1 GUIDELINES FOR WRITING THE EXPERIENCE REPORT Please write this report in English The student report will be published on the: Study Abroad website (under Experiences from partner universities) "Study Abroad Information" TiSEM Blackboard page (course code FEBSAI) TiSEM students exchange blog Liberal Arts and Sciences students blogs Please let us know if you do not want your report to be published. ANR: Name: Ilona de Kooter Exchange semester: Fall 2013 Academic year: 3 rd year Host University: University of Waterloo Country: Canada I GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE SCHOOL The University of Waterloo is situated in the city Kitchener-Waterloo. Compared to Toronto, which is an hour and a half away by bus from Kitchener- Waterloo, it is a much smaller and more rural kind of city. However, that doesn t necessarily mean that it s dull. It is a very student oriented city because of the University of Waterloo that is situated there together with the Wilfrid Laurier University, which can both be found in the Waterloo part of the city. Next to the University of Waterloo you can find the University Plaza. Basically, it is a big square with many food joints, restaurants, and convenience stores and for students it comes in very handy every now and then. The bars in Kitchener-Waterloo, were a 30 minute walk away from university and you could very easily get there by bus. There are a lot of different bars so there is something for everyone. In uptown Waterloo, you could also find many nice restaurants and when it started to get colder you could ice-skate there. I haven t really been to downtown Kitchener but that area was seen as a better place to do some shopping and you also had the Kitchener market there. Another market that was very close to Kitchener-Waterloo was the St. Jacobs Market. Here you could buy vegetables, fruits, and other products for a price that was much lower than at the supermarket and you could get larger quantities. The university itself is probably 3x bigger than Tilburg University so it might take you some time to get from one side of the campus to the other side. There are also several university colleges that are part of the University of Waterloo such as Saint- Jerome university college and Renison university college, which are situated on the outskirts of the university itself. At these university colleges most of the lecture groups are smaller compared to the lecture groups at the university itself. However, in numbers even those small classes were somewhere around students, which was not what I was used to because my own lectures at Tilburg consist of 15 students. All the other faculties are distributed all across campus and it might take a bit of time before you are used to the structure of the university. The sports center is also located on campus and it is therefore fairly easy to go to the gym after you have finished your classes or when you have some time in between. In the center of campus, you will find the Student Life Center (SLC) and this is where the magic happens so to speak. Here you will find many students who grab a bite to eat or who just socialize with each other, some people actually try to study there, which I admired because it was a very noisy environment, and sometimes
2 there were academic events that took place there. Situated within the SLC you will find the university bar, called the Bomb shelter or also Bomber as it is referred to by the students. On Wednesday nights there are parties that are held there for the students and some of them are very well visited. The first Bomber Wednesday I went to, which was the first Bomber Wednesday of the year, resulted in a queue of maybe an hour before I could actually enter the bar. Other Wednesdays, however, you could just walk in without having to wait too long. The biggest event in Kitchener-Waterloo that I went to was the Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a huge deal over there and they try to make it as festive as possible with parades and nights full of beer. The event lasted for a week and you could get tickets for every night if you wanted to. There were multiple bars a night where you could spend the remainder of your night drinking beer and trying to capture the essence the German beer drinking spirit. I would definitely recommend to go with your friends if you re there when it takes place because it is a lot of fun. People are dancing, singing, and alcohol flows richly. Furthermore, there were also movie cinemas, theatres, malls, shops, and restaurants in Kitchener- Waterloo so there is enough to do. However, if you are really looking for the urban experience and some ultimate shopping, it s best to go to Toronto which is, as I mentioned before, only an hour and a half away. What Kitchener-Waterloo also has to offer, is the chance to experience an icehockey game for a relatively low price. This means that even those among us who are not huge sport fans, like myself, can experience a game without feeling guilty if they do not enjoy it as much as the people they are with. The aspect that I experienced as different in Waterloo compared to Tilburg, was that there are not a lot of bars with terraces in Waterloo. In Tilburg it is so very common that you sit outside on the terrace of a bar and drink a couple of drinks with your friends and you don t have that in Kitchener-Waterloo. The only bar in my experience that has a terrace is the Bomber. At the University of Waterloo, the curriculum is divided in three terms, Fall, Winter, and Spring, and each of these terms lasts about 3,5-4 months. Students can choose to do all the three terms of the year but most of them don t. All