Kicking it in Kingston

Helaana A., Bachelor of Business and Engineering
Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I just finished my exchange at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. My experience abroad was rewarding, exiting and fun but a little different than I expected, and I quickly realised I was a little unprepared.

Kingston is a small town and most of the population are students. This means university life was crazy and fun. The highlights were homecoming and Halloween. There are heaps of exchange students at Queen’s, there were around 200 students in the business program alone for the fall semester. This was a great opportunity to make plenty of friends from different places, this is what made the experience the most fun and rewarding.

The school year starts in the fall semester so the first week is an orientation week. Exchange students can participate in NEWTS week. This was a great way to get to know the other students and I’m glad I signed up, but it was clear the week was designed with 17 or 18-year-old Canadian high school graduates in mind rather than exchange students of all ages.

Throughout the year there are lots of activities put on by the university. They have intramural sport teams that anyone can part, I played soccer and dodge ball with a bunch of other exchange students. It was a fun thing to participate in and a good way to expand your network. It’s also cool to go and see a football game!

Study life at Queens University

The university system is a little different from QUT. I studied business and marketing subjects at the Smith School of Business within Queen’s University. The classes were very small with around 30 students and everyone had a name tag.

There was lots of group assessment and presenting, even more than I’m used to at home with 4-6 assessment pieces per class. I went in expecting not to study at all but sadly I had to spend a little time on uni work. When presenting in class it was expected that students wear full corporate clothing (they were lenient towards exchange students).

Kingston is only a few hours from Toronto and Montreal, and its close to a national park great for hiking. There is also a huge lake that all the students swim in when it gets hot.

Accommodation 

In terms of accommodation subletting a room off-campus on one of the Facebook groups is your best bet. Since it gets cold and the public transport isn’t great, living as close to campus as possible is preferable. The on-campus residence option is expensive and far from main campus.

I wish I had prepared a little more for the different temperatures. I didn’t bring any summer clothes and when I arrived in August it was 35 degrees. I also I wish I had some snow boots of some kind. Other than packing it was easy to assimilate to life in Kingston, Canada is pretty similar to Australia in terms of culture and cost of living.

Travel and Toronto

Lucy D., Bachelor of Business/Law
University of Toronto, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

I studied at the University of Toronto in Semester 2, 2018. My 5 months in Canada were unforgettable, and exchange was the absolute best adventure.

Campus Life

The University of Toronto has three campuses. I attended the Mississauga campus, which was about a 45-minute drive from downtown Toronto. I chose to stay on Campus and live in residence, which was a great decision. My residence was called Leacock Lane and I stayed in a townhouse with three other girls. Two of them were Canadian, and the other was an international student, like myself. Campus life was great; there were always lots of activities going on, and plenty of things to do. The university itself had great facilities; including a free gym, bike hire, and a nature trail walk (with great deer sightings).

In terms of study, I found the work load extremely easy compared to QUT. I found classes extremely manageable, and I was able to explore and travel in the meantime!

Travel and Toronto

Toronto is huge multicultural city with so much to offer. I made the most of being close to downtown, and tried to do something new every week. I visited Toronto Island, the Toronto Film Festival, Nuit Blanche (a midnight citywide arts festival), a baseball game, hockey games, and Christmas markets. I also went further afield to explore Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Ottawa.

If you’re going on exchange to Canada, you can’t miss out on seeing the Canadian Rockies. I did a 2-week Topdeck before exchange and got to explore Banff, Whistler, Jasper and Vancouver. I would definitely recommend planning some travel before or after your exchange.

Canadian Life

Everyone always says that Canadians are the nicest people…this is definitely true! If you need help, or you are lost, people are more than happy to help you out. Unfortunately, Canadian coffee is nothing like Australian coffee, so expect to drink a lot of bad coffee. On the plus side, Tim Hortons will become a staple in your diet.

My Top Tips

  • Take every opportunity to explore the country in which you study – last minute trips will become some of your best memories.
  • Be sure to try a beaver tail and poutine.
  • Stay in residence if you can. It’s such a great experience that I couldn’t recommend more.
  • If you have electives use them to take a subject that you would never normally do as part of your degree…I took an Italian Food and Culture subject and loved it. (Part of the course was to do a walking pizza tour of Toronto..).
  • Remember that prices do not include tax and you have to tip. It’s an adjustment at first but after a while you will get used to it.
  • Wait and buy winter jackets and boots in Canada, they are inexpensive and often better quality than those in Australia.
  • Above all, make the most of your time overseas and have fun. Before you know it, you will be back home and missing it like crazy!

Make lifelong friendships in Canada!

Sarah C., Bachelor of Business (Marketing)/Behavioural Science (Psychology)
University of Waterloo, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

For my semester abroad, I attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and completed subjects for my Bachelor of Psychology. Waterloo is a somewhat small town, largely populated by college students a few hours away from Toronto and Niagara Falls. I lived in an off-campus housing at the WCRI which is located just across the street from the university. Choosing to live at WCRI was the best decision I could have made as this is where I met most of my friends and it was a popular choice among other exchange students. As I was surrounded by other exchange students, there was always someone else who was trying to find the same building as me, wanted to make new friends or wanted to travel around Ontario.

