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!