I can honestly say going on exchange was the most amazing adventure I have ever experienced. I undertook my exchange at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada. When mentioning this to others, most people had never even heard of such a place and had tremendous difficulty pronouncing it. Most people who had heard of it said there was nothing out there and it was very flat, plain and boring. I am happy to say they are completely wrong. The town of Saskatoon is full of some of the most generous and caring people I have ever met. My original plan was to go to UBC in Vancouver, however after going to the U of S, I’m so glad I changed my mind. I’m currently going into my 4th year of my Exercise and Sport Science degree at UQ.

While it was one of the most unforgettable experiences, it was initially very daunting. Starting university, I had always said I could never see myself going on exchange because it meant having to leave everything you were familiar and comfortable with. Going overseas where you had no family, no friends and no idea of your surroundings was something which scared me quite a lot. I’m not sure what changed my mind but I’m so glad I went on exchange. I would thoroughly recommend it to all students and wished that in some way it was compulsory for everyone to experience, because what you get out of it is priceless.

Academically, I found the university system fairly similar to UQ. The academic advisor for Kinesiology is one of the loveliest people I have ever met and definitely made the whole process a lot easier. I was fortunate enough to get most of my subjects credited back to UQ as well, so now I can fit right back in with the rest of my peers who are completing their degrees this year. While at the University of Saskatchewan the courses I completed where as follows: Statistical Behavioural Methods (a stats course), Physical Activity for Person with Impairments (a course I highly recommend), Biomechanics II, Ethics and Values in Sport and the History of Canadian Sport. I found it really interesting to see how a different university operates and how they go about teaching their students. In terms of assessment, I found the U of S had many smaller pieces of assessment in comparison to UQ. There were many more assignments, however these were not weighted as heavily as at UQ and hence you were expected to do many more. I found this challenging as I had to spend more time on smaller, individual assignments, in addition to devoting time to larger assessment pieces for all subjects.

I choose to live on campus because I was keen to experience the college life which the university had to offer. I’m extremely glad that I made this choice as it turned out to be highly cost-effective and without it I don’t think I would have made nearly as many friends as I did. I lived in a building called Seagar Wheeler which had a very social nature. I knew people who lived on a number of different floors and it is here where I met some Canadian students who helped me have lots of true Canadian experiences which I have no doubt I wouldn’t of experienced if I had not had met them.

The one thing which I think prevents most people from going on exchange is having the right amount of finances. It is by no means a cheap trip, but is definitely a worthy investment. I saved for approximately two and a half years and that gave me more than enough money to be comfortable with. As Saskatoon is in the middle of Canada it was more expensive to get too, and Canada only has two main airlines so they have very expensive regional flights. My accommodation cost my around $1700 all up. I elected to get a food plan which allowed me to eat 10 meals a week at the University Cafeteria which had a huge range of healthy options and this cost me $1200 for the term. I had to buy more food for the weekends however this didn’t cost too much as prices were quite similar to Australia. All up I went over with about $17,000 and I spent approximately $11,500 while I was in Saskatoon. This included my food, accommodation, two trips to Edmonton and Winnipeg which each cost around $750 return by plane and my flights to and from Australia and insurance*.

* I spent a month in Europe before returning to Australia so I purchased insurance for the entire 6 months that I was away which was $1,200. I bought a around the world ticket which all up cost my about $2,800 which got me to Canada, Europe and back home again. If it hadn’t had been for this detour my flights and insurance would not have been this expensive.

My Top 5 Tips:

  • Live on campus – Living on campus allowed me to meet so many more people then I would have if I have lived elsewhere. You are also more aware of all the social events which are going on at one time.
  • Try to meet some locals – I was lucky enough to meet some Canadians who lived on campus on the floor above me and they became the closet friends I had there. They made the experience so much more enjoyable as they knew all the best places to go out, the best places to eat and lots of different activities which I would not have thought to do by myself.
  • Get a food plan – Marquis Hall is the catering building at the university and they provide extremely good food. If you buy a meal plan you save lots of money, averaging about $7-8 for one meal. Once you are in the main catering area there is a huge range of food and drink. It is set up like a buffet, so once inside the eating area you can come back as many times as you like. I was really glad I made the decision to get a food plan because it ensured I ate a sufficient amount over there and saved me lots of time in terms of cooking and food preparation.
  • Get involved in the Campus-Rec – the university offers a wide range of social and competitive sports. They also offer lots of different sports to what is offered at home, including Curling, Frisbee, Dodgeball, Tube Waterpolo, Canadian Football and many more. It was really great to try some Canadian sports which we don’t get access to in Australia.
  • Go down to all of the Huskie Football Games – this is the university’s football team who the whole university is very passionate about. Although Canadian Football is not as big as American Football at university it is still a big event and going to their home matches is really exciting and has a great atmosphere.

For anyone who is contemplating going on exchange but is not entirely sure, my advice to you would be DO IT! I know quite a few people who have been on exchange and no one I know has regretted it. Most people (including myself) wished they could have stayed on for the entire year! Though it is scary and daunting initially, you will learn so much about yourself and about the rest of the world. It is truly a priceless experience and one which you will remember for the rest of your life.

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