The academic benefits (and some pitfalls) of Canadian universities

M is for March. Unfortunately, to a university student in Canada, M also stands for March Midterms. I kid you not when I say I have been doing non-stop midterm to midterm recently. For all those who don’t know, a midterm is basically a class exam – now imagine having potentially 3 or more of those in a day. Not for the weak hearted, that’s for sure!


However, that’s not to degrade the entire academic system here. In many ways, the way Canadians are taught here are beneficial and maybe even less stress inducing than back home! Here are some noticeable differences, particularly useful if you’re thinking of studying in Canada next year*!

 *just as a side note, I'm basing this generalisation of Canadian universities on the university that I'm currently at (University of Victoria). Although from general consensus these things tend to be reflective of Canadian universities, there may be individual differences. Make sure to check your prospective university website for more info!


1. The uni days here are (potentially) longer. WAAAY longer.

In Swansea the days are 9am-6pm, if you have a full day of lectures (which is unlikely – as lectures tend to be spread out). However, in my exchange university days can spread from 8:30am until 9:30pm! Although it’s extremely rare that you will have classes for 13 hours straight, there may be times where you’ll have an 8:30am lecture and nothing until the evening. Needless to say, this can be frustrating and I much prefer Swansea’s lecture set-up. On the bright side, at least in Canada you can have the longest lunch break known to man(?)


2. There are bigger variations of module choice

At Swansea you have very limited options for modules, especially if they are outside the subject that you chose to pursue. Some courses don’t even allow you to choose modules until your final year (e.g. psychology). On the other hand, Canadian students choose their domain of study but are guaranteed elective courses, which are modules (either related/unrelated to your domain of study) which you choose to pursue for a semester throughout all the years that they’re studying. Also, there is a bigger variety of courses that you can choose to take – everything from gender studies, to ceramics, to even a class on Beyoncé (yes, my exchange uni really does a course on Beyoncé). Take from that what you will, but I think its a really good way to get students’ knowledge broadened on a range of subjects that take their interest!


3. With more variety of modules come more variety of everything else

As opposed to Swansea, whereby your lectures will feature pretty much the same cohort of individuals, in Canada the difference in classes means that some classes you can walk in and know no one. Also, the size of classes majorly differ. For example, for one of my classes there are 16 people in it (including me), and in another class I have there are 250 people. Although this can be good for meeting new people and learning in different environments, sometimes the changes hour to hour can be more distracting than beneficial to learning.


4. Assignments and midterms EVERYWHERE

In first and second year, each Psychology module was usually assessed with one written assignment and one exam. This makes things nice and simple, and you’re a lot less likely to get confused on what is due when etc. Sadly, while being on exchange here I get VERY confused at what is due when. This is partly due to the fact that each module can have between 3-10+ assessments, each ranging in different techniques. For example, for one module you could have 3 midterms, 2 written papers, and a group project. Let’s bear in mind that this is ONLY for one class, out of a potential of 4-5 per semester.

So when I tell people back home that I have a lot of work to do, I’m not kidding! However, don’t let this put you off. If you refer back to my example, these assessments should individually count for less, than if we compare to Swansea. This sure takes the pressure out of doing well in everything, as it would only count for so little – but on the other hand, this might promote laziness and lethargy when it is time to do well on something.


The overall conclusion? I think both have their ups and downs. I guess the point is which negative points would bother you less, and which would help you succeed.


Have a good week!x



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