I went on exchange to the University of Calgary during the last semester of my undergraduate Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts. My science major was mathematics and my arts major was linguistics.

My academic experience in Calgary was truly excellent. The linguistics department offered excellent courses that I couldn’t study at UQ and encouraged undergraduate participation in many of the research events going on at the school. In Calgary, I took a linguistic field methods course on Blackfoot (an indigenous language of southern Alberta and northern Montana), advanced phonology, and minimalist syntax. I also had the opportunity to take an introductory Blackfoot language class, during which I gained some conversational Blackfoot. As part of my mathematics program, I also took a course in advanced set theory. I found the mathematics teaching staff brilliant and always very willing to help out after class. The academic set-up was really simple and very intuitive. It was fairly similar to UQ’s set-up, and there was always someone at the library to help you out with tech problems. (FYI, the library is the only place on campus where you can get real coffee; however I did grow to love Tim Horton’s, as will you.)

I made many friends, both Canadian and international. Through the events organised by the international students centre, I met lots of international students from all over the world. During class, I made friends with many Canadians and spent much of my time socialising with my classmates around town or at someone’s place. (I was even invited to my first ever Canadian wedding by a classmate after exams were finished.) I was also able to explore southern Alberta, from the amazingly stunning Alberta Rockies, to the rolling plains. The UNESCO-listed “Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump” was well worth a visit. (If you want to know what a buffalo jump is, then go to Alberta!) Being in Canada, I also went to the US for the first time. I highly recommend hopping the border at some point.

I lived on campus in student dorms, sharing an apartment with two Canadians and a French student. They were extremely nice guys, and I’m glad to have spent a lot of time getting to know them and talking to them about Canada, Calgary and lots of snowboarding. It IS the luck of the draw in terms of housemates, but I reckon it’s better (and cheaper), to live with some potential new friends!

In terms of living expenses, on-campus is substantially more expensive. But being so convenient, I went for the cheapest of the on-campus options. Groceries from the local organic are a tiny bit cheaper than in Australia, and from the local Safeway are much cheaper than Australia. But don’t forget to add Alberta’s almost negligible sales tax (5%), that isn’t included in any prices.

Must Do’s:

• Have a drink at Cowboys (near the Saddledome) for the real Calgary experience. Get your boots on for some line-dancing fun!
• Take LAYERS, not just insanely warm clothes. Calgary weather changes like that! A “chinook” can add 20 degrees to the temperature in a couple of hours (admittedly taking it from -25 to -5 in January), so make sure you can take off a few layers at any time. My thermals were also indispensible for January-February.
• Tipping is customary in Canada, and by “customary” they mean compulsory. Wait-staff, cab drivers, and any other service providers should be tipped. A rough guide for a sit-down meal: 20% = good service; 15% = average service; 10% = poor service; 0% = considered EXTREMELY rude / don’t even try going back!
• If you get to Vancouver (which you definitely should try to), then I highly recommend the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. It’s one of the best museums in Canada, and one of the best I’ve ever seen!
 

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