Canada Eh!

Jessica R, Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries

Queens University (Semester 2, 2016)

My semester on exchange in Kingston, Canada has finished and what an experience it has been!

While my time at Queen’s was nothing short of amazing, it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of differences to QUT. Aside from the obvious difference in the accent (as to be expected, eh), the classroom sizes, teaching methods and workload are quite different to what we’ve experienced at QUT. With smaller classrooms and lessons reflecting what we call tutorials, participation is expected and more often than not your contribution in class is graded. I also found there was more work to complete on a weekly basis, with small assessments due regularly or a weekly quiz. Another major difference is the amount of group work – expect to be working in 4 or 5 groups at a time!

Aside from the differences academically, university life is similar to that in Australia. Small differences such as more of a community feel and the opportunity to live in residence make your exchange experience just that little bit more exciting and different.

While Canada is similar to Australia in a lot of ways, driving on the opposite side of the road was probably the biggest adjustment I had to make – even just crossing the road! The cost of living is similar to that of Australia, just remember taxes are added and tipping is expected in restaurants and for any services. While it’s not overly difficult to travel within Canada, it is expensive. For example, the 2 ½ hour train trip from Kingston to Toronto cost me around $50 each way, although there are options for buses as well. My tip here is to try and book transport in advance if you can, and keep an eye out for specials!

When reflecting back over my time on exchange I had so many good experiences that it’s hard to choose highlights! Perhaps my biggest take away from my time on exchange is the people I’ve met. Queen’s has a great orientation program and a few associations tailored to exchange students, which makes meeting people from all over the world so easy! I also found that because exchange at Queen’s is such a popular thing to do – 80% of third year commerce students go on exchange – the majority of students in my classes were also exchange students. This was comforting in the fact that we were all in the same boat in regards to being new to the system and how things work in Canada. It also meant I got to work in groups with students from all over the world. Perhaps the biggest highlight from my exchange experience was my accommodation. While trying to organise somewhere to live through the internet from the other side of the world was stressful, it couldn’t have worked out any better. I subletted a room in a house with 5 other girls, of which 4 were Canadian students and the other a fellow exchange student from England. I would highly recommend to anyone going on exchange to try and live with some local students if you can! Not only did these 5 girls become my best friends, they also made me feel incredibly welcome into their home and friendship groups – putting right amongst the local student culture!

All in all, my exchange experience in Canada was one of the best things I’ve done in my life so far and I wouldn’t change anything about it. The whole experience, including all the ups and downs, has made me a better person and has contributed to my education more than anything ever could!

 

Country music and ice hockey in beautiful Calgary

University of Calgary

Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Why here?: Close to mountains, beautiful and safe city, great vibe, hockey, country music!

U of C is the second best young university in the world! They are renowned for their high quality research and for playing host to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics (Jamaica we have a bob sled team/Eddie the Eagle…). The main campus, easily accessible by train or bus, includes a world class ice rink, gym, and three main residential buildings for exchange students. Cascade Hall is where most exchange students reside, but Aurora and Yamnuska are also great options for immersing yourself in the U of C culture with Canadian students (I chose Yam).

QUT student Emma enjoying the snow

Speaking from experience, the application process for accommodation and subject selection is quite easy and straight-forward, and the staff are incredibly helpful if you have trouble. Best of all, most other activities and services (such as bus and train fares, and the gym) are included in your application process! This means you will know exactly how much spending money you can put towards travel, food and night life.

Getting into the spirit of things!

With local hockey (go Flames!) and football teams (go Stamps!) and with the U of C Dinos teams, Calgary offers plenty of opportunities to experience the sports Canadians love. Calgary is also the home to the famous Stampede, so expect two-stepping and line dancing at midnight in the country bars around town.

Close to the mountains, an easy trip to go skiing

Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

My final exams are over, Bishop’s is closing for the holidays and by now the majority of my wardrobe is purple, so I guess that means my time here as a student is up!