of the regular students are also obliged to follow a co-op term, which can be seen as an equivalent to an internship, each year. As exchange students you don t usually come in contact with a co-op term since you are usually there to follow several courses at the university. For the courses, it is possible that you have class and labs, which are basically work groups, every week for some courses, whereas for other courses you might only have lectures. You usually have multiple lectures of a course per week and depending on whether you have labs, some of your days might be pretty full. The University of Waterloo has many different faculties, some of which we don t have at Tilburg. The faculties that they have are the Applied Health Sciences faculty, the Arts faculty, the Engineering faculty, The Environment faculty, the Mathematics faculty, and the Science faculty. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, there are also different university colleges that are attached to the University itself. Those colleges are Conrad Grebel University College, Renison University College, St. Jerome s University, and St. Paul s University College. The University is quite large. In 2012 there were full-time and parttime undergraduate students and 5100 full-time and part-time graduate students. 12% of those undergraduate students and 34% of the graduate students were international students. So, the international community is quite large. II PRACTICAL INFORMATION Information before you left I didn t experience any trouble with the amount of time that I had between my pre-arrival information and the date that I actually left. I was able to arrange
3 everything on time and even if I did experience difficulties, I could always the international office or other departments of the university in Waterloo and I would receive an in a fairly short amount of time. Visa procedure and arrival Luckily for me, Dutch citizens don t have to arrange a visa if they plan to stay in Canada for less than 6 months. So that is what I did and it saved me a lot of paperwork, a lot of money and the general hassle involved in obtaining a visa. However, if you want to work in Canada while you re there you do have to get a work visa. Just as we have at our university, the University of Waterloo also had arrival days. What this meant was that there were 2 days on which buses from the university would come and pick people up at the airport of the Toronto. Besides the fact that this service was very convenient, it was also for free. Because my friend and I flew with Iceland air to get to Canada we were able to bring two suitcases instead of one. And the advantage of going with this bus instead of the regular public transportation in that regard was that we were also allowed to put our two suitcases on the bus, whereas with normal public transportation you are only allowed to bring one suitcase. Furthermore, it is also not necessarily a problem if you arrive earlier than the actual arrival days because you can always spend a couple of days in Toronto and go back to the airport for the actual arrival days. What was also great about the arrival days, was that there was an international student booth where they gave you a free Rogers sim-card, so you already had a Canadian number, and they allowed you to make a phone call to anyone by courtesy of Rogers, one of the providers in Canada. Moreover, they also provided you with some additional information about Toronto, which is always handy, and they told you where to wait for the busses. Everything at the airport concerning the arrival days went pretty smoothly. Furthermore, my friend and I were even able to get a seat on an earlier bus to Waterloo, but in the end the bus after that almost arrived at the same time as the bus we took so it didn t save us any time. This also indicates that you need to be aware that there might be some delay in your arrival time. This is important to take into consideration when you plan a meeting with your landlord or lady to get into your house or when you have accommodation at WCRI. The reception at the school was fine. They had a general meeting with all the exchange students so that you were able to meet some of the people who were in a similar spot as you. I have to admit that most of the people that I became friends with I met either that first day or in the residence where I lived. During orientation week, they had two different types of orientations; one was for the exchange students and one was for the regular students. The first day that our orientation week began, I was a bit confused as to where you needed to register for the event and some of the students who helped out during the event also didn t really know what to tell me most of the time and that was a bit frustrating. They told you to go to all these different places, and the people there would send you back to the building you just come from. However, in the end I was able to find the spot where the presentation for the exchange students was held, it just took me more time than the regular students. So keep that in mind that the staff might not always be as aware
