Bachelor of Commerce/Laws
Bachelor of Commerce/Laws

I was initially skeptical of breaking out of the Brisbane bubble and doing an exchange semester, but I now cannot recommend highly enough taking advantage of the UQ Abroad program! I was in my fifth year of a dual Commerce/Laws degree and opted to take four of my law electives at the University of Western Ontario during their Winter Semester. UWO is situated a few hours to the west of Toronto, in a small town called London. I selected this university for two main reasons; the quality of academics that lecture at the Law School, and the opportunity to live in a true college town, albeit only for one semester.

An equivalent full-time workload for law at UWO will generally be identical to UQ (i.e. 4 subjects), however their Winter/Spring Semester is split into two: an intensive, one month long course throughout January, and the remaining three subjects spread over February – April. While the workload is slightly more demanding (remember that law is a postgraduate degree in North America), it is definitely manageable and the subjects are incredibly diverse and interesting. Be sure to get involved in the Law School as much as possible – I joined the Law Society’s Social Team as soon as I arrived, and thoroughly recommend others doing the same. It is a great way to meet the other Law exchange students and the locals.

Flags

The UWO campus itself is beautiful, positioned on one of London’s largest hills and is often labeled the most beautiful campuses in Canada. The town is incredibly small, barely touching 500,000 inhabitants, giving it a true college feel. The experience couldn’t have been more different to Brisbane; whereas the universities in Brisbane play just a small role in the scheme of things, London truly revolves around the student population.

A word of warning, though; for those planning to do a Winter/Spring semester, the weather is not for the faint of heart! Touching down at the start of January after a week snowboarding in Whistler, I was almost stunned stepping out of the airport and straight into the -20°C air!! Pack some warm clothes to last the first few days, but I would recommend heading straight to the shops when you get there and take advantage of the warm clothes and post-Christmas sales, it works out to be much cheaper than buying them in Brisbane. Don’t let the weather get you down though; Canadians truly make the most of it. From queuing up for bars in negative temperatures to the outdoor festivals in the snow in Toronto and Montreal, there is always something to take your mind off the weather.

Canyon

Here are a few tips for those of you looking to have an unreal six months at UWO:
1. While the on-campus accommodation is appealing, it is on the more expensive side of the spectrum, and generally only first year students (17 year olds) will stay on-campus. I recommend taking advantage of Western’s off-campus housing service – it is incredibly well managed and I found a house with 4 locals that backed onto campus for ¼ of the price. It was especially handy that 2 of them had cars and were able to drive me everywhere! If you do look off-campus, try and get a place on “Broughdale Ave”, the notorious student street in London that gets shut down every Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day so the students can throw parties.
2. London is perfectly positioned, only 2.5 hours outside Toronto and with plenty of options nearby for a good ski or snowboard. Take advantage of the cheap Greyhound Bus and Megabus tickets, and do weekend trips to places like Toronto, Montreal, Niagara Falls and Blue Mountain. Some exchange students and I went to Montreal one weekend in February for an outdoor music festival in the snow, and it was the most incredible experience!
3. Save save save for travelling afterwards, I cannot stress this enough! Canada is beautiful in May/June as the flowers start to bloom, and there are so many good road trips through Canada and down into the USA. Some British exchange students and I did exactly this, travelling West across Canada and down into California before heading home, but it can get quite expensive, so make sure to budget properly!
4. SWOTVAC, or “Reading Week” as the Canadians call it, offers plenty of opportunity to do the exact opposite! All travel agents offer deals for groups to go down to Mexico for the week, or places like Cuba and Jamaica. Establish a good group in your first couple of weeks on exchange and you’ll have the time of your life during this week.
5. It is safe to say that coffee in North America is much, much worse than the quality we are used to here in Brisbane. In saying that, “Tim Hortons” is the staple Canadian chain and is super cheap. It may not taste great, but you’ll be hooked! Make sure to try it.
6. Travel light! Shipping things from Australia to Canada and vice versa is incredibly expensive. If you do buy too much in Canada, it may be cheaper to pay the excess baggage fee at the airport on the way home.
7. Have fun, and don’t say no to anything! This was easily the best and most exciting experiences of my life to date, so relax and enjoy every moment of it!


 

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