Aidyne – University of Calgary – Canada
Semester 1, 2020
Bachelor of Property Economics
There were a few reasons why I chose University of Calgary (U of C) in Calgary, Canada. Some may appear bizarre, and some are personal, which is why partaking in an overseas exchange is so great; you can tailor your location based on you! Some reasons for me included my love for winter (this was my chance to experience a real winter) and it was a break from another hot Australian summer. It was truly unbelievable that the Rocky Mountains were at my front door (I could see them from where I lived)! The small country city which is Calgary, and the fact that I had friends there and in Banff, which would provide a familiar face, certainly assisted me with my decision making. Having friends in a foreign city made for a plethora of fun winter activities which included snowboarding, ice skating, and hockey.
Preparation and Sightseeing
There’s a bit of preparation required prior to embarking on your overseas experience, but once it’s done, you’ll be thankful you dedicated the time. It can be a lengthy process finding corresponding QUT units with your host university’s units, as was the case for myself. Once you receive your exchange offer, research that location. Locate the shops, malls, train and bus stations, doctors, and anything else that is at your front door in Australia. Also, locate sights you want to see and travel as much as you can. Don’t stay cooped up as you’ll regret not going on adventures; even if it means you go by yourself. I found myself wanting to visit places but had no one to go with, so I just booked a bus ticket and went out for the day to Banff, went for a hike, and visited the Lakes. I went to a number of the amazing lakes which included Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, Grassy Lake, and Spray Lake. They certainly blew my mind! It was also helpful that it was very easy to get to these lakes from Calgary. The scenery was picturesque, which is why I was still out sightseeing and camping 4 days before my return flight home – I wasn’t going to leave until I saw everything I wanted!
I arrived a couple of weeks before the start of the semester so I could travel with my brother. By doing this I didn’t get homesick at all and was ready to get into it when the semester started. I went from Vancouver to Whistler, then Banff, and finally to Calgary and did all the snow sports and sights. I also went to San Francisco and Los Angeles in March during the mid-sem break. After San Francisco and Los Angeles, I made my way home for a 9-day break which was nice as it allowed me to thaw out and regroup with family as well.
University Life and Settling In
Life at the U of C is very similar to QUT where they had their big lectures and smaller tutorials. The only big difference is that U of C does not record their lectures and QUT is very technologically advanced in comparison. This was hard to get used to – not going to lie! But it was very hard to go to an 8am lecture when it was -35◦C and still dark outside. Even in week 13, the attendance rate was still very high, and the lecture theatres were always packed with 200-300 people. The examinations were conducted in lecture theatres and classrooms. All the buildings are connected by tunnel, so you don’t have to go out in the cold, but my residence building was the only one not connected. The main university campus is all connected underground which is quite incredible. Slipping on ice becomes part of everyday life, at least it was for me anyway – people definitely knew I was foreign.
Living costs and groceries in Calgary were about the same as Brisbane. They may appear cheaper but once the conversion rate is applied, it equals out. Also, tax is not included in the price tags – I got caught out a few times there but its only 5% on top of the total. Everything was in close proximity to the University.
Find somewhere to live early in the process and lock it in as soon as possible. For me, I was in Calgary two weeks before the semester started and still didn’t know where I was going to be staying… I wouldn’t recommend that.
I lived on-campus, which I initially didn’t want to. My reasoning was, I was living on the other side of the world, why just be confined to the campus perimeter? But it was the better option to live on-campus, I lived in the Yamnuska Hall with one roommate. Each floor level also puts on activities every fortnight in the huge communal lounges which is a great way to interact and meet so many people. If I was to have lived off-campus, I wouldn’t have received any of that. I had to move out of Yamnuska at the end of the semester but then relocated to another campus residence called the Aurora Hall, which was a really nice building too and only a hundred meters away from the other one. It was cheaper to live on campus too, however for the Yamnuska Hall, the rent is due all at once for the entire semester (due around week 2) which I didn’t realise, I thought they charged monthly, but it was one lump sum for four months which made a dent in the finances. I guess the good thing about that was I didn’t have to think or worry about rent again for the whole university semester. The Aurora Hall on the other hand was charged by the month which was better, with rent falling due on the 1st of every month.
Although I knew it was going to be cold when I arrived, I was never fully prepared since I’ve never been in such cold weather. I landed in Calgary to what I thought was, a freezing -3◦C, which for the locals was balmy. After a week or two I noticed the weather forecast dipping to -15◦C, then -20◦C, which is when I went looking for a new jacket (as my existing jackets were NOT made for a Canadian winter). The two coldest mornings were the 14th of January when it got to -34◦C and 15th of January when it was -35◦C with a wind chill of -50◦C. As I made my way to class, there was ice forming on my clothes and bag. Now you’re probably wondering what the weather was like that day; was it snowing or clear? Well, it was a crystal-clear day, with ice crystals floating in the air and not a speck of cloud. It was the coldest temperature in Calgary for 12 years and for the next month, it did not get above -20◦C. When it snows in Calgary, it snows! They can have huge amounts of gently falling snow overnight or through the day and then they can have blizzards which create huge snow piles and drifts from the strong wind. I can’t emphasise enough how insanely cold it was but don’t let that deter you. You will adapt to the weather, I was wearing a hoodie when it warmed up to -5◦C a few months later, then 10◦C in the Spring, I was sweating! The warmest day was 28◦C on the 12th of June. Winter brought blizzards; frosts; snow; freezing fog; freezing rain and the breath-taking Northern Lights and other cold things. Summer brought tornados, storms, hail, and even snow.
I experienced 3 seasons; winter, spring, and summer. It was an incredible thing to witness. The seasons over there are proper storybook seasons. As winter goes and everything thaws out, you can no longer ice-skate but you can canoe, the animals start to appear, and the flowers and leaves are like no other. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains remain but are surrounded by lush green forest. I saw amazing animals come out of hibernation like coyotes (coyotes actually roam through Calgary and the university campus – I had a few unnerving encounters with them while on my walks), squirrels, chipmunks, bighorn sheep, Canadian geese, moose, deer, elk, and bears out in the wild. Tip: make sure you have bear spray – it’s like carrying sunscreen or Aerogard in Australia – you don’t want to go out without it!