I completed my studies at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo as a freemover, which offers the advantage of being able to choose a location that your home university does not offer. The winter semester at VIU begins in September and ends shortly before Christmas, so the times differ from those of many German universities, which in turn creates a time buffer that can be used for an internship or for traveling. According to Abbreviationfinder, VIU is the abbreviation of Vancouver Island University.
Based on the experiences of my fellow students and myself, I can assure you that the workload and the work-in-result-out ratio of the different courses vary greatly. For the statisticians among you: the interquartile range is extreme. For example, the “Intermediate Accounting (336)” course requires two submissions per week, each of which takes a few hours.
Most of the courses are not that extreme and you don’t have to worry, because several submissions are often required in the semester, but the workload is appropriate and the assessment in some courses is objectively too loose. On the positive side, the work is done in small groups and the professors are very helpful and offer regular consultation hours. But where there is light, there is also shadow. In this case, the compulsory attendance at VIU somewhat obscures the prospect of longer travel trips during the semester, although in special cases many professors are cooperative and a rare absence is tolerated.
If you want to explore the country extensively, it is best to arrive before the start of the semester to experience the great Canadian summer. Bathing in the ocean, various lakes, and cycling, canoeing or surfing tours are just a few of the ways you can spend your time in British Columbia. We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy blue skies and a temperature of around 25 degrees every day until October. From the end of October it got rather cold and humid, which is why a couple of friends and I used the long weekend around “Rememberance Day” to fly to San Francisco.
But Vancouver Island also offers great opportunities for discovery all year round, as the Canadian nature is very pristine and beautiful. There are various hiking trails that lead to very remote and special places that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
I advise you to stay a little longer in Canada after the end of the semester to try out the famous Canadian powder on the ski slopes. We went to Big White with a group over Christmas (the Greyhound is very cheap) and spent the Christmas days there. The ski area is highly recommended and the prices are a bit below German standards.
But now back to Nanaimo. In general, Nanaimo is not a real holiday destination, but rather a “transit point”. However, this is the big plus of Nanaimo because it is centrally located on Vancouver Island. Tofino, Victoria and Vancouver can be reached very quickly by Canadian standards, as Nanaimo is located in the middle of this triangle and the island itself has a lot to offer (in terms of landscape).
Every international student should try to get a place in the dormitory, as this is right next to the university and a large part of student life takes place here, which makes it easy to make (international) contacts quickly. In addition, the process is comparatively cheap and straightforward. However, you should be quick as places are limited. People who only stay for one semester are 99% likely to end up in a double room, but you shouldn’t be put off by this, as these are slightly larger than shown in the pictures and the advantages of living in the “residences” outweigh the advantages. Between the different buildings there is also a kind of sports competition in different disciplines, in which you can take part spontaneously.
In addition, the VIU provides a fitness studio directly on campus, which can be used free of charge, so that not only the mind but also the body stays fit. It is not advisable to take out a “meal plan”, as in my opinion the cafeteria is overpriced and does not really deliver in terms of quality. Sometimes you pay more for cafeteria dishes than for ordering pizza at Dominos.
To the Canadian culture can be adapted very quickly as a German, even if the great kindness is very unusual and irritating here first. It is common to say thank you to the bus driver and Canadians are usually very open and friendly. When driving a car, you have to pay attention to some special features (for example you stop at traffic lights further ahead). Fortunately, you don’t even need an international driver’s license, you can just take your German one with you. Furthermore, the supply and handling of alcohol in Canada are more restrictive (own “liquor stores”, higher age restrictions and no consumption in public).
Canadians appreciate nature and it is even more present, for example it is possible to come across a skunk in the middle of Vancouver or a bear on the country road.
The VIU has a high proportion of foreign students from different countries. For me, this also results in the greatest disadvantage of the VIU, because the proportion of Germans is so high that I unfortunately have to take away the illusion of interested readers that only English is spoken here the entire time. There are other Germans in pretty much every course. The advantage of this is that, in contrast to local students, most Germans still have a great enthusiasm for discovery and thus quickly find groups for different trips.