Canadian Culture at Queen’s University

Cameron, W., Bachelor of Business
Queen’s University, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. For all the geographically impaired readers (such as myself), Kingston is two hours east of Toronto and roughly in the middle of Canada, just above the American border. The town itself was very much a University based society. There were something like 20,000 students living in just a 5km radius with another 70,000-people living in the surrounding area. The campus was gorgeous – nice sandstone buildings, many of which were newly or currently undergoing renovations. The Smith School of Business was most definitely the pride and joy of the University. Extensions to the main buildings created a blend of new and old styles and a refreshing environment to study in.

Accommodation was as you’d expect, first years all lived in student dormitories and the rest lived within walking proximity in less than tidy or looked after rental houses. This was great for socialising as you didn’t worry about anything getting broken or dirty. Sport in Canadian Universities are much the same as American, it’s a big deal with lots of money put into it. As you would expect, the fields and facilities were amazing, and we could all use the three-story gym on campus which was great for encouraging healthy lifestyles resulting in a surprisingly fit population. The parties and community were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, it really makes me feel as though I’ve missed out on so much bonding and social experiences with Australian University where we don’t all live on or next to campus.

Hanging out at Ontario Hall

Everybody says Canada is basically Australia’s cold cousin and I couldn’t agree more. So many people were so relaxed and just happy to help you if you ever needed it. The lack of hostility was ever so apparent (better than down under) and geographically similar. Everyone typically lives on the border just as we live on the coast with a whole lot of uninhabitable land filling in the rest.

Australia’s Cold Cousin

Overall, I’d say the partying and travelling with friends I met from university was the main highlight. I’ve never really been able to socialise 4 or 5 days a week and live in this environment with friends literally living a block away. Having that exploration mentality and pass/fail grading allowed me to go and see a lot more and really experience everything both Canada and Queen’s had to offer. I can easily say I would not have enjoyed my time as much if my grades would have counted. Anxiety would overrun any positive experience and I wouldn’t have had time to go out and explore and make new friends.

I didn’t expect university could be this fun, Australian universities have a very boring culture. We go to class, maybe meet some friends and have drinks after – although you aren’t all committed and involved nearly as much. I never expected to go to so many functions or sporting matches, I didn’t think the communal University culture could ever be so inclusive of anybody and everybody.

University Facilities

The tips I would have for anyone travelling to Queen’s is simple. DO NOT GO IN WINTER. Fall semester is an absolute blast – everybody from Europe comes in Fall and all the Canadian students go away in Winter, so there’s way more people and community events. Housing was an absolute nightmare – especially to get a 4-month lease. Hop on that quickly. Most of all, do the NEWTS week orientation. Fantastic way to meet everyone on exchange and these people will no doubt become your buddies to hang out with for the rest of the semester.

Exchange at the University of Minnesota

Meng Lee, Bachelor of Business
University of Minnesota, USA (Semester 2, 2017)

Overall, I would recommend the University of Minnesota (U of M) for all students that are interested in going on a long term exchange. The organizer for this program was really helpful and friendly for students to ask questions. I took many opportunities to travel around the different states but I would say the transportation from state to state is really expensive as compared to Australia. For example, if you are planning to go New York during your break, it would probably cost you around 250 USD. I would recommend that you to book the ticket early as to avoid this issue.

I found that Minnesota is a really quiet and peaceful place. There is not a lot of night life or shopping…so please don’t expect it will be the same life as New York, Chicago or other big cities (hahahah). However, there is the biggest shopping center in US which is the Mall of America. You probably could find all your stuff there.

If you are planning to go U of M during the winter time, I will suggest you to bring more thick clothes! The weather is crazy there! I AM SERIOUS. I remember when I arrived, it was -30 Celsius. You probably need an extremely thick jacket and at least 2 layers inside your body. Boots are a must. No sport shoes, as it would kill you (hahaha).

During my time in University of Minnesota, I met many new friends from around the world. This definitely helped me to strengthen my social network with meeting new friends from different nations; vibe with them and learn more about their culture. Since coming back from U of M, I have been Europe to meet my best friends that I met on exchange.

Studying abroad is not only about acquiring knowledge, but also discovering a new culture. I have to say that I really recommend students to take this opportunity to engage in this program!

Canada Eh?

Georgia Christie, Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws
The University of Calgary, Canada (Semester 1, 2018)

I arrived in Calgary on the 1st of January and could not believe the amount of snow that was covering the city; I found out later that Calgary had a massive cold snap in the days leading up to NYE with temperatures dropping to -30°C. So, I was quite terrified and unsure how I’d survive an entire winter. However, you do get used to the cold and start thinking that -5°C days are warm days.

