Happiest Time of My Life

Jade P., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
University of Strathclyde, Scotland (Semester 1, 2016)

What a task – asking me to reflect on my exchange experience in less than one page, where to even begin?

Semester 1, 2016 was the happiest six months of my life.

I did my exchange at the University of Strathclyde in the oh-so-sunny Glasgow, Scotland. That was typed with the heaviest sarcastic tone FYI, I think I had about seven days’ worth of sun during my time in Glasgow – I even had to go out and buy a lighter foundation!

I lived on the top floor of the second-cheapest accommodation option, with seven other girls. For six of which, English was their second language, so anytime the American girl or I noticed a mistake in their English, we had to write it out on ‘the fridge’ (cue: dun-dun-duuun). After 4 and a half months the fridge was filled with the most hilarious out of context sentences and embarrassingly enough even something I had said managed to make it there. In my defence, Australian English okay! And that’s another thing I had to learn, to make fun of the country that I’m so proud to call home. I don’t know why, but Europeans don’t quite consider us a real country yet; you should have heard the sassy comments on the night of Eurovision! I’ve heard it all from riding kangaroos to buying my groceries with monopoly money – people will laugh at us and our “what is a bogan?” accent, but at the end of the day you will be their favourite international drinking bud – take it all in pride.

I am so relieved to report that I did not have any Scottish teachers, except for one guest law lecturer, and yes – I did not understand a single word he said. We call ourselves multicultural; wait until you go to school in Europe. I’ve learnt from people all over the globe, Egyptian, Greek, Spanish, African, Lithuanian, you name it. Their teaching staff were so globally experienced, name a country and they’ve worked there.

Moving onto the most important part of the exchange, Spring Break (sorry Mum). 3 girls, 6 countries, 10 cities, 5 flights, 1 overnight bus, a cross-country drive, a night on an airport floor, countless hostels, and endless coffee, all in 15 days. Now I can officially say I’ve walked to the smallest country in the world! I’m not even going to try and dive into this trip because there are too many stories for one page, and it’s something you just have to go out there and experience for yourself.

I honestly cannot even begin to explain how amazing my exchange was – I will always be so grateful for this experience and the support QUT offered from beginning to end. Being able to live, and study abroad with the administrative and financial help from your university isn’t an opportunity you should just let pass you by. My advice to those considering an exchange, go to virtual>study>open exchange application and submit. To those that are eagerly counting down the days until their flights, boy do I envy you! Just take each day as it comes and make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Don’t waste your weekend’s Facebooking friends from your dorm room – RyanAir is your new best friend. Book those $15 6:50am flights and go out and get a taste of the world! Everything will still be waiting for you when the dreaded day comes and you have to make your trek home. Then you’ll be where I am now, wishing more than anything that you could wake up and do it all over again.

Embracing Chilly Birmingham

Laura H., Bachelor of Business
University of Birmingham, England (Semester 2, 2017)

I completed my QUT Study Abroad exchange semester in the chilly city of Birmingham in the UK! My host institution was the University of Birmingham (UoB), and I could not recommend the university more highly. The staff provided exceptional amounts of support for exchange students like me, and we were made to feel incredibly welcome.

View of “Old Joe” Clock Tower from the University Library

Life on campus was so different to being at QUT- in a great way. The on-campus accommodation was more of a “college” style living situation and I shared a flat with six first year students. I made such awesome friends with everyone I was living with and could not stress the importance of making sure any future students make the most of their shared living situation!The learning and teaching style adopted by UOB was quite similar to that of QUT, which I found to be comforting. It allowed me to feel confident in my academic performance as the expectations were not dissimilar to those laid out by QUT. One difference, however, was that all my classes were compulsory to attend. This may sound daunting, but it was totally manageable due to the fact that I wasn’t balancing study with work as my Visa did not allow me to find employment in the UK.

During my time in England I always felt at home, as the cultural norms were not overly different when compared to those of Australia. Everyone I met also spoke English and because of this I was able to make great friends easily without language barriers. The only element to be aware of is the difference in weather! It’s safe to say that I wore my fair share of woollen sweaters to keep out the cold during Birmingham’s wintery months.

The Vale – my accommodation!