Applying to go on exchange and choosing Bishop’s has been the best decision I’ve ever made. So I want to take a moment to say to anyone who might be considering going on an exchange (or even if you’re not), do it! There are so many amazing places out there, choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere that looks cool to you and just go for it. Get that second job and start saving, work hard for a scholarship that can get you there, plan a budget that works for you, boost your grades and take the time to put together a great application – whatever it is you can do to make it happen, if you can do it, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

My advice once you get there? Immerse yourself in the university life, embrace the foreign culture, stay in contact with family and friends back home, study (not too much! but enough to pass), make new friends, party, travel and just have fun with it – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What I love about the student exchange program is that it’s more than just travelling and more than just studying. I got the chance to live in another country for the first time, have the ‘college experience’, be the ‘foreign exchange student’, and meet people and learn things I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll have the time your life.

I also just want to take a second to mention, it’s ‘pass or fail’. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

So after all this, if you’re wondering why I’m not an absolute mess right now about having to leave, because I’m so in love with this place and the people in it, I’ll be returning for a visit to Bishop’s in January to say my goodbyes before I fly back home to Australia. Until then – I might not be an exchange student anymore but that doesn’t mean the adventure is over yet! I came all this way, so now it’s time to travel!

10 Things to Love About Bishop’s University

Let’s be honest, there’s more than just 10 great things about Bishop’s. I could rave about this place all day. But instead I’m keeping it brief and bringing you 10 things I’ve enjoyed about going to school here!

  1. Small School Size

You see familiar faces everywhere you go and are always bumping into friends.

  1. Residence

You can choose to live off campus in one of the many nearby houses and apartments or on campus in one of the residence buildings. There are lots of great options to make you feel right at home.

  1. Dining Hall

It’s been declared the 2nd best in the country and it’s easy to see why. With an ever-changing menu, made-to-order omelette, crêpe, stir-fry, pasta and grill stations, long opening hours and plenty of space to eat with friends or catch up on some television on the projector screen.

  1. Sport

There’s something on every weekend from football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer or rugby. The atmosphere at these games is incredible. There are varsity and club teams meaning everyone gets a chance to play.

  1. Classes

They’re engaging and taught by professors who know you by name and are always up for a chat.

  1. Clubs

From the Environmental Club, Investment Club, Social Justice Collective or Bowling Club, there’s something for everyone.

  1. The Gait

The campus bar hosts Happy Hour every Thursday and Gait Night every Saturday with free entry, drink specials, DJs and live bands, and themed events.

  1. The Plex

There’s a lot to do in one place. This building has a gym, study area, pool, ice skating rink, basketball courts, combat room, dance studio, health clinic and café, all available for student use.

  1. Diversity

The university is made up of 2300 students of all sorts of different nationalities, races, sexualities and genders.

  1. Location

Small town life is great. You can walk to everything you need, no cars needed. There’s a supermarket, service station, pharmacies, banks, restaurants, various shops (liquor store, bookstore, dollarstore) and the local pub. And for when you’re feeling that city life, Montréal is a bus ride away.

Saying Goodbye to Queen’s

What an adventure my time on exchange has been! Currently in my last week of classes and with only 2 weeks until I leave Kingston to set off on my own travels, it’s time to reminisce on my time here in Canada. Since my last post in October, I’ve done and seen some pretty cool things!thumb_img_7490_1024

Let’s start with my birthday. I was lucky enough to spend my 20th birthday here in Canada with my new friends and amazing housemates… who even bought me ice-cream cake! (Who knew Canada had the best ice-cream cake ever?!)

This then brings us to Halloween… which is just like the movies. Everyone goes all out, not just for 1 night either – 3 nights in a row! I was somewhat sensible and stayed in for 1 night, but made the most of it at house parties with my housemates and English/Australian exchange friends.

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The weekend following Halloween, a group of us went on a road trip into New York State to stay at a house in the mthumb_img_7594_1024ountains for the weekend. With one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen, the massive two story house was incredible – set with a spa and outdoor fire.thumb_img_7653_1024

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What a great weekend it was – cooking meals with that view, relaxing in the spa and hiking through the mountains!

