Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne
Exchange in Semester 2, 2005
Bachelor of Laws
After observing how much fun foreign exchange students seem to have at Mebourne Uni, I decided to spend the last six months of my degree experiencing the lifestyle first hand. I had always wanted to go to Canada, and after seeking advice from lecturers and friends who knew the country I settled on Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.
Kingston is essentially a university town, meaning it was perfectly set up for student life and also quite a contrast to studying at Melbourne (or other large universities). We had an orientation week specifically for exchange and upper-year students, which was a great way to meet other students from all over the world and was the most fun I've had since college O-week in first year. It's not every day you get to paint yourself in Uni colours and duct tape people into trees. Or throw yourself into a mud pit with hundreds of other bodies, in an attempt to get someone to the top of a greased pole... The fun didn't stop there. A couple of weeks later it was the annual Homecoming weekend - a party so big it made national news headlines.
I was a little nervous about going to Queen's, mainly because I was so comfortable living in Melbourne and wasnt sure whether a small town (115,000 people) would cater to my interests. There were a lot more facilities than I expected, but naturally there were still times when I craved the big city lifestyle. Luckily Kingston is located half way between Toronto and Montreal, and even closer to Ottawa (an easy train or bus ride to each), making weekends away a pretty common activity for exchange students. I spent Thanksgiving in Montreal with 20 other exchange students; caught some pro ice hockey in Ottawa; and made weekend trips to Toronto and Montreal when I felt that shopping was more important than those assignments that were due.
Fun aside, Queen's is also one of Canada's top universities, and going on exchange was a great opportunity to study subjects not offered at Melbourne. There was the added challenge of adapting to a new academic system, and being solely responsible for ensuring that my enrolment was up to date (although this was not terribly difficult given that the staff at both Melbourne and Queen's were very helpful).
I also learned a lot just through living in another country. I've survived walking around in -23 degree temperatures, learned to say 'eh' just like a Canadian, learned a lot about their political system (and how different their legal system is to ours) and I even went dog-sledding. I came home an average snowboarder, avid ice hockey fan, and still somewhat confused as to what people see in Canadian football.
Aside from the obvious benefits that an exchange looks good on your CV and is a great personal challenge, I met some fantastic people while I was away. To really get the most out of a semester overseas its important to involve yourself in every activity on offer - from keg parties, to semi-formals, to joining the faculty's inner tube water polo team or volunteering in the local community. It's the people you meet that really add to the exchange experience.
All in all I would thoroughly recommend a semester on exchange to anyone contemplating the idea - my only regret is that I didn't have enough credits left to stay for a full year.