Accommodation Awards: Shirley

Different people have different things that they find important in their immediate environment: Some have to have good company, others like warmer or cooler weather. But for the most part especially being on exchange, it is the creation of a makeshift home fit to remember good pastimes but induce new memories as well which cannot be overlooked.

1

It is definitely a good time to note that sorting out accommodation is no easy task, and even as someone who does not live at home and is flexible enough to find it easy to adapt to new places, it was an extremely difficult process to sort out. For me personally, the top three priorities that I really looked to fulfil with my accommodation would not be too dissimilar to those of most people: The opportunity to meet new people easily, proximity to the university campus and easy accessibility to frequent places such as shops and cafes, grocery stores and banks. In fact, I had come to the realisation that cost wasn’t the most important factor because during my one term here, I wanted to make the most of it and rent would not be too much of a controlling factor. The important thing was to have a place to live where my lifestyle could be well integrated even in the midst of vast differences between Montreal and Auckland.

Three very obvious options were presented to me: Living on campus with McGill Rez, off campus with hotel style student accommodation or simply flatting with other fellow students in the nearby neighbourhood named the McGill Ghetto, which can be rather charming despite the name. More than several hours to say the least had been spent simply researching what might be the best option considering my three requirements, but the best fit seemed to be staying with McGill. The network and community would be unparalleled to make new friends and an infinite number of students in my exact same shoes would have gone through with it without a hitch. But I sure can tell you there were many bumps in the road. The application itself gave no information so until the point I had paid my deposit and assigned a house, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Deadlines sprung up without warning, emails back and forth were frustrating with time zones and questions were endless even if you could get them through. It was a tough lesson to learn that making the decision to take risks is something that I will definitely have to come across again during my exchange.

234

But at the end of day, it really does work out no matter what option. I now live with 14 other girls where we spend every waking minute filling this massively old house with young laughter. Steps away from campus through the back door, a few more through the front on to one of Montreal’s most well known streets, it couldn’t have ticked the boxes in a better way. Our shared kitchen is always bustling and the common room is almost big enough to throw a salsa dance-off. The manor style staircase and corridors carry sounds of giggles and banter from room to room. With five singles and five doubles, I was lucky enough to have talked to my roommate Michela before we met in person so sharing our space was something we slipped into with ease. It definitely helps that our room is unbelievably grand as well, being the only one with tall windows, high ceilings and even a rustic fireplace to add to that cozy Canadian feel.

5678

While it was the luck of the draw and we may have the biggest room, it’s easy to see that we all are winners here. Everyone puts their all into their rooms, with photos and decorations, and walking through them is like diving into a part of their lives and listening to their stories. Some sneaky little rubber ducks seemed to appear and they don’t stop either, which adds to the fun of it all. We all deserve awards as people coming from different places to adjust and trying our hardest to make this place as much of home as possible. And if I may say so myself, we certainly did a kick ass job of it.

9101112

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/) J

Adobe Spark (10)

First Impressions: Shirley

First impressions aren’t everything, but they are definitely something. The things you hear, you read, you see from afar: They are all building up to this one grand moment of finally getting there to experience it all for yourself. Going on exchange to a place I have never been to gave me plenty to be excited for, and without me even noticing, the expectations only grew as it got closer and closer to my departure date. And without spoiling the plot far too early, they all exceed those unnaturally high expectations and passed with flying colours.

1

Montreal can only be described as a vibrant, diverse and every moving place. There is so much to talk about already and without a doubt much more to come, which makes me glad that I can try to provide the best interpretation as I can throughout these upcoming posts instead of having an endless stream written down all in one go. It is constantly shifting and moving, ever jammed packed with activities to do, festivals and events to do attend and there is never a dull moment as long as you are willing to participate. And that kind of positive, fun-loving attitude completely transcends to the student life I have experienced so far at McGill University. To be honest, even more so. Because you can trust us young people to also take things a step further and make it an unforgettable moment, every day and every night.

23

So focusing on the orientation aspect of my journey so far, this is a part that I really noticed a difference from home. The whole purpose of the exchange for me was to gain a new perspective on what tertiary education could be like, to try and experience something perhaps more dynamic than at home simply because I would now be fully immersed in having everything that comes with being a student. And from the very first event, it was like a whirlwind had started and it has not stopped ever since. Being thrown in the midst of a huge stadium on the first day as a welcome didn’t feel like the typical orientation, but that we were being initiated into part of something exciting. It made perfect sense to get the more informative segment of the week done early so we had a good understanding of where everything was, and while it doesn’t seem particularly interesting, trust me that when there are a million things to sort out when you first get here, having people showing the way is a sweet blessing to get that ticked off the list.

