Behind the Brochure: Studying abroad
flickr / Trey Ratcliff
the newspaper brings you part two in a series of U of T student exchange experiences.
University of Queensland, Michael
tn: Why did you choose to go there?
Michael: I was looking for a place that spoke English and I wanted something very different from U of T. It sounded like more of a student experience culture, and when I went I found out it definitely was.
tn: How would you describe your academic experience?
Michael: For engineers, it’s a huge pain in the ass to go on exchange. I wanted to do courses that went toward my mechanical engineering degree which I soon found out was pretty impossible. I ended up taking up an extra semester, but to me it was totally worth it. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
tn: What was the working versus partying mentality on campus?
Michael: Way more low-key over there, way more chill. Just the vibe is less stressful, everyone seems to be more carefree. They only take four courses there, instead of five.
tn: Which allowed you to have a bit of fun?
Michael: Yeah. Australians drink a lot. Like, by 4 o’clock every single restaurant and bar is full. It’s a very social culture. The exchange students have weekly pub nights and bar tabs, which is a good way to get to know the other exchange students. You meet people who want to travel Australia and do things you want to do.
Up north is the sunshine coast and south is the gold coast - those are the famous beaches around Brisbane. It’s around an hour train ride to either, and there’s great surfing. I did a road trip to Airlie beach over our reading week, and Cairns is fun for skydiving and bungee jumping.
tn: What do you wish you knew before you went?
Michael: It’s more expensive to live there. It’s like 50% more to live there.
tn: You should come here if…
Michael: If you want perspective on how life should be. It changed my life, actually. Coming back from Brisbane, I’m more likely to do things I want to do, and I’m more likely to make friends with people I don’t know. It was an incredible experience.
Lumiere Universite, Lyon II, Jess
tn: Why did you choose to go to Lyon?
Jess: I gravitated away from Paris because I wanted to avoid the tourist circle you can get in a bustling city - I wanted a more intimate view of a culture. But I basically just went because a friend was going. It was kinda a lame reason, if I could do it again I might have chosen somewhere else.
tn: Why did you go to Lumiere II?
It seemed to have courses that looked like they corresponded with my program. The website was hard to navigate and the French academic system is really archaic. You couldn’t sign up for courses before hand, which made transfer credits impossible.
tn: How was it academically?
Jess: They had really good sports! I took a rock climbing class - students get credit for all these cool physical classes. But my classes were in the equivalent of the Mississauga campus, which meant I sometimes had a 40 minute commute between classes. I found the French students in the suburb-y part to be a lot nicer. There wasn’t much of a Lyon nightlife in the city that I was interested in, so the kids outside the city invited me to go out to their parties.
tn: What was it like socially?
Jess: For the exchange students, we went out a lot to a lot pubs, and we went dancing. There were a couple places that played cool music, but mostly clubby places I wouldn’t go to in Toronto. But I found the culture was mostly house parties. I still had a good time, I had some amazing classes, like a puppetry class I took.
tn: What did you get up to in your spare time?
Jess: I just walked around a lot and found out about different arts organizations. I joined a community choir which was anarchist and sang songs in like ten languages with old people, it was at this anarchist community center. I had some friends in the film program and we made some movies together.
tn: If you come here, you need to go to…
Jess: The Miniatures Museum! It’s the coolest thing ever! There’s this man called Dan Ohlmann and he makes the most elaborate miniatures you’ve ever seen, like tiny worlds that they use for movies.
tn: You should come here if…
Jess: If you want to improve your French. The food was amazing, especially the pastries. Also, I just want to say that my friend had a very different experience than me – she totally loved the city.