Kwantlen Polytechnic University (Canada)

Study Abroad Testimonial – Jayhmee

I was motivated to participate in the Outbound Study Program after interacting with the International students during my first year at CQU. Their stories and experiences made me want to step out of my comfort zone and explore the world. I chose to study in Canada, specifically at Kwantlen Polytechnic University because I made connections with someone from that university who was studying at CQU. I had never travelled in Australia, let alone out of the country, and I thought an English-speaking country with someone I knew would be a good first step in the process. Kwantlen also offered a wide variety of subjects to be studied that were not options here at CQU. I would highly recommend Kwantlen to any student looking to try a little bit of anything and everything, as International students are given first priority registration to any subject they wish to take.

Further Information

Name: Jayhmee Milner-Cherry
Program of study at CQUni: Bachelor of Arts, Literature and Creative Writing
Host Institution & Country: Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia, Canada
Period & Year of Exchange: Two Semesters, 2013 (Spring and Fall)

I studied at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in the Spring and Fall semesters of 2013. I was in Canada from late November 2012 to early January 2014 and I can say with complete honesty that it was the best experience of my life.

Kwantlen was a very welcoming environment with great professors and classes that truly challenged me. I selected a collection of electives for my study because Kwantlen offers several areas that are not selections at CQU, such as Criminology and Archaeology, two of my interests. Kwantlen offers many clubs for students to join, though the International office provides extra activities specifically for International and Exchange students to participate in such as ice-skating, dinners and pumpkin carving. These events are a great way to meet other exchange or International students to chat and share stories with while exploring Vancouver and taking part in the Canadian experience.

Living in Vancouver and the lower mainland was expensive. I was living with a friend on lowered rent in exchange for assistance with household chores, but I was in contact with students who were living alone. Kwantlen does not offer on-campus residential, so you will be expected to find accommodation. There is a homestay opportunity, and I would recommend that for anyone who has never lived alone. Renting out a basement suite is common for many families to do, though it may be difficult to locate a basement suite close to campus or in a location close to public transit for anything less than $750 per month, which may be very steep for a university student. The general cost of living in British Columbia is high, and minimum wage (if you are working) will be $10.25 per hour, possibly more or possibly less. The work requirements for a study visa prevent more than 20 hours per week and only on-campus employment so I would strongly urge anyone planning to travel to Canada in general to have at least $6000 at their disposal before travelling. Budgeting was an important part of my time in Canada, especially when I made the unexpected decision to stay for an extra seven months. I encountered a lot of issues that required extra payment I had not expected, such as the need to rebook my flight after I was unable to reschedule.

I personally allowed myself $300 of casual spending per month, with the cost of my British Columbia Medical Services (medical insurance) included in that, at a cost of $70 per month. If you are staying in Canada for longer than six months, it is a requirement for you to purchase BCMSP. This covers any doctor visits and necessary medical work (I caught pneumonia during the summer and required three chest x-rays, several follow-up visits and check-ups. This was all covered). Medications are not covered through BCMSP, and you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket for these. If you are not staying longer than six months, Kwantlen International students are required to purchase the medical insurance through the school, at a cost of $180CAD+.

Outside of class time, I explored Vancouver and the lower mainland. Public transport is very effective in the area and I would recommend using it above anything else, as traffic in the area is at high volumes during the day and if you are living in the Surrey/Delta area (which is where Kwantlen is located), Vancouver will be 45minutes to 1 hour away by car at the best hours of the day; up to 2- 21/2 if you are driving during peak hours.  Most buses will arrive every 8-10 minutes during peak hours, and every half hour after 8:30pm in most areas. The Skytrain runs until 1am and is the easiest way to get around the area. The lower mainland had many large shopping centres, attractions and ways to occupy your time while you are there. These include (but aren't limited to).