My most recent adventure took me to Toronto for a weekend. Only 2 1/2 hours away by train, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time in another amazing city. My friends and I went to a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game, went up the CN Tower, did some shopping, went to the Christmas Markets and of course the Santa Clause Parade!

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While I’ve certainly been busying exploring, I’ve also had a heap of uni work to do. With mostly group projects, the work here has been quite different to home, but having the pass/fail system definitely takes the pressure off and has allowed to go to all these amazing places!

My time in Kingston is coming to an end, and saying goodbye to all my new friends is definitely going to be hard. But my adventure isn’t over yet. In 2 weeks I fly to the UK to spend Christmas with my best friend at her new home in Wales, before flying back to Canada to backpack the West Coast of Canada and the US with some of my new Australian friends. I then meet up with my dad and sister in San Francisco to finish off my journey! As this chapter of my adventure ends, the new one is just beginning – so stay tuned for my next update… wherever I may be!

 

 

Canada – some tips on how to fit in

Moving to a different country obviously means having to adjust to the different culture. Even similar countries like Canada and Australia vary quite considerably. Things we say or do, or our tastes, in general, are strange to them (as many Canadians have pointed out), and vice versa.

Some tips:

  • A flat white coffee comes in one size. Order a latte instead. Canadian coffee sucks.
  • Hot chips are “fries” (duh).
  • Bread and milk taste weird.
  • Main meals are called “Entrees” and entrees are called “Appetizers” on menus.
  • Tax (GST and Provincial Sales Tax) are added on top of the listed price. So if a price tag says it is $10, that means $10 + tax.
  • Although they officially use the metric system, most Canadians use pounds for a measurement of weight. You may want to learn the conversion rate so you don’t scare yourself looking at the scales.
  • Be prepared to explain how Netball, AFL and Union or League work. They have no idea.
  • If you say “ice hockey” they will most likely correct you to just “hockey,” as if there is only one variation of the sport.
  • They celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. Depending on who you’re with, they go hard out with the dress up and the decor.

    Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving

Halloween

Halloween

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Their GPA scale is 0-4. If you say “4s open doors” they will think you’re more studious than you are.

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

  • Canadian students (at least at the University of Calgary) are VERY studious. Find the fun ones.
  • If you drive, you can turn right on a red light after stopping in most provinces.
  • If you don’t hold the door open for a person within 5 metres of you, then you are an asshole. To be safe hold it for anyone within 7 metres.
  • Guys may get patted down walking into clubs.
  • Recycle everything or you will feel like a bad person.
  • They call a maple leaf the “Canadian leaf” or the “Canadian flag leaf”, because they are so proud. I get this whenever I show a Canadian my tattoo.
  • As Canada is bilingual, most things, including road signs and packaging, are written in both English and French. If you go to Quebec (the French-speaking province), the people tend to live up to French stereotypes, not Canadian.

 

They live up to their stereotypes –

Broken down in the Tim's car park

Broken down in the Tim’s car park

  • They are polite and helpful, and they do say “eh” and “aboot” (but they don’t always think they do).
  • Poutine (hot chips, gravy and cheese) is delicious if done correctly. Generally, you should avoid poutine in fast food restaurants.
  • Maple syrup is a staple.
  • Tim Horton’s (coffee shops) are everywhere and sacred. On a road trip, our van broke down in a Tim’s car park. Four nice Canadian men wearing flannelette shirts came over and helped fix our van. Our Canadian friend brought them Tim’s gift cards as a thank you. As the photo suggests, this was, and still is, my most Canadian experience.
  • Ice hockey is big with most Canadians. It is also awesome. Go to a game or two.

