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.

Life In Canada

Spending my Australian summer semester in a Canadian winter was definitely an experience I will never forget. When you come home you realise that our winter is officially ‘not cold’. Living in the Queen’s student ghetto also meant that I was only ever a few streets away from any one of my friends & I was also super fortunate to get along really well with my housemates.

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St Paddy’s Day is a crazy event / day at Queens. There are a lot of house parties & social events which occur throughout the day, along with a lot of street gathering. Its like a see of green. & nothing says its St Paddy’s day in Canada like keeping your beer keg cold in the snow combined with a house against house snowball fight in the backyard. IMG_6700IMG_6718

During winter Canada also presents you the opportunity to undertake a few tourist like past times which you would never really get to experience in Australia.

Like:
Going to see an ice hockey game. This I absolutely recommend, it was an awesome experience. It can be anything from your local game to an NHL game.

(Below picture: Toronto Maple Leaves vs Ottawa Senators)

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Build a snowman. Probably the most fun I have ever had with frozen water. I was super proud of my accomplishment. His name is Sebastian 🙂

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Go ice skating. In Kingston the local council flatten out sections of snow in the parks and in the town square to be used as ice skating rinks. So whether you borrow a friends or find a pair second hand, it is a must do winter activity that you shouldn’t miss.

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Be open to new experiences, throw yourself into your surrounding culture & don’t forget to just have fun!!! 😉

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Exploring the Great North!

Canada is a vast country its hard to pin point the areas to explore whilst on exchange in this awesome country.

For me, I started with the known areas which surrounded Queens University on the East Coast of Canada.

Montreal

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This is such a beautiful city!

So much culture, beautiful architecture (especially Old Montreal) and awesome food.

Climbing to the top of Mount Royal will give you a spectacular view of this breath taking city.

Ottawa

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In a way can be compared to our Canberra. There is the parliament house, the canal, lots of museums and BEAVERTAILS (to eat – like a cross between a doughnut & a churro).

Ottawa is a lovely quant city & I definitely recommend visiting and having a look around.

Toronto

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Dubbed the ‘mini’ New York of Canada there is a lot to see in this city. There is Rodgers centre if you’re looking to catch a game, the CN tower to view Toronto from a birds eye view & Yonge-Dundas square. There are also lots of shopping opportunities and great restaurants.

After my semester was over the opportunity to see the West Coast of Canada came along. I had always wanted to see the turquoise lakes that you see when your ‘Google Images’ Canada.

Vancouver

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This is another great Canadian city. The amazing restaurants who all serve wonderful food, the suspension bridge & tree top walk & Stanley park are just a few things to do and see.

Whistler

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In winter, this is a skiers paradise. In summer there is extreme BMX riding, a lovely quaint little village & some awesome night life. There are a lot of recreational activities such as canoeing, bungie jumping, zip lining & much much more.

Jasper & Banff

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These are amazing national park areas!!!!! The wildlife you get to see is awesome, from bears to mouse, elk to mountain goats. Definitely a recommended trip for those who make the trip out to Canada. There are also an abundance of lakes around the area, Lake Medicine, Lake Bow & the most famous Lake Louise & its Fairmont Chateau.

There are sooooo many more opportunities to travel through Canada, as it is such a big country. During the winter you can travel further north & see the Great Northern Lights, see polar bears & experience a true northern winter.

Canada is definitely one of the most beautiful countries I have been able to experience.

QUT Meet Queen’s University!

Going on exchange was something I always wanted to partake in should I ever get the opportunity to. When I applied for the QUT exchange program I was only in my first semester of my first year at QUT. The idea that it was go any further than the application phase wasn’t something that I could wrap my head around.

& then it happened!!! I got my acceptance form QUT that they were going to support my exchange and now I had to directly apply to my selected school, Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. At first I had no idea where this place even was (I had to Google maps it), & I was constantly being told I was crazy to apply for a winter semester in Canada. But being on exchange is all about the new experiences that you wont get at home!

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There were a lot of hoops that I had to jump through, particularly in relation to any needed visas, subject comparisons etc., so at times the process did feel never ending, but now when I look back on this time it all really happen so fast.

There are sooooo many different things you need to consider whilst completing the exchange process, like where am I going to live, what is the best way to get to my destination, do I want to have the opportunity to travel before or after my studies, what subjects am I going to be able to study, do I want to take equivalents or electives whilst on exchange etc. etc. Then on top of these questions you have the consideration of language and cultural barriers, and at times it can feel very overwhelming. But the main thing I learnt when you start to freak out about taking such a big leap is just enjoy the process, experience everything you can & don’t be afraid to ask for help!!

Now more about Queen’s.

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For those of you who are looking to go on exchange and are currently studying business, Queen’s university has one of the best commerce programs in all of Canada, and for the students who study here full time it is extremely competitive to get into. Having the opportunity to go on exchange to this university (without worrying about competitiveness) and utilising the benefits of its amazing program is truly one of the best decisions you can make (plus it will look AMAZING on your resume). As the Queen’s commerce program is also very diverse in the subjects they offer, I was able to match up 10 subjects that I could use as equivalents to my QUT enrolment plan plus a large pool of electives should I desire.

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The university grounds themselves are quite beautiful, with the older buildings being made of stone and having some awesome architecture. The commerce classes are a lot smaller than what I was use to at QUT, with my biggest class being around 35 – 40 people max. At first it was a little daunting, not being able to hide in a sea of people from the professors, but you soon learn that through their encouragement of class interaction these smaller classes are actually beneficial. The only way I can think to compare it to QUT classes is having your lecture within your tutorial, there are a lot of class exercises, interactive simulations and overall class interaction with the professors.

The exchange office is also great! They are more than happy for you to drop in at any time to ask questions or just have a chat about your experiences. When completing the application process they can also help with accommodation arrangements and questions you may have around subject selection and their availability. The Queen’s community have their own Facebook group with lots of different sub-groups including, housing, exchange specific events, and people looking to sell things you may need during your stay.

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(I promise its not always this snowy)

As for living in Kingston, surrounding Queen’s University is a community of student housing known as the “Queen’s Ghetto”. Its basically a relatively large circumference of houses which surround the university that are rented out to students throughout the schooling year (September to April). The community vibe that you get from living pretty much on campus, with a huge bunch of people who are in the same boat as you is phenomenal & highly recommended. Pretty much everything you need is within walking distance from this ‘Ghetto’ including groceries, uni, restaurants, bars, clubs etc. Plus Kingston is known in Canada for having the highest restaurant per capita within the city, and again most of these are on the main street of downtown, which is walking distance form campus.

I could keep going about all the amazing things there is to do and see here in Kingston and the opportunities Queen’s represents but then I’d run out of things to talk to you about later. So for now if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send me a message 🙂

Don’t forget that you only live once and exchange is an experience that you will never forget!!!!