Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts, 5th year
Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts, 5th year

Academic Experience 

While at the University of Calgary I undertook 5 courses to gain credit towards my Bachelor of Science/Arts. I took 1 science course and 4 arts courses. Three of my Arts courses were studies in religion courses, which is my arts major at UQ. I thoroughly enjoyed my religion courses as they were completely different to any course I've ever taken. At first this was a challenge, because the style of teaching was completely different to anything I have previously experienced. My Professor for 2 of the courses made me think in ways I never thought imaginable. I feel I have gained a new perspective on how to think about the world, which I can bring back to home, uni and work life in Australia. If you have the opportunity to take a class with Dr Bergen, I cannot recommend him enough! I also took 1 science course whilst on exchange. It was very different to any UQ science course I had done in that it was predominantly practical based. The small class size and intimate nature of the course meant that there was a lot of time for getting individual feedback and help where needed, which encouraged me to do well.

Personal Experience

The best thing about my exchange, even though the location was amazing, was the friendships I made. By the end of exchange the friends I made from all over the world became my family. We spent most of our time together, and even traveled together after exchange had finished. They are truly relationships I will cherish forever, because we shared so many experiences with each other.

Calgary, whilst not as well known as other Canadian cities, had a lot to offer. It's student culture is quite large, so there were always things to get involved with on campus, like our Ski Trip to Panorama with the U of C Ski and Board Club (a must!). One of my favourite places to explore in Calgary was Kensington, where there are cute coffee shops, boutique stores, and great bars to eat and drink at. On one of my last weekends in Calgary, me and my friends rented bikes and rode the length of the Bow River. From beginning the semester with snow and ice covering everything to riding along the banks of the river in a T-shirt and shorts, Calgary provided a beautiful backdrop in every season. The University of Calgary also offered free gym membership and access to all of their sports facilities to full-time students. This meant that while on exchange I was able to pursue my interest in squash and I even learnt to boulder (rock climbing without a harness). During the mid-semester break I traveled to Banff and Lake Louise, which is an awesome place for skiing, hiking, and seeing lots of Aussies. Before traveling to Calgary I had never seen proper snow, so learning ski and to live in -10 degrees was a totally new and awesome experience!

Accommodation

Whilst at U of C, I lived on campus, in residence halls. I chose Cascade Hall because it was the cheapest option available, and I loved it! The majority of international/exchange students live in Cascade Hall, which meant I made a lot of exchange friends who were interested in seeing/doing the same things as me. Cascade offers apartment style rooms and I shared with 2 other people. 

I had my own room and shared a bathroom with one other person, while we all shared a kitchen and living area. I enjoyed this style of living as I was able to prepare my own meals in the full kitchen and have people over to chill out or watch movies in the living area. Some of the other buildings require you to buy a meal plan because they don't have full kitchens, so depending on what style of living you prefer, there are other options available.

Budget

One of my main expenses apart from flights, was accommodation on campus. I chose the cheapest option for living, and used my OS Help Loan to pay for this ($3,300 CAD). On top of accommodation you also need to purchase tenants insurance for living on campus ~$200 CAD. U of C makes you pay for a U-Pass of $130 CAD, which allows you to use public transportation for the whole semester. I like to eat out so I spent quite a lot of money on food during the semester, easily $100 CAD/week.

I would also recommend budgeting for trips away, like Ski Trip and going away for the mid-semester break. I was always intended to do a lot of travel at the end of my exchange as well, so I budgeted around $7000 AUD for 2 months of travel. Make sure you are aware of the exchange rates in the country you are going to, as this will add to the amount you need to budget generally (especially in the USA). If you are eligible for Centrelink also make use of that, as these fortnightly payments meant that I didn't have to work while I was away, leaving me more time to travel and explore. Also budget for a phone plan while you are away, ~$40 CAD/month. I also ordered all my linens/towels etc. through residence which was $350 CAD (this is not compulsory, but was convenient for me). Lastly budget for travel insurance, especially if you are planning on traveling before/after exchange, as UQ will not cover all of this. I would recommend to budget around $15,000 for a semester exchange plus travel after.

Professional Development & Employability

Interacting with, and meeting many new people from all over the world has made me more tolerant and confident. I believe both of these attributes will aid me in my professional development, especially when working in group/team scenarios. Being on exchange was also my first time living away from home. This experience has certainly made me more independent, and also helped with my time management skills, both of which I hope will be helpful for my future employability. Even though I believe I was already a fairly outgoing person, exchange has helped me focus less on what others think of me, and focus more on what makes me happy. I have definitely come back from exchange with fresh perspective, which I hope will enhance my problem solving abilities by looking at things from different angles.

Highlights

It might sound cliché, but the highlight of my exchange experience was definitely the people I met and the relationships I forged. Not only were the people I met awesome, but they also shared a lot of my exchange experiences with me. This is so special because when you return home, not everyone understands the experiences you have had in the same way as the friends that were there with you.

Top Tips

Do not hesitate to go on exchange, you will never regret it! Exchange is not so much about the place you go to (although I loved Calgary), but the experiences you have and the people you share them with.
- Definitely apply for everything early (host university, accommodation, scholarships etc.) so that the process can be as smooth as possible - and be prepared to wait.
- Always over-budget, and apply for any and every scholarship you can as every little bit helps.
- Be open-minded, because things can and often will change.
- If you are going to a particularly cold climate, invest in a proper warm/weatherproof jacket. If you've got that, you won't need much else.
- When in Canada, you MUST try poutine!

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