Absolutely incredible snowy winter in Canada

Rick Somers, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

It is difficult to put words; just how incredible the exchange experience was for me.

How does one begin to summarize the best semester of one’s life?

I went on exchange to the University of Calgary in Canada for the 2019 Winter semester. I’ll start by saying that you haven’t experienced Winter until you’ve been in a Canadian Winter. My definition of ‘cold’ definitely changed. You begin to feel very Canadian when you start to look at -10°C as “not that cold.” One of my most vivid memories of this climate was when Spring finally arrived and the temperature rose to a lovely 10°C. The normal attire across the city quickly became t-shirts and shorts, just like the summer wear of Brisbane.

Of course, there’s snow. Yes, it’s absolutely everywhere. Snow can fall in Calgary for 6 months of the year. Slipping and falling on icy pathways became somewhat of a regularity for me and my uncoordinated self, but this only added to the experience.

As for the Uni, it definitely has a very unique feel, atmosphere and culture. Buildings are connected via tunnels, so you don’t have to go out into the cold between classes. Since lectures aren’t recorded here, people actually show up to classes and the university is bustling with activity because of it. On top of this, there are heaps of awesome facilities on campus that are free to use for students. I made frequent use of the bouldering wall and rock-climbing gym, as well as the ice-skating ring and the gym. Skiing, sporting and other outdoor equipment can be rented for cheap at the uni as well!

The university provided plenty of opportunities to meet with other exchange students and I quickly found myself among a large group of friends from all around the world. Most exchange students stay on-campus in the Cascade hall. All the on-campus housing blocks are right on the university grounds and are connected via tunnels. I decided to stay off-campus, in a share house with some Canadian students.

I would recommend this route, only if you’re within walking distance of the uni; waiting in the freezing cold for public transport really isn’t fun. It was with these Canadian students that I really got to understand what being a Calgarian was all about. Lots of ice hockey was both watched and played, and I gained a real affinity for country music and poutine. Also, with Banff and the Rocky Mountains being an hour drive away, I found Calgary to be perfect for the outdoor loving, adventurous side of me. Nothing compares to the exchange experience, it was absolutely incredible!

Trip of a Lifetime in Canada

Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

 

My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Bowen Island

You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.

Exploring Scenic Canada

All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.

Burnaby Campus – SFU

After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.

Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.

My dorm room on Campus

There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.

Roasting S’mores at Winter Festival

With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.

Meeting New Friends

In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!

Travelling on the weekend to see Canada

The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoying a white Christmas

After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.

Aurora Borealis

Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!

A Semester Abroad in Calgary

Brendan S., Bachelor of Information Technology
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

Last semester I got the great opportunity to spend four months studying at the University of Calgary in Canada. It was an incredible experience, and in this blog I’ll try to give you some insight into what life was like studying in Canada.

The Uni: The University of Calgary campus is a huge place, with some incredible facilities. Beyond the classrooms, just some of the things you’d find on campus at UofC include: a concert venue, basketball courts, swimming pools, gyms, hockey rinks, an Olympic skating rink, rock climbing walls, a pub, a theatre, restaurants, the list goes on.

There was rarely a dull moment being a student at UofC. The uni is big on campus culture, so if you didn’t have work to do (rare) there was always something happening. Sports, live music, carnivals, bingo nights, free art lessons, car smashing (yeah, the Engineering faculty put on a university approved event where you could smash an old car with a baseball bat to de-stress…), movie nights, you name it. On top of this there was on abundance of student clubs, so you could always find people with similar interests.

University of Calgary Campus

I chose to live on campus, in student accommodation, or “residence” as they call it. Staying in residence was the best choice I made on exchange, and I’d recommend anyone else thinking of going to do the same. All the friends I made at UofC were people I met in my building (Cascade Hall) – there’s a really good culture there which encourages everyone to get out of their rooms and get to know each other. The university also places all the exchange students in residence together. I was annoyed about this at first (I wanted to meet Canadians!) but this turned out to be the best thing about living there. Everyone I met was in the same boat as me, and we were all equally keen to travel and engage in campus life.