4 of what is going on with regard to exchange students. Besides the problem I mentioned above, I did not really experience any problems in the organization. However, there were some disappointments that were attached to the introduction week that we were offered. A lot of the social events were meant for the regular students and we, as exchange students, could not participate since we hadn t paid for the introduction week. Therefore, most of the activities that we took part in were concerned with sitting in a classroom and listening to presentations. Although there is nothing wrong with getting the necessary information to start your exchange semester in Waterloo, it would have been nice if there were some more activities that we were allowed to participate in. Furthermore, because we didn t really have social activities we ended up in a situation in which we didn t even have to be at university most of the days of the orientation week, while all everybody wanted was to meet other students. Moreover, back in Tilburg we have I*ESN that organizes events for the international students during the TOP/TIK week and in Waterloo there was no such organization. So neither could you fall back on a student organization for activities. Fortunately, one of the exchange students who was there for two terms came up with the idea to found an association that would organize more events for the exchange students during the introduction week, and that idea was implemented in the Winter term of However, what the university does have is FEDS. The FEDS, organizes trips every now and then for students and you can meet many fellow students during those trips. Just as a side note though, after the whole experience that I had, I just want to say that I came to the realization that such organizations are nice but absolutely not necessary to meet people so do not feel threatened by that perspective. I lived in a student dorm with a lot of exchange students and I got to know most of them through the events that were organized within our own building or between the different buildings. Orientation/Introduction activities As I mentioned earlier, there was some sort of an introduction week and there were some activities that an exchange student could participate in but you can t compare it to what you may have experienced during TOP/TIK week, since during the introduction week in Waterloo you cannot join in with all the activities. Therefore, the introduction activities for exchange students mostly took place in a lecture hall. However, there is always the possibility to organize events yourself. Among the exchange students we had our own facebook page and in that way we contacted each other to organize events during the introduction week. The regular students in Waterloo had a different program during orientation week so you didn t really get the chance to talk to them during that particular week. There was one shared activity that you could go to and that was the opening of the term in the gym with cheerleaders and a lot of chanting from the audience. Furthermore, there were some open activities organized that you could decide to go to if you wanted and those were also for the regular students. So it wasn t the case that you couldn t meet any regular students at all. At Waterloo we didn t have mentors or buddies like we do in Tilburg. If you wanted to find out something about Kitchener-Waterloo, if you needed answers to practical problems or help with university application you could always contact the International Office and they could help you to get in contact with the right person.
5 Housing As an exchange student you could decide yourself whether you would live semioff campus at WCRI (Waterloo Co-operative Residence Inc.), the residence next to campus, or you could live off campus in a student house or an apartment. I chose for WCRI. This is basically the Canadian equivalent of verbs. It consists of several buildings and each building has three floors. Many of the exchange students live at WCRI and the reason for this is that it is not very expensive and it was given as a possible location to rent a room by the university, which meant that the quest for finding a room was relatively easy. Within WCRI, they make a differentiation in the duration of your stay and this will determine whether you ll be allotted a double room or a single room. When a student stayed for one term only, that person could only reserve a double room. So you have to keep in mind that if you are very opposed to sharing a room with someone else and you re only going to be in Waterloo for one term, it might be better for you to find other offcampus residence. Personally, I was very anxious about the prospect of sharing a room since it is not very common in the Netherlands and I had never done it before. However, after meeting my roommate and spending a substantial amount of time with her, I realized that it is not that awful at all you just have to find ways to compromise so that you keep each other s best interests in mind. I reserved my accommodation beforehand. A couple of months before the start of the term I received an from the University of Waterloo in which they mentioned WCRI and that it was possible to get residence there. They offered this instead of on-campus residence, which is not offered to students who are only there for the fall term. I immediately replied and got a room. The allotment of rooms is based on a first come first serve principle and if you want a room there it is important to reply as quickly as possible. Students who are at the university for only one term are not offered any residence on campus and WCRI, which is not part of the university, was the offer that they had for Fall term students and also other students. Of course it is also possible to find a house somewhere else in the city and there are enough tools provided by the university to aid you in that search. Another website that might come in handy in your search for off-campus housing is kijiji.ca. Besides its function as a search tool for housing, you can also use this website to find a second hand bike or other stuff you might be looking for. Its function can be compared best to Marktplaats.
