Lennart on the VIU Nanaimo campus

An online semester at VIU in Canada during a global pandemic

July 8, 2021
Author: Lennart Höfig

Lennart Höfig’s story

Now that I am back in Germany, I already miss Canada, VIU, my friends there and, yes, even the online classes. Prior to my departure, doubts crept into my mind about if I should go abroad during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Would the experience be worth it, would it pay off both personally and academically, is it ethically acceptable? Looking back now, I would have loved to tell myself how great my spring semester at VIU would prove to be.

It outright amazed me how great my online classes at VIU were. My professors really tried to understand what their students needed and how much work they could do. I’m not saying that the workload was light – it wasn’t. On the contrary, you get more assignments, more deadlines, and it is harder to keep up with the pace of the classes, but for me it still felt manageable.

Throughout the semester, I realized this was mainly because of the small class sizes. I know, I know, you always hear advertisements praising small class sizes, but let me tell you, it’s really that good. I felt immediately embraced by my classmates and quickly developed relationships with them and my professors, although the classes were online. Most importantly, in-class discussions were far more engaging, which really helped motivate students in light of the current situation.

A surfer walking into the waves with his board

You are probably interested in hearing about how well I was able to socialize during my semester abroad. What I can I say? Of course, I didn’t have many in-person classes, but I had some, which I wouldn’t have had, had I stayed home. And sure, I didn’t have the chance to meet as many people as I could have, had I come at a different time, but I made many good friends. In fact, I did meet more people than I thought I would, and I made friendships that will last for the rest of my life. Against all odds, I was able to meet with other students from my classes and together with newly found friends from student housing, I made many trips to all the astounding places surrounding Nanaimo on the weekends.

And then there is the bright side of visiting a country that has arguably one of the most diverse and astonishing landscapes in the world at a time no one else does. You can take in all of BC’s beauty for yourself. The last two weeks of my time in Canada, usually reserved for final exams and filled with countless learning sessions, might have been the most beautiful weeks during the whole semester. My partner and I set out to explore Vancouver Island: from beautiful Victoria to the Island’s west coast and Ucluelet, to Vancouver, including downtown, the University of British Columbia campus and the Museum of Anthropology.

Writing a final exam online from a hotel room in Vancouver

Lennart writes a final exam online from a hotel room in Vancouver.

Why were we able to do so? Because during an online semester, you don’t have to be at the university to write your final exams. Also, we were lucky and didn’t have to write many exams at the end of the semester in the first place.

During springtime, Vancouver Island presented itself to us from its most beautiful side. Meeting with classmates after the semester with mixed feelings of happy relief and sad reluctance before finally going home deepened friendships that were already strengthened by the bond created through mutually given support during another online semester amidst a global pandemic. I already miss Canada and I would definitely return to VIU, be it online or in-person.

I learned more than I could have hoped for during my time at VIU. I want to pass on an honest piece advice to you if you plan on studying at VIU, or Canada for that matter, in the future: choose at least one class in Indigenous Studies. You owe it to the First Nations on whose lands you are planning to live, and you will be humbled by their beautiful culture. To all the people who shared their knowledge with me, I just want to say thank you. Hay ch q̓a’.

VIU Residences in the spring

VIU Residences in the Spring

Lennart Höfig is a Media Studies student from Germany.

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