If I were to draw out some highlights from my experience, one would definitely be the friendships I have made throughout my exchange semester – I really have made friends that I will keep in contact with for life. Another highlight would have to be my travel experiences around the UK and Europe. Being based in Birmingham, it was incredibly easy to access other parts of the UK and Europe as the city has its own airport and great train system. Finally, the college living experience and campus-focused lifestyle was also something I will appreciate forever.The only tip I have for students considering an exchange is to jump in and go for it. I had such a fantastic time on my exchange and would gladly go back!

Hej from Copenhagen!

Margaux O., Bachelor of Biomedical Science / Bachelor of Business
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark (Semester 2, 2017)

Landing in Copenhagen was probably close to the scariest things I’ve ever done. However, I was greeted by a smiling Dane who my host university, Copenhagen Business School, set up for me. It was a scary but exhilarating moment being thrust into a whole new continent, let alone city, to live for the next 5-6 months.

Looking back on my exchange to Copenhagen, I don’t think I would or could change one thing about it. Every day I was out meeting other exchange students while exploring every little thing this amazing city had to offer.

The turning on of the Christmas lights in Stroget

The halls of my accommodation

Copenhagen Business School was incredibly accommodating for every exchange student. They helped exchange students with everything, from subject selection to being a shoulder to cry on for those homesick. The campus, although spread out across Frederiksberg, was beautiful, modern, and old. For me, teaching styles were reasonably similar to QUT, having a tutorial and a lecture for each subject each week. Also the standard of work is very similar to QUT, I did not struggle at all. Although the Danes may seem reasonably held back, they are very approachable and I felt very comfortable attending class every day. Much like QUT, there are many clubs and societies to join, such as the Wine Tasting club, and the Swedish Student Society!

Next to campus: this is the suburb where Copenhagen Business School is in

If you are heading to Denmark (or Scandinavia in general), be prepared for the cost of living. I was lucky enough to live in exchange student accommodation on campus, which was a bit expensive but so worth it. I lived right next to Frederiksberg Gardens (like botanic gardens but with a castle), and the area itself is very pretty and safe. There are so many grocery stores to choose from in Copenhagen, so you will not fail to find the cheaper deals. However, be prepared to spend a fair bit if you want a coffee (average around $6 for a coffee) or to eat dinner out (about $30 for a meal). However, just like home, you won’t fail to find cheaper restaurant alternatives.

I can’t say I really experienced culture shock. I think I was just too excited to be in Denmark. It is an incredibly easy culture to get used to, and most important, everyone speaks English impeccably! There was not one moment where I struggled with the culture or interacting with the Danes. Definitely get used to bicycles everywhere – do not step on the bike track or you WILL get yelled at in Danish. We have all been there, trust me. Besides this, I honestly never felt so safe in a major city – everyone is so nice!

Here are some general tips for Copenhagen:

  • Shop at Netto or Lidl for groceries
  • Buy a Rejsekort for public transport OR a monthly pass (if you are going to use public transport often)
  • OR rent a bike! Copenhagen Business School have a group of students to rent bikes to Exchange students for the semester for about $100
  • Hit up Malmo or Lund in Sweden for lunch
  • Definitely visit Aarhus
  • Norrebro, Vesterbro, Ostebro are all worth visiting
  • If you are doing fall semester – buy a yearly Tivoli pass. Trust me you will want to see it in Halloween and Christmas.
  • Have a picnic on the canals of Copenhagen by renting a Go Boat
  • Hit up Bastard Café – a board game café!
  • Try their delicacies – Smorrebrod, Danish Rye bread, and street vendor hot dogs!

    My bright red bike!

Honestly, it feels like all of exchange was the most memorable experience. Copenhagen was actually my second preference, but I could not be more pleased that I went to Copenhagen. I cannot explain how much I loved the city and how much I want to still be there with every single person I met. Everyone says this, but you do definitely make some life long friends – and lucky for me some of them are Australian!

A friend of mine I met in Copenhagen once emotionally described his exchange experience to us as “a complete dream, like it never actually happened.” Since coming home, I couldn’t agree with him more. A dream too good to be real, but a dream that did actually happen.

Things I did in Madrid!

Olivia H., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University Carlos lll de Madrid, Spain (Semester 2, 2017)

My exchange semester in Madrid was great. Although it had its ups and downs I learnt so much that I will take with me through life. I studied at Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3m) in Getafe.

