Auslandsstudium – Auslandskontakte – Assistant Teachers

Erfahrungsberichte – Kanada

Erfahrungsbericht Auslandssemester 2012/13
University of Ottawa
Andrea Mareike Abel

Das Folgende ist größtenteils eine Zusammenstellung von Blogeinträgen, die ich während des Semesters an der University of Ottawa geschrieben und online gestellt habe. Das Blog kann weiterhin unter thegrumblingirlinottawa.wordpress.com [http://thegrumblingirlinottawa.wordpress.com/] abgerufen werden; es enthält auch noch mehr weiterführende Posts.

Organisatorisches:

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Mein Zimmer habe ich über Craigslist gefunden — es kann eine Weile dauern, bis sich jemand meldet, also nicht verzagen. Für die Einreise braucht man kein Visum, nur den Reisepass und den Begrüßungsbrief der Universität. Wenn möglich, ist es besser, ein paar Tage früher anzureisen; so hat man mehr Zeit, alles Administrative (Studentenausweis, Semesterticket) zu erledigen. Die Schlangen sind in den ersten Tagen des Semesters jenseits von spektakulär, das lässt sich in der letzten Augustwoche noch ganz gut vermeiden. Eure Versicherung und das Semesterticket solltet ihr bereits bezahlen, bevor ihr anreist, die Uni hat dafür in ihrem virtuellen Campus eine Anleitung für den Auslandstransfer.

Blogauszüge

The Quest for the Holy Grail begins… [http://thegrumblingirlinottawa.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/welcome-day/]

So, after days of agonising silence, today was Welcome Day, which works like this: herd the imported sheep together, shove them in a room, give them goodie bags, and tell them stuff. This concept usually plays out better in theory than it does in practice, but today, everything went smoothly. There were several sessions, due to the sheer number of people arriving from all over the world; also, I’m registered as an exchange student, whereas most other incoming students are registered as international students; which apparently causes confusion even among university employees sometimes. Note: always emphasise and be clear on which of these two groups you belong to when you go sorting out your things.

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There was also a lot of discussion on the matter of the uPass, and after the survey among all international and exchange students, the U-Pass is now available for exchange and international students again. The university has taken our recommendation and passed it on to OC Transpo. For students of this term, it is optional to purchase the pass; as of next year (2013/14), however, the pass will be mandatory for all students, and will be charged to your e-bill before the term starts, along with the insurance fee (UHIP). If you’re only staying for four months, you’ll be able to get a refund for half of the ticket in mid-December.

Welcome Day basically advises students to do everything organisational and administrative they haven’t gotten around to yet: picking up their student ID, finding an apartment/room if they’re still bunking at a hostel, picking up their course materials, if available, etc. In other news, there are people coming in to talk to you about the Community Life Service, the Health Resource Center, and the Sports Services. Moving on…

Academia!

I'm taking the following classes:

  • Modern British Lit, with Prof. Childs (third-year course)
  • Science Fiction, with Prof. Warnock (second-year course)
  • Fiction of Horror, with Prof. Cooper (second-year course)
  • Utopian Fiction, with Prof. Phillips (second-year course)

Now, the requirements in each class are roughly the same, though the administrative details vary with each lecturer. What you have to be prepared for is a much tighter schedule. There is more reading to be done than you’re probably used to, and more small examinations all over the semester to keep you on your toes. Since these courses I’m taking are coded as lectures, as opposed to seminars (which are called discussion groups here, I believe), the groups are bigger and participation in the actual class counts for less of your grade; since there’s just not much chance for it. Your only “homework”  is reading, there are no additional assignments during the week. So in case you’re quiet and can’t really make an impression on the lecturer, you’ll be glad to have the tests and short responses to make yourself visible and keep your grade up.

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Since I can't cover all general exam requirements, I'll just talk about my courses to illustrate what you might encounter:

There are informal responses (just paragraphs or very short essays, no more than 500 words) to be written, at least three per course in Science Fiction and Fiction of Horror. In Utopian Fiction, there are four quizzes (open questions, requiring one-sentence answers) throughout the term. In Modern Brit Lit, you basically just have to show up most of the time and write a whollopping essay—or two, depending on whether you’re satisfied with your grade after the first attempt. In each course, there’s a final essay/research term paper, ranging from 2,000 to 2,700 words; and a final exam after the teaching session closes in early December. Utopian Fiction also requires a second, shorter essay (usually due in October, right before study week). In Fiction of Horror, there’s also a midterm: a fairly straightforward test, in which we’ll have to identify passages from the fictions we’ve read so far, name the author and the work, and write about a page on which trope of Horror Fiction is being used in it, and to what effect.