  • Telus World of Science
  • Granville Island
  • Stanley Park
  • Lonsdale Quay
  • Cultas Lake Waterslides
  • Robson Street (a shopping mall strip in downtown Vancouver)
  • Gastown
  • Whistler Village
  • Grouse or Cypress Mountain

Also keep in mind that the American border into Washington State is close by and easy to access. Make sure you apply for an ESTA before travelling, so you will be able to cross into America. This will be about $14 and can be done online. You will require a visa waiver at the border, at a cost of $4-6 American dollars. If you are flying through America - you will need an ESTA. Even if your flight only connects through America and you will not be spending time inside the country/outside the airport, it is a legal requirement that you are in possession of an ESTA. Not having one can result in you being sent back to Australia before you even reach Canada, and it will be a black mark on your travel for a long time.

The academic highlight of my trip was discovering a love and passion for something I did not know I had. On a whim, I made the decision to enrol in an Archaeology course. It was this course that prompted me to stay for a second semester, now taking exclusively Anthropological subjects. Though my CQU degree is in Literature, I found a love for archaeology and now wish to return to University and complete a degree in Archaeology as a career goal.

In regards to travelling, I didn't venture very far into British Columbia, but I crossed the border into America several times and explored Seattle; my roommate and his family took me to the "warmest lake in Canada" for several days during the summertime. Just experiencing large cities and new scenery was a highlight, particularly during the change of seasons; watching flowers blooms, leaves change colour and of course, the winter snowfall. Trick-or-treating was definitely a major highlight, and I would recommend it to anyone who would be there at the time. Before participating in the exchange program, I had no experience with any kind of travelling, even outside of Queensland. I was not one to try new things and often preferred to spend time alone. Participating in the program gave me new life experiences and a newfound confidence in many aspects of life. In Canada, every different experience was something new. Even minor activities such as blackberry picking, snow angels, trick-or-treating and catching sight of new animals were important. As someone who was fairly introverted, the bustling major-city life of Vancouver was something that was both daunting and exciting. I feel as though the experience has made me more open and accepting as a person, with more tendencies to step outside my comfort zone.

There are a lot of important things to remember about Vancouver, however most things are fairly simple, such as

  • In Canada, you will be mostly expected to tip your servers. Tipping is not always expected, but is polite. If the service was bad, do not feel obligated, but it is usually something that is done.  Try to tip in cash if possible. If your service was okay, but could have been better, tip anywhere from 5-10%. Great service usually warrants a 10-15% tip, and if your service was above and beyond, 20% is the usual maximum.
  • Tax is not included on price tags. To my knowledge, this is only in British Columbia. If a price tag says $3.76, you will be expected to pay tax on that current price.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for directions or assistance. Many people are happy to help. Vancouver and the lower mainland is a very large place and it is incredibly easy to get turned around.
  • Be prepared for the weather. British Columbia is the least extreme of Canada when considering winter temperatures; however it can drop to anywhere as low as -10. Be prepared for snow if travelling for the Spring Semester (Jan-April), but snow and cold weather is likely during the Fall (Sept-Dec). If at all possible, wait to buy a winter jacket until you have arrived as the quality is better and more often than not, it will be cheaper.
  • Vancouver experiences heavy amounts of rain. Most of the year is overcast and wet. Many people visiting from countries with excessive amounts of sunshine (such as Australia) will experience a lack of Vitamin D, which can lead to depressive moods. Vitamin D supplements are a good way to remedy this.
  • Legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19. Two pieces of photo ID are required and some places will not accept Australia Driver's Licences as valid ID.
  • Try not to let one aspect of your travel outweigh the other. You are, first and foremost, there to study abroad. Don't let your courses slip out of control; but also don't let yourself be consumed in them to the point where you don't get a chance to really enjoy Vancouver. Find a key balance between courses and extra activities.
  • Canada has Daylight Savings. The Spring change will ruin your entire day by robbing you of an entire hour of sleep and confusing your body clock to no end. In the Fall, the hours "Fall back" and you gain another hour. Be sure to make note of when this will occur.

Overall, the Exchange experience has given me a new perspective on life and opened up a lot of doors to me that I hadn't considered before. It is an experience you will definitely not regret and I would recommend it for everyone who is looking to get out and experience the world.