Although it is a little more difficult to integrate a stay abroad in law studies, as you cannot get anything counted, I decided to include a stay abroad in my studies from the 4th semester onwards.
The reasons for this were that I was curious about another country, that I wanted to learn good legal English, and that I wanted to get a broader professional horizon. I thought about learning a third language and not leaving Germany until the sixth semester. In the end, however, I decided on an English-speaking country, because English is the language of international communication and I wanted to be sure of having a moderate command of two languages.
At first I applied at my university for the Erasmus program of my faculty in Ireland and Great Britain, but unfortunately I was not able to get a place. I then applied for remaining places in other faculties in Scotland, but also to no avail. After even the international office of the university had little advice, I thought about how I could organize a stay abroad on my own and came across the organization MicroEDU. This is based in Münster and provides free contacts between German students and foreign universities registered there who are trying to attract international students. My application was very short-term, and I was initially overwhelmed by the wealth of information and deadlines that had to be found out when planning. The organization helped me a lot because it always offered competent and patient contacts that I had missed at university. Another benefit was that MicroEDU had an agreement with the Canadian university. Students she placed did not have to submit a language certificate, but school grades and a letter from a professor were sufficient. That saved me some time and money that I would otherwise have had to spend on a TOEFL or Cambridge test.
For Canada, I decided, because I found it exciting to be far away, because of its famous natural, and because I had heard that the tuition fees are there more moderate than in the United States or England.
For the stay, I initially took a semester of leave. The two Canadian semesters lasted until the end of April. At the beginning of April, my German semester had already started again, and I was planning to start again right away. However, some time before my return I realized that my plan was too ambitious: I would have missed 5 weeks. Anyway, after eight months it is illusory to want to concentrate on the lectures again immediately, because you first want to see family and friends and also have to move and settle in again for a moment, and besides have a lot to organize. You shouldn’t forget that after a year, at least that’s how I feel, you have forgotten a lot. I therefore advise you to plan a stay abroad, at least in courses in which knowledge builds on one another, in such a way that that you have time to refresh your old knowledge before you start your studies in Germany. For these reasons, I took a leave of absence for the second semester in Germany.
Language / culture
I had been taking English language courses at University of New Brunswick for about a year before my stay abroad, and made sure to read many books in English and listen to English radio / news. I noticed that school English is still a long way from being able to cope well in another country (at least academically), so I was glad to have started the preparation early on. I have not prepared myself particularly for cultural differences, because the Canadian and German mentalities and customs are not so different that one would have to acquire knowledge beforehand. However, I did try to read a little bit about the history and politics of the country.
You need a so-called study permit. It is also possible to enter without one if you are studying for less than 6 months. If you are unsure about it (I also thought about staying only one semester at first), it would be better to apply for it as a precaution because it can only be applied for outside of Canada. Otherwise, if you decide to stay longer, you would have to leave the country again to apply for one. The cost of the study permit amounted to 95 euros. Since I had planned at very short notice, initially relying on my Erasmus place, waiting for the document was very nerve-wracking. If possible, you should apply for it as early as possible, as the embassy does not guarantee a quick issue and this can take months.
For the first few days I lived in a hostel that I had booked online (tip: make sure to save the number in case you arrive later, because many hostels no longer have staff at the reception after a certain time if you don’t let them know). Then there was an orientation program that I lived with on campus. I actually planned to move into the dormitory. However, University of New Brunswick had apparently not processed my application for this, and now they could only offer me a very expensive room that should cost more than $ 1,000 a month (including food). I then looked for a private apartment in a shared apartment. The room was very small, about 8 square meters, but it only cost $ 300.
In general, in Fredericon (and I think that applies to all of Canada) living in a dormitory was different:
The residences are more than just apartments. They are on campus, right next to the university buildings, so that you have very short distances. There is one dining hall per house where people can eat all day. The houses have their own liaison students, their own songs, coats of arms and customs, and organize many joint events. So, especially for freshmen and international students, they are very practical to make contacts and experience a kind of collective feeling, and offer a reasonably comfortable life because you don’t have to worry about food.