 

 

 

 

Things most Canadians won’t understand:

  • Words like “bottle-o,” “fortnight,” or just general slang.
  • “Thongs” are flip-flops here (duh), but enjoy watching people’s faces when you tell them you’re wearing thongs. Especially old people.
  • Why you like Vegemite (if you do) – which by the way, you can find at London Drugs (in Calgary anyway).
  • That magpies are crazy, blood-thirsty, dangerous animals. Apparently they don’t swoop here but I haven’t been around in the Spring to verify this. If you flinch walking past a magpie there is a good chance they will laugh at you.
  • Some occasions when you’re being sarcastic or insulting, especially if you use the word “mate” in there. They get the obvious stuff, just not the subtler ones.

Hope this helps.

As always, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca is you have specific questions.

Emma

Fall Celebrations at Bishop’s University

fall coloursI’ve been loving Fall here in Canada. The colours are amazing, let me tell you. But another thing I’ve been enjoying are the Fall celebrations! Here’s the lowdown on the three main events I’ve had fun with this season…..

  1. Homecoming! The most purple-filled weekend of the year.

coulter fieldThis weekend involved sports games attended by the whole school, a tailgate, keggers, alumni visiting and an insane amount of school spirit.

  1. Thanksgiving! My first ever. (People kept asking me what the Australian version of Thanksgiving is but there really isn’t one!)

thanksgiving dinnerI got a very kind invite to spend the weekend with my friend Anna and her family at their home in Toronto. So after a carpool to Montréal, bus to Ottawa and another bus to Toronto, 12 hours later we arrived at Anna’s house. Most of the weekend was spent meeting Anna’s friends and family, exploring downtown Toronto, shopping, drinking pumpkin spice lattes, watching baseball and football games, walking along Lake Ontario and sightseeing over the Toronto skyline. Oh and there was Thanksgiving Dinner of course (so much good Canadian food!)

  1. Halloweekend! The three-day event celebrating Halloween.

halloweekend night 2From my first week at Bishop’s, I’d heard people talking about this weekend which involved students wearing a different costume each night. Luckily it lived up to the hype. There were a lot of things going on over the weekend but the main events looked like this:

  • Thursday: Happy Hour at the campus bar
  • Friday: Party at Animal House, a backyard party where students typically dressed in animal onesies
  • Saturday: Gait Night where the campus bar was turned into a club for the lucky 900 across the whole school who scored tickets (thankfully I was one of them)

mont orfordAll in all, this Fall has not disappointed! Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of these colours before Winter rolls in!

 

 

My First Month at Queen’s

I’ve reached Week 6, and although I’m swamped with all sorts of assessment and preparation for classes, the fun hasn’t died down! At the end of September, a few other exchange students and myself hired some cars and drove 3 hours north to the beautiful Algonquin Provincial Park. The weather was amazing, but a little chilly, so perfect for walking to a viewing points and having lunch near one of the picturesque lakes. It was a long day but definitely worth it and an amazing sight to see with the trees starting to change colours! 

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Come October 7, Thanksgiving weekend started. My housemate Julia was kind enough to invite me and our other housemate on exchange to head to London, Ontario to spend Thanksgiving with her family! It was so nice to go to a family home and experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving. The whole family were so kind and hospitable and really made us feel at home. They took us to an ice hockey game, apple and pumpkin picking, involved us in cooking dinner and finished the weekend with a trip to the cinema.

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Of course this then leads us to the most recent event… Homecoming! What a crazy, crazy weekend. All Queen’s students fill the streets from early in the morning to start their partying, which continues right on into the night. Queen’s alumni come back to Kingston to celebrate their time at Queen’s and join in on the partying! Everyone is dressed in Queen’s colours – blue, red and yellow if you couldn’t tell from the photos – and Queen’s merchandise! So much fun!

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My time at Queen’s so far has been nothing short of amazing, thanks to my wonderful housemates and new friends! I still have some exciting trips coming up so stay tuned for my next post!

Calgary – things to do and know

5 weeDowntown Calgaryks into my exchange at the University of Calgary and I have some updates for you back home.

My last post had lots of information about the university and O Week at U of C. This time I would like to focus more so on Calgary and Alberta. Calgary is the perfect city in size, people and activity. Calgary has about 1.1 million people meaning that it has a lot of great services but isn’t too big.