Kayaking with five other exchange students at Algonquin Provincial Park

 

The university provided students with chances to travel around Ontario by making different trips available with the ICSN (International Canadian Student Network); these included trips to see the Toronto Blue Jays versus New York Yankees baseball game, a day at Niagara Falls and a hiking trip to see the leaves changing.

Niagara Falls

 

The cost of living in Waterloo is lower than in Brisbane, with my accommodation being especially cheap considering it was right next to campus as well as bus travel in the Waterloo-Kitchener Region being free for university students. Culturally, I would say that Canada is rather similar to Australia, however, their university culture is quite different from QUT. The University of Waterloo is highly focused on academics, with most students taking 5 or more subjects per semester.  For each of my psychology subjects, there were no assignments, and just 3-4 exams over the semester, which was a lot different than I was used to at QUT.

I would say that my semester on exchange was one of the best times in my life. I met many amazing people from countries all over the world such as Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and of course, Canada. I have learnt things about these countries that I probably would have never known otherwise, and taught them things about living in Australia and Brisbane.

I am so grateful to QUT for the opportunity to go on exchange and I’m very happy with myself that I chose the University of Waterloo. It was a lovely campus with friendly people and I can honestly say that I have made lifelong friends and made memories that I will always value.

Onto Ontario!

Sebastian Voges-Haug, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Creative Industries
Queens University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I had an amazing semester of exchange attending Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. It was definitely a worthwhile experience and if I had the chance I’d do it again. Being on the other side of the globe, attending in the winter term in which the country experienced one of their harshest winters in decades could have been a setback, but it didn’t stop me from having the best time in true Canadian conditions.

Studying at the Smith School of Business (Queen’s University)
Classes at Queen’s were different with the university approaching their teaching style in a different way. Firstly the majority of my commerce classes required participation, of which consisted of 5-10% of your grade. This not only meant attending every class (even the early 8:30am sessions) but actively engaging in discussion with your professor and classmates. Nothing is recorded so you are unable to watch lectures online, however all my professors supplied the powerpoint slides on their version of Blackboard. This may be a turn-off for some students used to the QUT arrangements, but in attending one of Canada’s leading and most competitive business schools, the professors were some of the best in the country and were all actively engaging and friendly. You will most likely end up building a great rapport with them and they are always happy to help when needed – they especially like Australians.

Living at Queen’s
Life at the university was comparable to a lot of the college stereotypes. I lived in a great share house which was only a 2 minute walk from my classes. My housemates were really welcoming and the students you meet are definitely professionals at balancing their busy academic and social lives. Queen’s definitely has the best student culture I’ve ever witnessed and it won’t take long to feel right at home. The only thing that took some getting used to was the weather – one day it would be -25C with snow and wind chill, the next it would be raining with sleet and dangerously slippery ground. Coming from the sunshine state of Queensland it was definitely different, but it was great to experience something different from the norm.The Exchange Program
The ETC (Exchange Transfer Committee) at Queen’s were extremely well-managed, who truly integrated foreign exchange students from all around the globe into the country hosting multiple events to meet other students who are in the same shoes. The executive committee is partly run by students in their 4th year, each of which became some of my best mates. They arranged multiple events and trips, from visiting Montreal and Ottawa for weekend visits, viewing live hockey games, maple syrup farm visits and overall a tonne of social events. They also have a buddy program where you’ll get to meet more local Canadians who can provide local information for anything from class registration to travel tips.

Finances
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a budget on exchange. The cost of living in Canada on face value is very similar to Australia, however after currency exchange, you will end up losing a fair bit of money outside of your allocated budget. Tax isn’t included on price tags and tipping is expected in multiple venues, this took some getting used to. Rent and utilities are often around $600-700 a month depending on the house, and I often used $85 CAD a fortnight for food. Most grocery stores offered cheap Tuesday/Thursdays for students, so I saved my shopping for then. Health insurance is a compulsory offering by the university however it is extremely affordable, you’ll have to pay for this on the first month of visiting. The two main setbacks are phone plans and transport – both in Ontario are extremely expensive so budgeting for their payment was vital.

Important Tips for Incoming Students:

  • Join the ‘Queen’s University – Off campus Housing’ Facebook page prior to arriving. New share house listings are posted daily, often providing details and photos of the house, as well as the tenants. Every commerce student goes on exchange in their 3rd year so there are multiple places open to lease, especially in their winter term.
  • Save your winter shopping for Canada – clothes and accessories are far cheaper within the country, and are far better designed for the climate than anything we sell. One winter jacket should suffice to get into the country.
  • Sign up for a travel card with your bank– it allows you to exchange funds on the fly and I used it to pay for the majority of items.
  • Set up a Canadian bank account – Rent is oftentimes only payable through e-transfer. On orientation, multiple banks will visit the university such as Scotiabank or CIBC who can set you up free of charge.