Most subjects I wanted to do become filled up so I was left with limited study options. The teachers are not very willing to help; however, this is just the Spanish way; they are laid back. Some of the subjects are quite boring and you’re only given one week of classes before you can change/ pull out making it difficult to enjoy the semester. However, the benefits far outweigh these negatives.

It is incredible meeting people from all over the world and learning new things about different countries/ cultures. Exploring Spain and learning about the country and its culture and history is fascinating. I used a group called Smart Insiders who were great with day and weekend trips. They provided fun weekends for really low costs and no hassles.

Now for the practical stuff like budgeting, accommodation, your phone plan and most importantly, language. If you’re concerned about money here is my guide. You could easily do an exchange semester for less than $10 000 if you do not want to travel too much. For the whole semester September through to mid December I was using the QUT bursary and the government loan. With good research on apartments and being good and sometimes frugal with food costs, weekly living costs can be under 50 euros!

I lived in Getafe which although was cheap and convenient to get to uni four days a week, was inconvenient whenever I wanted to go out clubbing or into the city in general. I was paying at least 150 euros per month cheaper than anyone I knew but I either had to ask a friend to stay at theirs or stay out until the trains started again at 5am. When looking for an apartment, make sure all bills are included so you know exactly what you have to pay and can get a better deal. As for a phone sim, I would go into CityLife Madrid or Smart Insiders as they can help you set up with Lyca or Lebara mobile.

You can get by fairly easily without knowing Spanish and you definitely pick it up along the way. However, it is tricky in the first few weeks when you are trying to do things like get your transport card and a phone sim. For the transport card, I would order it a week before you leave for Madrid and deliver it to your accommodation. This is the easiest way and it means you can begin exploring the city right away.

The transport system is very confusing when you first arrive, but you get the hang of it quickly. The main type of transport in the city is the metro. However, to get to places like Getafe (where UC3M is located) you need to get the train, Renfe cercanias. Transport is much cheaper than Brisbane, like anywhere else in the world. Each month you load 20 euro onto your public transport card and it gives you unlimited access to all of the metro, cercanias and bus lines within Madrid.

Finally, travel which is hands down the best part. I went before, after and during my semester and although tiring it is so worth it. I used the semester for travel within Spain and the Summer holidays before and Winter holidays after to explore Europe! Below are some photos of my trip. Thanks for reading!

 

The Best Thing I’ve Done!

Isobella T., Bachelor of Business
University of Leeds, United Kingdom (Semester 2, 2016)

In January, I left my family and friends to spend a semester at the University of Leeds in England. I was told about Leeds by one of my friends, but I didn’t think much of it until I went to the QUT Exchange Fair, and one of the previous semester’s students told me how great it was, and how much fun he had. That made up my mind.

Leeds is a beautiful campus set between James Baillie – my residence- and the city. It was about 25 minutes walking from James Baillie, and 15-20 minutes from the city, with plenty of sights along the way. The campus contains two bars, the English love a good bevvy between classes, and turns into a three room nightclub on Fridays. Fruity on Fridays along with Otley Runs are staple Leeds outings. The University is big on being social, with heaps of clubs to join, as well as outings around England for exchange students. The city itself is full of different places to eat and drink. There is something on every night in Leeds, so you’re never running short of options, just remember to buy tickets online.

One of the wonderful places in Leeds!

The teaching in Leeds was a little different to QUT. Most lectures only ran for an hour, and none of them were recorded. Three of my subjects only had one piece of assessment that was worth 100%, which I found quite intimidating. Due to the credit transfer difference, I took five subjects, but I found them very manageable, and hardly had any homework, leaving me with plenty of time to travel.

Not much homework left me plenty of time to travel!

I budgeted about $15,000, and usually stuck to my £100 a week budget, depending on whether I went travelling or not. The exchange rate was pretty tragic when I left, but picked up towards the end. I used a Commonwealth Travel Money Card, and never had any problems. It was super easy and cheap to get to Europe, especially if you fly Ryan Air or Easy Jet, and we used Google Flights or Sky Scanner to find the cheapest flights. In March, we had a month long mid-semester break, so it was the perfect opportunity to visit Dublin, Zurich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Warsaw!

