CANADA – an Exchange Student’s Perspective

ALISHIA LATZ

When you have people from all over the world coming to Canada, there is always the question: Do you like it in Canada? What do you think is different from your country?

I am starting this out with my own experience and impression of Canada, but I hope I will soon be able to write about the experiences from other exchange students.

So, arriving in Toronto in late August, my experience in Canada began. First of all, congratulations Canadians for being so helpful, polite and welcoming. I didn’t even stand for a minute alone and confused in Toronto, when somebody came up to me and asked: “Can I help you?” I must be honest, I was so confused by this at the beginning that I just said “No,” because I could stand lost in some corner in Germany and nobody would care, most people aren’t even friendly when you ask them for help. Of course, I don’t want to say anything bad about Germans. This is just my experience and how I see things. You never know, maybe I just have always run into the not-so-friendly people. So, when the next person asked me for help I was standing there in Toronto contemplating: Is this nice lady trying to pull off some kind of scheme? Or maybe she just genuinely wants to help me? By the end of that day I had figured out that you all are just nice and never shy about offering help and I love you guys for it.

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When I arrived in London a few days later, I was amazed again by people actually thanking the bus driver as they got off, this is definitely a habit I have tried to adopt. Also at this time, I started to realize some things were going to be really inconvenient for me because I am not used them. Almost everything here is in malls, you buy your clothes in the mall, you buy your groceries in the mall and almost nothing is in walking distance. You always have to bus. I have never missed the three grocery stores, which are a five-minute walk from my apartment in Germany more. Including, my German university being downtown and the German “Fußgängerzone”. The “Fußgängerzone” is normally a wonderful street in the middle of downtown where there are no cars allowed and you can just walk from clothing store to clothing store, maybe stop to get froyo. The only inconvenience are the streetcars that pass through from time to time. My favorite thing to do in Germany between my lectures was to go there with friends. We would go and check out which new clothes the three different H&M’s had during that week and when we really wanted to spend some money, we also stopped by Zara and Vero Moda. We’d then head back to our next lecture, all of this in under an hour and a half because it was just an enjoyable little walk. It’s not that we don’t have malls, our shops and stores are just often smaller, making them close by and easier to reach.

Another thing that is different from Germany is going out to clubs, pubs and bars. When we talk about a pub it’s a place where you can get you some beer, shots, mixed drinks, hot chocolate and tea. Sometimes, there’s a place for a band to play but there is no dancefloor. We don’t dance in pubs. We enjoy our beer, music and conversations with friends.

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So, as you can imagine, going out in Canada is different for me. The first time I went clubbing was with one of my roommates. Let me sum up my thoughts: Why are we starting the pre-drinks so early? Why are the pre-drinks only like half an hour? Why are we so early at the club? Why do I look underdressed? Why are people leaving? It’s only 1am, why is this club closing at 2am? How the hell do you survive the whole night in those shoes and outfits? Because honestly girls, I don’t know how you do it. You make it seem so easy.

A normal night out in Germany includes: Starting pre-drinks between 9 and 10pm. Trying to make it to the club before midnight. Walking past the bouncer without him even considering that sneakers, jeans and a fancy top are not appropriate for a night out. (Yes. the bouncers can decide that you are not allowed in because you don’t “look” right. It’s nonsense. A friend of mine once wasn’t allowed in because she was wearing sneakers. I got in five minutes earlier with sneakers.) The clubs close around 4 a.m. depending on the crowd, they sometimes stay open longer, then we go and find ourselves some “döner” (you might know it as kebab). Most of the time we are not home before 6 in the morning after a nice walk home, on which we talked through all our problems that are now magically solved. Well, at least until the hangover the day after.

I hope you can spot some minor differences. But aren’t the differences what makes an exchange so exciting? You don’t move halfway around the world to experience the same things, in the same way as always. You want to learn about a different culture and experience their way of life. Of course, this is only a student’s perspective and I am writing about the stuff that I think you could find interesting, there is a lot more to all of it.

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I was part of the Mannheim Knights at The University of Mannheim.

Let’s end with this: In which way is studying different in Germany? In most cases, we only have one final exam. We don’t write essays, position papers, film discussions, close readings, midterms, and so on. The professors don’t care if you turn up or not. They mostly leave you alone and don’t even know your name. You can do absolutely nothing for your classes the whole semester and then start studying a few weeks before the finals. Though I would suggest you at least read some texts and turn up for some lessons because otherwise, you will fail. There is freedom in this system because all of it is up to you. You decide what you are doing and when. You can read the texts from a whole semester in one week. I tried and succeeded.

In the end, I can say I am enjoying my time here in Canada so far. Yes, some things are different and there are ways in which we can learn from each other, even if it’s only longer opening hours at the club or what beer truly tastes like or not being suspicious of everyone. This is what exchange is all about, learning from other cultures.

P.s. Yes, we know Drake. We love Drake too. We are from Europe not the moon.

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