This page contains information mainly useful for students interested in the 1-semester or 2-semester OBW Exchange program.
1. Where on earth is Baden-Württemberg?
Baden-Württemberg is one of 16 Länder (states) in Germany, located in the Southwest, with France on its western border and Switzerland to the south. It’s the home of the Black Forest; Mercedes-Benz; Lake Constance (in German called the “Bodensee”); great wines; and outstanding, friendly universities. Within Europe, it’s closer to Italy than to Hamburg.
2. Where can I study?
Baden-Württemberg has nine state-funded, public universities. Some, like Freiburg, Heidelberg, and Tübingen, are centuries old. Others, like Konstanz, are relatively young. Some offer courses across the board; others, like Ulm, Stuttgart, and KIT (Karlsruher Institut für Technologie), have strong specializations in science and engineering. All have excellent reputations (Baden-Württemberg consistently performs very highly in national rankings exercises) and they all like receiving Ontario students. When you apply, you indicate your top three choices; if you are accepted, we do our best to place you at the University of your choice (although we can’t guarantee it). We are more than happy to advise you on which universities best meet your needs.
3. How many spaces are there?
There are 50 spaces in the long-stay exchange for all of Ontario. With 13 participating universities, that means that each university can count on at least three spaces per year. Universities that nominate more than three candidates usually receive extra spaces that are not claimed by other universities. In addition, there are extra spaces for graduate and senior undergraduate students in science and engineering who wish to do a summer research stay working with a research group in Baden-Württemberg.
4. Who can apply?
Students at the following Ontario universities are eligible to apply: Carleton, Guelph, Laurentian, McMaster, Nipissing, Ottawa, Queen’s, Ryerson, Trent, Waterloo, Western, Windsor, and York (including Glendon). You have to be in at least second year of an undergraduate program, in good standing, with an average of at least B, when you apply. We welcome applications from graduate students.
5. How much German do I need?
If you have the equivalent of two years of university German, you will have no problems. As the range of courses taught in English expands, it has become possible to study on the OBW program with less than two years of German. In fact, we have had remarkable success with students who begin German the year they apply to the Exchange Program. And in some cases, students have learned enough German over the summer to allow them to go. Once in Baden-Württemberg, you get a scholarship (tuition and a contribution toward room and board) for an intensive German course at your host university before regular classes start. You may be able to receive credit for this course at your home university in Ontario. And you can enrol in German language courses during the term free of charge or, in some cases, for a nominal fee. It all depends on your level and field of study. But don’t allow what you see as a lack of German to deter you. Contact us for advice. We will give you an honest assessment.
6. Is financial aid available?
Yes. The OBW program administers scholarships (no special application needed) for all OBW participants, using funds provided by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (2015–16 scholarships are $2500 for full-year participation). OSAP, OGS, or SSHRC support, as well as many university-based scholarships, may be applied to your exchange year. In addition, participating students are eligible for consideration for the Baden-Württemberg Scholarship program, which is administered by the host universities in Baden-Württemberg. Feel free to discuss this with us. Also, it is common for Ontario universities to offer scholarships and/or bursaries for study abroad: check with your home university’s Inter¬national Office and with your academic advisor.
7. How much does it cost?
Basically, you have to figure your “normal” costs for a year at school in Ontario, and then calculate the difference. Here are the factors:
- Your tuition in Ontario (but some Ontario universities will grant you a partial or even full bursary if you participate in the Program) — remember, you can get credit for the courses you take in Baden-Württemberg.
- Your travel costs to Germany and back (probably around $1500 for the flight).
- Your living expenses in Germany: a minimum of around $1100 per month, all in, for ten months, October through July; a good part of the living costs in September are paid for by the language-course scholarship (see point 4 above).
- The cost of buying into a German "Krankenkasse" health insurance plan, which required as a condition of the OBW Travel Bursary;
- Because most courses do not end until July, you will probably not be able to work in Canada the summer you return (under some circumstances you can work part-time in Germany).
- The exchange rate (Canadian dollar to Euro): its fluctuations can make it either more or less advantageous.
8. How long will I be away?
The Exchange Year runs from September (the free language course) to July of the following year. This includes two semesters of university (October to mid-February, and mid-April to July), with a reading, working, or travelling period from mid-February to mid-April. (The University of Mannheim has slightly different semester dates: Students who go there will be away from August until June.) Almost all Ontario participants spend a full academic year in Germany, although students may apply to participate for one semester only. We strongly recommend that Ontario undergraduates in particular apply for a full academic year, rather than just one semester.
9. What do I gain from participating?
You gain credit toward your Ontario degree, enhance your marketability with international experience and skills, make lifelong friends, broaden your personal horizons by living in a different part of the world, and have a memorable and incredibly enjoyable time in the process. And we’re here to help you all along the way.
10. Who is this “We,” anyway?
We are a consortium of 13 Ontario and 9 Baden-Württemberg universities. We have been in existence since 1990, when the Ministries of Higher Education of the two jurisdictions signed a partnership agreement. Since 1991–1992, when the first exchange took place, over 2000 students have participated.
The Exchange is administered collegially. In Baden-Württemberg the Program is administered by a committee of university International Offices, under the leadership of the Director of the International Office of the University of Konstanz. In Ontario there is a Program Director, Professor David Darby of the University of Western Ontario, and a Program Office located in Toronto. Each participating Ontario university is represented on the Ontario Program Committee, chaired by Peter Ricketts, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) of Carleton University, who represents the Vice-Presidents Academic of the Ontario universities. Each university has a liaison person responsible for the Program.
We work closely with, and receive funding from, the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
In other words, we’re a serious outfit. We believe in what we’re doing, and the friendships within the Program (on both sides of the Atlantic) make our work a lot of fun.
11. Where can I get more information?
This website has detailed information, including the current Handbook for Participants, application forms, and links to the Baden-Württemberg universities and other sites in Germany. The OBW Program Office is also happy to advise you in person, by phone, and by e-mail.