A Canadian Experience

Lachlan L., Bachelor of Engineering/Mathematics
University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

My name is Lachlan Leech and I study Electrical and Aerospace Engineering and Computational and Applied Mathematics at QUT and I was fortunate enough to go on exchange for one semester to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I attended the University of Calgary (U of C) as of September 5 to December 21, 2017. However, before arriving at my new home I spent a month travelling around Eastern Canada to experience the best that Canada has to offer. That being, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montréal and Quebec City!

Upon reflection, living and studying in Canada for six months was without question the best time of my life; I can finally understand why everyone who has been on an exchange has similar thoughts! Based solely on my experience, even though Canada is a Commonwealth country and therefore has a lot of similarities with Australia, there are still vast differences. These differences ranged from architecture, costs of living, climate and people to people culture. I found that in Canada, their architecture ranges from technologically advanced buildings to historical chateaus and castles such as their Fairmont hotels and French buildings, whereas Australia mainly has modern buildings as seen in Downtown Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I found their cost of living to be similar to Australia however their housing, food, gas, and transport is cheaper. The only shock I found about Canada, even though I was expecting it was the climate. In Calgary, the climate was constantly fluctuating due to the Rockies to the West and the farm lands to the East, to the point whereby one day could see temperatures of 10 degrees and then go to -20 degrees the next! I experienced an amazing culture shock which was evident in their citizens. Canadians and Calgarians in particular are without question the most amazing and kind-hearted people in the world; always kind, respectful and always helping their follow citizens and tourists through any situation.

In terms of the U of C, I found that life on campus was quite similar to QUT with respect to class sizes, rooms and the method as to which a unit and degree is delivered and taught by professors. However, there were vast differences that were evident between both universities. I found that the U of C is more like a mini city due to the fact that they allow boarding on campus, whereas QUT doesn’t. With this, the students are more connected and are seen as more of a family. They also have all amenities on campus such as Dentists, Doctors, Convenience Stores, Restaurants, Stadiums, etc which was amazing. In terms of Academics, Canadians are expected to get grades greater than a pass (>= 60%) to proceed to new units and as a result of this system, they bell curve! I found that to be a big difference and quite harsh on students considering that they usually take 5-6 units per semester and not 4 like at QUT!

The greatest highlight I had in my time in Canada was meeting people that I know are going to be lifelong friends. From frosh week they were all so fascinated with Australia and all wanted me to experience the best of Calgary, from seeing Hockey matches to exploring Downtown Calgary; the University of Calgary, whether it was going ice skating at Olympic Stadium or seeing their Dinos play football; even to close by places such as the Rockies (hiking around Banff and seeing Lake Louise).

Obviously, my advice to students considering going on exchange is to go. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that will change the way you look at the world as you’ll be immersed into another culture that will surpass all your expectations!

 

Calgary – things to do and know

5 weeDowntown Calgaryks into my exchange at the University of Calgary and I have some updates for you back home.

My last post had lots of information about the university and O Week at U of C. This time I would like to focus more so on Calgary and Alberta. Calgary is the perfect city in size, people and activity. Calgary has about 1.1 million people meaning that it has a lot of great services but isn’t too big.

 

 

 

Firstly – transportation

Calgary has two train lines, the Red and the Blue. While staying at U of C you will likely only use the Red line which travels NE to SW. Although the train isn’t all that quick around Calgary, it is convenient and takes to right into the heart of the downtown area. There is a stop at the university (although it is on the other side of the campus), and stops to all major areas including sporting grounds.

Calgary’s buses are decent. I find them comparable to ones in Brisbane, not super fast, but not horrible either. There are a number of routes traveling from the university to close shopping malls or districts, however, unless going somewhere nearby, the trains are generally easier. The best part of public transit here is that you pay $130 at the beginning of the semester to get a UPass sticker for you university ID, which you then show the drivers, and you don’t have any more to pay.

Taxis are not as expensive here as back home (but you will hear Canadians complain about them). You will be expected to tip though, so keep that in mind and maxis aren’t really a thing. There is sadly no Uber 🙁

 

View from Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

Secondly – activities

There is an abundance of fun activities to do in Calgary and the surrounds. Small concerts are held on the university grounds every so often as well as around the city reasonable frequently. Keep your eyes peeled for posters around campus or the city. If not in Calgary, then artists usually perform in Banff which is a rather short bus trip away.

There are incredible hikes or walks close to the city. I recently hiked Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (about 1 hour drive), which was difficult (partly due to my fitness level, but also due to the thinner air) but definitely worth it for the view. It gets quite cold up the top so bring layers!

 

Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium Hot Springs, BC

10 friends and I also took a road trip to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia (BC). The trip was about 3.5 hours (if the van hadn’t broken down) and absolutely worth every penny! As we drove to Radium, every corner brought new mountains and magnificent views, while the town itself was full of awesome walks and, of course, hot springs!

If you are looking for something closer to Calgary I would recommend ice skating or catching a game of Canadian football or ice hockey. You can ice skate on campus at the Olympic Oval for $5 skate and helmet hire. Entry is free. All U of C Dinos games are free and the football games walking distance from campus (the hockey is just a train ride away).

At a Hitmen game

^^This is Josh^^

Calgary Stampeders (football) games are walking distance (McMahon Stadium) and you can get tickets in the nosebleeds for $25 (if you buy a few days early). The Calgary Flames (ice hockey) games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome a bit more expensive and worse seats but look for deals on StubHub or for student games.

 

Otherwise the Calgary Hitmen, a team in the WHL (so under 23 ice hockey) also play at the Saddledome and tickets will likely be cheaper.  Or if you’re like me, become friends with someone who gets free tickets (thanks Josh)!

 

 

Of course I should mention all of the bars and clubs around the city. Everyone has different tastes so I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say that The Den (on campus) turns into a conveniently located club on Thursdays, and that Commonwealth is also popular. As far as bars go – Ranchman’s on Saturdays (country), Kilkenny’s (at Brentwood – about 10 minutes on the bus and great for sports) and The Ship & Anchor (17th Ave SW – great for food) are all a bit of fun. It’s a good idea to carry cash out, as some places only take cash at the bar. Ladies also get in cover-free on Wednesdays at Cowboys because it is ladies night. Remember to tip!

Stephen Ave Walk

Stephen Ave Walk

And of course, more known things like the Calgary Tower, Stephen Ave Walk and the path along the river are also great for a free day.

 

 

Finally – weather

Be warned that the weather can change quickly. One day it will be cool, but sunny and the next day will be snowy. Dress in layers!

 

That’s it for now but as usual, if you have specific questions, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca.