University of Victoria Peter P. Gustavson School of Business. Fall Term 2015 Exchange Report

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1 University of Victoria Peter P. Gustavson School of Business Fall Term 2015 Exchange Report

2 Introduction I was extremely happy with my decision to spend my exchange semester at University of Victoria in western Canada. It provided opportunities to travel to places that I might never otherwise visit and meet a lot of people who have a similar mindset of enjoying student life with each other. Also getting to know Canadian culture and local people was an eye-opening experience in many ways. Preparing for the exchange Preparing for the semester abroad went very smoothly for me but there are certain things that should be taken into account, although they might seem obvious for most people. If you have any doubts or problems, don t hesitate to send an to the exchange coordinators at the host university who are really helpful and give clear answers to your questions. Needed documents: - Course Preferences: You will be asked to fill in a course preference list and send it to the exchange coordinators. The courses that you can choose from will be given to you simultaneously. - Exchange Student Application Form: You will be asked to fill in a form with your basic information. It is important you do not miss the deadline. - Photo of Yourself: Along with the application you have to send a passport-style photo of yourself. A photo taken with your smartphone is just fine. Other documents to take into account: - Housing application: You will get information about how to apply for campus housing as an exchange student. If you wish to live on campus (which I highly recommend) pay close attention to these instructions so you will not miss your chance. I will discuss this more later in the report. - ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization): If you wish to travel through or to the US you will need a traveling permission. You can find more information about this from the Finnish Foreign Ministry s website. This costs less than 20 euros and does not take too long to complete online. - Credit Card: Debit cards do not work in most places in Canada so credit card is something that is definitely needed in North America. - Scholarship from Aalto and KY: Remember to apply for both scholarships. Victoria is located in Vancouver Island, which means you will have to choose between a ferry and a plane to get there from Vancouver. It is also possible to fly from Seattle straight to Victoria. Most people flew to Vancouver and took the ferry from there to Victoria because it is cheaper but on the other hand it is probably not the most pleasant journey. You will have to travel with your luggage by train and bus to the harbor in Vancouver and by bus from Victoria harbor to downtown Victoria. I flew with Icelandair through Reykjavik and Vancouver to Victoria on my way there.

3 Victoria harbor Exchange studies Our mandatory orientation started on the 3 rd of September and the actual lectures started next Monday on the 7 th of September. The classes ended already on the 4 th of December but the exam period was all the way to the 21 st of December. However, my final exam was already on the 11 th of December and to my knowledge most of the other business exchange students had their final exams around that time too. Unfortunately you cannot be absolutely sure about the exam dates until about two months before the exam period. Courses In general, the courses were more interactive and involved more presentations than what you might be used to at Aalto. I think I spent more time on preparing for presentations than studying for exams. However, you should not be too scared because there aren t presentations that often and most of them are with a big group of people. Usually there are a lot of people whose English is not very good so no need to be ashamed even if yours is not perfect. On the other hand, not that much studying was required to get decent grades from the midterms and final exams. A typical final exam could just be multiple questions and one short written answer. All the courses available were for 6 ECTS so having five courses added up to 30 ECTS which was needed to complete the exchange semester requirement.

4 In my opinion the course selection was wide enough. In the fall term a lot of the courses involved strategy and management. If you are looking to study accounting or finance here it might not be the best choice since there were not many choices at least during the fall term. As an undergraduate student I was allowed to only take undergraduate courses but that was not a problem since most of the courses offered were for undergraduates. Compared to Aalto, there are more interaction during lectures, and the professors usually know you by name. In addition there are more presentations and group projects during the semester which I found interesting and useful since we do not work much with the international students at Aalto. I found the written midterms and final exams much easier than back home. All courses are of course in English. Strategic Management COM 400 This was probably my favorite course although it was also the most demanding. It included an online industry simulation where you competed with your company against other companies consisting of student groups. The topics included business and corporate strategy, industry analysis and management theories. The Indian professor was very passionate and excited about what he was teaching. Legal Issues in Management COM 402 This course was held by an English professor who stood out from the other professors because he was very organized and did not demand much interaction during the lectures. Studying Canadian law might not be too useful to you but if you are interested in it, why not. It helps understand the differences between business law in continental Europe and the UK or Canada. This course included a moot exercise which meant you could be a judge, defendant or plaintiff in court, which was a fun and interesting experience. International Environment of Business IB 301 Probably the easiest course that I took at Uvic. We had a young Polish professor who lectured about basic management principles and theories that you probably have already heard about. However, it was good to look back at things from a more international point of view since we had a lot of examples from multinational corporations and their strategies. The course contained two group projects, a midterm and a final exam. International Marketing IB 416 This course was not too demanding either since it did not involve any written exams. We had two group presentations and in class exercises that had to be handed in during classes. The course went through the most important topics in international marketing such as key account management, distribution and successful market entry. The Chinese professor was not always easy to understand but she was extremely nice and helpful. Canadian Business Environment COM 390 Almost all the exchange students took this course since it was recommended. It contained information about Canada s economy and its problems as well as history of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. For some reason we also studied some basic management theories, such as Porter s five forces, that have already been covered in