Visited Paris in the Mid Semester break

The friends I made on exchange were some of the best people I have ever met, with the majority of them from Canada and America. The first person I ever met in Leeds ended up being my best friend on exchange; we did many solo trips in Italy, The Netherlands, France, and Spain, and luckily, never got sick of each other. The atmosphere in Leeds is super welcoming and friendly, and my friends and I often had dinner together or went to the gym, because we lived so close.

Going on exchange was definitely the best thing I’ve done so far. I got to see Europe, live independently in another country, and meet some amazing people that I plan on visiting soon. It takes a lot of effort and planning in the beginning, but it is so worth it in the end. The only downside is how quick time flies: one moment, you’re arriving at Leeds Bradford airport and the next you’re saying goodbye in Manchester.

Embracing Student Life in Exeter

Matilda P., Bachelor of Mass Communication
University of Exeter, England, (Semester 2, 2016)

I started the process of applying for exchange two years ago. A friend had recently returned from Exeter University and ignited my interest in that particular university. I had previously lived in the UK a few years ago and was thrilled with the opportunity to return. The culture and history of the UK, and my friend’s recommendation of the vibrant student city of Exeter, propelled me into action and solidified my decision.My first impression of Exeter was a lovely city filled with old buildings and lots of green spaces. I arrived at my college in the morning sunshine (unusual for England!) , met my college roommates and settled into my room which featured an en-suite, which I had never had before, so I was thoroughly excited! Our college or “halls” as it is referred to in the UK, was located approximately 20 minutes from the central university campus, along a leafy path dotted with old houses. We ventured into university during ‘freshers” week and I was impressed with the extensive modern facilities the university provided staff and students. As a recognised university within the UK, known for its high academic achievements and sporting honours, the societies, clubs and teams available were extensive compared to that available to QUT. There is a culture within the UK university system, particularly with recognised universities where being a part of a sport, a society and playing an instrument is encouraged, and many students partake in this. Much like Australian high school culture, which I found to be similar in the class rooms as well. Tutors were generally lecturers as well, and had very small class sizes, and independent learning was generally kept to a minimum. This culture was hard to adapt to, as I had always thrived as an independent learner at QUT, and encouraged and provided with the resources to do so. However, I credit this way of learning to Exeter University’s academic success, and along with its extensive sporting culture, were definitely the university’s strengths. University of Exeter is known for a breadth of studies, particularly the arts, law, and business. I took advantage of this, and studied art subjects in art history and visual art as electives.

Accommodation wise, most international students were placed at James Owen Court, a brick college of four stories, with approximately 6 roommates on each floor in separate bedrooms. The college was centrally located on the main street of Exeter, joked about by students for its location near the ‘dodgy’ end of town, where in fact it was just close to the shopping mall, and many bars and restaurants. All bills were included in our accommodation, and our facilities featured ping pong tables, an outside grassy area with picnic tables and a laundry.

Budgeting was one of the hardest parts of exchange, and I budgeted between five and seven thousand dollars, as recommended from another friend. The cost of living was pretty comparable to Brisbane, but having to transfer Australian dollars to the pound (nearly half) made budgeting difficult and I struggled in the first month to stick to my budget. I used both my Australian bank cards and an international money card, and split my finances across both quite evenly.

I was lucky to experience little culture shock, as I had previously lived in the UK, and was well versed in English culture. For future exchange students, I am confident the culture shock will be limited in the UK due to the country being English speaking; however, the weather always takes time to adjust to. To ensure my safety overseas I joined International SOS which sends emails and texts about terrorism, natural disasters, strikes and anything that could disrupt your travel, which occur more in Europe than in Australia, and is something to be aware of. I also made sure to email my parents where I was going and who I was with just in case of emergencies.

My “must have” item on exchange was my international money card which you can upload numerous currency’s on, my laptop, and copies of documents such as my passport, and birth certificate; in case of loss or damage. I would highly recommend the Cash Passport multi-currency card, as a bank card of choice, and EasyJet for flights within the UK and around Europe.

