Alongside settling in to living abroad, I was thrown into the Canadian education system simultaneously which hasn’t proved to be always easy.
It would have been so helpful to have known more about the university system here before arriving so this post is to try help anyone thinking about coming to Canada to study. Please also bare in mind that the situation also varies on what your department at your home university say, ultimately what you are do is up to them
In Canada they have 4 year degree’s, they start a year earlier than we do in England. I am in my second year at home which technically means my third year in Canada. However this isn’t strict. My home university told me to apply to third year courses, so I did what I was told! However when I arrived and spoke to other exchange students I realised the majority didn’t do third year modules and if they did they only took only a few. When choosing your classes try ask your home department if there is any flexibility over what modules you do. I know I found doing all third year modules tough when I got here so having the opportunity to do second year modules eases the workload slightly. The biggest benefit however is that it gives you more choice. I changed two of my modules to second year ones and find them so much more interesting than the ones I was on before. You may not be allowed to change but it is worth asking just so you know all of your options. I know for the University of Ottawa they don’t really mind which modules you take as long as your home university accept them. Reading said I had to do 5 modules but I know that some other English universities let you do 4. My advice is keep your options open and just be prepared for any changes you may have to make.
Leading from this, you might want to wait a week or so before buying course material. Here at UOttawa some courses require a ‘course pack’. This is a book of photocopied articles, chapters etc that your Professor puts together for you to buy but as its not a book, it is non-refundable. I only lost about $30 like this, which I know isn’t much but I hate wasting money!
Choose your modules as soon as possible, I stupidly waited too long which meant although I got most of my preferred modules, I didn’t get them all.
The workload between England and Canada varies enormously, a lot more than I was expecting. Here I have 15 hours per week, at home I will have around 6. The work is a lot less independent in Canada with the Professor telling you the expected reading each week which is enough in itself to keep you VERY busy. Perhaps I am supposed to be doing the same amount of reading at home but I don’t know of anyone who actually does. At home for each module I am on average assessed by one piece of coursework due at the end of term and an exam taken in the Summer term. Here each module is assessed by around 4 components, which can be mid term exams, research essays, source analysis, amongst many others. Quite honestly I am struggling with the workload. Now that my assignment deadlines are in full force I struggle to finish my assignments let alone look at my weekly readings. Work is easier here in that apart from for research essays you are told what to read and that will be perfectly sufficient for you to succeed whereas at home you are just pointed in the right direction and left to it. Apart from that it is pretty heavy going. That is why I recommend making sure you’re on your preferred modules because it makes the work a lot easier. What makes the work difficult is that at home you have little to focus your attention on so you put a lot of effort into one assignment. Here, you have lots of assignments which you try to put that same level of effort into each one, which just isn’t possible.
In my case I have a lot longer term than at home. Here I have a 15 week term, well I guess that includes the exam period at the end. In Reading I have a 10 week term. I guess you can think that abroad you’re getting your moneys worth out of your university fees!
There is a silver lining however!
In my experience so far I have been getting far better marks than I do at home. These have to be converted into your home university marking system which in my case knocks marks off but even considering this, my marks are A LOT better than I would normally get. I am hoping this continues. It certainly makes all the hard work SO worth it!