Absolutely incredible snowy winter in Canada

Rick Somers, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), University of Calgary, Canada, Semester 1, 2019

It is difficult to put words; just how incredible the exchange experience was for me.

How does one begin to summarize the best semester of one’s life?

I went on exchange to the University of Calgary in Canada for the 2019 Winter semester. I’ll start by saying that you haven’t experienced Winter until you’ve been in a Canadian Winter. My definition of ‘cold’ definitely changed. You begin to feel very Canadian when you start to look at -10°C as “not that cold.” One of my most vivid memories of this climate was when Spring finally arrived and the temperature rose to a lovely 10°C. The normal attire across the city quickly became t-shirts and shorts, just like the summer wear of Brisbane.

Of course, there’s snow. Yes, it’s absolutely everywhere. Snow can fall in Calgary for 6 months of the year. Slipping and falling on icy pathways became somewhat of a regularity for me and my uncoordinated self, but this only added to the experience.

As for the Uni, it definitely has a very unique feel, atmosphere and culture. Buildings are connected via tunnels, so you don’t have to go out into the cold between classes. Since lectures aren’t recorded here, people actually show up to classes and the university is bustling with activity because of it. On top of this, there are heaps of awesome facilities on campus that are free to use for students. I made frequent use of the bouldering wall and rock-climbing gym, as well as the ice-skating ring and the gym. Skiing, sporting and other outdoor equipment can be rented for cheap at the uni as well!

The university provided plenty of opportunities to meet with other exchange students and I quickly found myself among a large group of friends from all around the world. Most exchange students stay on-campus in the Cascade hall. All the on-campus housing blocks are right on the university grounds and are connected via tunnels. I decided to stay off-campus, in a share house with some Canadian students.

I would recommend this route, only if you’re within walking distance of the uni; waiting in the freezing cold for public transport really isn’t fun. It was with these Canadian students that I really got to understand what being a Calgarian was all about. Lots of ice hockey was both watched and played, and I gained a real affinity for country music and poutine. Also, with Banff and the Rocky Mountains being an hour drive away, I found Calgary to be perfect for the outdoor loving, adventurous side of me. Nothing compares to the exchange experience, it was absolutely incredible!

No Stress in New York

Julia M., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Creative Industries
Fordham University, USA (Semester 2 2017)

The experience of university in America is extremely different to that of QUT. Everything from the method of teaching, grading and assessment to the college spirit and club involvement was entirely different. My favourite aspect of life at Fordham University was the spirit and enthusiasm that students had towards their school. The campus was covered with flags and statues of the school mascot (a ram) with the huge football field covered in maroon and white (the university’s colours) branding. They even had a store with everything you could ever think of (including baby clothes and dog bones) Fordham branded. People were proud to wear these items, in contrast to at home where you rarely see people in QUT outfits. It was awesome to experience this first hand, and you really felt like part of a community where everyone knew each other and people cared.

The biggest and most challenging difference was the way in which assessment was completed and graded. At home, we usually have 2-3 large assessments for each subject, whereas at Fordham we had a very small assessment due almost every week. Although there was more assessment, I found it easier to get good grades, as the teachers were more lenient with their marking. They do not use criteria sheets and just mark off what they think you should get. There is also no moderating, which caused students to prefer certain professors to others as they marked the work easier. I found this very unusual and strange to deal with at first, as it was hard to know what the professors were looking for when marking my work. I quickly got used to it and found that it was easy to get an A with a little effort. Attendance was also very important. In one of my classes, attendance counted towards 25% of my final grade. If you missed more than 2 lessons unexcused then your final grade would drop one full letter. I found this very stressful as if I was sick I still had to go to class or risk losing a grade.

Overall I had an amazing experience going to Fordham university and would definitely do it all over again if I could. I made amazing friends that taught me about American culture and let me into their lives. The experience of living in New York City was amazing, and being able to explore the 5 boroughs at any time was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would definitely recommend exchange to anyone, as it helps you develop as a person and gain full independence. Being so far away from home makes you appreciate what you have and learn how to truly look after yourself.

