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.

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!

 

 

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

 

Frosh Week at Bishop’s University

My semester at Bishop’s University is now well under way and I couldn’t be happier about it!

field dayIt all began with Move-In Day where I was greeted by friendly students, happy to help carry my bags to the top floor of the residence building where I’m living. Here I have a room to myself which comes with a single bed, dresser, desk, chair, bedside table, closet, and sink, as well as a bathroom that I share with my roommate next door.

first football gameAfter moving in, the university organised some events and activities to get to know the other students. Here I met group of friends who I spent the rest of the day with which meant going to the first football game of the season (or in my case, my first Canadian football game ever), then hanging out in one of the apartment style residences, before heading out to a party in a house occupied by a group of upper year students.

The following day marked the beginning of O-Week also known here as Frosh Week. This meant choosing our teams for the week. At Bishop’s this was not just a spontaneous decision. We’d been introduced to the different teams and leaders over social media in the weeks leading up. We were then encouraged to speak to every team before making a decision to join the one that best suited what we wanted to get out of Frosh Week. Every team had a name which combined the theme of the week (School of Rock) with the university. The team I chose was ‘Rich Homie Gaiters’ (the students and sports teams here are called ‘Gaiters’), and I’m so glad I did! I had an absolute ball with this team, made some great friends and met some incredible people.

field day team photoOnce the teams were picked, Bishop’s didn’t slow down the whole week. The week consisted of opening and closing ceremonies, parties every night, crazy challenges to win points for your teams, concerts, a scavenger hunt across town, a glow-in-the-dark run, a dance battle, singing the school song to the principle outside his house one night, seminars, panels, tours, movie night, play auditions, games and much more!

massawippi shoreAs if there wasn’t enough excitement already, I got to celebrate my birthday during Frosh Week! Before coming to Bishop’s I expected that with having just moved to a new country, I wouldn’t scavenger huntknow anyone well enough to properly celebrate it this year. However, I was so wrong. My lovely new group of friends decided to surprise me with a personalised cake they had made that day, and I was sung ‘Happy Birthday’ to by the entire Frosh Week student body, before we partied on that night.

Frosh Week has been one of the most fun-filled weeks of my life and even though it’s now over, my life at Bishop’s is just beginning.remember how you entered

Trapped in an ice storm – a true Canadian experience

The benefit of living on campus was that most of my expenses were paid before I left Australia. My residence fees, meal plan fees, and flights made up the bulk of my expenses and cost me around $7000, paid for with my QUT Bursary and OS-HELP loan money. Consequently, I only needed to budget for spending money, souvenirs, and emergencies, which ended up costing me about $3000. While I was in Canada, the Canadian Dollar was only sightly stronger than the Australian Dollar which meant that I didn’t lose out on currency exchange too badly. I was also surprised by how cheap everything was. As a person who is addicted to Coca-Cola, this is the best comparison I can make: I might pay $3.50 for a 600mL of Coke at home, but in Canada I was buying the comparable size for $2!

Culture shock and missing home can make life on Exchange difficult, but being open to opportunities definitely made my Exchange more enjoyable. I spent my Easter break in a Quebecois household where we ate traditional Quebecois food, and I spent a week trekking around (beautiful!) Montreal and watching the hockey playoffs with dedicated fans.

The biggest challenge I faced was one that I couldn’t have predicted. I was involved in a single vehicle car accident in icy/snowy conditions while on the way to Montreal for the mid-semester break. Everyone involved was fine, but having never been in a car accident before it was unquestionably terrifying. It meant that my plans to go to Montreal were scrapped and instead I spent four days in Brockville, Ontario with my friend and her family while she recuperated from her concussion. As they said to me afterwards, “a car crash in bad weather? Now you can say you’ve had the true Canadian experience!” Her parents ended up taking us to a traditional “Sugar Shack” to make up for us missing our mid-semester break, which ended up being one of the highlights of my trip.

I suggest to anyone travelling abroad to be patient and be open to possibilities. There were several times where I felt like turning around and coming home, but by persevering and keeping an open mind, I ended up better for it. From being stranded three times on my way to Montreal due to a freak ice storm, or going on a trip to Ottawa without any of my new friends, to being involved in a scary car crash, most of the things that I either did or had happen to me provided me with a cool experience and a cool story to tell. Participating in the Student Exchange Program immerses students in a different culture and allows them to learn something about the world and themselves in the process.

Sea of purple

McKayla - Bishop's University, Canada (5)

I soon learned that Bishop’s was well-known for being a party school, a reputation probably harboured by its remote location partnered with a friendly and energetic atmosphere and a feeling of closeness amongst the student body. It is also known for having a particularly raucous crowd with a penchant for “chirping” the opposition at sporting events, a fact that I got to know intimately from watching hockey and basketball games with a sea of purple at my back.

I was lucky enough to have four electives available to me for my exchange, and I used them to take classes in literature and sociology. The academic intensity was similar to that at QUT, but the marking system was slightly different. All of the classes I took were taught in a combined lecture-tutorial format with an emphasis on student input and interaction, a configuration I’m very familiar with as a student from the School of Justice.

While at Bishop’s I stayed on-campus in a single room in Mackinnon Hall, a traditional dormitory-style residence hall. Mack was close to both the dining hall and the student recreation building and contained two recreation rooms with TVs; this made it super easy to watch the Ottawa vs Montreal hockey games that were customary hall-wide viewing. As a dormitory-style residence hall, Mack provided a really great social atmosphere to what would normally be an isolating experience for me. The students were always ready to dress up for nights at the Gait (the student bar), or for simply hanging out before bed. It also meant giant “family” dinners where everyone in my section would eat dinner together, taking up one giant table because there were so many of us!

Sense of belonging

I chose to study at Bishop’s University in Canada because I felt like it would give me an experience I otherwise wouldn’t have access to in Brisbane. Bishop’s is situated in a small town about two hours east of Montreal in an area that speaks mainly French. I’d never been to Canada, I hadn’t lived in a small town, I didn’t speak French, and I commuted to university; different was what I wanted and I was definitely successful!

McKayla - Bishop's University, Canada (1)

I was nervous about joining the university in their second semester because I’m a shy person and I wasn’t sure how well I’d make friends. Fortunately, the students and staff members that I encountered at Bishop’s were enthusiastic about meeting new people and making them feel welcome in the community. Not even 24 hours after arriving at the university, I had a large group of people that were eager to eat dinner with me and ask questions about where I was from. As an exchange student, this sense of belonging was by far the best thing about Bishop’s.

The town itself is friendly and compact and provides a great backdrop to student life at Bishop’s. Lennoxville offers an Irish-style pub that serves a mean steak and fries, a grocery store for when you just aren’t feeling the dining hall food, and most importantly a Tim Horton’s. The university campus is breathtaking and has two football fields, two theatres, a dining hall, a student bar/events room, a recently-renovated sports complex including a free gym, and of course, another Tim Horton’s.