5 management courses. The course involved a couple group projects as well as a midterm and a final exam. I thought it was interesting to learn about Canada s economy and its history. The lecturer was a Peruvian woman who was also very passionate about what she taught us. View from Mt. Douglas, close to the university campus Accommodation and other expenses Accommodation It is important to notice that the university does not guarantee accommodation for exchange students. There are basically three options that the university offers: 1. Cluster residences on campus 2. Dormitory residences on campus 3. Living with a Canadian host family When applying for cluster or dormitory residences you will be placed in a lottery system which determines if you will get the place or not. The local first-year students have a guaranteed place and unfortunately there are not enough residences for everyone else applying so some people have to find a place from the private market. In my opinion the cluster residences are by far the best option since you will have your own room and a shared kitchen and bathrooms. You would be living with three other students and in many cases they are exchange students as well. For many exchange students their roommates became their best friends during the exchange semester. Living in a cluster costed about 500 euros per month.

6 The 2 nd option you can apply for is the dormitory residence. There you will not have a kitchen so you have to buy the university meal plan to eat in the university cafeterias. From what I heard the food is not very good in those places where you can use the meal plan. In addition the dormitory residencies are full of first-year students and they get extremely noisy especially during the weekends. A few people also lived with a Canadian host family. This might be a good way to get to know the Canadian culture better but the experience depends a lot on the family you live with. In case you don t get a place in the university residences you can of course always try to find a place from the private housing market. In any case you should be prepared to do this because the results of the lottery might take a long time. Some people found out just a few weeks before the semester started if they got the residence place they applied for or not. You can communicate with other incoming exchange students on Facebook and find out if others are in a similar situation and are looking for roommates in the private market. Other expenses In general, the cost of food similar to Finland. Dairy products cost more but for example meat is a bit cheaper. One should notice that local grocery stores are significantly more expensive than larger ones such as Walmart or Save-On-Foods. I personally used Save-On-Foods since it was closer to campus, about 10 minute bus ride away. Students from Aalto don t have to pay for the school itself but textbooks do cost more than they in Finland. Not all the books need to be purchased since some can be found as e-books online or shared with your course mate. In some courses you might also get away with not buying the books at all. I had to buy two books but I managed to sell them to other students at the end of the semester. There is also a sports center with a big gym, basketball courts and a climbing wall very close to campus. The cost of this for one semester is approximately 100 Canadian dollars, and you can buy it together with the card for student public transportation in Victoria. Free time In my opinion it was quite easy to get to know other exchange students during the semester since everybody is in the same situation willing to travel and have fun. However, I recommend being active and participating to all the activities especially in the first month or so to get to know people. We had a getaway weekend trip organized for the exchange students in the beginning of the semester where I got to know a lot of people. Not all the exchange students were there so it is not a problem if you cannot attend this trip. My cluster roommates were my closest friends, and I spent more and more time with them as the semester passed. If you are an athletic person, there are a lot of opportunities to do sports. The nature around the campus and Victoria is beautiful for walking and running. There is also a small mountain close to the campus where you can hike and see a wonderful view of the whole city. The sports center which I mentioned earlier offers a lot of indoor and outdoor activities. There are big soccer and lacrosse fields outside where you usually don t need a reservation to play at with your friends. There was also a possibility of drop-in hockey at an arena close to the

7 campus. However, you could not rent your own hockey gear from there. I played in a soccer team organized by the exchange students that took part in a league against other Uvic teams. Probably my favorite part of the whole semester was traveling. Being on the west coast of Canada, next to the US, there are a lot of places you can travel where you perhaps would not travel from Europe. First of all, Vancouver Island, where Victoria is located, is a very beautiful place which you should definitely discover by car for example. In northern part of the Island there is a village called Tofino, which is famous for its surfing beaches. If you are interested in surfing, or trying it for the first time, I highly recommend visiting the place. Waikiki beach, Honolulu, Hawaii Vancouver is also a great city with only a two-hour ferry ride away so a lot of students traveled there once or twice during the semester. There you can for instance watch the Vancouver Canucks play hockey in the NHL. Seattle was also a popular city to visit as well as the Rocky Mountains. I myself traveled to Las Vegas for a long weekend and drove with a couple friends around Nevada and California. I also spent my reading break in Hawaii, which was a very popular place for the exchange students to travel in November. We visited both Ohua Island and Maui during the week. The semester goes very quickly so it is a good idea to start planning your reading break or spring break as early as possible. The weather in Victoria can be compared to central or southern European weather, it was cold only in December and it never got below 0 degrees. I heard that the locals haven t seen it snowing in the city for years. The weather can change very quickly though and it rains every once in a while. It might feel like summer in the morning with sun shining and fall a few hours later with heavy rain, so bring your rain jacket with you.

8 Final comments I definitely recommend University of Victoria as an exchange destination. The local people are extremely nice and the location is great for traveling. As Europeans we could definitely learn a lot about how being kind to each other can have a positive impact on someone else s day. Some of the courses are not academically very useful but on the other hand others are definitely interesting. It was also a great chance to improve the language and presentation skills. I also learned that the education in Aalto is similar and good enough for one to do well in another university on the other side of the world. The most important experience of course is to get to know new people from all around the world and share a memorable semester with them. I will definitely keep in touch with them and hopefully meet some of them again soon.

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