Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)
My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.
You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.
All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.
After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.
Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.
There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.
With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.
In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!
The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.
After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.
Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!