David and Lara spent Fall semester studying tourism at the University of Guelph. Here are their impressions, experiences and recommendations for future exchange students.
Reasons we chose Guelph
Lara: The reason why I chose Guelph was that I wanted to go overseas for my exchange.
More than 10 years ago I went to Canada before and I loved it. Besides the beautiful
nature and the vastness of the country, the hospitality is amazing in Canada. Why I chose
Guelph over the other partner Universities in Canada was, because the University of Guelph
is known for its courses based on food management, which I found very intriguing.
David: I have a big history of living and studying in different countries, I like the feeling of it.
Moving to somewhere new, learning new things, hearing new stories. It's one of the many
reasons why I chose tourism. I have made so many friends and made so many memories,
and I still have not regretted it, the only regret was that I didn’t stay any longer. Canada was
no exception. I also want to possibly open up my own bar which is why I also chose Guelph
due to the courses.
Lara: Already at the airport I realized how helpful Canadians are and how much they make
you feel at home. When we first arrived at the school, I was stunned by the size of the
campus. Because my roommate and I arrived too late to pick up the keys at the West
Residence, where we lived, we had to walk across the whole campus to get our keys.
Already in the beginning, we noticed a large number of wild squirrels and chipmunks living
on campus and the horses and cows nearby our residence which made it feel like home to
David: After first arriving in Guelph, I was surprised by how quiet it actually is. Being a small
town on the outskirts of the Toronto area, Guelph is a small, cute city. It's sort of similar to
Chur in a way. A lot of the activities involve nature, as there are many hiking paths in
Guelph, downtown where everyone goes during the day and night and partying at
someone's place before going out. Having a student card made this much easier as you
essentially rode the bus for free (in Guelph only).
The University itself
Lara: In general the Canadian school system differs from the one back home in Switzerland.
There are a lot more assignments and midterms during the semester, which equals overall
more stress throughout the semester but gives far more opportunities to increase your
grades and it as well takes the importance off the last exams. School-wise I was never bored
or had nothing to do and while being in contact with classmates from Switzerland who went
to other partner universities I can say that we did have more workload overall. The courses I
took were Restaurant Management, International Business, Econ Mathematics, and
Hospitality Management. Looking back I didn't make the wisest choice of courses; If going
on exchange I would only recommend doing math if you are a natural talent at it. And the
restaurant management course was very unique but also stressful due to it being
group work throughout the whole semester and my group not being very cooperative and
working a lot. Therefore a lot of work got stuck on a Canadian friend of mine and myself.
If you consider taking the University of Guelph as your exchange University, then inform
yourself about the workload and the recommendations people made about the teachers.
David: Now the student life is a bit different. Throughout the semester there will be various
events, activities, and festivals at the school that are run not only by the international office
but students as well. Such as vintage, and craft sales, poster sales, vinyl, etc. We suggest
checking out the UC (main building) whenever possible. There are also activities throughout
the school area, most are during the early days of the school year due to the warmer
weather. There are also always sports events which sometimes are free or cheap to attend.
However, the university is the course selection process is quite tricky so we suggest that you also look for around 10 backup courses and look carefully at the final exam dates as you might have two exams at the same time or across the school. As our initial choices were not approved and I had 2 courses at the same time (I managed). You also always have to use your school email to message professors and make sure to look at messages on course link (similar to moodle). You essentially will have a lot to do throughout
the semester but that shouldn't influence your decision on traveling and living your exchange
Lara: During my Semester in Canada I lived in the West Residence, on campus.
The only thing which was provided was a desk, a lamp for the desk, the bedframe, and a rather uncomfortable mattress. Fortunately, I was already in contact with my roommates beforehand and we split up things we could already bring to the appartment. In my opinion, the West
Residence was definitely the best choice I could have made. Because it is just 5 minutes
away from Walmart and Metro, which is very convenient, especially if you are planning to
cook the majority of the meals. As well there were the most exchange students located as
David: For a place to stay, I decided to live off campus. It is hard to find a place like that if
you are interested in finding a place off campus. Fortunately, there are websites such as
thecannon.ca that help you find it but this also took me a while to find a place. Fortunately,
one of the options was a person going on an exchange to London for a semester, which is
how I got it. My roommates were luckily really cool and chilled out, and I noticed that many Canadians
are like that. It was also close to the school (15 min bus ride) and grocery store (8-10 bus
ride). As for on-campus you have many options but from what I heard about it, we suggest
staying away from the south residence as it's typically really loud, and the rooms are small.
Lara: We went quite often on Sundays to the bad luck bar which hosts karaoke night every
Sunday and this bar is located opposite Franks. On Sundays, everything on the menu costs
5 dollars (they have pretty good nacho chips plates).
Every Tuesday there is trivia night at Brass taps where you should definitely go at least
once during your exchange because you don't only learn many interesting random facts but
can as well enjoy the standup comedy from the trivia guy.
Every Wednesday there is an open mic show at the bullring. Talking about the bullring (it's
the building right next to “Rozanski hall and the cannon) they offer very good food which
impressed me the most. As well there was the Bar Bounce which was only once throughout
the whole Semester but definitely one of the best nights out in Guelph. Not only did we
"bounce" from bar to bar but we also downloaded an app with many challenges which could
have been achieved throughout the night. As you can see there was always something to
do. And I highly recommend doing as many activities as possible during the introduction
days because there are some for every kind of interest.
David: You will still have a lot of time to explore. There were some exchange students who
went to the US multiple times, to Montreal, to Toronto, to the west towards Vancouver, and
the Rocky mountains. Toronto is an all-year-long destination. You have hundreds of events
each month, there is always something happening for you to try. On top of this food is
amazing and there is always a food festival somewhere as well. Fall time is a special time as
most of the events revolve around art and film. You have one of the largest film festivals in
the world which happens in early September and then you also have the Nuit Blanche which
is a city-wide event. There are many art exhibits spread throughout the city and each year
the number of art is increasing. There is also Canada's wonderland (amusement park) where
you can spend a lot of time there. They even have a Halloween hunt season (aimed at
teens/adults) and a winter wonderland (aimed at kids) as special limited-time events. As for
travelling around Toronto. We suggest getting a presto card as soon as you arrive as that's
typically what is used to use the transportation in the Toronto Area and out-of-the-city
Lara Pfaff and David Abbakumov are studying BSc Tourism at the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons. They completed a semester abroad at the University of Guelph in Canada.