Bachelor of Psychological Science, 3rd year
Bachelor of Psychological Science, 3rd year

Academic experiences

I decided to go to the beautiful University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada – and I am seriously stoked that I did!
The crazy bunch of experiences that make up exchange have truly broadened my perspectives and enriched my life.
I chose to go on exchange in semester 2 of 2014, during my second year of my Bachelor of Psychological Science.
Academically, I had managed to save 3 'any school' electives, which made it much easier to find courses. (Note for psychology students: this meant that I did have to study 2 second year core courses in semester 2 of first year, and a 3rd year psychology elective in semester 1 second year.)
As it is required to complete the equivalent of a fully time load on exchange, I had to study 5 subjects at UBC.
For me, this meant 4 electives and a 3rd year psychology elective.
My one psychology subject on exchange was Health Psychology (PSYC 314).
I really enjoyed this course, and would highly recommend it to other students.
I also undertook Family Context of Human Development (FMST 210), which was really interesting - the lecturer Maria Weatherby was particularly great.
This course also covers a lot of material from PSYC1030/ PSYC2030, so for psychology students it's a bit of revision (which is great for exchange!).
My other 3 electives were all first year subjects, which gave me a little more time to travel.
I studied Introduction to Sociology (SOCI 100A), Introduction to Film Studies (FIST 100), and Studio Three: Digital Media (VISA 110).
I found sociology to be really interesting, and quite eye-opening.
It was really cool to learn about sociology in Canada, with comparisons made to the US, Australia and the rest of the world.
Film Studies was lots of fun, we watched a movie each week in class after a 1 hour lecture.
I really enjoyed Digital Media too, as it allowed me to use my creative side.

Biking around Stanely Park

Personal experiences

For me, exchange was about living out of home, and being on the other side of the world.
I wanted to experience being away from family and friends, and test my independence.
I was also really keen to learn at a different university, to make friends from around the world, and to explore North America.
My experience of exchange well and truly fulfilled these hopes/ expectations/ goals/ reasons for going, and I have gotten so much more out of than I could have imagined.
I found living out of home much easier than I had expected, and found that (while I had a renewed appreciation for all my family does to help me out!), I really enjoyed doing my own shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning etc.
I loved living with other students on campus, was incredibly lucky to have great housemates, who became some of my closest friends on exchange.
I grew in my confidence of my own abilities, and learnt a lot about my own values and ideals by making everyday choices for myself.
Exchange renewed my sense of direction in life by causing me to re-evaluating my goals, plans and passions.
I also really learnt a lot from living with other students, as we would challenge each other on anything from knowledge about history, geography, environmental and humanitarian issues, pharmaceutical issues, to how best to do the washing up!
While I had thought (in an abstract way) about making friends from around the world, I had no idea how strong and fruitful my friendships would be.
It really is no understatement to say, that the people I met on exchange changed my life.

Rocky Mountains

Accommodation

I chose to live on campus in a group of townhouses called Fairview.
I decided to live at Fairview after chatting to past exchange students from UBC, and I'm so glad that I did!
Fairview was such a home-y environment to live in, with a strong sense of community.
If you are like me, and don't live on campus at UQ, it's a great chance to experience what it is like to live on campus (lots of fun!).
It was awesome being able to walk to friends places, cook together, study together and of course party together.

Budget

I learnt a lot about budgeting from going on exchange.
I tried to keep track on how much I was spending each week, and on which things (i.e. travel, groceries, eating out).
Avoiding spending money on coffee/ eating out can really save a lot.
Doing a little bit of planning each week can help to make sure you have enough for the things you definitely want to do.
I would recommend saving $10,000-$12,000, almost half of which is needed for housing, and return flights.
It can be tricky to figure out the cheapest way to pay for things in a foreign currency.
Be sure to check with your bank as to how much you will be charged for using your Australian card (I think usually it is about 2% of the transaction total).
It might be worth researching other banks to see if you can get a better deal.
Your other options are to use a travel card, or open a foreign bank account.

West Trek Tour

Academic development and employability

Exchange provided me with a unique opportunity to make friends from all over the world, to travel, and to get out of my comfort zone.
I learnt so much about the world and about myself, both inside and out of the classroom.
Something I found really valuable, was the experience of being a foreigner.
Although Vancouver is very culturally diverse, it was interesting to be somewhere that I didn't know all of the norms, and where people recognised that I had an accent.
I think you learn so much more about your own culture and country by being away from it, so that you are able to distil what is more universal, and what is unique.
This cultural awareness enhances employability, as well as all of the social skills you learn while talking to people from diverse backgrounds.
I think my ability to adapt in different situations was also enhanced on exchange, another trait that is useful to employers.

First Snow Fall of the Season in Vancouver

Highlight

A highlight for me was a West Trek tour of the Rocky Mountains.
It was the only organised tour I did, and while it was expensive, I'm really glad I budgeted for it.
The breathtaking views and people I met made this tour one of the best memories of exchange.

Skiing in Whistler

Top tips

If you are considering exchange (which you definitely should be!), I have a few tips:

Before you go:
- Save your electives – core courses are more challenging to match up
- Plan early: save money, note deadlines and due dates, speak to your academic adviser, research courses available at host universities
- Research: talk to people who have lived there: ask them about the weather, clothing, culture, etc.
- If you want to live on campus (which is heaps of fun!), make sure housing is available at your host university, and apply early

After take-off:
- Indulge in a little pride for getting yourself this far!
- Embrace difference and new experiences
- Journal when you can

If you're a little nervous about it all (like I was), remember that 'courage isn't the absence of fear, but doing it anyway'.
The scariest part for me was deciding to go, and saying goodbye, the rest was loads of fun.
 

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