation there was a naturalization site with a lovely pond from which you could spot the Toronto skyline on a cloudless day. This became my favorite spot for the whole semester. In addition, St. Catharines, where Brock is situated, is located at Lake Ontario, which made small afternoon trips to the beach possible.
I hope this blog post inspires you to make the most of your exchange and helps you explore your temporary home while studying!