Lauren - University of Calgary

Bachelor of International Studies
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

Whilst in Calgary, I studied political science and Japanese. The courses in Calgary are very different to UQ as there are three 1 hour classes for each course per week. The workload is a bit heavier than back home but the actual content is a bit easier. The classes (well at least mine) were not posted online so attendance was necessary.The professors are very friendly and willing to help with anything.

Personal experience

I have gained so many new friends that I now consider my best friends. I have plans to visit Switzerland, England, Spain, Austria, New Zealand and so many other places to meet up with them in the near future. Going on exchange also made me feel much more comfortable about travelling alone and did the rest of Canada and a lot of the United States. It has made me a much more independent and outgoing person.

Accommodation

I lived on campus in Cascade Hall, because it was the cheapest option and also because I was told that the majority of international students lived here. And they did. Cascade was probably the best because of the fact that everyone was in there. We had countless movie nights in our common rooms and just went over to each other's flats for dinner or a cup of tea. Although Cascade is the only building that isn't connected to the underground tunnels, I would still highly recommend it to future students. It has a kitchen and living area to share with your housemates. But keep in mind that you will have to buy everything (bed sheets, cutlery, plates, cooking pans, toaster kettle. If you go in the fall semester, not the winter, they have a charity bin from the winter semester. So it's all second-hand stuff. Or you can go to Value Village or another thrift store to get it second hand). I also did not purchase a meal plan because I wanted to go out and eat with friends a lot and I'm glad that I chose not to have the meal plan.

Budget

Dog sledding
Dog sledding

Well well well, this is the part that haunts me. I budgeted $15,000 to take over with me and I was still receiving Centrelink payments for my study. Eating out is quite cheap in Calgary so we chose to eat out most of the time. I ended up spending over $20,000 because I went to New York, Cuba, Dallas and LA, so that was a bit out of my pocket for travelling. And we chose to go dog sledding, and do a helicopter ride over the Rockies. So I think you could get away with $15,000 - $20,000 if you don't have a shopping addiction like me. But honestly, you can only have this experience once in your lifetime, so don't let money get in the way of you missing out on doing things and miss out on the incredible experiences that you can do.

Professional development and employability

Going on exchange has taught me to be very comfortable in any situation. Starting off by yourself in a new city all the way across the world really puts you in a completely different situation. You are forced to meet new people and socialise with them, which has made me so much more outgoing and willing to start conversations. I have also become much more motivated to work hard towards my goals in terms of my career.

Highlight

The highlight was obviously meeting all of my friends, but also the Rocky Mountains! Words cannot possibly explain the places we saw and how beautiful they were. The road trips to all of the frozen lakes and all through the Rockies was just breathtaking. Doing the road trips with the new people I met made me closer to each one of them. Also, the weather was a major highlight of my exchange. I was born and raised on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane with our winter temperatures not really dropping below 20 degrees. So to go from our 35 degree summer to a chilly -27 degree Canadian winter was quite the experience. The cold didn't put us off from doing things like our road trips and even clubbing! We were determined and still stood in line in our singlets in the snow to get into the club. Living in the snow was just so much fun and I really do miss it!

Top tips

I know that everyone says this and it's corny but if you get the chance, please go on exchange! Going on exchange teaches you so much and you get to experience things that you may never get to do again! For example, I lived in the Rocky Mountains, saw Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, New York, Cuba, Texas and Los Angeles. I don't know many people who could say that they have been to those places before. And not many can say that their snot froze whilst walking to class in -27-degree temperatures.

Also, when you're abroad always try and do stuff with people.

If you get invited to go ice skating at Lake Louise or downtown or to go skiing at Sunshine Village but you don't know how to skate or ski, just do it anyway! You will regret not doing these things. Always make an effort to get out and do things.

Also, definitely go to a hockey game, both for the University of Calgary Dino's and the Calgary Flames. The atmosphere at the games are crazy. Also if it the season for lacrosse, I would also recommend that. I actually preferred lacrosse to hockey, but please don't tell any Canadian's that!

Lauren - University of Calgary