The benefit of living on campus was that most of my expenses were paid before I left Australia. My residence fees, meal plan fees, and flights made up the bulk of my expenses and cost me around $7000, paid for with my QUT Bursary and OS-HELP loan money. Consequently, I only needed to budget for spending money, souvenirs, and emergencies, which ended up costing me about $3000. While I was in Canada, the Canadian Dollar was only sightly stronger than the Australian Dollar which meant that I didn’t lose out on currency exchange too badly. I was also surprised by how cheap everything was. As a person who is addicted to Coca-Cola, this is the best comparison I can make: I might pay $3.50 for a 600mL of Coke at home, but in Canada I was buying the comparable size for $2!
Culture shock and missing home can make life on Exchange difficult, but being open to opportunities definitely made my Exchange more enjoyable. I spent my Easter break in a Quebecois household where we ate traditional Quebecois food, and I spent a week trekking around (beautiful!) Montreal and watching the hockey playoffs with dedicated fans.
The biggest challenge I faced was one that I couldn’t have predicted. I was involved in a single vehicle car accident in icy/snowy conditions while on the way to Montreal for the mid-semester break. Everyone involved was fine, but having never been in a car accident before it was unquestionably terrifying. It meant that my plans to go to Montreal were scrapped and instead I spent four days in Brockville, Ontario with my friend and her family while she recuperated from her concussion. As they said to me afterwards, “a car crash in bad weather? Now you can say you’ve had the true Canadian experience!” Her parents ended up taking us to a traditional “Sugar Shack” to make up for us missing our mid-semester break, which ended up being one of the highlights of my trip.
I suggest to anyone travelling abroad to be patient and be open to possibilities. There were several times where I felt like turning around and coming home, but by persevering and keeping an open mind, I ended up better for it. From being stranded three times on my way to Montreal due to a freak ice storm, or going on a trip to Ottawa without any of my new friends, to being involved in a scary car crash, most of the things that I either did or had happen to me provided me with a cool experience and a cool story to tell. Participating in the Student Exchange Program immerses students in a different culture and allows them to learn something about the world and themselves in the process.