On return to Australia the hardest part for me was trying to capture and describe my journey to friends and family, and adapting to life as it was before, after you have been through all these life changing experiences. Academically, the different styles of learning in the UK really opened my eyes to how other countries learn and what they require academically from their students is very different from that in Australia and at QUT. Professionally, the ability to travel, and to have lived in another country is highly regarded by employees and is only beneficial for future employment opportunities. I would highly recommend university exchange to anyone with the optimism and desire to learn and experience a different culture, I would also recommend them to be diligent and persevere with their exchange application process in order to achieve their goals. University exchange is so valuable for students, you can spend weekends at Stonehenge, study breaks in Paris and meet people from all over the world while gaining real world experience in another country, and I am so thankful to QUT for that opportunity.

The Great Land of Ireland

Sophie R., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
University College Dublin, Ireland (Semester 2, 2017)

The University College Dublin (UCD) in the Republic of Ireland is a great destination for an exchange. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ireland and would highly recommend it.

Host Country

Irish culture is unique and is largely homogenous and the Irish people are exceedingly friendly, welcoming and resilient. Not many places in the world can one have a lively conversation with a stranger in the supermarket like neighbours or meet people on buses who are happy to chat and interested in a stranger. The rebellious and turbulent history still affects the Irish today, encouraging their resilience, spirit and pride. The landscape has the beauty of quaint rural villages to windswept dramatic coastlines. Dublin is a city with a small-town vibe but the vibrancy of a global hub with headquarters for Google and other multinational corporations being situated there.

Host University

UCD is an organised and modern university with many support-mechanisms for international students. Living on campus provides many opportunities for meeting new people with the Resident Life organisation offering many social events to ensure international students feel included.

Struggles

There was only one major struggle I experienced on my exchange and it was of an administrative nature. I had 18 pre-approved subjects from QUT including subjects that correlated with my QUT business subjects as well as some very interesting electives from other faculties. When I arrived, I discovered I was unable to study outside of the business faculty and I almost did not have enough subjects to complete at UCD. Due to this miscommunication between the universities, my first week in Ireland was stressful. So, for incoming international students, it is best to expect some hiccups with subject enrolments.

Tips

As for my tips for future exchange students going to Ireland, I have five. (1) For on-campus accommodation, be prepared for applications to open late at night. Campus accommodation applications are highly competitive. (2) As for clubs and societies, quality not quantity is the best option. Your time will be divided between travel, university life and study, so sign up for one or two clubs and make a conscious effort to go to their events. One of my favourite experiences at UCD was an entrepreneurship competition at Google as part of the Entrepreneurs and Inventors Society. (3) Make the most of travelling around Ireland. Many students spent all their time travelling elsewhere in Europe and regretted not exploring more local sights. (4) Seek out live music. Venture to Cork and find a small pub to listen to the mischievous Irish music. For a more contemporary repertoire, Dublin is the place to be with the buskers on Grafton Street and the singers in pubs on Temple Bar. (5) There will be highs and there will be lows. That’s just travel, and it is best to be prepared.

Trip of a Lifetime in Canada

Amy T., Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)
Simon Fraser University, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

 

My Canadian exchange was like all my dream adventures combined into one! I arrived in the heat of summer in July 2018 and stayed until mid-January 2019, living on campus, making lots of friends and seeing the amazing country that is Canada.
One of the reasons I travelled to Canada was to visit family that lived in Vancouver, on Bowen Island, a quaint little place, 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry.

Bowen Island

You certainly wouldn’t see a Walmart or a McDonald’s here, only cute little family run stores. Using my uncle’s house as a base for my first month, I managed to tick off all the places on the bucket list I’d made before leaving home. Public transport was great, and I got to see the city sites easily. For the places further away, I travelled with a small bus tour on a 4 day trip to Vancouver Island and an eight day Banff trip.

Exploring Scenic Canada

All thanks to our knowledgeable and energetic tour guide, I got to do things I’d expect most tourists wouldn’t, like scaling a rock face on the side of a road to see a hidden waterfall, hear the history of each town along the way and sit back while someone else did the driving and the time management. I would 100% recommend Moose tours for anyone looking for a fast-paced and fun-filled adventure that is practically stress free.

Burnaby Campus – SFU

After a month of adventuring, it was time for university. The Burnaby campus of Simon Fraser University was on top of a hill that overlooked Vancouver. The sunsets from the lookout were so magical that photos cannot do it justice. My campus was surrounded by maple forest and there were countless walking tracks to explore.

