I was studying a BSc/BA. I am majoring in Biomedical Sciences (sub-majoring in Neuroscience) within the science component of my program and doing an extended major in Psychology as a part of the arts component.

I decided that I wanted to go on exchange sometime during my first-semester at UQ, way back in 2010. It took me another three semesters to actually pluck up the courage to apply.

The study Abroad office can provide students with a list of universities that are good for particular fields of study. I got the general science and psychology lists, looked at the cross-over and complied a short-list of possible destinations. It came down to a couple of universities in the USA, a couple in Canada, the UK and the Netherlands, I believe. I wanted to go somewhere that would take me out of my comfort zone a little but not so much that it would be too much tackle. That’s when I arrived at the decision to apply to McGill in Canada. McGill is an English-speaking university situated in a predominantly French-speaking city, Montreal. I thought going to Montreal would give me the taste of another culture while still providing me with a bit of comfort.

To be honest, sheer horror set in when I arrived in Montreal. I was under the impression that Montreal was a bilingual city; I thought that signage, menus etc. would be written in both French and English. Much to my dismay, everyone around me seemed to be speaking French and I couldn’t read a thing. Needless to say, I got there knowing very, very little French. Besides the language shock, I fell in love with the city and the opportunity I had to meet other exchange students from all over the world. Speaking of first impressions, I’d STRONGLY recommended arriving in the city you’ll be studying in at least two weeks before the start of semester.
Having the opportunity to find somewhere to live and familiarise yourself with the city before classes start really takes the stress off.

The main thing I did was attend a lot of events and weekend trips with a networking group set up for international students at McGill, MISN. They held very regular events that gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I cannot even put in to words how highly I’d recommend you join a group like this no matter what university you go to.
I also went to a few student-organised study groups. This was a very good opportunity to get to know some of the domestic McGill students. It’s very easy to stay within the exchange student loop. I encourage you to make the effort to get to know some people that are actually from the country you’re visiting.

I did a fair bit of in and cross-country travelling while I was abroad. From Montreal, I visited Toronto, Niagara Falls, Quebec City, Ottawa, Boston, New York and Washington DC. My trips to each of the aforementioned places was purely for pleasure. The best advice I could give is to do as much travel as is humanly possible while you are there – without compromising your studies, of course. The best way to do these trips is to get involved in one of the international student groups that I mentioned above.

Science never happens in one place. It requires a lot of collaboration with people from all around the world. This, of course, requires you to adapt to different ways of seeing and doing things. Going overseas and studying at a different university gave me quite a lot of experience with this. It was invaluable.

Say yes to any opportunities that arise (within reason, of course). Do as much as you possibly can with your time over there. After all, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Beyond all, the best advice I could give is for you to expect it to be challenging. No matter how similar you expect your destination to be to home, it will be very different. I also recommend making as many friends as possible. It makes getting through 5 months or so without your family and friends a whole lot easier.

Choose three words to describe your study experience overseas:
• Whirlwind
• Challenging
• Spectacular

Three things that you have missed most from home:
• Loved ones
• Caramello koalas
• Not having to tip everywhere!
 

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