45

I can’t lie: What I have been highly anticipating with coming to McGill during this orientation week was the infamous Frosh week. Different faculties with their themes and colours have a myriad of activities planned all over the city. Together with our hyped up, enthusiastic leaders who seemed to take their job of giving us the best first McGillian experience seriously, we were all buzzing with excitement to start our four days of bonding and trying our hardest to make it to everything that was available to us. But the explosion of what was to come were nothing like what us ‘froshies’ expected at all, and our engineering ‘The Frosh and the Furious’ theme could not have found a more fitting way to portray it.

There is never a half effort with events held as part of frosh. Thing are turned up to maximum level without fail. Even if I were to describe the highlights of a select few, it would probably take days to finish reading about what had happened and what it felt like to be part of something so big and foreign to anything I had, or in fact any normal person, would have experienced. Plus, it’s almost impossible to capture the atmosphere in words on a page, and the photos would probably do it more justice even though only a small portion of the electric vibe that lingered in the air and be felt through them. Obstacle courses, pre-event rallying, concert and club nights, park games, pub crawls, beach day, frat parties… If anybody had told me before that I would be doing all of that in the span of a couple of days in the most insane, unforgettable of ways, I doubt I would have believed it. The jokes and banter, the laughs and the thrill of meeting new friends every few moments thrust me into an electrifying state. With everything that happened though, even the smallest things like learning the university and faculty chants, singing and dancing to them like we didn’t have a care in the world was something that struck me and will stay with me for a very long time to come.

 

6789101112131415

It wouldn’t be right to hide the fact that these four days were EXTREMELY intense. Collapsing in fatigue in the dead of night and waking up as early as 6am to get to the next event was no uncommon thing. It was hard on us, so hard that almost everybody got what we deem as ‘frosh flu’ as soon as it ended. But even with our sniffles and red noses, it was undeniably the most exhilarating experience that we had ever had. And I was part of all of that. With every vivid moment ingrained in me and a million more stories to tell, even just this very beginning part of the journey was worth it for me to be on exchange. And the prospect of having more to come? I think it’s easy to guess how I feel about that.

Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)

Adobe Spark (10)

 

Canada

Oh Canada! What a stunner!

amelia-vinnell_ubc-1155-3

Named as the number one travel destination for 2017 by Lonely Planet, Canada is an incredible place to take part in an exchange. University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at nine partner universities in this beautiful country: Mcgill University (U21) , McMaster University, Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University, University of Alberta,  University of British Columbia (including Law), University of Calgary, University of Toronto (including Law), University of Western Ontario (Law only).

michele-lee_w-ontario-1155-1

Let’s hear what our students have to say!

“On my arrival to Vancouver, I instantly fell in love. It was for sure one of the most beautiful cities I had ever been in and I knew I would enjoy my next six months there.” – Hanna Mellsop, University of British Columbia

rose-ritchie_ubc-1155-3

“Coming from Auckland, I quickly found myself immersed in a city designed for living. Montreal is a social hub that is constructed of small, unique neighborhoods each with their own flavour and feel. With flat streets lined with often beautiful two-story apartments, and a metro line running throughout the centre into the outer suburbs, Montreal is incredibly well connected. Living in a city that has been designed for people, not money, is incredibly liberating and has fostered a unique culture of individuality and expression. This culture is primarily centred about the arts; countless alleyways teeming with graffiti, spare brick façades dressed with grand scale murals, local bands playing gigs every night of the week. There are beautiful, exciting cafes and restaurants that seem to pop up everywhere with their own specific style and edge. With a French colonial foundation and a vast student population, the multiplicity of culture within Montreal is brilliant. Each person I encountered seemed to hail from a world completely different to that which I had experienced. ” – Luke Boyle, McGill University

luke-hancock_ubc-1155-jpg-2

“I knew when I chose McGill that I wanted a North American experience and Montréal would provide a good opportunity for that, mixed with a European influence. The city certainly met that expectation, giving not just an amazing and diverse place to live but a great opportunity to travel further on the Canadian and East Coast of America.” – Alistair Munro, McGill University