Moraine Lake

I found the academic standards at UofC to be quite similar to QUT, but where I found the biggest difference was the way classes were structured. Instead of the standard weekly two hour lectures and tutorials we’re used to at QUT, all my lectures and tutorials were only an hour long, but held three times a week. This meant that even though I was only taking three units, I was in class for a few hours five days a week. The one other difference was in the amount of online content delivered. My lecturers were all different, but I had one who refused to upload absolutely anything online (no slides, no unit outline, no practice exams), so if you have to miss a lecture, you’d miss out on that content completely.

 

The Country/City: I found Calgary to have a really similar culture to Brisbane in a lot of ways. They’re both smaller cities (although Calgary is about half the size of Brisbane) and they sit very similar culturally within their countries – Alberta is very much the Queensland of Canada. Everyone  I spoke to was friendly enough, and I never experienced any real form culture shock, which made the adjustment really easy.

University Drive

One thing that was a shock however, was the cold. I arrived at the start of Autumn, where temperatures were slightly colder than our winters (averaging about 10-20°). This gave me a chance to ease into the weather, so by the time it started snowing in September I was a bit more resistant to the cold.

Calgary is an expensive place to live! Although things like fast food were cheap (I miss Tim Hortons so much), I found myself being shocked weekly at how much groceries and fresh food cost over there – especially chicken! It wasn’t all bad though, being a student you pay $150 and they give you a UPass, which gives you unlimited free public transport for the entire semester.

 

Highlights: We had the chance to see a lot of different sports over there, and though basketball and Canadian football (slightly different to American!) were a lot of fun, the obvious highlight was the hockey. Our residence arranged for us to see our first NHL game our the first week there, and after that we were hooked and went to see the Calgary Flames win five more games throughout the semester. Even if you’re not a sports fan I’d recommend going once just to experience the atmosphere!

Go Flames Go!

Calgary is located close to so many incredible natural wonders, and the trips I was able to go on were definitely the highlight of the semester for me. We did many trips to the Rockies – we had the chance to see Lake Moraine, the mountain town of Banff, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Parkway (the most incredible drive you’ll ever go on!) and Jasper National Park. We also decided to hire cars and do a big road trip into the US to see Yellowstone National Park, which was such an incredible experience.

Jasper

Exchange at University of Calgary gave me some of the best experiences of my life. If you’re thinking about choosing Calgary as your location for exchange, I say go for it. It’s a great city to live in, and there’s nothing quite like the culture of North American universities. You’ll have the chance to see some incredible sights, go on some big adventures, and make some great memories with people from around the globe.

Oh Canada! University of Guelph (UoG)

Denise N., Bachelor of Biomedical Science
University of Guelph, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

In Semester 2 of 2017, I had the privilege of going on a study exchange to UoG, Canada. This experience involved school, travel, friends and fun. Upon arrival at the campus, one of the things that stood out was how enormous the campus was compared to QUT’s Gardens point. The campus spread out across a large part of the city. Guelph itself was not as developed as Brisbane, it is a small city outside Toronto. Part of what contributed to the size of the campus was the student residencies in all four corners of the university. I resided in the East houses and shared a suite with 11 other students. We had three toilets, two showers and one kitchen.

Academically, there were more differences than similarities between UoG and QUT. Firstly, at UoG, there was very little flexibility for students to organise their timetables due to pre-set class hours. Some classes were as early as 7am. Lecture recording was not common, only one fourth of my classes had recordings. Lecturers were addressed formally as Professors and the longest lecture I had was an hour and thirty minutes. The class periods were shorter but more frequent throughout the week, about 3 times.Living in south-east Ontario made it easier for me to travel to numerous places including Niagara Falls, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal as well as crossing over to the USA via bus. The cost of living in Canada was higher than that in Brisbane. This was mainly because of the tax and tips to be added to the advertised prices for goods and services. It took me a while to assimilate to this.

In terms of cultural shock, I didn’t experience it until I travelled to the Province of Quebec where majority of people speak French. Visiting Quebec was one of my highlights because it was very different; being surrounded by people speaking in a different language, viewing public signs mostly in French. I remember when I first arrived in Quebec City and was trying to get a bus ticket, the first 3 strangers I spoke to did not understand English. Some other highlights from my trip include experiencing the beautiful Fall colours at Montmorency Falls, experiencing snow for the very first time and making a snow angel. I was also able to visit NYC, one of my favourite places in the world. Time Square was literally the centre of the universe.

