Preparation and planning
As part of my business studies at the University of Münster, I spent a semester abroad at Vancouver Island University. Of course, there was a lot to plan before the semester abroad actually started. First of all, it was clear to me from the start that I would like to spend my semester abroad in Canada – and preferably on the west coast. Therefore, it was clear to me relatively quickly that it would be the VIU, as I found the location very interesting and the university with its range of courses and other sports offers, etc. sounded very interesting.
After I had gathered all the necessary documents and completed the DAAD language test at my university, I sent the documents to MicroEDU so that they could be forwarded directly to VIU. Many thanks at this point to the MicroEDU team for the great organization and support in planning the semester abroad, it really couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
So a few weeks later the VIU accepted, so I applied directly for the student dormitory. Otherwise, I had to choose a course – for this I discussed the crediting with my home university, there were no problems here either, as I was able to have the courses fully credited to me. According to Abbreviation Finder, VIU is the abbreviation of Vancouver Island University.
After I booked the flights in June, I also applied for the ETA directly, which is a kind of entry permit that costs 7 CAD. Fortunately, you don’t need a visa, so that stress is immediately spared.
Unfortunately, until shortly before my departure (approx. 2-3 weeks in advance), I only received feedback from the student dormitory, from which I could see that I was relatively far behind on the waiting list. So I judged my chances of getting a place there relatively quickly as very low. Accordingly, I looked for flat shares on the usual suburban housing and flat share brokerage sites craigslist.com and kijiji.com. Fortunately, I found what I was looking for relatively quickly, so that I was able to live in a fairly central location in Nanaimo with a Canadian and a German. It took me about 10 minutes to get to the university by bike, but later on I took the bus quite often. Unfortunately, depending on the bus route, the buses only run 1-2 times an hour and are not always the most punctual, after all, Nanaimo is a real small town. So you should definitely always include a small buffer here.
On site I took the courses Financial Accounting II, Buyer Behavior and Human Resource Management. The courses were very interesting and required different workloads. First of all, it should be said that the university system in Canada is very different from the German system. At the VIU, the courses with 30-60 students are significantly smaller than in Münster. In addition, several midterms are written per semester, as well as a final exam. There are also further assignments, quizzes, lectures, group projects, etc. But that all sounds more than it is. Although you have a lot to do and you should be aware of that beforehand, the level is well below that in Germany and there is still enough time to travel and get to know the country and its people.
The campus is located above Nanaimo, so you have a wonderful view of the sea and the mountains from the campus. The campus houses the student dormitory, a cafeteria, the library with integrated Starbucks, a bookstore, a students pub and the sports hall with a free gym for students. In the case of the campus, it should be said that the way from room to room could take a little longer, as there are a lot (!) Of stairs on the campus.
Living and Traveling in Canada
The Living in Canada I liked totally good! The people are all extremely nice and helpful. This is already clear at the university, the professors are all very keen to find you, so that there was much closer contact with them than in Germany.
Nanaimo itself doesn’t have too much to offer, as the city with around 90,000 inhabitants is much smaller than Münster. However, Nanaimo was a very good starting point for any trips and journeys. Vancouver Island is beautiful and you could enjoy the breathtaking nature every day. The University’s Outdoor Rec organizes some trips that are definitely recommended. Register early, they are booked out very quickly! With the Outdoor Rec, for example, I went to Tofino to surf for three days at the beginning of the semester. That was amazing!
Otherwise we drove to the Juan de Fuca Trail, Victoria and many other beautiful spots on the island. All hiking trips (for example on Mount Benson), trips to the neighboring islands or, for example, stand up paddle board sessions at the next lake are available even in the immediate vicinity.
We were also very often in Vancouver – I really liked the city. You can reach Vancouver either by ferry (approx. 1 hour 40 minutes + bus rides) or directly from Nanaimo by seaplane (20 minutes). I would recommend the seaplane flight to everyone, it’s amazing!
My absolute travel highlights were the Canadian Rockies with the Banff and Jasper National Park, as well as Whistler, north of Vancouver, with the surrounding national parks, the west coast of the USA and a trip to Hawaii at the end of the semester.
As you can see, there is so much to explore that you don’t want to stop talking and, above all, you don’t even want to fly home at the end of the semester.
The semester abroad was a very valuable experience – it was a really great time that I am already missing. I was able to make many international contacts within a very short time and to develop personally. At the university I was able to take a lot of interesting topics with me, which gave me a completely different insight into university topics. Not to be forgotten are the many great trips that you could do with a wide variety of people.
I can therefore recommend a semester abroad at VIU to everyone. But be aware in advance that you will meet some Germans there, that you have to spend a lot of money on university books and that you can not only travel, but also do something for the university during the week.