brenda-yong_queens-university-1155-1

“In terms of the university culture UBC had all the elements of a North American university. Frat parties, a football team, a gazillion clubs to join, heaps of events and a huge college sport atmosphere. One highlight of living in Vancouver as a student is also the access to a really cheap bus card that allowed unlimited transport throughout the region on all ferries, trains and buses. This saved all of our lives, and our bank accounts enabling us to really explore as much of the city as we wanted. I honestly don’t think that there could have been a better city in Canada to do an exchange. Vancouver is amazing, surrounded by mountains, islands and the sea there is so much to see and do! I think I hiked almost every weekend and only completed around 5 per cent of all the hikes there are in total. Proximity to the West Coast of the USA and also Whistler was so handy for adventures and skiing. There was always something to do like going to the circus or a show, seeing the ice hockey, ice skating for free at university, walking in the harbour, shopping or even visiting the many different suburbs of Vancouver. The geology was incredible, words cannot describe how beautiful this city is and how many camping trips I ended up doing with bears at high risk!” – Amelia Vinnel, University of British Columbia

rose-ritchie_ubc-1155-1

On orientation:

“Kingston is a beautiful town with small boutique shops, the friendliest people and lovely pathways to walk along the lake. The campus was incredible, laden with great stone buildings and ample space to study in numerous cafes and libraries. I found that the cost of living was relatively similar to that of Auckland which made budgeting easier.As soon as I got to Kingston, I immediately made friends, other exchange students, to brave the orientation week with. NEWTS week orientation, an orientation programme not only geared towards exchange students, but also transfers and international students, was an absolute blast. Activities included a paint party, day trips and even a semi-formal, which was a great opportunity to get dressed up!” -Astra Druker-Michaels, Queen’s University

“Arriving at Calgary, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it soon became apparent to me that I was going to have an amazing semester. The orientation week activities set the pace for the time ahead. The halls of residence ensured that the floors mixed and got to know each other right off the bat, so making new friends came easily; this was something that I was apprehensive of leading up to my trip. We did challenges, went to the arena to watch teams on their opening weekend, and sampled the local nightlife for a week straight. One of the stark differences was the overall feel of the campus. Not only was it considerably larger, but it had an atmosphere that is very different to one here at The University of Auckland; it felt like there was a heightened sense of community and people were really open and friendly.” – Adam Crompton, University of Calgary

amelia-vinnell_ubc-1155-1

“In the first few weeks, I managed to find my feet. I knew where all my classes were and I had met a bunch of cool people through the events that the ‘exchange student club’ put on for us all. I was blown away by the food that was available on campus. Some of the best sushi and sandwiches I have ever had for sure! Lunch in ‘the nest’ came a ritual for me and my other exchange student friends.” – Hanna Mellsop, University of British Columbia

“One of the biggest things that made the exchange special was the relationships and friends made while there. This was helped by the fact that UBC had an ‘exchange club’, whereby you had to be an exchange student in order to join. They hosted weekly events where you could meet and interact with all the exchange students. Such as the weekly mixer at ‘Korners’ pub in UBC itself, where I met lots of great people and made many good friends.” – Cavin Toh, University of British Columbia

caitlin-tippett_queens-1155-1

“When I first arrived in Montreal, I was surprised by how bilingual everyone/everything was, and the fact that essentially everyone could transition between 2+ languages so efficiently really surprised me. Orientation at the University is called “Frosh Week”, where you essentially just get involved in teams and play drinking games/meet new people. Me and my mate had an absolutely amazing experience in this first week, as this was where we met most of our friends and got more involved/confident in the culture.” –  Cameron Taylor, McGill University

“The social and extra-curricular life at McGill was astounding, with huge efforts being put into social events in both orientation (Frosh) week and continuing through the semester.” – Alistair Munro, McGill University

madeleine-vaassen_queens-university-1155-2

“Upon arriving at McMaster’s student residence, I received the warmest welcome from student representatives who were helping the first year students settle into their accommodation, yet made all the exchange students feel just as included in all the exciting orientation activities and events and their enthusiasm was contagious.” – Astrid Watson, McMaster University

todd-antstett_ubc-1155-3

On accomodation:

“On arrival at UBC all I could think about was how huge it was, literally! It was like a small town, a true campus vibe that really rings home in many North American made movies. Resident life at UBC is awesome, you’re totally independent but living with people all over the world in amazing apartments, it was here that you really make the friends for life! In all honesty I was surprised by the calibre of facilities at UBC, there were fancy buildings everywhere and sports facilities galore.” – Amelia Vinnel, University of British Columbia

