Blitz caught up with Sarah Park to chat about picturesque scenery, hostel disasters, and more while she was at Queens University in Canada on exchange.
Why did you decide on Canada for exchange?
I decided to go on exchange because I wanted to experience something new, and exchange was the best opportunity to continue my studies while at a different university, in a different culture. I also viewed exchange as a chance to get out of my comfort zone, become much more independent and to meet new people.
What’s your favourite thing about Canada?
Canada is known for its beautiful landscapes, so I think the scenery, national parks and mountains was probably my favourite thing about Canada. I liked that Canada was quite culturally similar to Australia and was an English-speaking country, allowing for an easier transition. Canada is bilingual – the official languages are both English and French – so it was not uncommon to hear French wherever you went.
How is university different there?
It was very similar to the US-based college system in that most people lived on-campus for the duration of their four year undergraduate degree, contributing to a unique college culture. Because Canada is a bilingual-speaking country, most students start university with English-speaking and French-speaking skills. Compared to Australia, I found that a lot of students did not work but rather were very involved in college extra-curricular activities. My particular university had smaller seminars instead of large lecturers, and it was interesting to note that the professors got to know the students really well by the end of semester. I also lived in a small town where most of the population were university students, which was quite different to metropolitan Sydney.
What’s the craziest thing you did on exchange?
I’m not sure if this counts as crazy but I booked a trip to Montreal and Quebec City and came back three days before my final exams. It’s something I definitely wouldn’t do here in Sydney!
Highlight of your trip?
Being able to travel around North America, visit relatives in the States whom I hadn’t seen in a while, becoming more independent while living abroad and now having an extensive list of international friends.
What was your favourite tourist activity?
Hiking in Canada’s national parks or visiting their snow-capped mountains!
Did you have any disasters?
My first experience staying in a hostel while travelling was not a good one, the sheets were unwashed, eight people were crammed into a small room and the bar music from next door was constantly thumping through the incredibly thin walls for the entire night. I can’t say that I’d stay in a hostel again!
Any tips for students going on exchange?
Make sure you do thorough research into your destination/university of choice and base your decisions on what you suits you – for example, do you prefer a smaller town or larger city? English-speaking or a multi-lingual neighbourhood? Once you’ve been selected for exchange, start your preparation early but always allow flexibility in your travel plans!
Most Canadian thing you did overseas?
I went to a hockey game.
Favourite Canadian food?
Describe Canada in three words.
Cold, natural, beautiful!