6. April 2017 | Von Julia Schuster 

“Oh Canada!” My time at Vancouver Island University

I am pretty much convinced that it won’t be possible to describe the best time of my life in only one page, nevertheless I’m gonna try and tell you more about my semester abroad at Vancouver Island University, Canada.

“Oh Canada!” My time at Vancouver Island University

First of all: VIU is not located on the main land or in Vancouver, but in the small town Nanaimo on an island that can be reached via a 2-hours- ferry ride. No worries though! The spectatcular landscape make each ferry ride an special experience and there is plenty to do on the island as well, so you probably won’t miss the big city too much!

Academic life

VIU is –for northamerican standards- a pretty small university. Nevertheless, on campus the students are provided with the students pub (every Wednesday there’s live music- great opportunity to meet up, even if it closes at midnight), the upper and the lower cafeteria (one sells baked goods and coffee, the other one hot meals, salads and snacks for a reasonable price, between 4 and 10 $ for a proper lunch), a big sports court, many many stairs (after you semester abroad you’ll be super fit!) and a well equipped gym. But the probably best part is the student recreation centre. VIU has an high interest to make sure the many international students do not only study, but also get to know Canada, its culture and Vancouver Island in particular, according to the universities’ official slogan “Love where you Learn!”

Amongst the many trips they offer are hiking trips in the mountains, surf trips to the small surfer town Tofino, guided tours to the big stadion in Vancouver for ice hockey and football games, yoga classes and many more. Compared to my friends’ experiences that went to other universities for their semesters abroad I dare say that VIU’s program for internationals is the crop of the top.

As for the academic life, it is sure different from Macromedia style. The work load is much higher, because there are not only mid-terms and finals to be written in every class, but also small tests, presentations to hold and mini projects that will eventually all count into your final mark. However, the level is below german standards, as some courses are designed to only refresh the high school knowledge of the Canadian students, so, there’s still no need to be nervous about your academics as everything is very much doable.

As I talk about Canadian students already:  another thing I really appreciated at VIU were the mixed classes and the fact, that macromedia students attend the regular courses everybody else does and don’t go to their own classes specially designed for international students. It is true that there are many many germans at VIU, together with Asian students they probably form the majority of internationals. However, it is up to you who you want to spend your time with! Canadians are very open and friendly, and it’s easy to form friendships with locals. I recommend to attend sport classes or maybe even join a team to mingle with them.


The living situation might be another thing you are concerned of. As you know you can either stay with a host family (450CAD/month), in the dorms (450CAD/month) or rent your own flat, which is actually quite affordable as well, said that you are lucky enough to find one of course. I myself stayed the first two months with a lovely hostfamily, but later changed to the dorms as I wanted the real “college life” experience. I would definitely recommend to apply for the dorms, because some hostfamilys live up to an hour away from campus, which is annoying as the busses only serve until midnight. Make sure to apply as early as possible!


  1. It is easy to get really cosy on campus, as there are always parties going on in the dorms and many things to do. That’s nice, but don’t make the mistake to get too cosy! Go out on your own, rent a car (possible when you’re over 21) and explore the island! The nature in Vancouver island is unbelievably beautiful and it would be a shame to miss out on it! And please use the amazing program the student recreation offers, for example city trips to Vancouver, Victoria and Tofino
  2. Use the opportunity to find out more about the Indigenous’ life. Native Canadians once lived on Vancouver Island (Nanaimo actually means “Gathering place” in their language) and their influence is very obvious on campus. There are special ceremonies held every now and than on campus that are open to students, and I would recommend to go there, as it was highly interesting.
  3. Even if you are not living on campus, use the grocery shuttle the university provides every Wednesday and Friday. It’s a big bus that drives to a local supermarket that is way cheaper than even Walmart.


I hope, I could give you a small insight in the life of VIU. In case you decide to spend your semester abroad there, I wish you just an amazing time as I had!

Go Canada!

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