“In terms of my accommodation, I again was pleasantly surprised. I stayed on campus in an apartment building called ‘Marine Drive’. I was on the 14th floor and had an amazing view of the water from my lounge. I didn’t realise that student accommodation could be so fancy! I felt like I was staying in some fancy motel! My flat mates were all so lovely and welcoming and were quick to give me advice on how to navigate myself around the massive campus city that was UBC.” – Hanna Mellsop, University of British Columbia

“The McMaster University Campus in Hamilton where I stayed was very beautiful. I was living on campus at the Mary Keyes Residence. It was the nicest residence on campus, with food access downstairs. I chose the lightest meal plan as my residence had a kitchen so I was able to make my own food. I also spent a lot of time eating off campus, spending evenings in Toronto.” – Aleisha Thakurdas, McMaster University

madeleine-vaassen_queens-university-1155-4

“Whilst on exchange, I stayed in Bates Residence, which is the second largest residence on campus, and majority of the students were first years. I found both positive and negative experiences in this. It was easy to quickly integrate into a social group of exchange students as this was something we had in common and living in the same residence made meeting up with other exchange students easy. However living in a residence building of almost exclusively first years sometimes made me and other exchange students feel a little out of place participating in residence activities. Overall, I don’t regret my decision to choose on-campus living though, as it made socialising with other exchange students simple, and I found popping into my apartment between classes convenient, especially if I had large gaps between them.” – Astrid Watson, McMaster University

“I spent the semester living at Evo, a privately owned student residence near campus, which happened to attract a large number of exchange students which then added another whole layer of options and engagement, and social group for support. As a kiwi overseas, I found everyone to be extremely welcoming even beyond what I had expected.
I would highly recommend the experience to anyone considering it!” – Alistair Munro, McGill University

charlotte-pym_calgary-1155-3

On courses:

“The courses I took as part of my Bcom program were challenging and but very similar to those offered here, so the acclimatisation process was easy. The size of the lectures there are noticeably smaller so it felt like it was a more personal teaching experience, which I enjoyed.” – Adam Crompton, University of Calgary

“The courses at McGill were relatively similar to the ones in Auckland; most of the commerce courses I took were extremely laid back. I would also recommend to avoid the computer science courses while on exchange. The professors were quite disorganised, but overall were quite nice and there was some really good conversations.” – Cameron Taylor, McGill University

“The style of teaching at UBC in my classes was also a lot different. Courses were less structured in comparison to Auckland and there were less staff to students in terms of the ratio, therefore it was often difficult to get help in labs when needing it. Although, this was definitely not the case for all courses just more related to science classes. If you’re looking for a majorly diverse population of students in your class then UBC is perfect, there were 36 countries represented in one of my politics classes which was awesome in terms of gaining different perspectives on worldwide issues. UBC also encourages discussion based learning. I was able to do an internship for credit for one of my courses and also work at a UN plenary assembly event whilst earning credit for class. UBC as a whole is super flexible in terms of test dates and exams, which as an exchange student was a dream!” – Amelia Vinnel, University of British Columbia

luke-hancock_ubc-1155

On travel:

“I did a lot of travel while on exchange; I went to Europe (Spain, France & Switzerland) over Christmas, Cuba for spring break, and New York & Boston throughout the semester. Traveling around while studying definitely improves the experience, so I would make sure to get involved.” – Cameron Taylor, McGill University

amelia-vinnell_ubc-1155-4

“I did a fair bit of travelling during my exchange — which was amazing! I spent time in Toronto, New York, Calgary, Banff, Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal during the semester. I also spent a few weeks in California either side of the trip as well as 10 days in Germany and Prague on my way home to New Zealand.” – Aleisha Thakurdas, McMaster University

“I would highly recommend also doing some sort of bus trip like a G adventures tour or Contiki of the east coast of Canada and the US if you are wanting to see that side because in reality travelling North America is quite tough without a car if you are looking at seeing stuff outside of cities and more importantly flights cross Canada are ridiculously expensive.” – Amelia Vinnel, University of British Columbia

todd-antstett_ubc-1155-4

Top Tips:

  • Don’t leave without eating Poutine a Canadian classic
  • Take advantage of club fairs
  • Get involved with exchange clubs
  • Take every opportunity to visit the wilderness
  • Step outside of your comfort zone
  • Embrace new adventures!