||MBJI (Bachelor of Journalism, Bachelor of International Relations)
Why did you choose your host university?
This originally was not my first choice University, however, after being told applications were not being accepted at the time for my first choice, I decided to do some further research. I am glad I did. After assessing many options, it came down to a decision between two Canadian universities, Ryerson (in Toronto) and Carleton (in Ottawa). My final decision was made on somewhat of a whim; however, I had some advice from friends and family in regards to the two cities. I found Ottawa to be very student friendly and an altogether great place to live.
What was the university like?
The university was great. The campus, located a little way out of the city, was large and spacious. It had many terrific facilities available to students. In terms of recreation, there were two bars on campus, providing a nice relaxed atmosphere for students. Many eateries were present on campus too, including student run cafes, Starbucks, the Canadian favourite Tim Hortons, as well as Subway, Pizza, etc. There is also an indoor running track, gymnasium and ice-skating arena all available for student use at no cost. In addition, the university also had a number of sports leagues in sports as varied as ultimate Frisbee right through to Basketball and Soccer. Classes and assessment were relatively similar to those back home. The basic structure being one large lecture per week, followed up with a tutorial session in the form of a discussion and learning consolidation class. Exams were similar too, held in large halls on campus, during a designated two-week exam period. Additionally, I found there to be a wide variety of resources available to international students at Carleton University. Being a very internationally focused university, there was a designated International Student Services Office (ISSO), with both student and paid employees to give advice on issues such as visas, culture shock and anything in between.
What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?
I don’t know where to begin here. The exchange experience is without a doubt the most incredible experience I have ever had in my life. I find it hard to gauge to what degree it has changed my way of thinking, mainly due to the fact I am still travelling in North America and have not, as yet had sufficient time to personally reflect on the overall experience. I do however feel that I have gained a far greater global understanding, having met so many people from so many different countries and walks of life. I feel as though it definitely helped me develop a heightened sense of empathy as well as allowed me to realise that the best experiences often lie outside ones comfort zone. I feel too this exchange has greatly altered my sense of priorities in life, as to what is really important and how much there is to see and do in the world, giving strength to my personal belief of the importance of travel and spending significant time abroad.
What accommodation options were available to you? How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?
I spent the semester living in student accommodation or residence as it was called on the University campus. I was a relatively expensive option, however, the convenience cannot be understated. I was provided with fourteen meals per week (though you can choose whatever number per week you like) in the residence cafeteria. The cafeteria was of high quality, in a buffet style with numerous options available to students, changing daily. The residence community at Carleton was massive. I can’t remember the exact figure, but it was between 3000-4000 students. I would recommend for any outgoing exchange students wanting to pursue this option to select ‘Leeds House’ as their residence of choice, as this houses the majority of international and exchange students and is perhaps the nicest of all residences, providing students with a double bed and plenty of personal space. Other students selected off-campus housing, which, in Ottawa is readily available within ample distance of campus and at reasonable price.
Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries?
I travelled regularly both during and after my exchange experience. One of the biggest assets Ottawa has as a city is its location within the province of Ontario in Canada. Toronto is, by train about five hours West, and train tickets can cost as little at $40 one-way. I was able to travel there a number of times to visit friends and it’s a great city. To the East, are both Montreal and Quebec City, two and five hours away respectively. The University actively encourages such travel, offering weekend ski trips, which were really great fun, as well as the ISSO organising multiple trips throughout the semester. I regularly attended the ski trips, as well as making trips to Toronto and Quebec during the semester. Canada is unfortunately a very expensive country to fly within, however, trains and buses are cheap and abundant. After the exchange itself finished, I travelled to the United States with friends from exchange. We hired an RV and travelled south from Chicago over the course of two weeks, culminating in the Bonnaroo music and arts festival in Manchester, Tennessee. That was a great travel highlight for me, getting to travel Route 66 and see some of America’s heartland.
Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.
I found I had little to no issues with adjustment and meeting people. Canadian life is very relaxed, the people incredibly friendly and the country very easy to fall in love with. Having previously travelled to Canada in 2011, I somewhat knew what to expect. The most difficult adjustment in Ottawa was the winter weather, with huge amounts of snow and also temperatures regularly dropping to or below -20. In terms of meeting people, the huge contingency of exchange students at Carleton provides a terrific platform for meeting people. In addition, living in residence on campus provided another terrific platform for meeting others. The ISSO makes an effort to engage students with one another, allowing lasting friendships to be made. I highly encourage students to venture beyond just the exchange group though. I was fortunate enough to meet a group of Canadians, with whom I forged a terrific friendship and who introduced me to many of their friends. Enabling me to build lasting friendships and connections abroad.
Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?
Short answer, yes. I made many good connections in my field of study, including becoming very good friends with numerous people actively working in marketing, another field of great interest to me. I also made connections within the Journalism field too, through professors, other students, and friends. I encourage all those wanting to participate in exchange programs to actively network whilst abroad and keep in contact with connections.
What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?
Just do it. Of course there will be nerves and the like, but if you decide not to pursue it, I almost guarantee you will spend every moment over the next six months regretting that decision. Utilise UniSA’s resources in helping you organise the program and ironing out any kinks. As soon as you arrive and settle at your university, all nerves will disappear. Furthermore, if the whole organisation of the thing is overwhelming, remember to make yourself a list of everything that needs doing and slowly tick it off. Prioritise too. The minor details will sort themselves out in time. All you really need is a flight, accommodation, money, a visa (well not even if you go to Canada for less than six months), and classes. The rest is relatively straightforward.
|When you are there, say yes to everything and don't miss out on any experiences.