Living there, right on campus, was the best! I stayed in a townhouse with 3 others. Initially we were all strangers but throughout the semester we got to know each other so well! There was always someone to chat with, laugh with and eat with (three of my favourite things). My place was only a 15-minute walk to class meaning I could often sleep in… which is always a good thing.

My dorm room on Campus

There were other things about the campus which were great too, like the family of raccoons I met on my first day at the university! So feisty, so cute… The university had a lot of events such as the winter festival where I collected freebies and learnt how to walk on ice and free s’mores which were available every day. I would often find myself warming up next to a fire pit, roasting a marshmallow. Thankfully, SFU also had a conveniently located gym with fitness classes that I enjoyed daily as well.

Roasting S’mores at Winter Festival

With so much happening on campus, getting involved meant making friends was easy. I joined The Point church which was on campus and consequently made so many Canadian friends!! Getting to know everyone from the church through bible studies and shared local meals made my exchange experience feel so authentically Canadian.

Meeting New Friends

In terms of studying, university was slightly different. Many of my classes had four 1-hour sessions a week. Only one of my classes had recorded lectures. Two of my subjects didn’t even have lecture slides! The marking system was different because they used a bell curve and you couldn’t really predict what mark you were going to get. Luckily, because I was on exchange, I didn’t have to worry. Even though there was always more study to be done, I made time to see just a little bit more of Canada on my weekends!

Travelling on the weekend to see Canada

The Canadian culture was very similar to Australian culture and the accent was one I quickly got used to. Small language differences were always a source of confusion and laughter. “Mince”, “lollies” and “ute” seemed to stump Canadians… while “tuque” (beanie) was hard for me to get used to! Halloween and Thanksgiving were new celebrations for me, and the candy and pumpkin pie were thoroughly enjoyed.

Enjoying a white Christmas

After my exams, my Australian family flew over to join me for a white Christmas. Eating a hot roast for lunch, having a real pine Christmas tree and seeing the sleet outside (not quite cold enough for snow) really made it feel so Canadian. The next month of travel included an American road trip and a flight up north where the days are -34 degrees and the Aurora Borealis is just stunning.

Aurora Borealis

Although I missed everyone from Australia, the time I spent exploring Canada was a time of fun and adventures and also a time of growth. My exchange was the best six months I have ever had!

Get the Real Experience at SHU

Jake T., Bachelor of Justice
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom (Semester 1, 2017)

So, if you asked anyone from Australia to pin point exactly where Sheffield is in the United Kingdom, you’d be pretty far stretched to find someone who actually could. Well, I want to put Sheffield on the map. Over the past year, I spent my time studying abroad in the most underrated town and university in the UK. Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased because my girlfriend lives there, but hear me out. Sheffield Hallam University, or SHU as it’s fondly known as, is amazing, not because it’s old or in the top 10 unis in the world, but because it’s real. SHU is the kind of uni actual English people go to, not just exchange students. It’s the real Northern England. I mean come on guys, we go to the ‘Uni of the real world’ and this place is authentic. I love the fact that I never heard another Australian accent once, in fact for the whole year I was at SHU I don’t think there was another Aussie there. Sheffield is also extraordinary, it’s a town specifically built for uni students; there’s heaps of bars, and everywhere you go has student discounts.

The amount of students helps reiterate the fact that Sheffield is one of the safest cities in the UK, and it’s cheap compared to most major cities. Sure it’s not London or Manchester, but hop on a train and you can go anywhere soon enough. I still travelled all of Europe from Sheffield as well (and yes I found a little bit of time to study). SHU is great for another reason too, they have more students coming out the whazoo to come to QUT, so I got to apply late to go, and study abroad at QUT doesn’t usually allow you to stay for two semesters at one UK uni but hey, at SHU you can. Not to mention the staff from SHU helped me out tremendously and I almost received a round of applause for helping an SHU student be able to see the sun in Brisbane. I’m still picking my brain as to why no one wants to go to Sheffield Hallam, it’s awesome and I’ve come back to Australia wishing I was there instead trying to understand the northern accent (don’t try to, just nod and say yes) and eating greasy cheesy chips from a shop with questionable hygiene. Study Abroad for me wasn’t about the class and sophistication Cambridge university, it was about having an authentic and real experience. If you want to pretend you’re a real English student, attend a three letter uni, meet genuine people, go to Sheffield Hallam.

