When I started thinking about a semester abroad in spring 2017, it was clear to me from the start that I wanted to go to Canada. I had already heard great things about the landscape and the people from friends and was definitely not disappointed. The main reasons why I chose Capilano University in North Vancouver were the recreational opportunities and the breathtaking landscape of British Columbia.
The preparations were made a lot easier thanks to the support of the MicroEDU Team. I was told exactly when I had to submit which documents, and they were forwarded to the Canadian university through MicroEDU. Even during my stay abroad, employees of the team were always available and responded quickly, which I really appreciated. Thus, both the preparation and the actual semester abroad went smoothly and uncomplicated. Thank you very much again, you helped me a lot both before my departure and during my studies.
But now to the actual stay abroad: I had really high expectations of Vancouver and the west coast of Canada in general, and these expectations were even exceeded. Vancouver is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer – especially for people who like to spend time outdoors. I already knew that Vancouver is expensive, but it is definitely possible to find cheaper bars, restaurants and supermarkets (for example NoFrills or Superstore). What surprised me the most was the food pricesin the supermarkets, which are very much higher than German prices – but groceries are not only more expensive than usual in Vancouver. Then I was prophesied in advance by many Canadians that it “rains constantly” in Vancouver, which is why Vancouver is also jokingly called Raincouver. Maybe I was lucky this year, but when I lived here the sun was shining almost continuously until mid-November, the climate was pleasantly mild and there were only a few days on which it rained now and then. Only the last weeks of November up to my departure were mostly stormy and rainy.
I lived in downtown, I already found my accommodation (GEC VIVA) in Germany via the Internet. Because I flew to Canada in July to go on a road trip of several weeks through Alberta’s national parks, I decided to organize the accommodation in good time. Since I’ve lived in the country or in small towns all my life, I wanted to experience what it is like to live in a big city. For this I accepted a 40-minute bus ride to the university several times a week. The bus connections in Vancouver are pretty good, so that wasn’t a problem for me.
I can mostly recommend my accommodation, our apartment was large, the kitchen was well equipped and staff were available around the clock for questions / complaints or the like. However, the accommodation was definitely not the cheapest option, I think a room with a host family would definitely be cheaper. I was lucky enough to share my apartment with two wonderful roommates. We got along incredibly well spontaneously and were like a small family. My roommates played a big part in making my semester abroad so perfect. Then you have the opportunity to meet great people from all over the world on the university’s introductory days to get to know, which means you can build up a small circle of friends right from the start.
The university is beautifully located, namely in a small forest on the land of the First Nations Natives. The university is well equipped, both technically and in terms of the cafeteria. You can choose from Subway, Tim Hortons, a salad bar, burgers and even a Fairtrade café, plus there are microwaves for your own food. There is nice seating everywhere, both inside and outside, and the library is also a popular lounge.
I took three courses at university: Social Theory (SOC 101 01), Political Ideologies (POL 111 01) and Dream and Reinvention in African American Literature (ENGL 109 02). I already knew from friends who studied in North America that the level here was a little lower than in most European universities, but was still surprised at how easy it was to study at CapU. Although the courses were more complex and you had to complete several small tests, essays and presentations during the semester, the course content was very simple and it seemed to me that the lecturers did not have too high expectations of the students. What I liked a lot was the way the teachers and us students interacted with each other who was very familiar and relaxed. The lecturers tried very hard to answer questions, to provide assistance and seemed generally committed and motivated. Unfortunately, the course books are very expensive in North America, but there is a book flea market at the beginning of the semester, where students sell their used books for less.
Leisure and outdoor activities
Fortunately, the relatively easy semester allowed me to do a lot and explore Vancouver’s surroundings. Since me and my friends love to be outside, we took trips to Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton on a couple of weekends to hike and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. These weekend trips were definitely one of the highlights of my stay in British Columbia.
In Vancouver, too, it is very easy to “escape” the hustle and bustle of the city. According to anycountyprivateschools, North Vancouver (where the university is also) has great hiking opportunities and parks, most of which are accessible by bus. If you don’t want to rent a car, there are also great ride-sharing or car-sharing options (for example Poparide, evo car, car2go, etc.) and in summer so-called park buses go to the more well-known parks (for example to the trailhead of the hike to Garibaldi Lake, Joffre Lakes, St Marks Summit and so on). Downtown there is the world-famous Stanley Park, which is unbelievably wild and large and in which it is easy to forget that you are in a metropolis.
Then of course you can also take great trips to Bowen Island or Vancouver Island, both are lovely islands that make you feel like you are very, very far from the city, even though they are so easily accessible. And then of course many major US cities are relatively easy and inexpensive to reach from Vancouver.
I also found the tourist district of Gastown to be particularly beautiful with great bars, restaurants and a very special atmosphere. So Vancouver became a second home for me incredibly quickly, even if, of course, over time you get a look behind the facades and see that Vancouver is not only a multicultural city surrounded by mountains and sea, but (like any other city) its downsides and has negative aspects.
Work on a horse farm
Since I wanted to take full advantage of the six-month residence permit, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money in the last month until mid-January, I decided to work as a volunteer as a so-called “workaway” on a horse farm in the Okanagan Valley. I can only recommend this to anyone who would like to get to know Canada in a different, more personal way and who likes to work with animals. Life on a farm in the mountains is a wonderful contrast to studying in Vancouver and the perfect way to end these brilliant, adventurous six months in Canada.
All in all, this semester was a complete success with countless moments that I will never forget and for which I am so grateful. Again, many, many thanks to MicroEDU for helping me and making this all possible. I would highly recommend any outdoor enthusiast to come to Vancouver. You will meet great people, go to beautiful places and have great new experiences!