6 I was satisfied with my accommodation. If you like a very international environment, WCRI might be something for you. There are always people there to talk to because you live with so many in one building and on one floor. Furthermore, most of the nights some events take place such as watching a movie or just having a nice night with drinks and food or there will be a party. However, you live with a lot of people on one floor and you share one kitchen so it might be that it s somewhat less clean than you might be used to but even that can be overcome and all the shared areas are cleaned twice a week so it cannot become too dirty. Living Costs I financed my exchange with money that I had saved up from previous jobs and by working two jobs during the summer. Furthermore, I used my Dutch studiefinanciering and I stopped my ov-chipcard which gives you approximately a 100 euros per month extra. My expenses were quite similar in Waterloo compared to Tilburg. The only things that I spent more money on in Waterloo compared to Tilburg were food and trips throughout Canada and even outside of Canada. I spent most of my money on trips that I went on throughout the term and of course a lot of your money you spend on food and drinks. Personally I believe that spending money on trips is a great idea. Being on exchange does not only concern itself with being in that specific city, it s about tasting more of the environment you re in and what better way to do it than by going on little roadtrips. Academic Calendar At the University of Waterloo the arrival date in my academic year was the 1 st of September which was followed up by the introductory week which lasted from the 2 nd of September until the 7 th of September. You don t have midterm breaks and the only extra days off that you get are with Thanksgiving and the couple of days between the last day of class and the start of the final exams, so that you can study. My lectures started the 9 th of September and ended the 2 nd of December. The exam period in my term was from the 5th of December until the 20th of December. Exchange promotion There were multiple opportunities in which you could promote an exchange to Tilburg University. At one point during the semester multiple presentations were given at different faculties each time to promote Tilburg. There was also an international market where all the different exchange students together with Waterloo
7 students who had been on exchange could promote the different destinations that Waterloo students could go to. In my case I got to work together on this event with other fellow students from Tilburg but also with a Waterloo student who had been on exchange to Tilburg. Social Activities One of the associations within the university is called FEDS, and this association organizes multiple activities throughout the semester for exchange students. The activities that I joined were a trip to Niagara Falls, a trip to an ice-hockey game of the local Kitchener Rangers, and a trip to Cambridge to watch the Santa Claus parade. Because the FEDS activities were mainly organized for exchange students and because I lived in a mostly international house I didn t have as much contact with Canadian students as I would have like. However, I did have one Canadian friend with whom I got along really well. Besides activities that are organized by the university it is of course also possible to organize your own events or trips. During my exchange I have been to different places with different people. One of the first weekends that I was there I went on a roadtrip to the Bruce Peninsula, a national park, with a couple of Dutch exchange students and a German exchange student. Bruce Peninsula is most definitely a beautiful area and absolutely worth a visit. Besides a roadtrip, I also went to New York and Montréal with the Greyhound bus service. Both cities are quite close, in Canadian terms, to Kitchener-Waterloo. Especially with New York so close by, I decided that I could not let this opportunity pass me by. It truly is a city that you have to see once in your life, if only to walk on Broadway and to see one of the musicals that are held there every night and to recognize some beautiful sights from movies that you have seen at some point in your life. Montréal was fun to visit since it is part of the French part of Canada and you really experience French influences in the architecture, they even have a cathedral that looks similar to the Notre Dame, and to experience the differences in atmosphere. In my opinion the people of Montréal were more relaxed and maybe even friendlier than the people in Kitchener-Waterloo. Besides trips to the USA and other cities in Canada, I also made a trip to Puerto Rico with my friends at the beginning of December. The idea behind it was to escape the cold, amongst other things, which we did but we ended up going in the rain season. So even though it was warm, sometimes even humid, it also rained a lot. Therefore, my advice would be if you decide to go to Puerto Rico to wait until after December because it might have stopped raining by then. The last trip I made before I went back to the Netherlands, was to Ottawa with my Canadian friend Julia. She invited me to spend some time with her at her parents house there and I was thrilled to join her. However, at that point it had already
