By Matt Rabey
Laurentian University’s Modern Language department website states, “When you learn to communicate with other people in their own language and culture, you immediately open up access to new opportunities and horizons.”
Sabine Jäck, a third-year language student said that a large part of these opportunities can be experienced through the student exchange program. “I’m studying language, so it’s very important to study abroad. I’m studying English and French in Germany, so I think that Canada’s the best choice for learning these languages.”
Jäck is an exchange student attending Laurentian University through her home school of Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg in Baden- Württemberg, in the south of Germany.
Also attending Laurentian University this year is fourth-year Geology student Nicole Breng from Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Germany and modern language student Giulia Tonel from Udine, Italy.
Breng said, “I study geology, so of course, Canada is a great country for geology. There are so many opportunities.”
Every student has a different reason for coming to Canada and for Giulia Tonel, “I needed to study abroad to get credits for my modern languages program. Then, last year I met three girls from Laurentian who were in Italy on exchange and they encouraged me to apply for an exchange at Laurentian. Moreover, I heard that Canada was a great place to study and explore from one of my Italian friends who went to Toronto last year.”
Canada has been largely a positive experience for these three students, as Tonel explained. “Classes here are smaller and you get to know the professors well, having a more informal relation. I was so surprise at the beginning seeing that all my professors remembered my name.”
“The people are very friendly; when we first came here we were so impressed” said Jäck. “When we were in Toronto we had a map of the city and every time we took it out someone would stop and offer to help.”
Breng said: “In Germany you will meet a lot of people who want to experience the nature. Here, you can walk for kilometres without meeting people. Canadians know how to take advantage of nature and I saw this during one of the best experiences I had here, when we went to Killarney Park for Thanksgiving weekend.”
Tonel, who also enjoys Canada, stated that: “I got the opportunity to visit both northern Ontario (Sault Ste Marie and Timmins) and Southern Ontario (Toronto and Niagara Falls). My last trip was amazing; I went on a road trip to Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec and got the opportunity to go dog sledding, which was something unique that I could only have done here in Canada.”
The contrasts between Canada are not all positive, as Jäck said: “It’s legal in Germany to drink in public and is seen as a very social thing. We just sit outside in the sun, enjoy our beer or wine and have a nice conversation. It was very strange for me to think that you always have to look out and think ‘oh no’ you can’t show your alcoholic drink publically.”
Tonel said, “I would live in Canada for the people, who are very friendly and for the educational system, which I find very valid even if it’s quite expensive. However, I prefer Italy for its culture, history, lifestyle, food, and my family and friends.”
Other parts of the culture in Canada stood out for Breng as she say that: “I was very surprised when it comes to environmental issue. People still use a lot of plastic cups and plates when it comes to something like a BBQ. Also when it comes to cars, everyone has these huge cars and trucks even in the cities where you don’t need them.”
Breng then went on to say, “another thing I found strange was the money on the floor, it is very Canadian. Everywhere you can find pennies. Nobody wants them. You would never see this in Germany. In Germany we have a saying ‘Wer den Cent nicht ehrt ist des Euros nicht wert.’ Which means, if you don’t honour the penny you don’t deserve the dollar.”
However, besides these few differences, Breng is happy with her time in Canada, “I really enjoy it here, because there are so many more positive things and experiences here in Canada than bad or weird ones.”
When talking to Canadians, Jäck said that there are some false stereotypes about Europe. “There’s misconception that in Germany and Europe that we’re all just walking around the streets naked, which is not true. Although, we are a nation that is lot more open and comfortable with our body.”
Jäck then told about a specific situation where she found this to be true. “For example when you go in a sauna, you’re supposed to go naked, so we just go in there naked, but when we got in some women were almost freaking out. In fact, a few women got up and left. It was so strange for us to see women in their wearing bathing suits and some even wearing T-shirts.”
The student exchange program has something to offer everyone. Laurentian University offers numerous opportunities to study abroad and learn with students from other countries.