A Semester in the True North

Kathryn Frost – Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Ottawa (Semester 1, 2017 Exchange)

I was fortunate enough to spend Semester 1, 2017 completing an exchange at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Applying for an exchange at the University of Ottawa was definitely the best decision I’ve ever made and my exchange takes the cake as the best six months of my life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying at Ottawa

I was enrolled in the Faculty of Common Law, but in addition to studying two law subjects, I was also able to study two history subjects within the Faculty of Arts. Whilst the academic system at uOttawa was similar to QUT, I noticed some differences:

  • Class sizes for my law subjects were a lot smaller than at QUT – there were only 20 students in each of my subjects!
  • I had a lot more contact hours at uOttawa than I have had at QUT. As I had to attend two classes per week for each subject, I had classes 5 days per week.
  • Classes aren’t recorded and most professors take attendance, so you really do have to attend classes.

Accommodation

The majority of exchange students that I knew lived in Brooks Residence, which made for a fun living arrangement. I lived in a four-bedroom apartment in Brooks Residence, with an English and Belgian housemate. Some of the highlights of living in residence included many communal dinners, sleepovers and 2am fire evacuations! Living on campus has many benefits, including proximity to university facilities and classes (which is very convenient during winter when you have to trek through very cold and snowy weather on icy footpaths to get to class!) but also the atmosphere and experience of on-campus life is unbeatable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Life & Activities

I attended numerous university events including the annual Capital Hoops basketball game where the uOttawa Gee-Gees face off against the Carleton University Ravens at the Canadian Tire Centre, ice hockey games, as well as the campus Poutine and Snow Festivals and weekly pet therapy sessions! The International Office ran an exchange buddy program, and also organized events for exchange students, including a day trip to Parc Oméga in Quebec, a Canadian-style safari park, and tickets to a NHL game at the Canadian Tire Centre. I attended a weekend trip to Quebec City including a day of dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing, and a 3-day trip to the North of Canada to stay with Indigenous people and learn about their way of life, both of which were organized by the university’s outdoor activities coordinator.

The Weather

One important thing to note about living on the east coast of Canada is the weather! It can get extremely cold in winter. The coldest weather I experienced was -32, with the wind chill factor making it ‘feel like’ -35. Most of the buildings at uOttawa are connected so that students can avoid walking outside on very cold days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Future Students

  • In the semester that I was studying at uOttawa, Law students didn’t have a ‘reading week’ (i.e. mid-semester break), whereas every other faculty did, so keep that in mind when you are making travel plans.
  • I would definitely encourage future students to study a French language subject while at uOttawa. This is something I wish I had done!

 

 

 

 

It is nearly impossible to pick the highlight of my exchange, having experienced so many new and incredible things during my time in Ottawa and throughout my travels. However, the clear winner would have to be the friends I made during my time in Ottawa. I am so lucky to have met so many incredible people from all over the world (including Canada!) who I know will be friends for life. These friends definitely made my exchange experience all that it was and I look forward to meeting up with them again in the future.

 

Oh Candaaaa!

Rosanna, E. Bachelor of Business and Creative Industries

Ryerson University (Semester 1, 2017)

I experienced my exchange in Toronto, Canada and endured the frigid winter that it put on display. This was the first challenge I faced; the lead up to my exchange was so swift and overwhelmingly busy at times, that I had forgotten to prepare myself for -20 degree days, not including wind chill. I quickly discovered that I am a Queenslander at heart, I became a sun-worshiper and tested my room-mate’s patience with me as I constantly pointed out how cold it was and refused to go outside if it wasn’t a necessity.

Me playing in snow for the first time

I resided in a co-op building which was recommended to all the exchange students who were attending Ryerson University. This was great as it meant practically everyone who was involved in the program also lived, ate and drank together daily. My room-mates quickly became my closest friends which I cherished when battling my homesickness. This was another thing that shocked me and something I really didn’t think I would experience! I hopelessly missed the clear blue skies of Brisbane and the constant stream of vitamin D from the sun; it’s safe to say that I truly experienced Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)! EVERYTHING changed for me though on my mid-semester break, where my French room-mate and I took a spontaneous trip to Mexico. The trip healed my longing for sun while simultaneously changing my perspective on my not-yet enjoyed experience. People who go on exchange do-so for a reason; whether that may be to experience new things, for personal growth, to travel while studying or to drink your way through classes and scrape by with a satisfactory grade. For me, acknowledging that I was homesick and deciding to accept that and embrace the opportunity that I had worked so hard to give myself was the best decision I made.

The Toronto sky line from Toronto Island

I began to embrace the snow and the ice glazed streets and the fact that I could never feel my hands or feet. More importantly though, I embraced the people I was meeting and opened to the idea that my friends back home didn’t have to be my only friends. My greatest joy that the exchange program brought me were the friendships I found. People on exchange generally have this mentality and openness to life that I loved. Everyone is there with the assumption socialising is a priority, thus people had a zest for life and new experiences. It was refreshing and an opportunity to break away from the predispositions I felt held me back in Brisbane and an opportunity for me to become more confident in myself. Exchange gave me the time away from home that gave me the opportunity to be truly isolated from the friends and family that have surrounded me my whole life. I could experience who I was and what I wanted without those external influences and it felt quite liberating!

The Washington sister Women’s March in Toronto

I now have a new fondness and appreciation for home and the people there while also having a lust and excitement for travelling to unfamiliar places. The exchange program created a catalyst for me to be confident in myself and my passions and has enabled me to have a zestiness for life to carry out and achieve big blinding goals that I would never have thought I could achieve before leaving home! I’m very grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity and have signed up for a study tour in Peru at the end of this year to further my personal growth!

