Wilson - Queen's University

B Advanced Finance/Economics
Semester 2, 2018
Go with the flow, embrace your opportunities and everything will take care of itself

Academic experience

The first thing to note is that the full-time equivalent subject load at Queen’s is 5 subjects. Prior to arriving at Queen’s I had my 5 subjects pre-approved by UQ and thought I was good to go, but when sign ons opened up; a lot changed. I didn’t have pre-requisites for a couple and a couple weren’t available so I had to rework it entirely. Both Queen’s and UQ were fairly helpful and it actually ended up working out better than if I’d done the pre-approved subjects.

In terms of actual work during the semester, it was very manageable and anyone can achieve the pass required without too much exertion. You get put with Canadians for group projects in most classes, and their rep as some of the friendliest in the world is not wrong. My advice would be to have up to 10 potential subjects so when you get over there you can just enrol in any that are available and avoid any stress.

Personal experience

My expectations for exchange at Queen’s was to enjoy the “Uni bubble” and not exert myself too much. However, I quickly found myself making excitable friends and booking trips almost every weekend - you don’t need to reserve the weekend for going out in Kingston, that’s on any night you want.

In the early days when it was still (surprisingly) warm we went hiking, swimming and bike riding through some of Ontario’s beautiful national parks - namely Algonquin and Muskoka. As the leaves started falling I got the opportunity to explore Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec and then when snow season came we were over in Banff skiing.

Accommodation

I lived "on-campus" at Queen's. My hall (Jean Royce) had numerous different houses, each with 48 students. My house was great as it was full of exchange students so we were all in a similar situation and were keen to get around the same events. However, the hall was actually a couple of k's away to the west from the main campus and all of the other houses were full of first year students. This is what I did not know about Canadian uni accommodation - only first years use it, and you get treated like one! (Restrictions on noise, parties and a lot of group meetings...) 

So whilst I met some great people from all over the world, I did not get as many opportunities to meet and hang out with Canadians and people of a similar age to myself. The advice I would give to future students is that if you want a sense of independence from your exchange, find your own accommodation in the student ghetto (group of streets immediately north of campus) and you won’t feel like you are being governed over.

Costs

I went way over my budget because I was extremely naive in the budgeting process. I budgeted for $7-8k. As I mentioned, I was expecting to just live in the “Uni bubble” and the only costs disclosed to me before arriving was accommodation - this was $4000 for the semester. The blowing of budget was a culmination of events. 

Firstly, my eyes were much bigger than my stomach, do not buy 200 meals. Please. 

These 200 meals cost me close to $2600. Queen’s is very vague in their explanation of where meals can be used and it turns out you can only use them at the three food halls, which are definitely a quantity over quality type deal. These hall gatherings are fun with your mates, so I would recommend getting 50 or 100 meals. There’s plenty of places to eat around campus and if you live in the student ghetto you can cook for yourself. (Don’t even try to cook in student accommodation because you’re sharing with so many people and Queen's don’t provide proper tools for cooking a lot of the time)

Whilst I did budget for some amount of travel, spending this amount on food cut in and then when I was actually travelling and buying more food, I was essentially doubling up on costs.

After a couple more opportunistic big ticket items - went to Boston to catch a couple of NBA games, flights to the other side of the country; as well as some dramas in booking flights post-exchange, I found that I’d spent well over $10000.

Challenge

The recurring challenge I found through my semester was to do with booking travel, you need a credit card for so many things - car hire, bus tickets, bonds for equipment, experiences. Get a credit card just for these types of things and you’ll be fine.

Professional Development

There was a lot of group situations which taught me a lot about differences between how people react to different situations. I also experienced a few personal instances in which I developed skills useful for my professional and personal development. Stay calm, think clearly and understand that everything will work out fine.

Highlight

Going over to Banff. The bus ride from Calgary Airport to Banff was breathtaking and the experience only got better from there. The Samesun hostel was an awesome vibe and I met some cool people (Tip: buy Queen’s merch and wear it around the country, you’ll meet plenty of people that went there), the scenery was amazing and I went skiing for the first time in my life.

Top tips

The generic saying applies; “It’s all about what you make of it”. There’s a million different ways to enjoy any given exchange so do whatever you like - it’s a time away from the pressures of normal life to an extent so enjoy it. 

For tangible advice, buy a bike. I picked one up for $50 off kijiji (Canadian gumtree) and it was great for getting around everywhere. Continuation to this, buy a bike lock. Kingston locals love nothing more than a free bike. While my bike was always locked up, the lights I put on it didn’t last any more than 24 hours before they disappeared. 

And also to reiterate, do not buy 200 meals.