The disadvantage, however, is that, unlike in Germany, the student dormitory is not cheaper, but a lot more expensive, even if you include the food (there is also the possibility of using dining halls despite living outside). In addition, the ‘boarding school feeling’ that the residences offer is not for everyone. Since many younger students live in the dormitories who are living alone for the first time, there are many regulations in place to prevent the dorms from becoming a constant party venue. This leads to the head of the house taking the right to check rooms or give instructions. So if you attach great importance to self-employment, or also need special food and like to cook yourself, or have little money available, you should consider to live privately.
I checked with my health insurance company and found out that I would only be insured abroad for a short time. There was then the opportunity to be insured at the university for CAD 860 and to visit the university’s own doctors.
C) Situation on site
There was an optional orientation week one week before the start of the course, which cost an additional $ 200. Many organizational things were explained, the city was shown and you could get to know the other international students. Such a program is definitely highly recommended because it is very difficult to deal with the deluge of information on your own.
At the UNB, Fredericton (University of New Brunswick, see AbbreviationFinder) I studied a subject called ‘Law in Society’, which examines law from different perspectives (sociological, economic, political science). Overall, it was a good, interesting program, but there were a few problems: Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the subject, I often had the feeling that I was everywhere and nowhere, and there were few students studying the same things. There were no international students in my subject and it was often difficult to find a contact who felt responsible because of the exotic choice.
Otherwise, the advantages of studying were small classes, interactive, discussion-rich lessons, and professors who had plenty of time, even for individual students. However, the level of the lectures was partly much worse than in Germany. The fact that the degree of difficulty was low was pleasant on the one hand, and annoying on the other if it was too boring. What often annoyed me was that when performance reviews were performed, simple standards were sometimes not adhered to that allowed for an objective assessment. Another drawback was that the program and the professors assumed that non-lawyers were in front of them, so that I had to listen to a lot of what was already known.
Social contacts, leisure and sport
The international office of University of New Brunswick and the orientation week made it very easy to make social contacts with other international students, and I also had very nice roommates in my flat share. The fact that the city was very small also made it easier to meet someone again.
It was far more difficult to build solid friendships with Canadians, especially because I had different fellow students in every course. Small talk and a nice smile are common in Canada, however. I found it much easier to get into conversation with people on the street or in shops than in Germany. Canadians are also very open to other cultures and countries, because almost the whole country is a melting pot of immigrants, or at least the descendants of such.
Canadian universities place more value on sport, especially professional ones, than German universities. It is part of the identity of a university there, for example, to have a good hockey team. There were also a few other clubs and associations, but fewer and less different than I was used to from Jena, because University of New Brunswick was only half the size.
Cost of living
Private rents in Fredericton were a bit more expensive than here (but compared to eastern Germany), and the food is also a little more expensive. Clothes cost just as much. But what is much worse and therefore more expensive than in Germany is public transport. So my travel plans, in which I wanted to see a lot of Canada’s nature, became shorter and fewer.
D) Situation after returning
After some wrangling with the judicial examinations office (because of my exotic subject), I was able to have the necessary weekly hours recognized in the semester, so that I can still take my free shot after 8 semesters (possibility to try the exam again).
Personal development, prospects
Of course, it is difficult for me to judge whether I have continued to develop – if I do, it has happened gradually. In any case, I am proud to have ventured abroad in a different language and without fellow students from Germany, and to have met so many nice people.
I had already thought beforehand that I would later like to have an international job, and I have now been fully encouraged to do so. After studying law, I would like to do a master’s degree abroad, preferably in the USA. I found a subject for this while studying in Canada: Law and Economics.
Another positive effect of studying abroad, which should not be underestimated, is the following: Because I have been doing something different than German law for 8 months now, I am much more motivated. Before I left, I was at a low motivation point and I believe my motivation would have continued to drop and I would have started to let my studies slide. Now I’ve been away for 8 months, and I’ve got a bit of the euphoria of a freshman about my studies again.
If I had to plan the year again, I would go to Canada and, if possible, study the same thing. However, I would then probably not be drawn to a small town on the east coast (Fredericton had 50,000 inhabitants), but would try to get to a larger city.