Canada Exchange First impressions Student exchange Tips for surviving uni

Life at UBCO

Kiara – University of British Columbia (Okanagan) – Canada

Semester 2, 2023

Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology)/Bachelor of Business

Going on exchange while studying at QUT was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and an absolutely transformative experience. My four months over the 2023 Fall semester at UBCO in Canada definitely cured my itch to travel and desire to challenge my independence and adaptability. 

University Life 

One of the main things I loved about university life in Canada was that I was able to live on campus. It made connecting with other exchange students and making friendships extremely easy as this was where we all mostly lived. It was also very easy to get to class and use the university’s resources. I found that I was getting more done and was more efficient with my time. Additionally, living on campus provided options for fitness such as the gym, various fitness classes, and social sport, which I enjoyed. Throughout the semester I played competitive dodgeball with my friends and loved it. 

In terms of academics, I could only choose to study from one field, so I studied psychology electives. I found these units very interesting and in comparison to Australia, I found the content of the work to be pretty similar, but the assessment to be a little different. Instead of doing 3 pieces of assessment for each subject, the assessment was more continual throughout the semester such as weekly quizzes.  


UBCO is in Kelowna, a town known for being next to the Okanagan Lake. For someone who wanted to escape from the big city, its small-town vibe and abundance of nature was exactly what I needed. At the beginning of my trip, I was able to enjoy the beach and the Okanagan Lake on a boat cruise.  

Heading towards Autumn, I particularly liked hiking and walking at Knox Mountain, Mission Creek National Park, and the on-campus trails just to name a few. It was also awesome to see the leaves falling and how festive the town got with all the fall drinks at Starbucks, pumpkins everywhere, and the Halloween celebrations and decorations. Kelowna also had many terrific restaurants and Cafes which I loved, and the local hockey games were very entertaining.   

Towards wintertime, I was so excited to finally experience my first white Christmas. It was crazy to see it snowing on campus and right outside my bedroom window. It was definitely an experience I wouldn’t get back home.  

One of my highlights of the exchange experience, and definitely one of the best things that Kelowna has to offer during winter, are the nearby ski resorts. The closest ski resorts are Silver Star and Big White, and they have great student discounts for season passes. You can also get really good prices through UBCO if looking for day passes and shuttle buses that go straight from campus to resort. I spent a day snowboarding at Big White which was only 40 minutes away by car and had a blast with my friends. At Big White we also did ice skating and played ice hockey.  


During my time at UBCO I also managed to fit in some travelling. Over a long weekend, my friends and I went on a trip to Banff, visiting Jasper, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake as well. It was definitely worth the long drive. It was so scenic and felt so out of this world. While the hike at Lake Moraine was difficult, it was such an amazing feeling to reach the top and witness such an amazing view.  

My friends and I also took a day trip to Revelstoke and hiked at Glacier National Park. While it was challenging, it was so cool to see so much snow and witness such stunning views.  

Over my mid-semester break I travelled to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria in Vancouver Island for a week. In Seattle I enjoyed visiting the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market, and Pier 54. We then took a train to Vancouver which was very lovely and scenic. In Vancouver, my friends and I rode bikes around Stanely Park, went on the ferry boats, visited Granville Island, went to the Vancouver Lookout and much more. In Victoria my favourite places to visit was Parliament House which had very cool architectural designs, the museum, Craigdarroch castle, and Fisherman’s Wharf. 

Overall, going on exchange was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and gave me the chance to make lifelong friends all over the world, grow as a person, and experience something new. 

Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.

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