Making Friends for Life

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Studying at State University of New York

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise – it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

 

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. One I travelled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

 

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Campus Life in America

Novita.R, Bachelor of Business
Illinois University of Technology, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

 

Campus and facilities

             

  • My favourite building is called MTCC. It is a big building that has cafes, dining area, study/conference rooms, Starbucks, Bookstore and the Students Support office.
  • In MTCC, every fortnight has a music night. Good place to make new friends.
  • Library is 24 hours only on weekdays.
  • Has a late-night car service for dropping students who live nearby campus.
  • Has a 24-hour seven eleven just next to dorms.
  • Post office is located in MTCC whereby it is a very centralised spot.
    • Good for those online-shoppers (e.g. AMAZON)
  • The campus is just next to Chinatown.
  • Red line train operates 24 hours and it is only 10 mins walking from the campus.

 

Accommodation

For exchange students, it is compulsory to live on-campus.

  • All the residence halls are generally shared-rooms basis.
  • Residence Halls: SSV, MSV, Carman and Gunsaulus

 

SSV MSV Carman Gunsaulus
·         The most expensive housing hall.

·         Approx. US$4,590/sem

·         Not eligible for housing scholarship.

·         Next to the bus stop and train station (1-2 mins walk)

·         For undergraduate and graduate students

·         I lived here

·         Eligible for housing scholarship (US$1,500/sem)

·         Housing rate US$3,000/sem

·         Walking distance to:

·         Bus stop 2 mins

·         Train station 6-7 mins

·         For undergraduate and graduate students

·         For undergraduate and graduate students above 23 years old, also for students with children

·         Very quiet dorm

·         Spacious room (incl. bathroom and small kitchen)

·         Located next to MSV

·         Eligible for housing scholarship (US$1,500/sem)

·         Housing rate (US$3,692)

 

Academics

  • IIT is very well known with its Engineer School.
    • FYI: First phone Motorola was created by IIT Alumni.
  • The classes tend to be smaller than QUT.
    • Attendance was compulsory. So it was easy to make friends in the class.
  • They call the lecturer by Professor followed by their name.

Cost of Living

  • The cost of living is similar to Brisbane.
  • The transportation is paid altogether prior to semester begins. So during the semester you can just tap whenever you want.
    • Students: US$175 for the U-PASS (e.g. like GoCard) and valid for 4 months.
    • Non-students: $2.25/travel (bus and train) regardless the distance.
    • A one-off tap (e.g. hop on only) unlike Brisbane.
  • Meal plan is organised by the University.
    • For on-campus students it is compulsory to have (depends on your degree level)
    • Buffet system.

Cultural Aspects

  • People do go for Starbucks. It is everywhere in Chicago.
  • Multicultural
  • Free Wi-Fi is almost in everywhere: Shopping centres, Cafes.
  • Majority of people study in the Cafes.
  • Use “What’s up” for a greeting.

 

Highlight of the Exchange

  • Traveling around United States:
    • West coast road trip
    • Did the Route 66
    • New Year’s eve in New York
    • Spring break in Miami
  • Strong friendships that will last forever with people from:
    • Germany, India, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, France, USA, Africa.

Tips and Advice

  1. Use the Travel Card from Commonwealth Bank (this is would be my first top advice!)
  2. Ensure you get the Health Insurance from your host Institution
    • Beforehand I used to think that it was very unnecessary, however, I went to Hospital, a week after my semester ended. It was very unexpected. I paid the insurance around US$800 and it covered my expenses for about US$3,000.
  3. Ensure you that the unit that you would be taking overseas is not a non-credit in order to prevent any issues when returning home for credit transfers. Be really careful with units that you’ll be undertaking, do regularly check with QUT.
  4. Be mindful of job opportunities around your host campus by talking with one of the staff.
  5. Become the member of Sorority or Fraternity!
    • Great ways to make friends and to experience the American college life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living, Studying and Travelling in Minnesota!

