Montreal – the number one student city!

Sneha M., Bachelor of Business and Laws (Honours)
HEC Montreal, Canada (Semester 2, 2017)

When I realised I was going on exchange I was a whole lot excited and a little bit nervous! I had never lived overseas before for starters and my best dish consisted of toast. My partner institution was HEC (Hautes Ecoles Commerciales) in Montreal, Canada. While my classes were in English, French was the main language spoken in Montreal. Equipped with about 3 duolingo lessons I packed my one suitcase and off I went! Luckily however, nearly everyone in Montreal speaks English, in fact, they want to practice English so much you may not always get to try out your French!

My experience did not start off on the best note. My flight from Brisbane was delayed by four hours, which meant I missed both of my connecting flights. When I arrived in LAX for a stopover my phone stopped working and my next flight was delayed. On my final leg from Toronto to Montreal, the passenger behind me was severely sick and had to get medical treatment before we could fly out! I ended up arriving in Montreal with no one to pick me up at 4am, a day later than expected. This also meant I spent the first and only day before orientation week getting my phone fixed, getting some warm clothes (as it was -14 degrees) and grocery shopping.

The next day orientation week began and it was jam packed full of activities including going to an outdoor spa in the snow, laser tag, snow tubing, pub crawls, hikes, ice skating, parties and much more. Needless to say it was really fun but so exhausting I caught the flu. I think experiencing challenges so early in my exchange made me take initiative and get organised really quickly which made the rest of the trip so much easier.

I was really lucky my roommates were also attending HEC. This made the whole experience better because we had similar schedules and could travel together. I definitely recommend going to Montreal if you want to travel. It’s only a short bus ride to New York and Boston and a few hours further to Washington DC. I also got the chance to visit the Rocky Mountains on the West Coast of Canada and Iceland during spring break which were both simply breathtaking .

Montreal was voted number one student city in the world for good reasons! It has plenty to do and a great atmosphere. While on exchange I went to Igloofest a music festival with intricately carved ice bars, bonfires and great music. It started snowing halfway through the night, which just meant everyone had to dance harder.

 

It can sometimes be difficult in winter where some days it was -19. It’s really important to layer, because underground and inside it can get really warm with central heating. Montreal has an extensive underground metro system as well as shopping centres and an underground mini city! Good shoes are also a must as you can be trekking through deep snow to get to uni! Canadians are tough and uni is hardly ever cancelled unless there is a major snowstorm.

A word of caution though, HEC has a very good reputation, but that also means the courses are quite difficult. Instead of using electives, I was able to complete compulsory finance subjects. The format is quite different with no online lectures and three hour classes that combine work as lectures and tutorials together. Take advantage of the consultations and make sure to study throughout the semester as most exams are worth 60%! One elective class I took however was Social Innovation in the International Area. This subject requires us to work with a Social Innovation group or project in Montreal to meet specific aims. It was amazing to see the social enterprises people from across the globe are involved in.

The friends, skills and memories I have gained from Montreal and my time at HEC was invaluable. I am so grateful and humbled by exchange experience. I can’t wait to visit again!

Aston-ishing England

Annabel Boersen, Bachelor of Business – International
Aston University, England (Semester 2, 2017 through Semester 1, 2018)

I absolutely loved my time on exchange at Aston University in Birmingham, UK. There were so many highlights of my trip both academic and cultural: including meeting Orlando Bloom!

I chose to go to Aston University as part of my BS08 Second Degree program, and to be honest, I hadn’t really researched too much on the location of the University before I arrived. I was surprised to find that it was right on the edge of Birmingham city centre (it took 20 mins to walk to the other side of the city). This meant that everything you needed was within walking distance! The city of Birmingham also has fantastic transport options to travel around the UK and Europe (multiple train and coach stations, and an international airport as well!). I went to Bratislava, Frankfurt, Dublin, and more with cheap flights from Birmingham. I also made an effort to see as much of the UK as possible. I went north to Edinburgh, did a narrow boat adventure into Wales, and even did a 7-day walking holiday along the Cornish Coastal Path (in Cornwall), just to name a few things. I definitely recommend that you take advantage of the central location of Birmingham to get around the UK in your time there.