8 started to get really cold with temperatures to -20, -30 in Ottawa which made the sightseeing a bit difficult since most of the time it was too cold to walk outside just for fun. Nevertheless, I had a great time in Ottawa and it is definitely worth it to see the capital of Canada and Ontario. The Greyhound bus services made most of my trips possible and they offer bus services to many other destinations besides the ones that I have just mentioned. The same goes for Megabus, which is sometimes cheaper than the Greyhound. So if you decide to travel, you should definitely look in to the destinations that these bus services offer you because it might be a somewhat cheaper way to go from place to place in Canada. Especially, if you are under 21 and therefore are not allowed to rent a car. Personal Development I think the exchange has made me even more aware of the many cultural differences that can exist between people than I already was because of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It has been an amazing experience. It has made me grow as a person because of the fact that I lived by myself for a couple of months without any of the usual people you tend to fall back on. You learn to realize what you can do and it helps you develop other abilities. It further strengthens your ability to communicate with others in a language that is not your own and which might be beneficial in your future career. A personal lesson that I learnt from my exchange, is that an education is important but it is also important to continue having fun in your everyday life and that it isn t such a bad idea to do something spontaneous every now and then such as a trip. During your exchange, you just go on a trip when you feel like it, whereas back home you tend to overthink something like that. What will always stay with me besides the life lessons that I ve learnt, is the people I ve met. It is funny how many people you meet in just a matter of months and how fast you can develop great friendships with them. III ACADEMIC INFORMATION Academic level at a host university At the university all of the courses that I followed were in English, which in my case is not necessarily a surprise since I was in the English part of Canada. Out of the four courses that I took, two were psychology courses, one a sociology course, and one was a course that was part of the sexuality, marriage, and family studies that was given at Waterloo. The two psychology courses that I followed were Physiological psychology and Psychopathology, the sociology course was Selected topics in Criminology, and my last course was Introduction in Human Sexuality. I enjoyed my course in psychopathology and human sexuality the most. The sociology course that I took had the lectures that were the most interesting to me because I had never followed a criminology course before and therefore most of the information was new to me. The course that I didn t really enjoy was physiological psychology and that was more because the lectures were not organized in such a way that they managed to grab your attention for very long. Personally, I thought that the workload at Waterloo was heavier because of the multiple midterms that you have and that the level of English was higher but this what I expected since it is one of the native languages of the country. However, I did feel that the examinations might be a bit easier than at Tilburg. For most of my courses I had multiple choice examinations and only for my sociology course did I have to write a paper and an open question examination and I also found this course the most difficult. In my case all my classes were theoretical but the University of Waterloo also offers courses in which practical skills are tested. However, this is not included in
9 every program and you might not be able to get into a more practical course because of the prerequisites that are attached to it. Description of Courses Course name: Prereq. Exam Course_level ECTS PSYCH 257 PSYCH 101/ MC Bachelor 6 Psychopathology 121R PSYCH 261 PSYCH 101/ MC Bachelor 6 Physiological psychology 121R SMF 204 None MC Bachelor 6 Intro to Human Sexuality SOC 229 SOC 101/ Written+ Bachelor 6 Selected Topics in 121R Paper Criminology Tips for the future students: I would recommend an exchange period to this university. It s a good university in Canada and it offers a lot of courses that might not necessarily be offered at Tilburg. All the lecturers that I had were friendly and tried to help you as best as they could to complete the course and to keep it interesting. Different forms of media, such as films and documentaries, were used in one of my courses and they were combined with real life experiences in a clinic which made the lectures a lot more interesting. I didn t have any problems at the University of Waterloo and I feel that it s as good a university as any other in Canada that I could go to. I would recommend an exchange semester at the University of Waterloo because the atmosphere at the university is great and there is always something to do. I would also recommend an exchange in general because it is just a valuable experience in which you get to learn and experience many things that you might not have experienced at home. A tip for students going on exchange from me would be to worry less about the destination you re going and more on the experience itself. Of course it is important for you in the begin stage to decide on where to go but do not get too fixated on the idea that the place will make or break your exchange because in the end it is all about what you make of it and how you plan to spend the time you have at a certain destination. So, don t be anxious but just enjoy it! If you read all the s that the university sends you and you them with the questions that you have, there should be now problems before you go to your exchange destination. And lastly, always check visa requirements and start early with that because obtaining the visa might take some time.
10 Contact details: My address, as mentioned, is and I can always be reached via this address. So if a future exchange student with destination Waterloo has any questions, I ll be more than willing to help.