Bachelor of Business Management/Arts
Bachelor of Business Management/Arts

While on exchange, I studied two English literature courses, two film studies courses and one economics course. All of my courses were incredibly interesting and different to what is currently offered at UQ. My arts courses were very much discussion-oriented and the professors highly encouraged participation, which fostered an amazing learning environment in which I became fully immersed.

Canada Mountain

The new academic system took a little getting used to. I quickly came to realise that we are a bit spoiled at UQ when it comes to course information and resources. Unlike at UQ, the course profiles and syllabi are entirely in the control of the course lecturer, and there is little standardisation of format across courses and faculties. The syllabus and due dates for assessments can be changed at the professor’s whim (which was occasionally a good thing, as due dates were often pushed back if we were behind on course content). This seemed to be in keeping with UBC’s spirit of academic freedom wherein professors have a great degree of autonomy and generally aren’t bound by school or faculty rules (this was my experience in arts courses though, I can’t say for certain how far this extends). Something else that wrinkled me a little was the fact that my professors rarely put slides online, and lecture recording is basically non-existent at UBC. This meant I spent a lot more time in class furiously scribbling notes down rather than actually listening. It was quite frustrating, but it’s something you have to get used to.
I gained so much from exchange; it’s kind of hard to believe. First and foremost, I gained lifelong friends from all corners of the globe who I’m sure I’ll see again. I also had some unforgettable experiences and have seen some amazing things, such as seeing Orcas, climbing from the bottom to the top of a mountain (something I never thought I’d do), watching a documentary at the Vancouver International Film Festival and meeting the filmmaker, canoeing on a lake that looks like something straight out of Twin Peaks, skiing down Blackcomb mountain (terrified the whole way), and making snow angels in a rare Vancouver snowfall. I also learned how to snowboard (albeit badly), but it’s definitely something I’ll be revisiting in the future.

Canada Paddle
 
I lived on-campus in Fairview Crescent residence. Fairview is a crescent of units populated mostly by students above second year and exchange students. The setup of the residence means you are extremely independent: you cook for yourself, do your own laundry, and ensure the unit’s cleanliness yourself (ideally with the help of your roommates and a reliable chore wheel). As this was my first time living out of home, this newfound independence presented a challenge initially, but ultimately I found that I thrived in this new environment and really enjoyed it.
The best part about living in Fairview was the fact that everyone lives so close together and it’s so easy to make friends. It is especially easy because a lot of students at Fairview are on exchange too; so most people you meet are in the same boat as you and are more than eager to meet you!
Another pro of living on-campus is the proximity. Depending on where your class is, it will only take you 15-20 minutes to get from your bed to your desk, a feat which is made even quicker should you invest in a bike or a skateboard. However, this can also be a con if you fall into the trap of becoming stuck in the ‘UBC bubble’, which is a very real possibility. UBC and the surrounding areas has pretty much everything you need as a student—your classes, the library, your friends, a couple of bars, McDonalds and Starbucks just down the road—so it can be so easy to never find a reason to leave. This is something you should be aware of and actively work to avoid--you didn’t travel across the globe to stay in the same space all the time!
Another con is that when you move in, you have literally nothing--no bed linens, no towels, no clothes hangers, no pots, no plates, not even a single spoon. If you are lucky, as I was, you'll have an awesome roommate who has been in residence before and brings a lot of things which them. Otherwise, you’ll have to arrange with your roommates to make the trek to Ikea or Target for essential items and supplies.
However, I found that the pros of living on-campus heavily outweighed the cons and had an overall extremely positive impact on my exchange experience.
It’s no secret that exchange is expensive, but if you budget properly and save up enough before you leave, it won’t be a problem. Expect to pay around $800 a month for rent and around $100 per week on groceries and everyday items. $120 at the start of the semester will get you a U-Pass, which gives you unlimited public transport in the Vancouver metro area; this was invaluable to me. Going out seems to be cheaper than in Australia, but menu costs don’t include tax or tip (15%-20% by the way), so it works out to be about the same as here.
There are also some issues about how you actually get money that you should research before going abroad. Paying for things with an Australian card will charge a surcharge on every transaction, and the exchange rate can have an impact on this too. At the start of my exchange, the exchange rate was quite good, but as the Aussie dollar began to depreciate, things started to become a bit expensive. Depending on how you weigh up the pros and cons, it may be worthwhile opening a Canadian bank account, though this option has some hidden costs too, so there’s something else to look into.
Overall, I would recommend budgeting around $12,000 for the whole exchange. This way, you’ll have enough to live, go out a couple of times a week, and do a few travels and trips.
Going on exchange has certainly equipped me with skills that I can use in my academic and professional life. In terms of academics, exchange has truly reinvigorated my passion for learning. The change of environment has really made me aware of how important a university education is and how lucky I am to be a student, and I am actually excited about going back to UQ for my final year.

Canada UBC
 
I also noticed an improvement in my time management skills. Being on exchange forced me to prioritise studying and getting my work done on time in hopes to avoid missing out on anything that was going on. I don’t think I could have forgiven myself if I missed out on a trip to Whistler or an evening out on the town because I had to finish an assignment! Because my time there was a precious resource, I found that I wasted much less of it.
I think going on exchange has absolutely increased my employability. Increased global awareness, resilience, and adaptability are ‘exchange buzzwords’ that definitely apply to my own experience. I actually surprised myself when I found myself slipping into a leadership role among my newfound friends when it came to things like planning trips or events—a role I never really felt comfortable occupying before. I feel the personal skills and knowledge I acquired on exchange are things employers are looking out for.
While there are so many moments to choose from, a highlight from my exchange would have to be going to Whistler with my exchange friends for a long weekend. Here I saw the Canada that you see on postcards. It was incredibly beautiful; I went hiking to the top of Whistler peak, canoeing on Alta Lake, and visited the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where I learned about the indigenous peoples of the region. Along with bonding with my newfound exchange friends, this trip proved to be one of the experience’s highlights.
1. While there’s so much to do and see, don’t forget that you’re also there to study. Go to class, do the readings, and finish your assignments on time. You’ll have a much better experience if you’ve managed your time well and aren’t overly stressing about something you’ve left to the last minute every…single…weekend.
That being said, make sure you leave plenty of time for fun—it’s all about balance!
2. Say yes. If someone asks you to do something or go somewhere, don’t even hesitate: just say yes. You never know what will come out of one accepted invitation.
3. Explore as much as you can. Exchange is a unique experience because while you’re expected to do ‘touristy’ activities, you’re also actually living there and have more time to do more obscure things. For me, I loved to walk around downtown, delighting in the fact that I was becoming familiar with the streets and not getting lost (or at least not as much).

4. This is a hint that is more specific to UBC: Invest in a rain jacket and some sort of waterproof footwear. The sunny days in Vancouver can be few and far between, but when the sun does come out, it is glorious.

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