The University of Calgary was quite different to QUT. Classes are not recorded and I even had a political science prof (lecturer) who did not upload any slides online, so if you missed a class you missed a whole heap of content. The university is very focused on sports, and as a student you get access to the gym and all the sporting facilities. During the winter semester, it’s all about hockey and there are plenty of games you can go watch. There’s also the Olympic Oval which was the ice-skating rink used in the 1988 Winter Olympics and it is open for public use.

I stayed in residence at Cascade Hall for the semester and this was where most exchange students stayed, so there were always other international students around. This also meant that I spent most of my time with other exchange students rather than Canadians.

My exchange experience was incredible and I experienced so many uniquely Canadian things. At first, Tim Hortons is a very confusing concept: it’s not a café and it’s not fast food but somewhere in the middle but after a while, Timmies becomes a staple for all road trips, ski days and early morning classes.

The Rocky Mountains are only a short drive away from Calgary and this is where I really enjoyed the North American winter. Alberta is    home to many world-class ski resorts and I was lucky enough to ski and even try snowboarding at a lot of them. It is definitely easier to enjoy the Rockies by getting a car and exploring all the mountain villages. Banff and Jasper are very popular towns with great nightlife, food, hikes and of course skiing. I highly recommend driving up the Icefields parkway from Banff to Jasper, it is truly one of the most beautiful drives in the whole world.

Canadians really live up to the stereotype of being very nice people and they love Australians, so it wasn’t difficult to feel at home in Calgary. I was shocked at how country Calgary is, there is always country music playing at clubs/bars and people actually wear cowboy hats and boots around.

Without a doubt, the best part of exchange is the people you meet. I met many other exchange students, Canadians and people from all over the world who were travelling Canada. The people I became friends with on exchange are friends for life and I can’t wait to visit them all again. After my semester was over, I travelled around Canada, New York and California for a month. I definitely recommend travelling to eastern Canada because it is so different from Calgary or Vancouver, so you miss out on the full Canadian experience if you just stay on the west coast.

My exchange experience was by far the best thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to go back to Alberta again one day.

Find a real winter in the UK

Tayla B
Bachelor of Creative Industries
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

 

My experience living in England for six months studying at SHU was incredible. I had never been to England or Europe before, but having many friends living there I knew what to expect, but nothing could prepare me for the weather. I arrived in winter to freezing temperatures and I think the thing I struggled with if anything was the lack of sunlight. Once every two weeks during winter you would get a sunny day, which is nothing like I am used to growing up in Australia.

It’s colder than you might think!

Other than the lack of Vitamin D, my experience was one I will never forget. I made such an amazing group of friends, all international students, from countries all over Europe, America, Australia which made for an interesting collection of people. I was living in the city in student accommodation, which made it easy to access everything by walking and was studying in the city so class was only a 10 min walk from my house.

 

The university was super accommodating to international students and had weekly activities for us and organized trips over the country to make sure we had plenty of opportunities to meet new people. This is how I made majority of my friends, and was the best thing the university did for us.

Making friends while on exchange is the best experience

There wasn’t a lot of culture shock as it was an English speaking country, but the Brits have their own slang words that took some time to get used to!

It was a struggle to accommodate to the idea that I wasn’t on holiday the whole time- I was living there- and that it was okay to not be busy the whole time or always doing something.

The main thing that drove me to pick England was the ease of being able to travel all over the country by train and how close it was to be able to go to Europe. I spent my 22nd birthday in Paris and it was the most magical thing I could’ve ever imagined. My exchange experience was the greatest thing I have done with my education and can’t recommend it enough for anyone thinking about it.

Settling in to Simon Fraser, Canada

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

 

For semester one of 2017 I partook in an exchange at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. Doing university at SFU was different from the get go with the semester starting on the 4th of January. For Canada, this was the middle of winter and for Vancouver this usually means a fair bit of rain and snow so make sure you pack your thermals because it gets pretty cold!

It’s cold from the beginning – pack your thermals!

In terms of accommodation I applied for on-campus student accommodation at SFU’s Burnaby campus. The building I stayed in for this consisted of dormitory style buildings in which you had your own room in a hallway of rooms beside each other with a shared bathroom, kitchen and lounge room. If given the chance with exchange anywhere I would highly recommend trying to stay on-campus because I found it a lot easier to make friends as a lot of the people there are in the same boat as you.

The friends I met while staying on campus

 

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.