To anyone thinking of going on exchange, I strongly encourage you to go for it. Through experiencing the new school environment, traveling and new friendships, I have learnt more about myself, my values and my goals. Exchange taught me that I know very little and I have a lot to learn. It was without a doubt a learning experience. Advice I would give to future students would be to live off campus, as much as living on campus is an experience in itself, there’s more independence living off campus. Keep in touch with family and avoid making friends from the same country as even though it would be easier, you won’t really benefit out of it in the long run. People from other places have unique experiences that you can learn from and international connections are valuable, especially today.

How to Survive in Canadian College

Reeve D., Bachelor of Business
Bishops University, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

  1. Frosh week / O week

Frosh week started off with team selection day, where you would go around to every team (consisting of older students) and learn a bit about them. There were heaps of teams for people with different interests, with some stressing the fact they love to party and others – being all girl’s teams – centred around making friends. Every team had their own house, which was your meeting point for weekly activities. During frosh week, your aim is to complete challenges to get your team points. One of the challenges I completed was to wear a shower cap of shaving cream on my head for a night, one guy shaved his head and another guy was painted green for the week. However, you definitely aren’t forced into any challenges you don’t want to complete. There were a couple of concerts held in the quad during frosh week and a swamp day where you had to get as messy as possible being covered in gross foods. The week was amazing and was great with helping me make friends instantly. With the week ending with a team performance and football game.

  1. Halloweekend

I definitely consider Halloweekend one of the best events from my time at Bishops. Its three nights of different Halloween parties, all with different themes. The first night consist of everyone going to either the school bar, residence parties or different house parties. Night two was held at Animal House (probably the biggest party house of the university) and night three was the official event held by The Gait (on campus bar).

  1. Residence/Where To Live

I can’t stress enough how important it is to live in Lennoxville. So many exchange students (including myself) originally made the mistake of living a bus ride away from the university in Sherbrooke. Living in Lennoxville is extremely social and convenient. It’s also extremely rare that students don’t live near the university. Bishops campus is practically all of Lennoxville, so even if you are unable to get a spot in residence, living in one of the many party houses or in your own apartment is a great way to still get that real college experience. Join the Bishops housing page and find a couple of other exchange students looking for housing and contact Carl, who is the land lord of all the apartments in Little Forks (circled- I can provide Carls phone number if requested).

  1. Classes

Classes are typically small and don’t consist of a regular lecture and tutorial, instead it’s more like two tutorials a week (this was the case for my business/criminology subjects). I found the work to be much easier than QUT and more interactive, however more class time was required.

  1. Social
    1. The Gait is the student run school bar which host regular happy hours and themed events.
    2. The Lion is a bar (kind of like a pub) off campus in Lennoxville. The lion is super fun and has acoustic Tuesdays where there’s a live band.
    3. House parties: As you can see on the map above each house in Lennoxville has its own name, with the majority of parties being at Animal House, Football House, Haunted or along Reed street. There’s also a huge party at Cool Ranch (which was my frosh house) every year called Luda Christmas, where the whole school is invited.
    4. There are also so many social events for those students not into the party scene such as plays, organised weekend trips to Montreal and Quebec City, talent shows, fashion shows, football games, hockey games, guest speakers, movie nights and many clubs.
  1. Dining Hall / Food

The dining hall at Bishops is called Dewhurst Dining Hall or Dewies for short, and has a great variety of foods available. It has a grill bar where you can order fries/burgers/hotdogs, salad bar, pasta station and many other great foods. Even if you don’t live in residence you can still get a Dewies pass, and it’s definitely worth it!

  1. Travel

I found traveling around Canada easy and relatively cheap. During the semester, I was able to go on a weekend trip to Toronto which was amazing. After the semester finished is when I completed the majority of my travel. I went to Vancouver, Whistler, Ottawa, Montreal, Chicago and New York. Due to the university being in a small town I was able to budget my money super well during the semester, enabling me to have the best time at the end of my exchange. I definitely recommend Vancouver and Whistler, as I was able to experience a non-French side of Canada.

5 Tips for Studying Abroad at Queens University!

Sidney A., Bachelor of Business/Laws
Queens University, Kingston, Canada (Semester 1, 2017)

 

Firstly, I must say that my decision to go on exchange was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in my time at QUT. What you learn in a classroom setting at university is important, but there are so many other skills that you learn outside of the classroom (for example, on exchange) that are just as equally valuable.

