Alicia - Queen's University

B Advanced Science
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

While I was at Queen's University, I studied two Chemistry courses that were compulsory for my degree, one Biostat course for my minor and two language electives. The academic system is quite different to UQ with its pros and cons. Personally, I found that the workload was less than UQ, although I was enrolled in 5 courses a semester, the total contact hours in a week were smaller. Therefore, while at Queen's, I was able to balance my academics and other aspects of my life. I found that the major difference was that Queen's University does not record any lectures at all. For that reason, when my two of my courses clashed, I was forced to drop one course and enrol in another. However, as it was my elective that clashed, it didn't cause a lot of problems for me.

Personal experience

I gained friendships during my time in Canada, not only limited to people within the university but outside while I was travelling. Although I do not keep in touch with all of them, talking to other travellers from various places and speaking to locals about their own culture, was definitely a new and different experience. 
Also, I was able to learn a little bit of French as some provinces in Canada use both English and French. However, Kingston does not use French, so the amount of French I could learn was very minimal and instead, learning it through a course would be much more efficient. Though most importantly, I was able to become more independent and develop problem-solving skills as many predicaments will arise that one could never expect to happen.

Accommodation

Although all my classes took place at the main campus, I lived on west campus and took the bus all the time which was about a ten-minute ride. At first, I applied for the university dorm for international students but was not successful. The host university provided a list of other places I could look into and was able to find a place.

Costs

During the semester, I spent about $10,000 to cover my rent, food, travel, etc. Fortunately, the buses in Kingston and facilities such as the university's gym were free for students. I also tried to save money by cooking rather than eating out. I definitely tried to save as much as possible so I could spend more money on travelling as train tickets to other cities can get expensive.

Challenge

The biggest challenge for me was that I was put in many unexpected situations. Especially at the start of the semester, there were many administration problems, course enrolment problems, bank problems etc. Even when I was first flying into Canada, I had many delayed flights which caused me to arrive a day later than my expected arrival date which in turn caused problems with accommodation. At these times I would be very flustered and nervous but do not be shy to ask for help. Canadians are very approachable and love to help people.

Professional Development

During my exchange, I have gained a lot of skills but I have especially learnt how to adapt to new environments and systems. Going to a place where there was no one I knew or grew up was a challenging and unique experience. However, I was able to learn how to make new friends and relationships where I could depend on them. Due to this experience, I believe I can now go to new places and settle down wherever I am around the world.

Highlight

Although there were many highlights, for me the biggest highlight was travelling around Canada. Canada is a wonderful country where you can experience both cultures of North America and Europe. I was able to travel cities such as Toronto, Kingston (where Queen's uni is), Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec. All these cities are unique in their own way where some cities are more influenced by the French and others less. In addition, the people I met while travelling these cities made the whole experience more special and unique.

Top tips

Initially, I thought I would have a lot of time to travel but once the Semester started I got busy that it was more difficult to travel than expected. You will be extremely busy settling down before the Semester and you might not be able to travel after your exam as much depending on your exam schedule. So my advice is to travel whenever there is a long weekend/public holiday and break. Sometimes your friends might not have the time to travel with you during the Semester but do not be afraid to travel by yourself and make the most of your time.