 

 

 

Firstly – transportation

Calgary has two train lines, the Red and the Blue. While staying at U of C you will likely only use the Red line which travels NE to SW. Although the train isn’t all that quick around Calgary, it is convenient and takes to right into the heart of the downtown area. There is a stop at the university (although it is on the other side of the campus), and stops to all major areas including sporting grounds.

Calgary’s buses are decent. I find them comparable to ones in Brisbane, not super fast, but not horrible either. There are a number of routes traveling from the university to close shopping malls or districts, however, unless going somewhere nearby, the trains are generally easier. The best part of public transit here is that you pay $130 at the beginning of the semester to get a UPass sticker for you university ID, which you then show the drivers, and you don’t have any more to pay.

Taxis are not as expensive here as back home (but you will hear Canadians complain about them). You will be expected to tip though, so keep that in mind and maxis aren’t really a thing. There is sadly no Uber 🙁

 

View from Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

Secondly – activities

There is an abundance of fun activities to do in Calgary and the surrounds. Small concerts are held on the university grounds every so often as well as around the city reasonable frequently. Keep your eyes peeled for posters around campus or the city. If not in Calgary, then artists usually perform in Banff which is a rather short bus trip away.

There are incredible hikes or walks close to the city. I recently hiked Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (about 1 hour drive), which was difficult (partly due to my fitness level, but also due to the thinner air) but definitely worth it for the view. It gets quite cold up the top so bring layers!

 

Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium Hot Springs, BC

10 friends and I also took a road trip to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia (BC). The trip was about 3.5 hours (if the van hadn’t broken down) and absolutely worth every penny! As we drove to Radium, every corner brought new mountains and magnificent views, while the town itself was full of awesome walks and, of course, hot springs!

If you are looking for something closer to Calgary I would recommend ice skating or catching a game of Canadian football or ice hockey. You can ice skate on campus at the Olympic Oval for $5 skate and helmet hire. Entry is free. All U of C Dinos games are free and the football games walking distance from campus (the hockey is just a train ride away).

At a Hitmen game

^^This is Josh^^

Calgary Stampeders (football) games are walking distance (McMahon Stadium) and you can get tickets in the nosebleeds for $25 (if you buy a few days early). The Calgary Flames (ice hockey) games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome a bit more expensive and worse seats but look for deals on StubHub or for student games.

 

Otherwise the Calgary Hitmen, a team in the WHL (so under 23 ice hockey) also play at the Saddledome and tickets will likely be cheaper.  Or if you’re like me, become friends with someone who gets free tickets (thanks Josh)!

 

 

Of course I should mention all of the bars and clubs around the city. Everyone has different tastes so I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say that The Den (on campus) turns into a conveniently located club on Thursdays, and that Commonwealth is also popular. As far as bars go – Ranchman’s on Saturdays (country), Kilkenny’s (at Brentwood – about 10 minutes on the bus and great for sports) and The Ship & Anchor (17th Ave SW – great for food) are all a bit of fun. It’s a good idea to carry cash out, as some places only take cash at the bar. Ladies also get in cover-free on Wednesdays at Cowboys because it is ladies night. Remember to tip!

Stephen Ave Walk

Stephen Ave Walk

And of course, more known things like the Calgary Tower, Stephen Ave Walk and the path along the river are also great for a free day.

 

 

Finally – weather

Be warned that the weather can change quickly. One day it will be cool, but sunny and the next day will be snowy. Dress in layers!

 

That’s it for now but as usual, if you have specific questions, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca.

 

New Plays Festival at Bishop’s University

turner studioLast night marked the end of this year’s New Plays Festival at Bishop’s University! It’s been a busy few weeks from the auditions in Frosh Week to closing night, and all the daily rehearsals in-between, but boy has it been fun. I’m going to start out by saying, since drama class in school, I’ve had zero experience in theatre before my involvement with New Plays. However, as an Entertainment Industries student at QUT, theatre is an interest of mine, typically in the sense that I enjoy seeing productions whenever possible. I’ve seen productions in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as New York’s Broadway and London’s West End.