Benefits
I had the chance to experience a lot of what Canada has to offer, from Toronto and Montreal on the Eastern side, to the Banff/Alberta and Vancouver on the west. Each region has a tonne to see and do, from camping/hiking in the Rockies to enjoying poutine and Canadian drinks in the French Quebec area. Overall exchange in Canada was the most worthwhile experience, and having made close mates from all around the globe, I would recommend it to anyone.

Canada Eh?

Georgia Christie, Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws
The University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I arrived in Calgary on the 1st of January and could not believe the amount of snow that was covering the city; I found out later that Calgary had a massive cold snap in the days leading up to NYE with temperatures dropping to -30°C. So, I was quite terrified and unsure how I’d survive an entire winter. However, you do get used to the cold and start thinking that -5°C days are warm days.

The University of Calgary was quite different to QUT. Classes are not recorded and I even had a political science prof (lecturer) who did not upload any slides online, so if you missed a class you missed a whole heap of content. The university is very focused on sports, and as a student you get access to the gym and all the sporting facilities. During the winter semester, it’s all about hockey and there are plenty of games you can go watch. There’s also the Olympic Oval which was the ice-skating rink used in the 1988 Winter Olympics and it is open for public use.

I stayed in residence at Cascade Hall for the semester and this was where most exchange students stayed, so there were always other international students around. This also meant that I spent most of my time with other exchange students rather than Canadians.

My exchange experience was incredible and I experienced so many uniquely Canadian things. At first, Tim Hortons is a very confusing concept: it’s not a café and it’s not fast food but somewhere in the middle but after a while, Timmies becomes a staple for all road trips, ski days and early morning classes.

The Rocky Mountains are only a short drive away from Calgary and this is where I really enjoyed the North American winter. Alberta is    home to many world-class ski resorts and I was lucky enough to ski and even try snowboarding at a lot of them. It is definitely easier to enjoy the Rockies by getting a car and exploring all the mountain villages. Banff and Jasper are very popular towns with great nightlife, food, hikes and of course skiing. I highly recommend driving up the Icefields parkway from Banff to Jasper, it is truly one of the most beautiful drives in the whole world.

Canadians really live up to the stereotype of being very nice people and they love Australians, so it wasn’t difficult to feel at home in Calgary. I was shocked at how country Calgary is, there is always country music playing at clubs/bars and people actually wear cowboy hats and boots around.

Without a doubt, the best part of exchange is the people you meet. I met many other exchange students, Canadians and people from all over the world who were travelling Canada. The people I became friends with on exchange are friends for life and I can’t wait to visit them all again. After my semester was over, I travelled around Canada, New York and California for a month. I definitely recommend travelling to eastern Canada because it is so different from Calgary or Vancouver, so you miss out on the full Canadian experience if you just stay on the west coast.

My exchange experience was by far the best thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to go back to Alberta again one day.

Snowball fights and study at Simon Fraser University

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

In terms of content studied I found SFU’s business units to be on a similar level to QUT’s. However, there were some differences in assessments, grading and how things were taught. For SFU’s business units they are graded on a grading curve, where you marks are determined by how everyone in your class performs too (which can work for or against you). This meant it was quite hard to determine how you were going throughout the semester but worked out for me in the end.

The other thing that was different to QUT for me was class participation marks and the lack of recorded lectures. This meant that class attendance was a must and did mean that I wasn’t able to travel and do as many activities during university as originally planned. Other than this there wasn’t too much of a difference and I really enjoyed studying at SFU.

Well, you just have to get in a snowball fight while in Canada…

Like mentioned earlier my travel was limited due to study but with so many things to do in Vancouver and with Whistler only being 2hrs away I was still able to do a lot of the things I wanted to do. I would however highly recommend having some extra time either before or after study to travel as friends of mine who did not have extra time to travel after study did wish they allowed time to do so. Another tip of mine is take out the extra QUT exchange loan if you feel like you might not have enough money for the trip as it is the worst when you are worried about funds and then are stopping yourself from doing the things you want to be doing.

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

Snowboarding while on Exchange

Settling in to Simon Fraser, Canada

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

For semester one of 2017 I partook in an exchange at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. Doing university at SFU was different from the get go with the semester starting on the 4th of January. For Canada, this was the middle of winter and for Vancouver this usually means a fair bit of rain and snow so make sure you pack your thermals because it gets pretty cold!

It’s cold from the beginning – pack your thermals!

In terms of accommodation I applied for on-campus student accommodation at SFU’s Burnaby campus. The building I stayed in for this consisted of dormitory style buildings in which you had your own room in a hallway of rooms beside each other with a shared bathroom, kitchen and lounge room. If given the chance with exchange anywhere I would highly recommend trying to stay on-campus because I found it a lot easier to make friends as a lot of the people there are in the same boat as you.

The friends I met while staying on campus

 

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

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.

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!