Georgia – Simon Fraser University – Canada
Semester 1, 2020
Bachelor of Public Health
Although my exchange was sadly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am grateful for the wonderful three months I experienced studying at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. Prior to exchange, the furthest I had travelled was to New Zealand, and I had always lived at home with my family. Exchange was not only an opportunity to study and travel in a new country, but it was also a personal challenge. My ultimate goal, more than studying, travelling and meeting new friends, was to grow as an individual.
I absolutely loved studying at SFU! I arrived in late December 2019 for the Spring Term at SFU (which was the middle of Winter in Canada). The campus had beautiful views of lakes and snow-capped mountains, numerous running trails and was only a 45-minute bus ride from Vancouver city. I lived in a townhouse situated on campus with three housemates – a Canadian student and two French exchange students.
One of my favourite memories was watching the SFU varsity basketball team play each week with my housemate; it felt like the ultimate “college experience.” I really enjoyed exploring Vancouver and found warm little cafes to study at during winter, cycled around Stanley Park, walked through the quaint streets of Kitsilano and tried many delicious foods at Grenville Island Market.
I studied three units at SFU which included Epidemiology, Global Health and Adolescent Health. At SFU, students are graded on their attendance and participation, therefore my classes were very engaging, and we had many insightful and challenging discussions about public health issues. The assignments were creative and interesting – I wrote a report on youth homelessness in British Columbia, participated in-class debates, analysed films and song lyrics about teen sexuality and created beautiful chalk artworks with my peers on campus to promote body image positivity. During my time at SFU, I felt very inspired. My passion for public health and my desire to learn new things grew significantly. I think it is a testament to the wonderful education system Canada has developed and it was such a privilege to experience studying at a Canadian university.
Exchange also presented many personal challenges. I cannot explain how much I missed my family, church community and friends back home. At the beginning of my exchange I met a number of other exchange students and we all “banded together.” However, over time I found that I connected best with the Canadian students – I really appreciated their friendly, relaxed culture that was so similar to my own. I developed a small but wonderful group of Canadian friends; some of which I had classes with. They showed me their favourite places in Vancouver, invited me into their homes, and cooked me authentic Canadian food. I will always be so grateful to my Canadian friends – they showed me warmth and hospitality when I needed it most!
I think exchange is a wonderful experience that you can talk about with future employers. I was able to develop a greater understanding of public health in a global context, specifically the different health challenges that countries face, and also how the structure and outcomes of health care systems vary across the world. It was also a great opportunity to study units that I was not able to choose at QUT, which provided me with a niche area of knowledge.
For students considering going on exchange, I encourage you to apply! Be open-minded about the experience – it won’t always be aesthetic travel photos for your Instagram (although Canada is great for that!). It will be lonely at times, and you will encounter many hardships.
What I can promise is that it will be overwhelmingly positive, and you will have many fond memories of people you meet, the things you learn, and the places you visit. Most of all, you will be proud of yourself!