Ciara W., Bachelor of Business
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 1, 2016)

Yosemite National Park

I chose the University of Minnesota as my exchange location for semester 1, 2016 and loved every single second I spent there. I had always wanted to experience college in America and due to the excellent reputation of the Carlson School of Management, the University of Minnesota seemed an obvious choice. Luckily for me, Minnesota was experiencing a very mild winter, so the day I arrived it was a ‘warm’ -1c. As January progressed, however, the temperatures dropped significantly, averaging about -16c to -30c. The cold was something I had never felt before, and I found a lot of my winter gear (such as gloves) just weren’t cutting it.

CSOM in a snow storm

The campus itself was huge! Everything you could want was on campus and accessible by the free shuttles that run around East Bank and West Bank (the campus is separated by the Mississippi River). There was a massive gym equipped with three floors of apparatus and 2 swimming pools that was free for students to use. Additionally, there was a campus town on East Bank called ‘Dinky Town’ where all the student bars/restaurants were situated. This was where the small Target grocery store was situated, which was handy to pick up snacks/fruit and even bedding and toiletries.

Campus in spring

My dorm room in Middlebrook Hall

During my exchange, I stayed in a dorm as it seemed like the more convenient choice. Middlebrook Hall was a stone’s throw away from Carlson which was a luxury when the snow hit hard. I shared a room with an American student, Amelia. During my stay and we became incredibly close. We were very similar, close in age and got on so well so I was really happy with my choice of a double room. Our room was situated on the ‘Students Crossing Borders’ floor, which meant I was able to meet so many students from all over the world and form close friendships with them. Living with such amazing and fun people was definitely one of the highlights of my time spent overseas. While in the dorm, I chose a 14 meal p/w plan, which could be used in any dining hall throughout campus (which we unfortunately figured out halfway through the semester). While Middlebrook served okay food, 17th dining hall definitely won in terms of fresher and healthier choices!

 

I felt the cost of living was reasonable in Minnesota, however the exchange rate was terrible when I went so this cut my money down significantly. I found the food plan to be quite expensive in terms of the choices, and would have probably opted for the smaller meal plan if I knew how much I would have eaten out. The cost of the accommodation was fair, as there were much more expensive choices (such as University Village) that provided only little improvements.

My Closest international friend and I in the Grand Canyon

During my stay, I was able to explore New York for a weekend, Orlando and Miami for spring break, as well as LA, Joshua Tree, Lake Havisu, Vegas, Death Valley, Yosemite and San Francisco after my exchange ended. I was able to experience incredible hockey games (seriously amazing!), play in both a broomball (like ice hockey but just with running shoes – dangerous stuff!) and dodge ball team with other exchange students and broaden my network worldwide I made so many amazing friends and I found it incredibly hard to leave. Going on exchange was the highlight of my degree and I learnt so much about myself and other cultures. I loved it so much that I will be heading back at the end of the year to visit!

San Francisco

 

Becoming a Part of the Gamecock Family!

Marianne J., Master of Business
University of South Carolina, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Going to Columbia and University of South Carolina (USC) gave me so much: the ultimate American college experience, friends for a lifetime and experiences I will never forget.

On Campus – Horseshoe

Preparation and Arrival

Once I got my official “Letter of Acceptance” from the partner institution I could start the visa application. As compared to applying for an Australian visa this process takes more time and effort. First, you need to apply online, pay fees, get approved, set up an interview date and then go to the actual embassy. Be aware that, upon your interview they will need to keep your passport for a maximum of two weeks in order to insert the visa, so be sure to have enough time before departing.

Darla Moore School of Business (DMSB)

When I arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, a friendly, old couple picked me up as a part of the airport reception provided by the university. I highly recommend everyone to attend orientation week, not only are some events compulsory, but this is where you`ll have the chance to meet with your fellow students and professors and a lot of useful information will be given. This is where I met most of the people that I become close to and hung out with the most the rest of the semester. Including that, there are loads of events that offer free food, and as a poor student you don`t want to miss that! I arrived just in time for the solar eclipse, where Columbia was in the zone of totality. I also arrived in time for hurricane Irma, and quickly got an insight into the natural disasters that can occur on this side of the world.

