It’s not hard to imagine what is most exciting, most intriguing and most anticipated for an exchange: The new experience. Sometimes it is easy to be blinded by the places to travel, the new foods to try and the activities to do that it overwhelms a very big aspect of this experience, notably achieving a different academic perspective. For me personally, I would definitely like to start by confessing that all and everything fun and amusing became a front runner as a priority with this journey, which therefore put my academics more so on the back burner than what I am used to back at home. I thought to myself, it would be an absolute crime if this opportunity of all opportunities was spent sitting inside studying my precious days away.
I did take me a while to see that university and campus life is inclusive of having a good grasp on what is going on, and discovering McGill along the way with its similarities and differences is not a hindrance to the experience but a part of it. Looking at these pictures of the beautiful campus and feeling pride towards being a part of such a diverse and strong student community there, it really does form a great part of the journey. A lot of aspects were very much on par with what I was used to at Auckland. Others, whether it arose simply because it is a different university or due to the fact that I am in a particular situation on exchange here, took some time to adjust to. Leaving behind for one second all the other envious bonus advantages from being overseas that comes to mind whenever somebody goes on exchange, I think that it is fairly important that the reality of education and spending a lot of time immersed in an academic setting is told.
With regards to that, these would be my personal top five campus life related advice I would have loved to receive had this been a year back when I was planning my exchange, and would certainly now help others to have a better idea of what to expect.
- In the lecture room setting, expect to work a little harder if you want those social relationships.
Exchange students come in all forms, some are naturally more outgoing while some like to take it slow and build relationships at a relaxed pace. But meeting people back at home university is a different game to doing it in a new place. It’s so important since for me at least, my relationships within my cohort always give me an academic support that I find extremely useful. In saying that, it is definitely more difficult to break into established groups and simply put, more effort and courage is required than it would have been starting your first year where everyone was openly looking for friends. Just remember though, everybody is super friendly and generally people love a fresh new perspective. And if anything, you’re on exchange! What have you got to lose?
- Do everything that you want to do, but don’t feel upset if you can’t do everything.
Without a doubt any university will burst a whole myriad of clubs involving sports, music, hobbies and so much more that offer a very vibrant experience. I would definitely recommend them as they certainly are enriching and act as a very nice way to meet new people. As an example, my French conversation mini-course definitely helped me brush off my language cobwebs and I have meet people who I have made memories with already and will keep in contact with in the future. But it’s important to accept that with all these priorities on the list, you realistically cannot to it all. It is healthy to achieve a nice balance of what you want to do vs what you can do, so that it can be integrated into the campus lifestyle without feelings of overwhelming stress and fatigue. If you have the energy, do it. But don’t mistake it for pushing yourself too hard.
- Take the time to understanding the personal requirements of the courses you have picked.
My story will help clear this particular point a bit more. Of my papers, the ones which deemed a good match for what would have been my third year level at home was a first year maths paper and a fourth year structures paper. Having full confidence in mathematics and finding structural design the most difficult component of my civil degree, you can imagine my surprise when I scraped by with abysmal maths grades while soaring through with high scores for structures. This insane outcome taught me something I think every exchange student must accept: You have to take some time to evaluate what you need to dedicate more time to in terms of study because it isn’t necessarily the same as before. This will help with study efficiency and productivity to leave more time for all the other travel and leisurely things that are waiting.
I expect that everybody wanting to go on exchange is looking for one thing within campus life – something different. So the best thing that you can do is to be prepared for it all as best you can and enjoy every different thing that comes with it which will make for some interesting stories when you get back home. After all, nothing beats a good but unpredictable story.
Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/) J