Reece - Queen's University

B Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018
Participating in a student exchange program may be the most valuable component of my degree.

Academic experience

At Queen's University I studied 3 Civil Engineering courses and a Beginner Spanish course. It really made me realise how spoilt we are with technology at UQ as we used blackboards with no lecture recordings and in some instances lecture materials weren't even uploaded. Thankfully I made some friends who took really good notes. From my experience I would recommend not taking a language course on exchange, unless it is the language of the country you are in as it is a huge commitment.

Personal experience

I made amazing friends from all over the world that I will hopefully run into again in my future travels. Queen's University provides you with an amazing opportunity to exchange cultures and values with not only Canadians, but people from every continent through the shear amount of exchange students.

Kingston is in an ideal location for weekend trips, as I was able to visit Montreal, Toronto (several times), Boston, New York, and Montremblant. Maybe I could have visited a couple more places during the semester, but it's was really nice to soak up the student vibes in Kingston!

Accommodation

I lived in off-campus housing and would recommend this for every exchange student going to Queens. The on-campus residence for exchange students was too far away from campus (ironic) and limited your friendship groups as a result. Also, at Queens only the first years live on-campus, before graduating to off campus housing.

As soon as you receive your acceptance letter for Queen's you should immediately be looking for housing. It is really hard, but not impossible, to find a 4 month lease as most landlords prefer tenants with 8 or 12 month leases. Consider Co-Op housing, although they typically prefer full year students. If you really get stuck, The Queen’s University exchange faculty had suggested taking an 8 month lease and either finding someone to take over it for the next semester or breaking it and losing your deposit. You will end up paying for 5 months rent instead of 4, but it is well worth the money to be in an ideal location close to the university. Living closer to campus enhances your experience entirely, and allows you to be way more immersed in the culture at Queen's, so it’s definitely worth opting for the more expensive locations.

Costs

Costs of living are slightly cheaper relative to Brisbane, plus your Queen's student card offers free buses (within Kingston) and gym access. 
Try budget at least $10,000 for everything.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I had was probably all the admin involved to get myself overseas in the first place. I left exchange until really late in my degree, however, so it shouldn't be as hard for you. It was all more than worth it, so don't get too down with all the paperwork!

Professional Development

I think exchange forces you to step outside of your comfort zone (with lots of safety nets). I'd like to think that I'm now a little more comfortable with throwing myself in the deep end with various situations in life. I personally believe global experiences are really important for personal and professional development as they improve your ability to relate and empathise with others from different backgrounds. You also tend to learn a lot about yourself, particularly that you are capable of holding your own in new environments. I am now much more open to moving cities for work, as I see the potential growth that comes with it.

Highlight

It's not exactly a specific highlight, but being a part of the Queen's culture was amazing. While I only spent 4 months there, I really felt like I was a Queen's student and definitely got amongst the school spirit. It's not like anything I've ever seen in Brisbane. It was also really amazing to have friendships with awesome people from all over the world.

Top tips

Look into housing ASAP, living close to Campus makes a huge difference.
Buy your winter clothing in Canada, it's much cheaper and saves you having to carry stuff over. Whenever possible, take every opportunity to meet new people and go on adventures with them. 

If you are interested in checking out any places on the west coast (my only regret from exchange is that I didn't see Lake Louise before it started snowing), start planning early, otherwise it is way too hard to spontaneously fly over! 

Canadians LOVE an Australian accent, so if you've got it flaunt it! Seriously!