DMSB

Accommodation

As for housing, postgrads usually cannot live on campus, but there were plenty of other off-campus student communities. Unfortunately, all the short-term leases fill up rather quickly. I went onto the USC website and found students who were subleasing, and ended up staying in a four-people apartment at a place called Riverside – a ten minute drive from campus. Most of the off-campus communities have a shuttle running to and from campus every 30 min on week days, all with a common stop on campus. This made it easy even for international students to get around. Riverside apartments came fully furnished and are very conveniently located next to a Bi-Lo (grocery store), bowling alley, and restaurants. In the USA you pay rent monthly, and living in a student accommodation is usually very cheap. I paid approximately $610 AUD a month, excluding utilities.

Riverside Student Accommodation (Off-Campus)

College Life

Columbia is a major college town and the whole city is proudly supporting and representing USC and the Gamecock (school mascot). I was there in the fall semester and got to experience football season, which entailed a weekly game where 80 000 people came to cheer for the Black & Garnet. The team and school spirit that you will experience here is like nowhere else. USC is also lucky enough to have the biggest college gym in southeast America; Strom Thurmond; a three-level playground for athletics and free of charge for all students. I can honestly say that this is the best and nicest gym I have ever been to.

Football Game at Williams-Brice Stadium

Further, USC offers heaps of clubs to get involved with, no matter what interests you, they have it. I played indoor soccer and used the student gym and its amenities frequently, and personally thought it was fun to see what all the fuss about sororities and fraternities were all about.

Strom Thurmond – Student Gym

Classes

I had to have my study plan ready before going overseas but couldn’t officially enroll until I got to Columbia. To pass the requirements from QUT I had to enroll into four units at USC, where 48 Australian credit points were equivalent to 12 U.S. credit points (3 per unit). You are being told from the beginning to save your electives and I would really recommend doing so. Some of the classes I wanted to enroll in were either full or not available to exchange students, so having mostly electives left when going abroad made the process of choosing new ones, and having them approved, much easier. Bear in mind that attendance is compulsory in the States and can, along with participation, be a part of your end grade. The postgrad classes were relatively small, ranging from 15-30 students. Some classes could be challenging, but they were all achievable.

Columbia and the U.S.

Columbia has a climate that is a little similar to Brisbane. The summers are hot and humid, and long-lasting, while the winters can get chilly and sometimes below 0, but only for a few months. Throughout the semester you had plenty of time to explore. Columbia has a river that runs straight through the city, where tubing is a very common activity, especially on those hot summer days. Five Points and the Vista are the famous areas for restaurants and night life. This is where students usually come together to socialize.

Tubing on the River

Christmas

Halloween

Although, Columbia, or ‘Cola’ as the Americans call it, isn’t the biggest and most exciting city there are many places worth seeing only a few hours away. We went to Atlanta and saw the World of Coke, to Savannah – the 7th most haunted city in the U.S., Charleston –home of all Nicholas Sparks movies. Including bigger trips to NYC, DC and I even had time to go see my host family in Utah over Thanksgiving. It is also an experience in itself to celebrate the different public holidays like Labor Day, Halloween, and Christmas.

Atlanta Skyline

Atlanta – CNN Headquarters

New York

Washington DC

I really enjoyed my time at USC and am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to go abroad and become a Gamecock! I can`t say it enough, but if you have the chance – take it. Going abroad and all it implies is so worth it!

– Forever to Thee –

Made Friends for Life!

