Exchange semester at Brock University,
St. Catharines, Ontario

Fall Term 2018 (September – December), Michaela Kostolnikova

Brock University

I got the opportunity to spend my winter semester 2018 (September to December) at Brock University. It is a rather small university and rather new, which makes the buildings on campus look very modern. Nonetheless, it hosts many international students. Its size makes it very easy to find your way around. After the first one or two weeks I had no troubles to find my classes at all. 

Brock of course offers an orientation week, mostly for first years, however, the exchange students including myself found this O-Week very helpful. This involved the first two days of the semester off, and a whole week of events to get to know new people and the university. A short side note about that, they offer so called “Badger Passes” which, if purchased in time, include entry to all the events either for free, cheaper or at least as first to enter, a shirt and a little sports bag. Those passes are rather expensive though, and if one does not plan on attending all the events it is a waste of money. Everyone takes the opportunity to get one of the passes, which makes entry not faster (often even impossible if not among the first ones to enter) and for me it would have been cheaper to simply purchase tickets for the specific events I attended. 

Brock also offers rather big sports facilities, including a gym, a swimming pool, inside courts, a running track, and outside sports fields, all free to use for students. There are also quite a few eating possibilities on campus, such as the various dining halls, and popular Fast

Food chains (Subway, Burrito Boyz, Pizza Pizza), as well as multiple Tim Hortons’. 


The classes as in most North American universities are more time-consuming than I was used to from home, as they require multiple or continuous assignments through the course of the semester and often several exams, essays or presentations. At first, I found it hard to adjust to the new system, but I soon found that it was easier following the classes that way. 

The number of courses allowed to take ranges between three to five courses per semester, with four being recommended to most exchange students. Most courses are divided into a lecture and a seminar. 


When it comes to living, I had a hard time deciding whether to live on or off campus. It really is just a personal choice, with both options having pros and cons. I decided to stay on campus. Brock offers a few residence opportunities, reaching a little further from the typical shared dorms. I lived in a residence complex called Village, which, as the name suggests, consisted of multiple little townhouses in a circle around a court, and twelve such courts in total making up Village Residence. I chose Village because it is equipped like a little house, with rooms, a shared living room including a kitchen and a shared bathroom. Every townhouse houses five people. I was very lucky with my roommates, which were all exchange students. I absolutely loved living there, as it made getting around university and attending events so much easier. Furthermore, even though one has to add a meal plan, the townhouse meal plan is cheaper, and we often went grocery shopping as well. Personally, I enjoyed the opportunity of having the option between cooking myself and going out for food on campus. The only downside for me: the price. It is very expensive to live on campus, much more expensive than to live off campus, and even though the meal plan was cheaper for me, we still needed to get groceries. Finding a room off campus is cheaper and not that hard to find, most people used specific Facebook groups for that. 

The location

St. Catharines itself is not a very big city. The center, however, is very cute and cozy, with many Cafés and bars on the main street. One can also find a movie theatre and many nice restaurants there. Of course, it also has a few opportunities for going out and a little further from the city center there is a small arcade, where people can go bowling or play laser tag. Also, it is very close to Niagara Falls, only a fifteen-minute car drive. I would definitely recommend seeing them. St. Catharines is also very close to the U.S. border and therefore Buffalo, where sports enthusiasts could watch NFL games. Toronto is also not far and there are busses frequently going there from either Brock University or the St. Catharines bus terminal. 

Leisure time and traveling

The week after Canadian Thanksgiving is usually the so-called Reading Week, where students get a week off to study for their mid-terms. Most exchange students use this opportunity to travel. St. Catharines is located quite well for that, as it allows people to travel rather easily to the East Coast of the U.S. or through Ontario or Quebec. We used our week off to travel to New York City and Boston, and later to the Algonquin National Park located in Ontario. The cheapest way to travel to most cities located close to St. Catharines is by bus (mostly Greyhound). Renting a car in Canada under 25 is pricy, however, Brock University does have a Zipcar on campus, which is ideal for shorter trips. It is easy to access even for international students and if under 25, one just has to request a so-called “Zipcard” and the price is also not too bad and usually calculated per hour. Of course, some people decide to travel before or after the semester, therefore I would recommend not purchasing a flight back right away but to wait until you know what you decide to do during the semester. 

Side note – ESTA and U.S. 

Before I came to Canada, I traveled to San Francisco for a few days. The ESTA is valid for two years after being approved, however, one is only allowed to stay within the U.S. for the duration of three months. My three months would have been over mid-November, with one more month of the semester to go. Some people informed us that Canada and Mexico do not count as leaving the country. Apparently, many exchange students come across this problem every semester and even though this is in fact true, as long as one has a student status in Canada, it won’t cause any problems. Should people want to travel to the U.S. after their three months ended, it is usually no problem at all to renew it when there is a proof that they will leave to their home countries after their travels.


Four months seem like a long time at the beginning, but it goes by very fast, especially when balancing assignments, exams and traveling. I had an amazing semester at Brock University, and I am very thankful for the opportunity. I would definitely recommend everyone who has the possibility to go abroad, and Canada was a great choice for me as an English student. It helped me improve my language skills due to the constant exposure and demand in classes and I made many friends from all over the world. If I had any questions, the staff was always very helpful, and I had no problems at all getting answers fast. All in all, a fantastic experience.


Michaela Kostolnikova

Fall Term 2018 (September – December)  

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