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.

Be adventurous in Hong Kong!

Julian L., Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
City University of Hong Kong (CityU), England (Semester 1, 2018)

Hi! I’m Julian, a 4th year mechanical engineering student, and I have spent my last year in Hong Kong! I flew into Hong Kong in July 2017, and began a month of intensive Cantonese training under the New Colombo Plan Scholarship. This was an amazing first opportunity to really immerse myself in Hong Kong’s unique culture and learn to do life the local way. I lived with a friend in the district called Jordan (佐敦) for my first month – an older area of Hong Kong that has amazing food and wet markets, and rarely sees tourists stopping by.

In August 2017, I finished up my Cantonese training and started my first semester at the City University of Hong Kong, more colloquially known as CityU or 城大, “seng daai.” Located in Kowloon Tong, despite its name, it’s actually quite far from the Hong Kong city centre, and is close to Hong Kong’s New Territories. It couldn’t have been in a better location though – it was a short walk from the start of the famous Lion’s Rock hike, had easy direct access to the hundreds of mountains for countless amazing weekend hikes, but also had direct access down the train line to Hong Kong Island, where the real hustle-bustle and action happens.

I chose CityU because of its similarity to QUT. CityU also had humble beginnings as a technical college and has a similar age to QUT, and because of these reasons, it was rooted in learning by practice and industry exposure. Unlike most exchange students, learning the subject content meant a great deal to me, as it was a huge opportunity to learn about sustainability and environmental management – a study area that QUT lacks and CityU specialises in. Study at CityU was exactly what I expected and wanted – many of my lecturers were full-time sustainability and environmental consultants, and taught university courses and did research all part-time. This was amazing because it really gave me huge insight into an exciting industry in Hong Kong. Students worked much harder at CityU in my degree than engineering students at QUT, and this is a strong reflection of Hong Kong’s stringent university admissions process.

Living at CityU was an interesting experience. Students are very often paired to share room with either another student from their home university, or from Australia, and therefore both semesters I sadly had Australian roommates, as much as I wanted to have a local student roommate. Student residence is also the cheapest accommodation in Hong Kong, at around AU$1000 for the entire semester, while the cheapest place off-campus you can find is normally around AU$1000-$2000 per month! For this reason, getting into student residence in Hong Kong universities is extremely competitive, and I encourage any students applying to universities in Hong Kong to do their residence application within the first half hour the application opens.

Many exchange students find it extremely difficult to make local friends, and on-campus, there are 4 clear distinctions in social groups: local Hong Kong students, Mainland Chinese students, international full-time students (mostly from other parts of Asia), and exchange students. I spent my first semester in the exchange student bubble, hiking every mountain in Hong Kong and ticking off every possible touristy activity there is. In my second semester, however,I wanted a different experience, and really pushed myself to make friends with my local classmates and this was the best decision I ever made. I was introduced to a side of Hong Kong and a perspective that was in stark contrast to my first semester impression.

Beyond my two semesters at CityU, I am now spending my weekdays still in Hong Kong, but now working full-time at an engineering consultancy, and spending my weekends hiking with friends and eating Hong Kong’s wonderful food.

My biggest piece of advice with going on exchange to Hong Kong is to be adventurous and dare yourself to be uncomfortable. There’s so so much more to exchange than alcohol and partying – dare yourself to gnaw on those chicken feet, dare yourself to haggle for your 10 bok choys in Cantonese and dare yourself to meet those people you never thought you could meet.

I do actually have other clothes, but my QUT instant-dry shirt was perfect for hiking.