Harrison - Western University

B Engineering/Commerce
Semester 2, 2018
It's way to cold, but you'll be alright.

Academic experience

While studying at Western I took a combination of first-year business electives  I had saved up as well as some 4th year Engineering courses. I found even while doing 5 subjects, the workload wasn't any different to the 4 I would usually do at UQ. The difficulty and amount of content in courses seemed to be easier, however, this was offset by the difference in structure and organization I was used too at UQ. The courses were a lot of the time poorly organized and the exams were obviously rushed and not thought through. This made purchasing the textbooks a must, (something I wouldn't often do at UQ) as lectures were not recorded, long-winded and lacking general structure, with 4/5 professors spending more than half the lecture on non-course-related topics. Overall I still passed all my courses however it took far more effort then should've been needed.

Personal experience

The exchange experience was fantastic. Canada's culture was different enough to see the world from a different point of view, while not being too different that is made settling in a challenge. Being on the other side of the world was a struggle at times, however, was overall a great experience. I learnt how to cook, clean and properly organise my time to fit in all my chores and still study. As well as made many close friendships I will have for the rest of my life. I even picked up a bit of French as it is written on everything, being one of their national languages. Milk = Lait, Bread = Pain.

Accommodation

While living in London I made the cheaper decision to stay off campus. I found a share house which was a 5minute bus ride away for Western and for super cheap ($500 a month). I shared with 8 others, meaning there was always someone around to have a chat or eat dinner with. I would have to say the best meals I have ever eaten came from some of my Indian roommates, although my bowls did not thank me the days afterwards. I found the place on a website that the university runs, https://offcampus.uwo.ca/ which had multiple listing going up per day, but be warmed they go quick! To a degree, I do wish I had stayed on campus and probably would recommend if you have the budget for it. At times it felt I was missing out on the traditional college experience missing dorm parties, but I made friends that lived on campus so I still got to go. Overall accommodation was fine and I rarely had any issues with it.

Costs

I ended up going way over budget, but this was because I stayed and travelled for almost 2 months afterwards. The cost of living was similar to Brisbane, maybe a little cheaper, and as long as you are cooking for yourself most nights, $15,000 would suffice with room to go out most weekends/small trips to nearby attractions. The university has a great system with their student cards, meaning you pay about $500 up front and that covers health care, gym membership and bus passes for the semester, which made getting around super easy, please be warned that the buses are super inconsistent though.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I faced was dealing with my homesickness. London is a very small city and if I'm honest there isn't a lot to do within it. This lead to a lot of boredom and just sitting at home, something I was uncomfortable about doing when I was in a new city. Combine this with the fact that you can only bring 2 suitcases of belongings and I started to miss home a lot. The sheer inconvenience of not having standard household items, as well as luxuries I had gotten used too meant that I had to either live without or go buy it, which most of the time ended up in me buying it when it came to cooking utensils and things alike. It eventually went away as I adjusted and my friends definitely helped me, but it still sucked.

Professional Development

A great quality I gained was the ability to self motivate and work by myself. Going to Western alone meant that I didn't have the network of friends I had made at UQ. This meant I had no one to study with and no one to ask questions if I got stuck. I quickly had to get used to studying alone and self-motivating to do work. This meant that I would often come home and get straight into assessment, which turned out great. I would have to get things done early, so if I got stuck I knew exactly what to ask, and I would work through topics in detail after learning them. This helped tremendously with my grades, as when it came to studying for finals I already had a deep understanding of all topics. I can no doubt say that this improved my professional development as it proved to myself that can get work done efficiently and effectively without the help of others.

Highlight

The highlight of my trip would have to be Christmas day. A close friend of mine that I made over there, knowing that I had no plans, invited me to have Christmas with his family in America. His parents had a fantastic house on a lake, which was frozen over and super beautiful. I was welcomed with open arms and treated as family. We had the classic American Christmas lunch of Ham, Turkey, stuffing and so much more, and to top it all off, after not expected snow for weeks, to look out the window and see the snow passing by is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. Lunch was followed by us building snowmen on the lake (yes, on the lake) and snowball fights, a moment I only thought happened in movies.

Top tips

One piece of advice I would give to people going in September would be to pack warm weather clothes. I was very shocked to discover when I arrived it was not cold! Days we above 25 degrees, and very humid, thank goodness I packed some shorts.

Also, I would recommend, if staying off campus, lining up some house viewings before you get there so you can settle in as soon as possible. I had some issues finding a place to stay in the first 2 weeks.