 

Tip #1: if you are going on exchange to Queens, only book your flight to Toronto and then catch the train/bus to Kingston as the plane going between Toronto and Kingston is the size of a small bird and the experience is quite unnerving.

 

Tip #2: you don’t HAVE to have your accommodation booked prior to arriving in your host city.

If you don’t handle stressful situations well, I would recommend doing it a couple of months prior; however, I arrived in Kingston with 5 nights temporary accommodation pre-booked and 4 days to find somewhere to live. This forced me to get out and explore the city and get my bearings, find the best coffee shops in town to search for housing and meet lots of helpful Canadians. On the second last day, I had the perfect little carriage house all to myself and a friend over to celebrate. From that night, I knew it was going to be an amazing 4 months.

The first week, known as NEWTS (our leaders were Geckos) week was like O-week at QUT, but crazier! The entertainment, parties, games, social activities, chanting, dancing, dressing up, and eating was non-stop! In this week, I was allocated into a group and, naturally, the students in my group (called Food Newtwork) became some of my closest friends throughout the semester.

A bit about the university…the facilities are incredible! You think of a sport, and they’ve got it! That goes for food as well; but everyone seems to stick to PitaPits and Tim Hortons coffee and donuts. There are also plenty of clubs to join including outdoors club which organize weekly hikes and allow you to borrow their camping equipment.

One of my favourite thing about Queens was the camaraderie and the university spirit. Most of the residents in Kingston were Queens students and by the end of the semester, just about everywhere you went, you would run into a friend or a professor or tutor.

 

Tip #3: when looking for accommodation, try and get a room in the student Ghetto. I would suggest Frontenac St (or Aberdeen st if you really like to party). This is walking distance from the uni and close to all of the facilities, so you basically won’t leave the area.

In terms of the academics, I must admit that the four finance courses I took were much more challenging than those I’ve taken at QUT. The student intake at Queens Business School is quite limited, so the Canadian students that are accepted are mostly all high-achievers and have very high expectations. So whilst I probably spent the same amount of time studying overseas as I do at QUT, I do not regret at all, because I learnt so much and developed skills that I probably wouldn’t have, had I chosen first-year subjects.

Tip #4: if you want to do a really challenging finance subject, I dare you to take Professor Bill Cannon’s class.

 

On the weekends, most of the exchange students would organise camping trips, hiking trips and road trips to new cities and go exploring. During my time in Canada, I was fortunate enough to travel to Quebec City, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver/Whistler on the West Coast on my way home. My favourite city was definitely Montreal, despite that I cannot speak one work of French; but I would recommend trying to get to all of these cities. They were all unique and worth spending a weekend exploring.

The cost of living was fairly similar to Brisbane, however, in Kingston there were lots of student discounts that you could take advantage of. Travelling in a group also lowered the costs. For example, hiring a car and splitting it between 5 people reduced transport costs considerably.

Tip #5: in Ontario, they have quite strict regulations with regards to hiring cars, so I would highly recommend checking out one of their policies before leaving Australia and trying to meet all of the insurances etc if you’re interested in doing a bit or travel, or buddy up with someone that does.

Personally, the only cultural shock I experienced was with the food. Be prepared to carb-load. Everything has potatoes, bread and chips included.

Reflecting on all of these things really makes me miss my time at Queens. I would do it 100 times over and cannot recommend study abroad highly enough to my peers!

Canadian Culture at Queen’s University

Cameron, W., Bachelor of Business
Queen’s University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. For all the geographically impaired readers (such as myself), Kingston is two hours east of Toronto and roughly in the middle of Canada, just above the American border. The town itself was very much a University based society. There were something like 20,000 students living in just a 5km radius with another 70,000-people living in the surrounding area. The campus was gorgeous – nice sandstone buildings, many of which were newly or currently undergoing renovations. The Smith School of Business was most definitely the pride and joy of the University. Extensions to the main buildings created a blend of new and old styles and a refreshing environment to study in.

Accommodation was as you’d expect, first years all lived in student dormitories and the rest lived within walking proximity in less than tidy or looked after rental houses. This was great for socialising as you didn’t worry about anything getting broken or dirty. Sport in Canadian Universities are much the same as American, it’s a big deal with lots of money put into it. As you would expect, the fields and facilities were amazing, and we could all use the three-story gym on campus which was great for encouraging healthy lifestyles resulting in a surprisingly fit population. The parties and community were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, it really makes me feel as though I’ve missed out on so much bonding and social experiences with Australian University where we don’t all live on or next to campus.

