Who: Lisa Chisholm
Studying: Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)
Where: Simon Fraser University
When: S1 2012
1. Please describe the orientation provided by your host university.
As an exchange student, I had three separate orientations: one for international students, one for the campus, and one for the residences. These all supported me in my studies and just to fit in at Simon Fraser, as well as giving me opportunities to make new friends (especially with the other exchange students).
2. Please comment on the academic workload and requirements (e.g. readings, reports/projects, papers, exams) in comparison with Flinders.
The academic workload was quite similar to Flinders I found, however they tend to do more, smaller assignments than those with big exams or end of semester assignments (for example, they are more likely to assign 3 papers worth 10% instead of 1 assignment worth 30%). I think my studies at Flinders placed me in a good position to do well at Simon Fraser, as I found my critical and analytical skills to be better developed than a lot of my classmates.
3. Please comment on the resources/facilities provided to exchange students.
We had lots of resources, beginning with organised activities for us, which allowed us to meet each other and set up a Facebook group to organise things we could do. There was always an International Student Office which provided us support if we needed it and they would let us know if there was anything we needed to do.
4. Did you live on-campus or off-campus?
5. Would you recommend this kind of housing to other exchange students?
Yes, definitely. Staying on campus gave me a more comprehensive exchange experience, and allowed me to socialise more with the other students. It felt like our own little community, whether we were participating in the ‘Rez Life’ organised events or just meeting at the on campus pub every Wednesday night.
6. How much money did you need for living expenses (entertainment, room and board, travel, books etc)?
I needed about $50 per week for entertainment, travel and book expenses. Vancouver has a great arrangement with the metro system where students pay $30 per month for unlimited public transport so that really helped. My accommodation expenses were $1600 upfront for a whole semester (including utilities and internet)
7. What were the major differences between the culture in your host country and Australia?
I found it to be pretty similar, however everyone was a lot more polite and reserved in Vancouver than what I was used to back home. I sometimes had to soften up my words a bit to fit in to the local culture
8. Did you have any fears before going on exchange? Were you able to overcome these?
My main fear was that I wasn’t going to make any friends and I would spend a whole semester alone. From my first day I found that there was absolutely nothing to worry about however, when all the ‘new kids’ in my building were sitting in the kitchen having a chat. The university also supported me a lot in finding friends, organising all sorts of events which I could go to meet new people.
9. Was it easy to make friends among the local population? What were the best ways of integrating yourself with the host society?
I found it easier to make friends with the other exchange students, as we were all going through about the same experiences and, when you have people coming from all over the world, you’re bound to get along with a few of them! The more local friends I had were mainly from things going on in the residences- there were quite a few townhouse gatherings held by the exchange students and I was able to meet their housemates and develop quite strong friendships with them. So really, the best way is to find people you like and make an effort to get out there and do things
10.What difficulties did you encounter (e.g. homesickness, finances, communication)?
Of course I felt homesick, especially when bad things happened back home to my friends and family. But they were all very supportive of me, and I realised that this opportunity would likely never come again and most of the time I was having the most amazing time overseas.
Describe a typical day at your host institution:
Typically I would get up in the morning, go to my classes, then meet up with my roommate Sarah (a girl from Ireland who became one of my best friends) for a cup of tea in the kitchen. I would do some studying, maybe some food shopping, then meet my friends in the evening (usually at the pub or in Madge, the residence building with a massive TV and a huge collection of DVDs).
11. What aspect of the exchange experience did you feel was most rewarding, either personally or academically?
The most rewarding part of this experience is feeling like I can independently do anything. Before this trip I would never go anywhere without somebody to go with me, now I’ve travelled to the other side of the world all by myself!
12. What was the highlight of your program?
There was no one highlight I can pick out, just the amazing community atmosphere I felt at Simon Fraser. There was always something going on, and always someone who wanted to hang out and go see something new. I also appreciated all the resources available to complete my studies overseas, and a different perspective on the topics I had been going through at Flinders.
13. What tips and advice would you give to someone who’s going on a student exchange?
I would do as much research as possible on your host university as early as possible, and get everything organised well ahead of time (so you don’t get stuck doing everything around exam time like I did). I also recommend travelling afterwards, even if just for a month or so, because you learn so much overseas and there are so many beautiful things around. I left my return ticket open and organised where I wanted to go afterwards, managing to co-ordinate some parts of my trip with my new friends (a large majority of the exchange students were travelling for a while after the semester).