Since I was at Aston for a full year exchange, I was able to secure accommodation on campus. This was awesome because it was only a 5-minute walk to any class. There was also a supermarket and gym on campus which meant that in winter if it was raining or snowing, you could still get to everything very easily. I lived in a female only 7 bedroom flat. I shared a kitchen with 6 other girls, and we each had our own room and bathroom. I

One of the highlights of my entire exchange was celebrating Christmas at Disneyland Paris with my sister, who had come out to visit over the Christmas break. It was so magical especially when it snowed, and is something that I won’t ever forget. Another highlight was the people that I met while I was there. Because my exchange went for a whole year, I took part in many activities, joined the university dance society and even found a casual job at a 5* hotel in the city centre. I met people not only from all around the UK, but from all around the world. I also connected with eight other Australians who were doing the same program as me and we went to all the classes together, which was great because it meant that I knew people who were going through the same experience and if we had any questions or issues, we could figure them out together. Another highlight was looking out my window and seeing it snow on campus (it snowed multiple times on my exchange, even through April)!

In terms of units, lectures and tutorials, the UK system, although similar, is quite different in some aspects. For example; attendance at all lectures and tutorials was recorded, timetables were assigned and not chosen, and some of our units that went for the entire year only had one piece of assessment (a 100% exam). In the first semester I studied five units and in the second I studied seven. This resulted in me having four 100% exams, two 80% exams, and one assignment all in the final examination period. But as hard as it sounds, I found it realistic and was not overwhelmed at all. It was also very interesting as all my lecturers came from different cultural backgrounds. I loved how cultural the whole experience turned out to be, despite me still being in an English speaking country!

I loved the whole experience and would totally recommend others to take part in an exchange to Aston University. If I could do it again, I would!

Snowball fights and study at Simon Fraser University

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

In terms of content studied I found SFU’s business units to be on a similar level to QUT’s. However, there were some differences in assessments, grading and how things were taught. For SFU’s business units they are graded on a grading curve, where you marks are determined by how everyone in your class performs too (which can work for or against you). This meant it was quite hard to determine how you were going throughout the semester but worked out for me in the end.

The other thing that was different to QUT for me was class participation marks and the lack of recorded lectures. This meant that class attendance was a must and did mean that I wasn’t able to travel and do as many activities during university as originally planned. Other than this there wasn’t too much of a difference and I really enjoyed studying at SFU.

Well, you just have to get in a snowball fight while in Canada…

Like mentioned earlier my travel was limited due to study but with so many things to do in Vancouver and with Whistler only being 2hrs away I was still able to do a lot of the things I wanted to do. I would however highly recommend having some extra time either before or after study to travel as friends of mine who did not have extra time to travel after study did wish they allowed time to do so. Another tip of mine is take out the extra QUT exchange loan if you feel like you might not have enough money for the trip as it is the worst when you are worried about funds and then are stopping yourself from doing the things you want to be doing.

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

Snowboarding while on Exchange

SNOW!

Ok. So like most pure Queenslanders (?) I haven’t seen a lot of snow in my life time. In fact, I’d NEVER seen snow in my lifetime. Until now. Glorious white powder of Sheen proportions that doesn’t cease too amaze! With the first fall of snow, people in Deal were leaving their houses to sled along the roads/hills and throw snowballs at each other. I for one made a snow angel. It was glorious.

Snow in Deal

I also enjoyed jumping in any snow drifts I could find, as Deal has a few places along the shoreline that normally had deep stairways, that became full of snow. Unfortunately, I only had trainers on me at the time, which were completely soaked. I’ll have to remember in future to wear boots.

Uni itself isn’t too bad. One unit in particular is giving me a lot of grief, with such an intense deadline. It hasn’t left me with a lot of time to enjoy sightseeing and such, but hopefully I’ll be up for shenanigans like that soon.

Hope all is well back in Australia.

