Notes from a student studying at Canberra University, Fall 2008
Australian Exchange Through Vancouver Island University
I am currently in the exchange program through Vancouver Island University to the University of Canberra in Australia. It has been a great experience and I have actually applied for a second semester because I am enjoying myself so much. Australia is very much like Canada, in the sense that they have the same values and customs, eat the same foods, dress the same and they also speak English. I found myself having a little bit of trouble understand some of the Australians at first because they do speak fairly quickly, but after about the first two weeks it got better, and they became easier to understand. Australians do use a lot of slang and they shorten their words, but as long as you ask they are happy to tell you what they are saying so you will understand. And as people in general they are very nice and friendly.
The campus at the University of Canberra is very much like Vancouver Island University, but not on a hill and slightly smaller in size. You will see kangaroos on the campus just like you would see rabbits in Canada. The teachers are very helpful and willing to help as long as you ask for it; I have never had a problem about asking a teacher about something I do not understand. Also from what I have been told, generally there are no midterms or exams. This does not mean they do not have them it all, it really depends on what course you are taking. By not having exams this does not mean the course load is more, but the grading is a little harder and different from Canada. I have found its more difficult to receive a letter grade of an A here on an assignment than it is in Canada.
Some things about the school’s residence should be noted for when you arrive. They do not supply international students with bed sheets, blankets or pillows, pots and pans, or any other kitchen utensils. Also from what I was told by other international students if you arrive second semester they do not have an orientation for residence, they basically were given there keys and had to figure out things for themselves. And we all had the complaint that we were not notified until a week or two before we were supposed to leave for Australia about whether or not we had a room in residence.
Those are only a few negative things that I have come across. Aside from that I have had a great time in Australia. There are some amazing sights to see and awesome things to do. The University of Canberra is very good for setting up trips for the international students; some include a weekend surf camp, trips up the mountain for skiing and snowboarding, and school pub nights and a lake cruise. And the city itself is very nice with a huge mall and a lot of pubs and restaurants to go to. Also depending on what time of the year there are some events the city puts on. There is also a museum and war memorial that is free to go to and a zoo, and you can drive to the top of Mount Anslie and see an aerial view of Canberra. If you do not have someone to drive you around the bus system here is very good and easy to use.
I personally think it is a little more expensive in Australia than it is in Canada, but when talking to any Aussie they say Canada is expensive. But doing the exchange through the schools is a lot cheaper than applying as an International Student. When eating out the tip and tax is included into the price, so you do not have to worry about tipping your waitress. And when you buy anything what the price tag says is exactly how much it costs. Which I think is better because you do not have to work out the tax in your head. Sending parcels back to Canada I have found is not any more expensive than it would be sending something within Canada. Overall Australia has been an amazing experience and I am so glad had the opportunity to do it.