Hanging out at Ontario Hall

Everybody says Canada is basically Australia’s cold cousin and I couldn’t agree more. So many people were so relaxed and just happy to help you if you ever needed it. The lack of hostility was ever so apparent (better than down under) and geographically similar. Everyone typically lives on the border just as we live on the coast with a whole lot of uninhabitable land filling in the rest.

Australia’s Cold Cousin

Overall, I’d say the partying and travelling with friends I met from university was the main highlight. I’ve never really been able to socialise 4 or 5 days a week and live in this environment with friends literally living a block away. Having that exploration mentality and pass/fail grading allowed me to go and see a lot more and really experience everything both Canada and Queen’s had to offer. I can easily say I would not have enjoyed my time as much if my grades would have counted. Anxiety would overrun any positive experience and I wouldn’t have had time to go out and explore and make new friends.

I didn’t expect university could be this fun, Australian universities have a very boring culture. We go to class, maybe meet some friends and have drinks after – although you aren’t all committed and involved nearly as much. I never expected to go to so many functions or sporting matches, I didn’t think the communal University culture could ever be so inclusive of anybody and everybody.

University Facilities

The tips I would have for anyone travelling to Queen’s is simple. DO NOT GO IN WINTER. Fall semester is an absolute blast – everybody from Europe comes in Fall and all the Canadian students go away in Winter, so there’s way more people and community events. Housing was an absolute nightmare – especially to get a 4-month lease. Hop on that quickly. Most of all, do the NEWTS week orientation. Fantastic way to meet everyone on exchange and these people will no doubt become your buddies to hang out with for the rest of the semester.

Small town Canadian Exchange

Harriet L., Bachelor of Business/Exercise and Movement Science
Dalhousie University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

My semester exchange at Dalhousie University was nothing short of life-changing. I met some amazing people, saw some incredible things and had some unforgettable experiences. That’s not to say exchange was all smooth sailing, however.

My first week in Halifax was probably the loneliest of my life. I knew absolutely nobody, my roommate had gone home for a few weeks before class started and orientation didn’t start for another week from when I touched down. Once orientation started, however, I quickly found a group of people who I became fast friends with and who I stayed friends with until the conclusion of the exchange. Ironically our group comprised of 4 Aussies, 5 Brits and a token German (just so we didn’t seem too uncultured). On the second day of orientation we won the international trivia competition (the first thing I’ve ever won in my life) which got us a bunch of free Dalhousie gear including hoodies and caps! From here our friendship was formed and together we planned many trips away to visit various areas of Nova Scotia and Canada. Our first of which was for my birthday – we decided to rent a lake house about an hour’s drive from Halifax and spend a weekend there. It was absolutely beautiful – particularly in autumn as the leaves were changing colour! A recommendation for anybody wanting to rent a car – Hertz rents to anybody over 20 and their rates weren’t too expensive. Between the 10 of us it ended up being about $20 each for the whole weekend hire! Throughout the semester, we also took trips to a pumpkin picking farm (a specialty for Thanksgiving), Prince Edward Island and Montreal.

Dalhousie itself was very welcoming – the orientation activities really helped facilitate friendships and get us acclimated to Halifax life. Throughout the semester the international centre also planned lots of activities for us including a trip to see the Mooseheads hockey team play (DO NOT EVER SAY ICE HOCKEY, Canadians will look at you like you’re crazy), build gingerbread houses and a handful of pizza parties. The class structure was a little different to QUT in that none of the resources were really posted online so if you missed a lecture you basically had no way to catch up unless you went to see the professor in person. Assessment wise I found it much easier than home – they tended to give ongoing assessment so everything was worth less but was less stressful and could be completed last minute if you forgot about it (not that I ever did this of course). It was also a nice reprieve being pass/fail because it meant I could enjoy my time without being too stressed about course work. I also got involved in a few different events and sports such as Lacrosse, Halloween and Thanksgiving which were really great Canadian experiences. There was also a university event called Homecoming in which everyone dressed up in their Dalhousie gear, hung out all day and then went to the men’s hockey game in the evening – it really made us feel like true Canadians!