Needless to say, theatre is an entertainment form I enjoy. Because of this, when I heard Bishop’s was holding a student theatre festival, I was interested in getting involved. I was hoping to get a position working backstage. However, I didn’t know enough about the different positions and assumed that without experience, I would have no chance. So I decided to sleep in the morning of the auditions instead.

Eventually that day I headed down to lunch where I met my friend Alice who had just returned from auditions. After hearing that I had originally been interested in getting involved, she convinced me to just go and talk to the coordinators about potential positons backstage. So I thought ‘why not?’.

I showed up at Turner Studio asking if there were any positions backstage for a student with no experience but willing to learn. The first thing I was asked was ‘if I had considered auditioning for an onstage role because my accent could make for an interesting character addition’. After considering this for a few moments, I said I would be happy to, but I would prefer to gain experience backstage rather than onstage. And with that I was taken off to meet one of the directors, who soon became my director, as I landed a role as a stage manager.

cast photo 1It all happened so fast and I was excited but admittedly also a little freaked out once I heard there was practice every day (since this was only my first week and I had planned not to get too tied down to anything as an exchange student) and that the play (titled ‘Dealing With It’ and based on real-life experiences) dealt with some heavy issues involving anxiety and depression. I was worried that combining the daily rehearsals (10pm-12am Monday-Thursday and 3 hours during the day Friday-Sunday) with the themes of the play, would potentially take a toll and make me not enjoy the experience. However, as it turns out I had nothing to worry about. There were certainly emotional rehearsals involved, I mean you can’t be involved in a play like that without feeling something! But the people I got to work with were so happy and friendly and we made sure we ended each rehearsal on a high note.

For those of you who have no clue what the role of stage manager entails (this was me early on), I’ll give you a quick rundown. Basically, during rehearsals I was there with a script, prompting the cast with their lines, and during the shows, I was the one in the headset running the show through lighting and sound cues.

The cue-to-cue rehearsal which took place in the final week of rehearsals (during homecoming weekend!) where I first worked cueing the lighting and sound, was a little messy, leaving me worried for the show. But I found by the next rehearsal, I’d got the hang of it. So by the time the shows rolled round, while I was a little nervous about something going wrong (I had ‘jokingly’ been told that if I messed up, I messed up the whole show  which was actually a fair assessment of the situation), I felt confident and found myself enjoying the stage manager role immensely.

To me, the fact that ‘Dealing With It’ was part of a whole festival of shows was just the best. This meant that over the period of a week, I, along with crowds full of other audience members, got to watch 9 different student plays (including Alice’s, who ended up getting cast in a comedy that had me laughing from start to finish), leaving me astounded with the level of talent this university has to offer in its theatre department. From scriptwriters, directors and actors, to lighting, set and costume designers; the list goes on.

The highlights of the whole experience for me were:

  • Cast Bonding (a night where we all hung out, played games, ate lots of food and drank sangria and jungle juice)
  • Getting the chance to really do my thing as stage manager and seeing thecast bonding show truly come together in tech and dress rehearsal and during the festival
  • Pre-show gifts where
    I was presented with thank-you gifts and cards from the cast, director and coordinators. I was super surprised to say the least as I’d seen them as being the ones doing all the hard work, I was just there having fun! But that’s just Bishop’s students for you; always surprising you with acts of kindness!

It’s definitely been a great experience for me where I’ve not only learnt valuable skills but also made some super cool and talented friends. I’m glad I pushed through the initial hesitation because now I know this is something I enjoy and I hope to stage manage again in the future!

Oh and we got a standing ovation too, so I guess the hard work payed off!

cast photo 2

 

And shout out to this lovely bunch: Kate, Natalie, Janelle, Adam, Julia, Kelly, Olivia, Dom, Taylor, Rachel, Mouadh, Emilie and Barbara