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The course choices are varied and extensive especially for literature students. The courses are generally very comprehensive. In each class, we're reading at least four or five novels, plus short stories, though hardly any secondary material. Since it's lectures rather than seminars, though, don't stress yourself too much about getting all the reading done on time if other things come up that demand your attention. One, because hardly anyone does, two, because the lecturers are covering the material so thoroughly in their notes that catching up is easy enough if you keep at it; since the things they talk about can be expected to be the things most pertinent to the final exams. The schedule, however, is manageable, though I have taken to reading practically everywhere except in the shower; but that's just me.

The material is readable and versatile, especially in Science Fiction and Fiction of Horror. So, definitely take advantage of the classes that complement the current genre rotation in Bremen. Fiction of Horror, especially, grapples with some useful and interesting concepts, because it’s inherently political literature (and gore); similar to Science Fiction.

The other students are really friendly and open, though at the beginning of the year everyone’s a bit shy; but the ice breaks soon enough and you’ll find yourself having a chat with some brilliant people.

Another thing:

When you bring your laptop/smartphone, leave the eduroam connection installed in your WiFi settings. Here, technically only employees have access to the eduroam network; students are supposed to use the uOttawa-WPA, which has the unfortunate habit of being a bit of a diva, so if you can’t get the network to work/access the internet or if there’s limited connectivity, just use your eduroam account, it’ll let you in. (Which is especially handy because the university website doesn’t have Android support, though you can just configure your smartphone the way it is described for iPhone or BlackBerry.)

The VPN client the student guide issued by the university talks about totally flaked out on me, so I’d say don’t even bother with that one.

Abschlussbemerkung:

Die Quidditch-Spiele habe ich leider verpasst (kein Witz!), aber auch ohne Schnatz haben mir meine vier Monate an der Uni von Ottawa sehr viel Spaß gemacht. Die Kurse waren arbeitsintensiv und anspruchsvoll, und wenn man stur dran bleibt, lohnt es sich definitiv. Die Studenten sind freundlich und aufgeschlossen, und die Dozenten sind meiner Erfahrung nach hilfsbereit und kompetent. Ich habe nicht nur für meine Bachelorarbeit Anregungen gewonnen, sondern auch für mein Nebenfach, Kulturwissenschaften, viel gelernt — unter ethnologischen Feldbedingungen, sozusagen.

Weiterbildung außerhalb der Uni

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Zwar dürfen Austauschstudenten in Kanada nicht arbeiten sofern sie keine Studienerlaubnis beantragt haben; aber dafür gibt es gerade für Studenten der Englischen Literatur- und Sprachwissenschaft eine sehr spannende Möglichkeit, als volunteer zu arbeiten. Das Ottawa International Writers Festival, ausgerichtet im April und Oktober, ist eines der weltweit größten Literaturfestivals und hat mit über 30 Veranstaltungen von populärer Wissenschaftsliteratur über Politik und Religion bis zu Belletristik und Romanliteratur vieles zu bieten. Für freiwillige Mitarbeiter sind die jeweiligen Veranstaltungen kostenlos (wenn man mind. 5 Stunden mitarbeitet, auch alle anderen).

Wohngegend und Verkehrsanbindung

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Generell bezahlt man natürlich im umliegenden Stadtgebiet weniger Miete als direkt in der Innenstadt, dort ist auch nicht immer rechtzeitig was zu bekommen. Es lohnt sich, auch z.B. in Hull/Gatineau, Kanata oder Gloucester zu schauen, weil dort die Preise etwa halb so hoch sind wie teilweise sogar im Studentenwohnheim (es gibt kein freigehaltenes Kontingent für Austauschstudenten dort, also wird einem gleich nach der Anmeldung geraten, sich selbst umzusehen). Gloucester liegt zwar weiter außerhalb des Stadtkerns, ist mit dem Bus aber auch nur eine halbe Stunde vom Campus entfernt.

Tipp: Free Store

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In der ersten Woche des Semesters wird extra für die internationalen Studenten der Free Store frühzeitig geöffnet. Dort können Studenten und Angestellte der Uni alles abladen, was noch zu gebrauchen ist: Klamotten, Büromaterial, Bücher, Seifenspender, etc. Alles, was im Free Store untergebracht ist, kann kostenlos mitgenommen werden; und am Ende des Semesters kann man Schnickschnack wieder loswerden, den man nicht in den Koffer stopfen möchte. (647 King Edwards Ave)