Canadian Culture at Queen’s University

Cameron, W., Bachelor of Business
Queen’s University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. For all the geographically impaired readers (such as myself), Kingston is two hours east of Toronto and roughly in the middle of Canada, just above the American border. The town itself was very much a University based society. There were something like 20,000 students living in just a 5km radius with another 70,000-people living in the surrounding area. The campus was gorgeous – nice sandstone buildings, many of which were newly or currently undergoing renovations. The Smith School of Business was most definitely the pride and joy of the University. Extensions to the main buildings created a blend of new and old styles and a refreshing environment to study in.

Accommodation was as you’d expect, first years all lived in student dormitories and the rest lived within walking proximity in less than tidy or looked after rental houses. This was great for socialising as you didn’t worry about anything getting broken or dirty. Sport in Canadian Universities are much the same as American, it’s a big deal with lots of money put into it. As you would expect, the fields and facilities were amazing, and we could all use the three-story gym on campus which was great for encouraging healthy lifestyles resulting in a surprisingly fit population. The parties and community were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, it really makes me feel as though I’ve missed out on so much bonding and social experiences with Australian University where we don’t all live on or next to campus.

Hanging out at Ontario Hall

Everybody says Canada is basically Australia’s cold cousin and I couldn’t agree more. So many people were so relaxed and just happy to help you if you ever needed it. The lack of hostility was ever so apparent (better than down under) and geographically similar. Everyone typically lives on the border just as we live on the coast with a whole lot of uninhabitable land filling in the rest.

Australia’s Cold Cousin

Overall, I’d say the partying and travelling with friends I met from university was the main highlight. I’ve never really been able to socialise 4 or 5 days a week and live in this environment with friends literally living a block away. Having that exploration mentality and pass/fail grading allowed me to go and see a lot more and really experience everything both Canada and Queen’s had to offer. I can easily say I would not have enjoyed my time as much if my grades would have counted. Anxiety would overrun any positive experience and I wouldn’t have had time to go out and explore and make new friends.

I didn’t expect university could be this fun, Australian universities have a very boring culture. We go to class, maybe meet some friends and have drinks after – although you aren’t all committed and involved nearly as much. I never expected to go to so many functions or sporting matches, I didn’t think the communal University culture could ever be so inclusive of anybody and everybody.

University Facilities

The tips I would have for anyone travelling to Queen’s is simple. DO NOT GO IN WINTER. Fall semester is an absolute blast – everybody from Europe comes in Fall and all the Canadian students go away in Winter, so there’s way more people and community events. Housing was an absolute nightmare – especially to get a 4-month lease. Hop on that quickly. Most of all, do the NEWTS week orientation. Fantastic way to meet everyone on exchange and these people will no doubt become your buddies to hang out with for the rest of the semester.

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.


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.