I’m Jana and I studied for one semester (fall 2013) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU, see AbbreviationFinder) in Surrey. I really enjoyed my semester abroad!
The KPU has a total of 4 locations (Surrey, Richmond, Langley and Cloverdale). My classes were all held on the Surrey campus. But it is also possible to choose different courses at different locations. I would advise taking courses in Surrey or Richmond as these two locations are not too far from Vancouver. You can then live in Vancouver and commute to university. There is also a bus that runs from the Surrey campus to the Richmond campus if you have 2 courses in one day at both locations. In this case, however, the courses should not be consecutive.
The International Office of the KPU takes very good care of the international students and is at your side with any problem. The people who work there are super nice and helpful. They organize an introductory week before the courses start, which you should not miss. This week is for all international exchange students and that’s how you get to know a lot of new people. For example, we had breakfast together, looked at places worth seeing around Vancouver and went for a drink together.
My only problem with the International Office was: The date on my confirmation was wrong. Just check the forms to be on the safe side and it will be corrected immediately.
I took 3 courses, one from the psychology department and the other from the criminology department. I had no problems with my teachers or classmates, so I was very happy with my choice. Depending on the course and degree program, however, this can vary a bit. However, you can still change or deselect courses on site in the first or second week. Some of us did this on individual courses because they were dissatisfied with their previous choice.
Overall, the number of three courses was enough for me in terms of the course load. With three courses you are definitely busy and have something to do. But there is still enough time to do a lot. I found that a very good mix. With 3-5 courses you count as a full-time student. So, if you still want to do something, then I would recommend less than 5 courses (most of the exchange students had 3 or 4 courses). Otherwise, more would be a lot of work for the university. It just depends on what your priorities are.
At the KPU (generally in Canada) the courses are organized differently than here in Germany. Mostly you have midterms and then a final exam, the content of which extends over the entire semester or only over the second half, depending on the teacher. In addition, term papers are written, presentations are given or projects are designed. So you always have something to do during the semester. I found that very pleasant because it spread the effort for the university over the entire semester.
You can find out whether you have a final exam when you register for the courses. You do this before you fly to Canada. You will get access data for the website of the KPU and there you can register for courses via your account. I received my admission to the courses I wanted quite late and was therefore on the waiting list for all of my courses. In the end, however, I had no reason to worry, as new courses were also being offered because there were simply too many people on the waiting lists and still not having a place. So be sure to put yourselves on the waiting lists!
Based on my experience and the experience of the other exchange students who were at the KPU at the same time as me, I would advise you to definitely move to Vancouver. The city offers a lot of possibilities and is really nice to live in, whereas Surrey is not a nice city and that’s why I didn’t want to live there. We did a lot in Vancouver and our fellow students who lived further outside the city were always a bit disadvantaged because, for example, you can’t get to Surrey very well in the evenings. Richmond is even easier to reach there.
Finding an apartment in Vanvouver is definitely possible, but it also requires effort. There aren’t that many typical flat shares like ours. I was very lucky and found a flat share. However, some of us have also lived with host families. A great place to search for a room is the Craigslist website. You can get information in advance from here and make appointments. However, it is better to look there locally. I organized most of it on site and then personally looked at the apartments. I would advise everyone to do so, because the ads don’t always tell you everything and apartments in Canada are a bit different than we are used to here in Germany. I was very lucky and found something within 2 weeks. A friend of mine felt the same way. Maybe it wasn’t luck either. 😉
Regarding where you live: If you are studying in Surrey, it is best to live near the “Expoline” train line and if you are studying in Richmond, then you have to look for it on the “CanadaLine”. Both lines run from Vancouver. I would make sure that you can easily reach them by foot or bus. North and West Vancouver are unsuitable in terms of their location, as you simply need far too long to get to the universities from there and they are also the most expensive areas of Vancouver. Burnaby is also pretty good because of its location next to Vancouver, as it is right between Vancouver and Surrey and both are easily accessible from there.
There is so much to do in Vancouver and the surrounding area. In Vancouver there is a huge park (Stanley Park), hiking trails, beaches, restaurants, bars, etc. The city also has a lot to offer culturally. You can also take the ferry to Vancouver Island and see Victoria and go to Tofino for the surfing area. If you take the highway north of Vancouver you drive towards Whistler, where the 2010 Winter Olympics took place. There are some hiking trails along the way and there is skiing in Whistler in the winter. If you do something with several people, then it is definitely worth renting a car. You will also get a lot of information on site about what you can do. You can definitely believe me: You won’t get bored! And if you do, you can drive across the border to Seattle.
Vancouverites, as they call themselves, are very nice people. In the bus, when you get off the bus, you thank the bus driver, you apologize for little things that you might not be at fault for and everything and everyone loves yoga. They are very ” green ” and go out into nature a lot. They are very friendly to strangers and enjoy talking about the weather, but it is not so easy to make long-term friends.
Vancouver or the area is very multicultural. You meet people from many different nations there. For example, Richmond has a lot of Asians and Surrey has a lot of Indians. But even in downtown Vancouver you can see people from all over the world who, from my point of view, live together peacefully.
Based on my experience, I can recommend the KPU and Vancouver. The semester abroad gave me the opportunity to get to know a different study system and to make contacts all over the world. And the city of Vancouver is just great! On one side you have the mountains and on the other side the Pacific. There is a lot to see and a lot to experience. It was a great time.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me by email. You can get my email address from MicroEDU.