UNBSJ and Canada from the perspective of a German exchange student

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Are you curious to find out how UNBSJ, New Brunswick and Canada look and feel to an outsider? (Did you know that you have weird doorknobs, for instance?)

I’m Christa from Cologne, Germany, and I will be writing a column about my experiences here in each issue of The Baron. My majors are English Literature and Linguistics Before I start philosophizing on my culture shock, let me explain where I’m coming from…

What makes a German student go to Canada? Why not choose the States or Great Britain if you want to work on your English and experience a foreign country? When I first heard about my university’s Canadian exchange program, I had no answer ready. Since I didn’t want to be in the your-teacher-wants-to-know-why-you-took-the-course-situation (“actually, it just fit into my schedule, and I had no choice”), I did not dare apply at first. However, as you can see, I got there in the end.

It’s not natural for a German to know a lot about Canada. In school I learned about British and US history and culture, yet other English speaking countries were (back then) sadly neglected. Even at a university level it would have been hard to find classes in Canada until a few years back, when scholars finally decided they needed to broaden the field. I got lucky and took classes on many of the “new literatures.” I strongly felt that Canada was what I wanted to learn more about, so I just plunged.

How scary is it to go to a country whose inhabitants you can’t even stereotype?! Until recently Canada was a blank sheet for me. If you ask a German for the cliché, they’ll go for “Canadians are like US-Americans but better.” Leave the good stuff (friendly, generous, multicultural, etc.), take out the bad stuff (potentially Republican – which pretty much says it all) and there you go. Canada seems to be the “Not-the-US,” a nearly perfect nation. Too good to be true? Personally, I was relieved when “How I Met Your Mother” came along and taught me that Canadians are not perfect after all, but irrationally afraid of the dark and obsessed with ice-hockey. Now I have a more rounded picture to work with. J

Once I arrived here, I soon realized that Canadians are honestly among the friendliest, most kind and open-minded people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet; easy to talk to and fun to be around. I also think I’ll be hard pressed to find a Canadian supporter of Mitt Romney. You might say it’s just Saint John, but for me Saint John is Canada – for the moment; I have not had time to explore the details (yet). So far all goes according to the script.

As I start filling the blanks on my page with real places, real streets, real conversations and people, I cannot help but enjoy myself a lot as my time here continues. It will be an exciting journey to write this chapter of my life. I hope you’ll stay tuned.