I went on exchange to McGill University in Canada in my 3rd year of a duel degree in Social Science and Arts. McGill has an amazing range of subjects, far more than UQ has to offer, so I would highly recommend making use of that. I did find the workload harder, only because they have a bigger reading list and place a heavier emphasis on exams over essays. Regardless, remember that you only have to pass and as long as your turn up to your lectures, glance at your readings and hand in all of your assessment, there is no way that you can’t do at least that. McGill is also the best university in the whole of Canada (the Harvard of Canada according to the t-shirt I bought on my first day) so you also have subsequent bragging rights for the rest of your life if you manage to pass.

 
The best part of exchange is not only the travelling but also the amazing things that you find along the way. From 11 extra Pringle flavors (a very exciting discovery on my part) to the awesome ‘mural scene’ of Montreal, the city has so much to offer and you’ll find all of your weekends booked solid in basically the first week of exchange. I might be a little bias, but I would definitely recommend going on exchange in UQ’s second semester, as it is the start of the academic year in Canada. Not only do you get to see 3 different seasons (the end of summer – where everyone seems unusually cheerful, the whole of fall – so much red and yellow = amazing, and the beginning of winter – the part where you get to play in lots of snow yet not be completely miserable and never want to leave the house) you get a two month holiday before exchange starts and after, which gives you heaps of time to do a bit of extra travelling before you have to come back home.
 
While an exchange may seem a bit daunting to a university student’s budget, the biggest up front cost I had to pay was the flights just getting there and back. I found that Canada was much cheaper than Australia in basically every aspect - although watch the tax and tip when you go out for a meal, the fact that tax is not included and tipping obligatory can sneak up on you quite easily! Even though the cost of living is less than that of Australia, I would still recommend going on exchange with a bit of extra money in your bank account only so that you don’t miss out on any of the amazing opportunities or trips that will be offered to you by some of the student organizations (look into MISN and Interstude for well organized trips for international students at a decent price!). And if you don’t spend all of your money, you can always just bring it back with you!
  
5 TOP TIPS:
  • Worship McGill Classifieds webpage – for anything from a room to rent to second hand textbooks.
  • Make use of the metro system and the bixi bike system, both are much more efficient than their counterparts in Brisbane. If you will be using the metro frequently the best value for money will be a monthly pass. Also be mindful that the bixi bikes are taken away during winter.
  • Get a Canadian sim as soon as possible (I recommend Rogers over Fido and no data over data – there is free wifi basically everywhere and the data plans are a fair bit more than those without)
  • Organise a travel card before you arrive - I used OzForex which worked out really well and didn’t have any hidden costs.
  • If you’re an Arts student make use of the Arts Lounge Computer Lab – the computers and printers are much faster than in any other library! No science students allowed.

 

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