Emily - Western University

B. Science / Arts
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

Western University was a fantastic university, academically, socially and culturally. 

Whilst at Western I studied psychology, ancient history and archaeology, all my majors at UQ. Unlike UQ, however, you have to complete 5 subjects rather than 4. Although this sometimes is a struggle as your workload is larger than at home, it is definitely doable once you are in the full swing of university life. 

The classes I experienced were much smaller than those at UQ, with most lectures knowing your name which I benefited from a lot in the long run and gave you much more hands on experience. The lectures are not recorded, however, and thus you must attend class. Although this seems daunting I actually really preferred it in the long run as you get to know your classmates much better and the course content is learnt much quicker and throughout the semester.

The lectures and tutors provided a lot of support, always giving up their free time for you and replying to emails and questions very quickly. They were also super friendly, and I met many people in my class that I became really good friends with. Everyone in the class does give you funny looks when you answer questions to begin with though because of your accent! 

Personal experience

I absolutely loved the exchange experience and would rate it as one of the best times of my life. 

Everyone was so friendly, and thus there was no problem at all meeting people. All the exchange students became super close and everyone was always up for anything from camping trips in the middle of winter, camper-vanning in Iceland (320 return tickets couldn't resist), going to a music festival in Texas and hiking around Lake Louise! I am already organising my next trip with people I met over there. 

Furthermore, the Canadians are awesome people - a bunch of them took us to a hockey game and were always inviting us over for parties or taking us to ice skating where we completely embarrassed ourselves! They also found it hilarious when the Aussies were out in the snow playing with it when they had grown up with it. Yes we walked to university for most of the end of semester with snow up to our knees! We also made it a challenge for us to find the best coffee in Canada as it was super hard to find a proper cappuccino or flat white! 

All in all, everyone was super friendly, everyone was up for everything and you become so much more confident and independent in everything.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus at Med-Syd and completely recommend it! Not only did you get to live around Canadians and thus get really involved in their culture but most of the people there are first years so they are all new and don't know each other too so you are all on the same page. Furthermore, all the exchange students become super close in there. They also had awesome parties all the time if you want to get involved in that, which again, gave an awesome opportunity to meet people. 

You can also get involved in sports within the residence which was a bunch of fun and it was convenient having a caf there so you didn't have to walk far in winter! They also had tunnels under the residence so when it was snowing you didn't always have to go outside to walk to people's rooms or the cafeteria which really helped! 

You also have RAs and Sophs in the residence, which are people who have been at the residence before, and thus they really help with tips throughout your time there and really help you settle into the Western life.

Budget

Residence living can be a little expensive but it is completely worth it. You get a food pass so your food is included in that, and you can also use this food pass at all university cafes and some downtown ones. Just be careful you don't make it run out too quickly though!

I really wanted to travel a lot, which I did, but we did it as cheaply as we could. We always stayed in hostels, which were a great option for price and meeting people (recommend the HI hostels) and when we were travelling we would buy the cheapest food we could. It is completely up to the person though, however, on how much travelling they plan and how cheap they want to go but I managed to get a lot of travelling done (all across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto, the US including Chicago, Texas and San Fran, and Iceland) and I aimed to do them cheaply which I did.

Professional development and employability

The exchange program definitely developed my organisation, confidence and communication skills. 

I travelled across Canada for 6 weeks by myself before the semester started which developed my travelling skills a lot and my confidence with talking to people. Then at Western I definitely learnt to adapt to things quickly and just say yes to give everything a go! 

I also cannot think of a better program to develop your organisation skills. You have to make sure you balance socialising, academic work and travelling at the same time.

Highlight

The highlight was definitely the people and the flexibility to travel on the weekends and do as much as you can in the semester. Everyone was always up for something and everything was in the same mindset as in they want to travel, but also know they have to pass the subjects. Furthermore, at home something is always happening on the weekends, or academic work needs to be done etc. but due to it being pass/fail this gives you more time and flexibility to do things like go camping on the weekend. We even went to Iceland in the middle of the semester with no problems at all!

Top tips

Definitely travel as much as you can. You can never get enough travelling and Canada particularly is so large, diverse and beautiful. So make sure you stay organised on the weekdays to make the weekends free to go and do as much as you can and get involved in the country's culture as much as you can.