Bachelor of Engineering/Commerce
Bachelor of Engineering/Commerce

As a 3rd year Engineering/Commerce student living at home, the chance to study in an exciting overseas location such as Vancouver stood out as a brilliant opportunity to expand my horizons and develop a newfound independence, not to mention experience academic life in another institution. It was a terrific 5 months, and while I won’t exaggerate and say it totally changed my life, it is by far my most treasured university experience thus far, and no one should hesitate at the opportunity to participate.

Alistair with friends

As I was studying a dual degree at UQ, I had flexibility as to which courses I could take overseas, which opened up a wider range of universities. Commerce was the best choice for UBC, so I took a combination of introductory and higher-level courses to ensure my workload wasn’t strenuous. As it turned out, the workload was fairly low compared to UQ, which allowed for more time exploring Vancouver and meeting people from all around the world.

The friends I made on exchange were some of the most welcoming people I had ever met. As most were exchange students themselves, everyone had left the developed friendships of their home city and ventured alone into an entirely new home and university. The people I met in the first few days had a huge impact on the rest of my trip – make sure you try and be involved and friendly as soon as possible, as bonds were formed almost instantly.

With friends at ski fields

After semester, I spent over a month in Whistler, which had been a goal of mine for many years. Needless to say, that was an amazing time, but it really does limit your ability to travel and explore the rest of Canada, especially given that there was no mid-semester break. I did, however, have the chance to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in a visit to the Yukon in northern Canada, and that experience cannot be conveyed in any meaningful way in words – you have to see it for yourself.

Living on campus was one of the reasons I chose UBC; the accommodation was more independent than a classic college dormitory, with a kitchen so we could prepare all our meals, but still allowed a lot of socialisation with the majority of exchange students in the one place. While we each had our own bedroom, 6 guys sharing an apartment meant that you always had fun even in downtime.

Northern lights

I opened a bank account while I was in Canada for ease of access to money, and wired it across to avoid the majority of fees. I would highly recommend doing the same, as it saves worrying about topping up a travel card or exchange rate fluctuations. I budgeted $30 a day for food, and this was far too much, but buying ski gear and frequently eating out and going to pubs and clubs meant that I ended up spending the exact amount I planned to.

There is only one big tip I can offer – accept every opportunity and be forever searching out new ones, as you’ll never get a chance like it again!

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