Ottawa Ontario

Joel, R. Bachelor of Mathematics

University of Ottawa (Semester 2, 2016)

My first night at the University of Ottawa in Canada’s capital city was 30 degrees Celsius and muggy.  Not at all the weather I expected, but perhaps that was simply thanks to my lack of research into my host city.  My housemates were chatting in the lounge as I walked into my new home, a Chilean, Russian and a Belgian rounding out our multicultural apartment, and they made the next 4 months far more welcoming than that first hot night.

Before arriving in Canada I took the opportunity to visit Europe, managing to visit Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Munich before finally heading to North America.  I then spent another couple of weeks in Kelowna BC, Canada, a beautiful town which offers a huge amount of outdoor activities and natural beauty.

As the first weeks in Ottawa went by I took the opportunity to explore and meet my neighbours, generally fellow exchange students from places like Ireland, Sweden, England, China, the Netherlands and everywhere in between.  Ottawa is a curious mix between city and town, not as big or busy as Toronto or Montreal, but with just as much history.  Originally a frontier logging town, Ottawa prospered into the home of Canada’s government.  Separated from Quebec and one of its cities, Gatineau, by a large river, Ottawa is a city of beauty and variety as I came to discover during my time there.

Eventually the university semester started and I began my first classes in a new country, an experience that ended up feeling very similar to those I had at home.  Professors used technology to present lectures, answered class questions and gave assignments, just like they do at QUT.  The only major difference was the rack of winter coats hanging at the back of the classroom by the time cold weather came through in about November.  Snow followed soon after, transforming an already beautiful city into a winter wonderland (as corny as that sounds).

My apartment, while not luxurious by any means, was cosy and sufficient enough to keep me alive through the cold weather.  I was relieved to find the cost of living similar enough to Brisbane, with goods roughly the same or cheaper in Ottawa.  My housemates and our neighbours grew accustomed to the idea of spending 15 minutes or more just layering up enough to brave the -25 degree weather to go get some shawarma or poutine from the local store.

Through all the pitfalls of a new country, like dealing with tipping, winter clothes and the rules of hockey, I was lucky to have a tight group of friends to go through the same experiences.  We shared trips to Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls, even managing a week in Cuba, and meeting people like them has been the most important takeaway from my time overseas.  My advice to future exchange students is to focus on that network of friends, push yourself to talk to anyone and everyone.  Any city in the world has things to do, but it’s the people in that city that sets it apart and makes exchange a truly worthwhile experience.

Canadian Escapade

Helena J, Bachelor of Engineering/Information Technology

University of Waterloo (Semester 2, 2016)

Deciding to go on Exchange in Canada is the best decision I’ve ever made! In Semester 2, 2016, I travelled to Ontario, Canada to study at the University of Waterloo. Waterloo is amazing and highly ranked engineering school located in the suburb of Waterloo. The campus was gorgeous, with many cool, modern and interesting buildings and recreational spaces.

Outside the University of Waterloo sign on the last day with two of my now best friends.

I lived “off-campus” at WCRI which was located across the road from the Uni. It took me 4mins to walk to class everyday – which was great, especially when it got really cold! It was an older styled accommodation which featured 4 buildings. I had my own little room and shared a bathroom with three lovely girls from Canada. We then shared a kitchen and living area with another 16 people! This made for some chaotic but fun times in the kitchen; including setting off the fire alarm with burnt slice, traditional German meals being cooked for us and communal lasagne nights. Coming from living at home to such a shared environment was awesome and gave me many opportunities to make incredible friends from all over the world.

The Canadian University life was fantastic! I got to go see the school play at their Homecoming CFL (Canadian version of NFL), Ice-Hockey, Rugby and even got involved with school sport myself. I joined an Ultimate Frisbee team with some fellow exchange students, joined the Volleyball club and even played some Squash. The amount of school spirit was something I’d never experienced back home in Australia.

Supporting the Waterloo Warriors at the Homecoming Game.

Subjects at the University were quite hard. The atmosphere was quite competitive and scary at times, especially when compared to the more laidback attitude in Australia. Lectures weren’t recorded and notes were written on a blackboard which sometimes made studying quite hard! The other students thought it was crazy that back home at QUT, all my lectures are recorded and done primarily through a computer. So adapting to academic life at Waterloo was a big struggle for me, as I had never experienced anything like it.

I cannot recommend Canada enough to anyone thinking of going on exchange though! Cost of living was on par with Australia – if not cheaper, which was great for the budget! And with the Australian dollar doing so well, I did not lose much while converting my money. Another great thing is that even though majority of Canadians speak English; we got to meet some Québécois who spoke mainly in French! I also got to do stereotypical Canadian activities like eat poutine (so delicious!!!), have an extremely intense snowball fight (at midnight because the snow started bucketing down!) and celebrate Thanksgiving (the Canadian one, not American; don’t get that mixed up!) and Halloween. An added perk to doing Exchange in Canada was the opportunity to travel. With some of the new friends I made we did many cool road trips; numerous national parks, lakes, Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa and Chicago! I also got to travel around the USA at the end of my exchange; going to places like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Alaska!

Having fun with some friends in Chicago at the Cloud Gate.

With some many new and incredible experiences under my belt it is hard to pick a favourite or highlight of my exchange and travels. However, making so many wonderful, hilarious and beautiful friends for life would take the cake if I had to pick one. They 100% made my exchange everything that it was and opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to everyone I became friends with at the University of Waterloo as we all shared such a wonderful exchange experiences together.

Me standing on Matanuska Glacier in Alaska in -42°C as the last part of my trip after Exchange.

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