Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

I was lucky to participate in a one semester exchange for the fall semester (September-December, 2014) at the University of Toronto, Toronto Canada. I am a Gender Studies student and the primary reason for my going on exchange was to experience a larger range of gender-focused subjects since the major had been cut from the Bachelor of Arts program by UQ just before the deadline for exchange applications.

U of T’s Women and Gender Studies Program is very diverse and extensive: I was able to enrol in three WGS subjects as well as one Sexual Diversity Studies subject and a Disability Studies subject (in the Equity major, something unique to U of T). The subjects were taught by world-class professors and broadened my thinking immensely: this was the best part about my exchange and I was extremely impressed with the calibre of the professors and with the radical content.

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I found that the subjects I took had a huge amount of reading for each week (something common with most humanities at U of T): I had around 60-90 pages of reading for each course each week, which meant I had to schedule my time well, and some weeks I had trouble doing this. Doing five courses was the most difficult thing, however. Because of the reading load and the way that courses are structured (U of T courses usually have one early piece of assessment in around the fourth week, then another in the sixth, and then a final, so I had weeks where I had five pieces of assessment due at once) I really struggled to give each course what it required of me. I was assured that this translated to four courses at UQ, but I don’t think that is accurate, especially considering the amount of reading required in humanities subjects and the concentrated nature of assessment.
Personally, what I got out of the exchange most obviously was a wake-up call about my place in the world. Exploring my own privilege and my ideas about myself happened in both courses and in the social justice community in Toronto, which is extensive. I made friends with people who are really trying to change the structures that we live in by changing their own lives, which was very humbling. I hope to bring some sense of this back to my life in Brisbane.
I lived in Campus Co-op, which I recommend for any future exchange students: the Co-op has a philosophy of pooled resources and has 24 houses, in which you can apply for a room, but I would advise to do it early! I applied in May and was accepted, but I know other students who applied in June and were disappointed. The Co-op is a great community and the house that I stayed in had a meal plan, meaning that I ate with all the people from the houses around me. Co-op is also much more affordable than residence.

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I found it difficult to work out tipping at first, but asking friends helped. The other tricky thing is that tax is never included in prices, meaning that everything was 13% more than it said it was. Alcohol was much cheaper than Australian stores and food was sometimes, but the tax not being included makes everything look super cheap. Rent was also really expensive, much more so than Brisbane. I would budget for an expensive city, but there are cheap places around.
As I've already said, the very fact that there was a Women and Gender Studies department at U of T meant that I got a lot out of the experience that I wouldn't have at UQ. In terms of future employment, my exchange has potentially made a difference to applying for Masters programs down in Melbourne or overseas which could lead to employment as a professor.
Montreal is close to Toronto (7 hours, $50 by bus) and there is a famous bagel shop there: discovering bagels was a highlight on my trip.
It gets extremely cold in the winter in Toronto, but I would advise waiting until you are here to buy winter clothes as they are bulky and hard to find in Brisbane. There are numerous vintage or second-hand shops in Toronto where you can get good quality clothes for not too much money.

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