Kirsty - University of British Columbia

Bachelor of Education Primary
Semester 1, 2018
Exchange will put a smile on your face that you will never be able to wipe off.

Academic experience

For my exchange I was lucky enough that my program at UQ allowed me to 'save up' my 4 elective subjects and complete them overseas. This made choosing courses pretty fun and easy. As I study a Bachelor of Education Primary at UQ, I just had to choose electives that were primary subjects that I will teach at school in the future (eg maths, English, science). I did a combination of language and linguistics subjects as that's where my interests lie and I discovered how much I love these study areas! 
I completed Introduction to Linguistics (LING101), Intermediate German (GERM310), Beginner Spanish (SPAN101), Introduction to Creative Writing (CRWR100) and English Poetry (ENG210) and thoroughly enjoyed them. 
The university system is quite different in Canada as there are a lot more weekly 'homework' exercises and tasks. Also, lectures are not recorded. I actually found this to be really great, as  I focused a lot more during the lectures and tutorials and then didn't have to do as much study when I went home (I had more time for fun things!). Some of my lecturers didn't allow laptops so I had to hand write my notes (most students did this anyway). But again I felt like my learning process was then made much more efficient. Although it was sometimes annoying not having a laptop, I just decided to embrace it and it ended up turning out for the better - I now use my laptop less at uni because of this! 
Overall though, the course system is quite similar to UQ. UBC students have weekly lectures and tutorials, mid-term exams and end of term exams, so it wasn't too overwhelming. 
I found the enrolment process quite difficult at first but once I did my research I got the hang of it. The UQ Abroad staff and UBC's Go Global office are really helpful, both over email and once you are at UBC. My tutors at UBC were also all wonderful and able to help me out whenever I needed it.

Personal experience

Although it sounds very cliché, I seriously cannot put into words what my time at UBC meant to me. My exchange friends and I would constantly say, "guys, we are seriously living our best lives". The experience and memories we shared are truly irreplaceable. 

The first unique thing for me was experiencing what it was like to live in a cold place. Although Vancouver is probably the warmest place in Canada, it sure was a shock coming from the Australian summer. At first I found it uncomfortable, however I never let it stop me from doing anything. The great thing about Canadians is that no matter the weather, they are always doing outdoor activities. I went on snow shoe hikes, learned how to snowboard at Whistler and even went surfing in the middle of winter (all through different university clubs). I bought a student pass for Whistler Ski Resort and tried to go every single weekend with my friends, we also stayed there during Reading Week (Mid-sem break) and on long weekends. I cannot describe how much fun those days on the slopes were. 
I did a lot of exploring in the beautiful British Columbia. I went on hikes at Dog Mountain, enjoyed Stanley Park, spent weekends exploring and hiking at the Sunshine Coast and Sidney Island, went prawn fishing on Vancouver Island and went to everything and anything that was happening in Vancouver. There is a website called 'Daily Hive Vancouver' which has so many articles about current events in and around the city.
I made friends with exchange students from all over the world and Canadians from around the country. It was so interesting and exciting to spend time with people from completely different backgrounds. We learned so much about each other and, again with the cliché, I know we will be friends for the rest of our days. 

Overall what I gained from my exchange was a stronger sense of myself, what I like to study and how to get out and make the most of everyday.

Accommodation

I lived on-campus in the lovely Fairview Crescent. I cannot recommend living on campus enough. Not only because of the close proximity to uni but because of the people that you are constantly surrounded by. I lived with 4 other roommates who I got along with really well and I was right next door to many of my friends. It's so easy to just meet up with people to study in the coffee shop at the residence (the iconic Beanery Café) or go for walks to Wreck Beach or in Pacific Spirit Park. There are always fun events on and you get to know everyone around you really well. I went away knowing no one and ended up being friends with a whole new circle of people. I can't recommend living on campus enough. 
When deciding what residence to choose I researched all of them on the UBC website and then talked to a few people who had gone to UBC on exchange before. The only thing about Fairview is that it's probably the furthest away (walking-wise) but other than that it was a really great place to live.

Costs

Exchange is definitely expensive but you're never going to remember how much things cost, just the fun memories you had.
Vancouver is a pretty expensive place to live so definitely save up before you come. Before I went away I had 3 jobs and worked non-stop to ensure that I had a very comfortable amount to take away with me. I knew that I didn't want to have a job whilst I was away because I wanted to get the most out of my experience so I definitely had to plan ahead. In saying that, a few of my friends found work on campus pretty easily and they managed to balance everything quite well. 
I would probably budget around $10-13000 (AU) for exchange (if you live on campus). My campus accommodation was around $4000 (CAN), food was around $50-60 (CAN) a week, transport was around $200 (CAN) for a Compass card but that means that you get to ride on all public transport for 'free' for your whole semester and then all my other money was spent on rides to Whislter (around $30 CAN return on a bus), snowboarding gear and a Whislter student pass (usually they cost $1200 CAN but if you get in early and get a student pass it's half the price). I also did lots of travelling afterwards to Cuba, Mexico and the USA so I had to budget for that too. 
Basically if you plan ahead and budget enough, you'll be able to have a great time and do everything that you want to do.

Professional Development

Exchange sometimes throws you into unfamiliar or unexpectedly stressful situations and I definitely developed the ability to stay calm and handle everything as it comes. It also requires you to take risks and do things that are a little different to how you usually would. Although it's all strange and unfamiliar at first, the more I put myself out there and did things even when I was scared, the more I ended up learning and growing.
I also learned how to work and communicate with people that were completely different to me. I feel as though I will carry these skills with me into the professional world and I wouldn't have developed this side of my personality if it weren't for exchange.

Highlight

The highlight of my exchange was living on campus at UBC and learning how to snowboard. Being able to attend such an amazing, world renowned university was really inspiring and I really loved the subjects I took. Everyone around me was really passionate about their degrees and it felt so good to be living with people who enjoy university as much as I do. 
Learning how to snowboard was a great personal feat for me as I really worked hard to get better and mastering the black slopes by the end felt pretty amazing!

Top tips

1. DO IT! 
2. Plan ahead - do your research and budget
3. Get out of your comfort zone 
4. Treasure every single minute because before you know it, you'll be sitting here writing this testimonial and wishing you were back there.