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.

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.