University of Ottawa in Canada
2008 Global Exchange student
Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Public Communication)
What country/city/university did you visit for your Exchange semester?
Canada, Ottawa, University of Ottawa
What did you like most about the city/country you visited?
Canada is a really beautiful and fun country, with very nice, generous people. I fell in love with Ottawa. It is a very beautiful city and because it is a small city (800 000 people), but with two large universities, it is also a very 'young' city, with lots of great atmosphere, good restaurants and lively nightlife. The relatively small size of Ottawa also means that everything is very close by, and there is a good community feel to the city and university.
What was unique/different about the culture of your host city that differed from living in Sydney?
Ottawa is the capital, and sits across the Ontario/Quebec provincial border, so it is officially a bilingual city. The University of Ottawa itself is strictly bilingual, meaning everything is in French and English. This gave an interesting feel to the city, and really made me feel like I was in a unique place. The cold weather is also something that differs greatly from Sydney. I was in Ottawa during winter, which meant it was very cold and this creates a completely different lifestyle and culture within the city, including the winter festival Winterlude and outdoor ice skating on the frozen Rideau Canal, as well as other activities that were available, such as skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding.
List three factors that convinced you to go on Exchange.
- My brother went on exchange to Ottawa two years before I did, and enjoyed it so much that it influenced me to explore my own exchange options.
- I was growing bored with my degree, and my life generally, so I knew I wanted to give myself a way of forcing myself out of my comfort zone.
- Before deciding on definitely going I told two friends that I didn't think I would go- they had both been on exchanges through high school and convinced me to go.
They were very passionate about the unique experiences they had on their exchanges, and because they had experienced it themselves I took their advice and decided to go for it.
What was unique about studying in an overseas university?
There were so many amazing experiences that could not be replicated in my own city. The lifestyle was amazing - living on campus and meeting many Canadians and other exchange students from around the world meant I was exposed to many different people and cultures. Everyone on exchange was as keen to meet friends and have great experiences as I was, so everyone was very nice and willing to meet new people, and I made friends more easily and frequently than I had expected. Academically it was interesting to experience different class structures and teaching styles, and I did a subject in Canadian history which was new and interesting for me. It was also great to be able to live on campus, which was very new to me, and I became very familiar with the university and it was very quick and easy to get to the shops, libraries and classes within the university.
How did you spend your spare time, whilst not in the classroom?
When I was not studying I spent a lot of time socialising with my friends, and meeting new friends every week. Living on campus meant that most of my friends were a minute away so I would spend a lot of time hanging out with them- even just doing normal things like watching movies on each other's computers and chatting for something fun to do. Each night I cooked with a group of friends, which was fun and also made cooking easier. The nightlife was also very big on campus, so I was able to go out at least four nights a week. Overall each and every day was very active and social, so sometimes I made the decision to spend the day or night on my own reading or on the internet, so that I could have some space. I also spent a few weekends going on road trips to Montreal and Quebec City, and went skiing for the day nearby. There were lots of outdoor weekend activities available through the university.
In what ways did going on Exchange benefit your degree/ your life?
Exchange benefited my life greatly. I believe that is has given me a wider view of the world, and my experiences gave me more confidence, independence and organisational skills. I met amazing people from around the world that I know I will remain friends with for a very long time. Overall it has given me an appreciation of other cultures and has inspired me to continue travelling and meeting new people as much as possible. I think the confidence and independence I developed when on exchange, and my experience of other cultures, has helped me in my degree and with possible future work, as it has given me new skills and attributes for study and work.
Most importantly, do you have any advice for other students who may be planning to go on Exchange?
The most important advice I can give to exchange students is to be open to the new experiences you will come across. If you are open to new people and cultures you will get a lot more out of the exchange than if you are close minded to things and people you are not used to. The whole purpose of exchange is to have a new experience- so be open to it and make the most of it. Enjoy every moment. There may be down points where you get lonely or homesick, but try to see the best in every situation and get everything out of the experience that you can. Say yes to as many invitations to nights out and other events as you can, and be open to making new friends all the time, even if they are outside your already formed group of friends. The exchange experience will be one of the most amazing times of your life, so enjoy it and don't regret anything.