Stay classy,

Tom

Law exchange to Canada

When I decided to come on exchange to Canada, I wanted to go somewhere different, so I chose a city I had never heard of before- Halifax, Nova Scotia. Before I arrived here, I spent a week on the West Coast of Canada, and whenever I told anyone there I was coming to study in Halifax, the response was always the same- Why?? I was a little deterred but still excited (and as I have since learnt, for good reason!). My flight into Halifax arrived in a flurry of snow. I was like a child on Christmas looking out the window but got a cold punch of reality once I left the heated building. The first skill you need to learn upon arrival in Canada is the art of layering your clothes. Inside every building, the heating is raging full bore, and you have to remove gloves, beanies (or ‘touques’ as the Canadians call them), scarves, coats and sometimes jumpers too in order to feel comfortable, then load them all back on again when its time to leave the building.

The morning I arrived in Halifax was orientation day for exchange students, so I had to race to Fenwick Tower (the tallest building east of Montreal, pictured below) where Dalhousie University houses its international and exchange students. We occupy the 32nd and 33rd floors (top two floors) and have the most amazing views of the harbour, downtown and suburban Halifax. The floor is all open plan and is basically a huge common room and kitchen with bedrooms and bathrooms forming the edges. In Fenwick this semester is a mix of 3 Aussies, 5 Kiwis, a bunch of French boys, a chick from Norway, another from Beunos Aires, and a few Chinese people… quite a mix! We all trekked over to Dalhousie University for the day to learn the necessary ins and outs of life and study in Halifax.

Here’s a few fun facts about Halifax and Canada: Blue sky and sun does not mean it is warm, Halifax has the second most pubs and bars per capita in the world (great news for the party students), Canadians can rarely (if ever) tell the difference between a New Zealand and Australian accent, pedestrians have COMPLETE right of way- even if you step out onto the road in front of a bus, it will stop for you, you have to pay to receive text messages and phone calls (it also costs extra to have people’s names come up on your screen when they call), they don’t have Visa debit cards and they still use cheques (checks in Canadian spelling) to pay for things! So backwards in some ways! It is also socially acceptable to wear ugg boots (everywhere: to class, the supermarket, out for lunch etc) and the boys here haven’t been introduced to jean brands such as Nudie or Ksubi, and still get around in the ugliest baggie jeans (often paired with running shoes- yep, thats right, along with uggs in public, the joggers and jean combo is quite the norm!)

We have become quite a close group at Fenwick already, despite having only been here a few weeks. Class is slightly different to QUT. For law- everyone is post grad (except me!) so I’m the youngest in all my classes and noone can believe I began studying law straight out of high school and that if I hadn’t done a double degree I would already be working as a lawyer. Also there are no tutorials. The classes are called lectures, but in reality they are ‘lectorials’ and highly interactive. I have no assignments all semester, but four 100% exams in April, with two being closed book (eeeeeek)! There is also a lot more preparation expected to be done for each class and walking into the law library is like turning on the ‘mute’ button for life- noone dares even whisper (a massive change from the entry level of the QUT law library!). Obviously another massive difference is walking to ‘school’ in the snow.. still a massive novelty which I’m sure the regular students don’t appreciate!

We get a ‘spring break’ (they call it reading week here) in February, so myself and a few of the girls from Fenwick have booked a week’s holiday to the Bahamas. As you do! The Dalplex (university gym/ sports centre) has organised a skiing/ snowboarding day trip this weekend to the closest mountain (about an hours drive). Included in the $30 price is transport, snowboard hire, lift pass and a lesson- what a bargain!

Weather in Halifax is a little bit bipolar. Some mornings are blue sky and sun (still freezing cold) but after a 2 hour lecture, you shouldn’t be surprised if you walk out into a blizzard, 60 km/ hr winds, pouring rain, light snow or any combination of those!

Canadians are the loveliest, most helpful and welcoming people I have ever come across. As soon as you open your mouth anywhere, they are ready for a chat about where you are from and more than happy to invite you to a ‘kegger’ (keg/ beer party) at their ‘buddy’s’ place on the weekend after knowing you for a whole 2 minutes! This is definitely a student city, everyone under the age of 25 seems to be a Dal student and the nightlife (as you would expect from the amount of drinking establishments) is awesome. Live music is a big thing here, and the cover bands and original songs are indescribably good!

I would recommend Halifax and Dalhousie to anyone in a heartbeat. Living costs are much the same as Brisbane and the travel opportunities from here are endless (and quite cheap!).. I’m dreading the day this exchange ends, but I will definitely be back in Canada as soon as I can afford the airfare!