27. March 2019 | Von Michelle Liesch 

Nanaimo, what a ride! – A Retrospective

In December 2018, I left Vancouver Island after finishing my semester abroad in Canada at the VIU. Now almost 4 months later I’m sitting here writing my last blog post and wondering what I haven’t told you readers yet!
It’s been quite a ride, so today I will try to reflect on all of it and deliver my final conclusion about the University but also about the destination Nanaimo City.

Nanaimo, what a ride! – A Retrospective

First of all, I asked some of my fellow Macromedia students to give me some feedback about their experiences in their semester abroad in Nanaimo. I asked them to tell me how they liked the course selection by the Macromedia university, how they liked the Campus of VIU and the professors and to rate how they liked Nanaimo itself.

From the design department, I got feedback that most students were not satisfied with the course selection given by Macromedia. The VIU has an enormous number of different classes involving design, for example illustration or packaging design. Unfortunately, the course schedule selected by Macromedia only included 3 design related subjects and 2 business subjects, one of which was supposed to be our „Lehrprojekt “. After many complaints from our side to the responsible department at Macromedia we finally got the permission to swap one of the business subjects for an Illustration class.
In the management department, there was a similar dissatisfaction. Many management students have let me known that especially their marketing class included an enormous amount of work with little time left for any extra curriculums or free time in general. After complaining about it to the Macromedia head offices they were told that everyone would feel overwhelmed at first but they would „get used to it “. Don’t get me wrong here! Everyone did get more used to it after a while but I do feel like the students could have been more informed about the kind of workload that awaited them in Nanaimo. As intense as the Semester might seem to you now, I want to assure you that you will learn so incredibly much in that semester at VIU that, looking back now, I am very glad I did it and worked my way through it!

In general, the workload was much higher than what we were used from Macromedia. The system in Canada works a lot with homework and extra work that has to be prepared before each class. With 5 classes this leaves you with homework for every day of the week plus preparation for tests and final projects that need to be realized, there isn’t really a ton of time to also explore the island or go on a road trip over the weekend. The general feedback given to me by students was that they would like to be more included in the subject selection or at least know what kind of subjects Macromedia is going to apply for before signing up for an university. This information can be found in the Macromedia portal. I would suggest that you inform yourself before hand if the offered classes at VIU are what you’d expect from your semester abroad and definitely go to the events that are held beforehand at Macromedia, and ask the responsible contact persons to tell you more about the schooling style in Canada. And very important: If you aren’t happy with your course selection contact Macromedia as quick as possible so that a solution can be found.

Nevertheless, most students were very satisfied with the professors and the course material. The professors were in general very motivated and were eager to offer help or advise about projects. The atmosphere at VIU was also very open and friendly. The student body as well as the staff were all nice and helpful, all in the spirit of the friendly country of Canada. Even after the school was shook by the suicide of one of their students, the community at VIU offered a lot of help and consolation to those who were hurting. In general, VIU and Vancouver Island seemed like a very liberal and open-minded community, that is welcoming to everyone who is new. Some students even told me that they received psychological attention from a university counselor and that they really appreciated the opportunity to be on such a big campus where you can receive such care and help. The huge number of clubs and sport activities offered by VIU were also highly appreciated by most Macromedia students as well as the excursions organized by VIU. Unfortunately, the excursions and activities such as kayak lessons were booked out very quickly (2 days after the bookings were opened) so here my advice is to be quick and sign up for as much as possible and then cancel if you can’t go. In the schooling fees, there was also a free Gym membership included which was on the campus and open 24 hours 7 days a week!

Speaking of schooling fees, there is a pretty high fee which comes with signing up for VIU. If you are interested to go to Canada for your semester abroad, you should know that there will be more to pay than just the fee. With flights, rent, books and little road trips in between you can reach a total of 10’000 euros spend in those 4 months. Of course, this isn’t an exact prediction and you can always save money in some ways but living on the island has its cost.

I also got the feedback that the city of Nanaimo wasn’t what they had expected from the brochures and info material given by Macromedia. As I already mentioned in my last post, Nanaimo does not offer you the big city life, it is a quite small city on the island with not much to show except for the huge university and the vast nature that surrounds it. Only about 2 hours south you’ll find Victoria which is a much nicer looking old city, where you have a lot more shopping opportunities and more nightlife. Sadly, there is not much affordable public transport from Nanaimo to Victoria but there are ride share apps and Facebook groups that connect people who need a ride with those who have one. The bad public transportation on the island makes it hard for students to travel around without a car or a big budget, and can make you feel a little sealed off. My advice: find people at the university that have cars or see if you can use the ride share apps.

Overall it seems like some students came to Nanaimo with the wrong expectations concerning the City itself or the different workload and schooling style. In Future, I hope that the students going to Nanaimo will read this and know not to expect a big city but a smaller city with A LOT of outdoor and nature filled activities to offer. Besides I hope that Macromedia will try it’s best to clear out any uncertainties among students so that everyone can enjoy their semester abroad as much as me. Also I strongly advice students to inform themselves more about Nanaimo and its surroundings beforehand and definitely go to the offered events and talk to your predecessors.
For myself, Nanaimo was the perfect choice! I had an amazing learning experience, very competent professors and access to one of the most prestige natural areas in Canada.

So in short, what do we know about Nanaimo:

  • Small city
  • Big Campus
  • Friendly, open people
  • Not many bus connections
  • A lot of outdoor activities
  • Not a lot of shopping
  • Expensive rent
  • Big workload
  • A lot of new experiences!
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