Winter in Canada
A Colder Kind of Practical Semester – A Report by Cooperative Education Student Alex
“Welcome to Canada, buddy!” This is how I was greeted by a colleague from the Schmalz Canada subsidiary who welcomed me there in the freezing cold.
I spent three months – from January to March – hard at work at our subsidiary abroad. Despite my previous preparations, I was still shocked by the cold temperatures. The thermometer registered -20° C as I set off for my new home. The subsidiary is located in Mississauga in the southern part of Canada. Mississauga borders Toronto, the capital city of the province of Ontario.
Compared to the beauty of the Black Forest, the surroundings appeared bleak and fl at to me. There were no hills nearby, not to mention mountains. However, Lake Ontario – only about ten minutes away from where I stayed – provided solace. Lake Ontario is one of the Great Lakes and appears indistinguishable from the ocean when you stand in front of it. During winter, it is especially beautiful to watch the ice fl oating on the lake.
I stayed with a host family who had previously hosted many Schmalz students before me and gave me a warm welcome. I heard that Canadians are very open and hospitable people, and this was also my experience during my stay. My host family lives in Oakville, a city near Mississauga. It took me about 20 minutes to drive from their home to work.
Schmalz Canada is a small sales subsidiary with fi ve employees, two of whom work in outside sales. I spent the majority of time in the offi ce with the other three employees. Compared to the everyday work environment in Glatten, the offi ce here is very informal. My day-to-day schedule in Mississauga was quite varied. Since there are relatively few employees, I was very involved and assisted with just about all tasks in the company, whether designing and implementing experiments in the workshop or drafting quotes for customers. During the entire three months, I never experience boredom. I especially enjoyed the considerable amount of responsibility I was given. For instance, I was responsible for customers from the very fi rst point of contact all the way to fi nal delivery of the product.
However, my semester abroad had much more in store for me than just my experience in the company. Of course, a trip to Niagara Falls was on my agenda. However, a large section of the falls was frozen because of the cold. The view was also entirely different from the one that is seen in pictures and videos. As part of the “Winterlude” Festival in Ottawa, a frozen canal that is approximately eight kilometers long drew a large number of visitors who partook in ice skating.
In addition to excursions to Toronto and Montréal, I spent a week in New York, which gave me the chance to fulfi ll one of my dreams. It was incredibly powerful to see parts of the city and buildings in person that I know from fi lms and TV series.
However, when I think back on my semester abroad, it’s not the big buildings or my work in the company that come to mind fi rst. It’s the people who I got to know there. The language barrier disappeared within just a few weeks and I was welcomed everywhere by friendly faces. I am very grateful for my sojourn in Canada and my experiences there.