A Semester Abroad in Calgary

Brendan S., Bachelor of Information Technology
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2018)

Last semester I got the great opportunity to spend four months studying at the University of Calgary in Canada. It was an incredible experience, and in this blog I’ll try to give you some insight into what life was like studying in Canada.

The Uni: The University of Calgary campus is a huge place, with some incredible facilities. Beyond the classrooms, just some of the things you’d find on campus at UofC include: a concert venue, basketball courts, swimming pools, gyms, hockey rinks, an Olympic skating rink, rock climbing walls, a pub, a theatre, restaurants, the list goes on.

There was rarely a dull moment being a student at UofC. The uni is big on campus culture, so if you didn’t have work to do (rare) there was always something happening. Sports, live music, carnivals, bingo nights, free art lessons, car smashing (yeah, the Engineering faculty put on a university approved event where you could smash an old car with a baseball bat to de-stress…), movie nights, you name it. On top of this there was on abundance of student clubs, so you could always find people with similar interests.

University of Calgary Campus

I chose to live on campus, in student accommodation, or “residence” as they call it. Staying in residence was the best choice I made on exchange, and I’d recommend anyone else thinking of going to do the same. All the friends I made at UofC were people I met in my building (Cascade Hall) – there’s a really good culture there which encourages everyone to get out of their rooms and get to know each other. The university also places all the exchange students in residence together. I was annoyed about this at first (I wanted to meet Canadians!) but this turned out to be the best thing about living there. Everyone I met was in the same boat as me, and we were all equally keen to travel and engage in campus life.

Moraine Lake

I found the academic standards at UofC to be quite similar to QUT, but where I found the biggest difference was the way classes were structured. Instead of the standard weekly two hour lectures and tutorials we’re used to at QUT, all my lectures and tutorials were only an hour long, but held three times a week. This meant that even though I was only taking three units, I was in class for a few hours five days a week. The one other difference was in the amount of online content delivered. My lecturers were all different, but I had one who refused to upload absolutely anything online (no slides, no unit outline, no practice exams), so if you have to miss a lecture, you’d miss out on that content completely.

 

The Country/City: I found Calgary to have a really similar culture to Brisbane in a lot of ways. They’re both smaller cities (although Calgary is about half the size of Brisbane) and they sit very similar culturally within their countries – Alberta is very much the Queensland of Canada. Everyone  I spoke to was friendly enough, and I never experienced any real form culture shock, which made the adjustment really easy.

University Drive

One thing that was a shock however, was the cold. I arrived at the start of Autumn, where temperatures were slightly colder than our winters (averaging about 10-20°). This gave me a chance to ease into the weather, so by the time it started snowing in September I was a bit more resistant to the cold.

Calgary is an expensive place to live! Although things like fast food were cheap (I miss Tim Hortons so much), I found myself being shocked weekly at how much groceries and fresh food cost over there – especially chicken! It wasn’t all bad though, being a student you pay $150 and they give you a UPass, which gives you unlimited free public transport for the entire semester.

 

Highlights: We had the chance to see a lot of different sports over there, and though basketball and Canadian football (slightly different to American!) were a lot of fun, the obvious highlight was the hockey. Our residence arranged for us to see our first NHL game our the first week there, and after that we were hooked and went to see the Calgary Flames win five more games throughout the semester. Even if you’re not a sports fan I’d recommend going once just to experience the atmosphere!

Go Flames Go!

Calgary is located close to so many incredible natural wonders, and the trips I was able to go on were definitely the highlight of the semester for me. We did many trips to the Rockies – we had the chance to see Lake Moraine, the mountain town of Banff, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Parkway (the most incredible drive you’ll ever go on!) and Jasper National Park. We also decided to hire cars and do a big road trip into the US to see Yellowstone National Park, which was such an incredible experience.

Jasper

Exchange at University of Calgary gave me some of the best experiences of my life. If you’re thinking about choosing Calgary as your location for exchange, I say go for it. It’s a great city to live in, and there’s nothing quite like the culture of North American universities. You’ll have the chance to see some incredible sights, go on some big adventures, and make some great memories with people from around the globe.