Halifax is a very walkable city. My apartment was about a 10 minute walk from campus and, of my friends, I was actually the furthest from campus. The bus system is also pretty good for getting downtown or local hiking tracks. Students get a good deal too – you pay a lump sum at the start of semester which lets you ride the bus all year and if you leave before the year’s up then you get half back (as I did). The people are really nice and helpful, there’s a real sense of community and, being a small town of less than 500k, it has a really homely feel which I got used to quite quickly. Food in grocery stores is comparable to Brisbane but going out can be quite expensive. In Nova Scotia, the tax is 15% and then it’s also expected that you tip 15% so the price you see on the menu is never even close to what you end up having to pay!

My top tips for exchange would be to not worry about money too much – just say yes to every experience you possibly can, it’s a once in a lifetime thing for most people after all! Try to make friends with people who want the same things out of their exchange – for me it was a group who wanted to do spontaneous weekend trips and hikes. Most of all, if you are having a tough time remember that there’s likely someone on exchange feeling the exact same way so just get out there and talk to people!

Montreal – the number one student city!

Sneha M., Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot excited and a little bit nervous! I had never lived overseas before for starters and my best dish consisted of toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French was the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about 3 duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English, in fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping.

The next day orientation week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada and Iceland during spring break which were both simply breathtaking .

Montreal was voted number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest a music festival with intricately carved ice bars, bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

 

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centres and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow to get to uni! Canadians are tough and uni is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

A Canadian Experience

Lachlan L., Bachelor of Engineering/Mathematics
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

My name is Lachlan Leech and I study Electrical and Aerospace Engineering and Computational and Applied Mathematics at QUT and I was fortunate enough to go on exchange for one semester to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I attended the University of Calgary (U of C) as of September 5 to December 21, 2017. However, before arriving at my new home I spent a month travelling around Eastern Canada to experience the best that Canada has to offer. That being, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montréal and Quebec City!

Upon reflection, living and studying in Canada for six months was without question the best time of my life; I can finally understand why everyone who has been on an exchange has similar thoughts! Based solely on my experience, even though Canada is a Commonwealth country and therefore has a lot of similarities with Australia, there are still vast differences. These differences ranged from architecture, costs of living, climate and people to people culture. I found that in Canada, their architecture ranges from technologically advanced buildings to historical chateaus and castles such as their Fairmont hotels and French buildings, whereas Australia mainly has modern buildings as seen in Downtown Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I found their cost of living to be similar to Australia however their housing, food, gas, and transport is cheaper. The only shock I found about Canada, even though I was expecting it was the climate. In Calgary, the climate was constantly fluctuating due to the Rockies to the West and the farm lands to the East, to the point whereby one day could see temperatures of 10 degrees and then go to -20 degrees the next! I experienced an amazing culture shock which was evident in their citizens. Canadians and Calgarians in particular are without question the most amazing and kind-hearted people in the world; always kind, respectful and always helping their follow citizens and tourists through any situation.

In terms of the U of C, I found that life on campus was quite similar to QUT with respect to class sizes, rooms and the method as to which a unit and degree is delivered and taught by professors. However, there were vast differences that were evident between both universities. I found that the U of C is more like a mini city due to the fact that they allow boarding on campus, whereas QUT doesn’t. With this, the students are more connected and are seen as more of a family. They also have all amenities on campus such as Dentists, Doctors, Convenience Stores, Restaurants, Stadiums, etc which was amazing. In terms of Academics, Canadians are expected to get grades greater than a pass (>= 60%) to proceed to new units and as a result of this system, they bell curve! I found that to be a big difference and quite harsh on students considering that they usually take 5-6 units per semester and not 4 like at QUT!

The greatest highlight I had in my time in Canada was meeting people that I know are going to be lifelong friends. From frosh week they were all so fascinated with Australia and all wanted me to experience the best of Calgary, from seeing Hockey matches to exploring Downtown Calgary; the University of Calgary, whether it was going ice skating at Olympic Stadium or seeing their Dinos play football; even to close by places such as the Rockies (hiking around Banff and seeing Lake Louise).

Obviously, my advice to students considering going on exchange is to go. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that will change the way you look at the world as you’ll be immersed into another culture that will surpass all your expectations!