Heidi F., Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
State University of New York, USA (Semester 2, 2016)

University

I loved studying at SUNY. It was such a different experience to anything that I had been used to previously. It was awesome to be living on a campus where it was snowing almost every day, so much so that we sometimes had snow days where university would be cancelled for the day (where we then went out sledding behind our dorms). Not to mention the time when I ran out into the snow in my bikini! (Just to say I had done it). The university as a whole was all quite expensive but worth it I think. The meal plan was compulsory (and super expensive!!) but I’m glad I had it as it made everything a lot easier. It was a lot of fun having an ice skating rink on campus as we did that quite a bit as well as watched a lot of ice hockey matches which I loved. I joined a lot of sporting groups and I also did a lot of on campus activities which kept me busy. They were a lot of fun! Academics wise- it was quite easy compared to QUT. It surprised me how much easier it was than what I was used to but it was good as I was able to get pretty good marks without placing much stress on myself.

One of the sporting groups I joined

America

It blew me away how bad the currency exchange rate was. I lost a lot of money when I exchanged my AUD dollars to the US currency. It was super sad seeing how many thousands of dollars I was losing but I just kept telling myself that it was all going to be worth it! And it totally was. I traveled quite a bit to New York City as well as around New York State and up to the Thousand Islands. At the end of my uni semester, I also flew across to California and spent quite a lot of time there. It was exciting to get some sunshine and beaches there after such a long time without! One thing about America that was a little tricky was the ability to adjust to the different foods. I often found myself feeling a little sick as I wasn’t used to it. After a while my body adjusted I think, and I was feeling a lot better.

Snow days happened all the time

New York City!

Highlights

There were so many highlights, obviously. I had a great time experiencing new things such as skiing and snowboarding as well as getting into new sports like ice hockey and American football. The ‘touristy’ things were also a blast such as the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood sign, Hollywood boulevard, Santa Monica Pier etc. I did and saw so many things! Looking back on it all though, I definitely think one of the best things about my exchange was just living on campus and meeting so many amazing people. I have now made friends for life and so many of these guys are already heading over this way soon!

Santa Monica Pier

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!

A Life in Chicago

William N., Bachelor of Design (Honors)
Illinois Institute of Technology, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

The university…

Going on exchange to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago last semester was an amazing experience, which I already miss and wish I could repeat all over. As an architecture student, IIT was an amazing place to both visit and live. The campus was designed by one of my favourite architects – Mies van der Rohe – who also started the architecture school on campus, and taught there for a period of time. Because of this, the school has a wonderful architecture program, and great resources for architecture students.

Despite being in a somewhat dodgy area, the campus is only a few train stops from downtown, making it really easy to explore the city throughout my exchange. On top of this, during the semester the university gives you a free travel card, giving you unlimited access to the buses and trains throughout the city. The campus is also within walking distance of the lake which is a really nice place to go swimming.

The on-campus accommodation that I chose was really nice, however the other dormitories I visited were not as nice, which I think would influence the quality of exchange perhaps. I had two randomly assigned roommates, who I didn’t become friends with, but it gave me the opportunity to experience living with strangers, and make me a more tolerant person. My apartment had a kitchen so I cooked most meals, however the university requires you also purchase a meal plan at the cafeteria. The food was not very nice though.

Unexpected…

For future exchange students visiting IIT, don’t expect the university to make much of an effort introducing you to other international students, so make sure you make an effort yourself at the start to introduce yourself to others.

Highlights…

For me, the highlight of exchange was the opportunities I got to travel both within and outside the states. During the semester I travelled to New Orleans, Toronto, and New York – and spent a week in Copenhagen during my Thanksgiving break in late November.

The campus life at the university was definitely not what I expected. I was expecting a very traditional university with frat parties, etc. but was surprised how different it was. The university has very little social or party life, making it difficult to make friends with other students. However, I found a group of other exchange students who I became good friends with, so it ended up not being an issue.

Tips/ advice…

Definitely pack or buy a lot of warm clothes, as it gets very freezing, very quickly. When looking at the weather, always pay attention to the “feels like” temperature, as the wind chill is almost always ten degrees colder in the winter. Do a lot of research before choosing your housing. The university give most if not all exchange students $1500 a semester towards housing – however not all options have kitchens, meaning you may pay more on the cafeteria meal plans!

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.