I chose my partner institution as I have always wanted to go to Canada and it was a very beautiful campus with a well renowned business school.
My first impressions where that Kingston was very beautiful. The only issue I had was that I arrived two weeks before uni commenced and being a small university town it was quite desolate.
Queens itself is beautiful the entire campus is old limestone as it is built in the limestone city (Kingston) buildings covered in vines, which change colour with the seasons.
I struggled when I first arrived at queens to find accommodation. I was able to stay in one of the residences before the students moved back in, although it was quite expensive. I ended up staying in another residence for the semester. I somewhat regret this decision as I believe I would have been more immersed in the atmosphere living in the student ghetto- surrounding student houses. Another reason is that being a third year at the time and due to the different semester times I was older then most of the people I was living with. However, my residence was still a lot of fun and very comfortable, I had a double bed, fridge, meal plan, TV and shared bathroom. There was also an eating area right downstairs.
‘Life in Kingston, Ontario’
I studied three business subjects whilst on exchange as I could not match another. I found the workload easily manageable. The lecture style is vastly different in Canada and in some ways I believe better, the lecture sizes are very small and you have a nametag in front of you. The ‘professor’ or ‘prof’ knows all the students names after a few weeks and the lectures become more conversational. If you miss a lecture you miss all the content, as they do not record in any way so you have to make up off a friend. At the start of semester you have to purchase your course materials, unlike, large textbooks they are compiled articles and studies- far more relevant and interesting. Queens Business School is highly renowned and only the best high school students are selected, as it is such a small school. It was very exclusive and I felt lucky to be apart of it. The only downside to this prestige is that the Queens students were highly motivated and serious. I found they did not like exchange students due to a believe we didn’t work as hard. Some would be quite difficult to work with due to the different learning expectations.
I went far over my exchange budget. I relied on the QUT bursary and OS help which left me with about $10,000. However, I travelled before commencing uni and did not budget for the type of accommodation I ended up getting. With proper budgeting it definitely would have been manageable. I used a travel money card the whole time while I was over there, which I got from my bank.
The only culture shock I experience was in some pronunciation of words that were sensitive and in different cultural norms. I found a prominent issue was perceived far more extremely in Canada then it was in Australia. This was overcome by explaining the way it was in Australia and apologising. I never felt unsafe in Canada in the time that I was there. There were a few times in the states that I was uneasy but never a serious issue.
I went over expecting to be able to travel on weekends and holidays to nearby cities however in reality it was quite difficult when the Canadian/ American friends I had made just wanted to go home to see their families or catch up on work. I did however do a weekend trip to Ottawa solo and it was a lot of fun. My packing advice would be to pack really light, don’t take a hairdryer- not worth it and buy toiletries there.
I travelled solo and I would recommend to anyone considering doing the same to give it a go. As long as you research where you are going and ensure you always have somewhere to sleep you will be fine and you will likely have a better experience. One other thing I would suggest is to try to live with the host students if possible. Immerse yourself in their world as you will get far more opportunities arise from it. You can make Australian friends whenever in Australia- it’s not all the time you can make ones from another country and those relationships allow you networks for future travel.
I would recommend completing a student exchange as it is a once in a lifetime experience and the best time to do it is when you are young and not held down by serious commitments.