International Services for Students
I arrived late on February 7, 2012 (because classes there don’t begin until late February) and my Exchange Buddy picked me up from the airport and took me to my dorm. The Buddy System affiliated with the university is excellent, as the buddies must pick up all foreign students from the airport and help them get settled in the first few days. My buddy took me to the grocery store, showed me around Prague, took me to the police station to get my student visa authorized (required by law in Prague) and took me on a tour of the university. The system also offers weekend trips to Poland, Germany, Austria and other countries. Furthermore, the Buddy System coordinators also arrange a party every Tuesday (“Nation 2 Nation”) at a different bar or club. Each week is hosted by a different country, and includes a short presentation created by student representatives from each country. Almost all exchange students – and many Czech students – attend these parties and they were often the highlight of my week.
Prague is a beautiful, fairy-tale city that offers many activities. I recommend visiting Prague Castle, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, Petrin Hill and the Prague Zoo. When the weather warms up, it is fun to rent a pedal boat on the Vltava River with some friends and see the city from the water. There is also an abundance of cafes, restaurants, and underground jazz and blues bars to go to, with amazing architecture and a cozy atmosphere that is distinctive in Europe. For artsy students, the opera and ballet are quite inexpensive in Prague, and very well done. Similarly, I recommend a visit to the Black Light Theatre: it is unlike any show I had ever seen before, and it is mesmerizing. If you are adventurous, the Buddy System offers a Sky Diving trip that is a great rush.
The classes I took at the university were extremely easy; the professors are very lenient when it comes to exchange students. They required little work (especially compared to SFU) and were easy to get to. The university is 10-15 minutes away from the dorms by tram, and the city is 15-20 minutes away. The transportation system is excellent as the city is quite small, and the tram station is located right outside the dormitories.
If you are going to study in Prague, I believe that living in the dorms is the only way to go. Brace yourself: they are not nice but they are very cheap. I loved being able to run downstairs and knock on my friends’ doors. I did not even need a cell phone because it was so easy to get ahold of them. It was truly a refreshing break away from technology.
As I expected, there were a few challenges that accompanied my exchange. Not everyone speaks English in Prague, so pointing at menus becomes a most useful skill. Also, if you are going to be taking a taxi, be sure to write down the address to ensure the driver knows where to take you. Overall, the idea of being alone in a foreign country sounds scarier than it is. There is plenty of support for exchange students and I am sure that you will find it to be an experience that cannot be matched. I found that because I was alone, and surrounded by people in the same boat as me, it was very easy to connect with people and make lifelong friends that I cannot wait to see again.
Join us in the James Douglas Safe Study Area on January 15th to view the winning photos of this year’s ISS Photo Contest. This is also a great opportunity to meet with student participants of the contest, International Services for Students staff and representatives from SFU faculties and departments. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, this event is a great place to start your research (in addition to seeing some really amazing photos)!
After receiving more than 400 entries, we finally have our winners for the 2012 ISS Photo Contest! All photos submitted are from students who have gone away on, or are currently abroad on an Exchange, Field School or International Co-op opportunity.
Check out the winners and all other submissions on the Photo Contest website. Thanks to all who participated and hopefully this will spark your interest in studying, working or volunteering abroad!
Leah Bjornson spent six weeks in Senegal as a participant in Uniterra’s 2012 International Seminar. She, along with 10 other Canadian students, participated in a cultural exchange with twelve Senegalese students. The students collaborated on and conducted field research on the topics of youth employability, food security, and the social and solidarity economy.
When the sun stretches its final shadows down the barren, sand-filled lanes of Ramadan’s humid summer evenings, the Call to Prayer echoes across the rooftops and the people of Dakar wake. After a day of abstention from food and water in the sweltering heat, the believers “coupe le jeûne” with friends and family and are revived. By the time the sun has completely set, the stillness of the streets is broken with the hum of activity and chatter. For the next thirty days, this holy month will turn day into night and night into day.
There is a mystical beauty present during the nights of Ramadan that evokes a sense of wonder in the visiter. After a day spent trekking from district to district under the glare of the hot noonday sun, cracked lips licked with dry tongues and wrists heavy from constantly checking the time in hopes that the hour hand might suddenly leap ahead, the Call to Prayer ignites a feeling of fraternity and faith that radiates as brightly as the sun and spreads just as quickly as dawn across the city. At this point, I’d spent four weeks in Senegal as a participant in Uniterra’s research seminar, but I’d never felt as much a part of their world as I did during Ramadan. It seemed that strangers and friends alike looked at me anew; Not only was there a new sense of respect between us, but a new sense of appreciation.
While it takes time to adapt to the honeycomb of taxi routes, the goat directed garbage system, or the fanatically welcoming inhabitants of the city, the nights of Ramadan are what turn the world upside down. The dimly lit streets that fade into midnight-black alleys buzz with activity. Youth, who had slept the day away, flitter from stall to stall, quenching their thirst with packets of water, while older men gather to chuckle amongst friends and recline on plastic crates or concrete store fronts. On those nights, we can be found on the rooftop of the Auberge, laughing while searching the hazy night below for early morning wanderers until the moon has chased the day across the sky.
Soon enough, the clock jumps ahead and it’s already 5am. Just as dusk’s prayer ends the fast, so too does the morning chant begin it for another day. But while dawn may reclaim the shadowy enclaves from the night, it cannot take back the people’s continued faith which renews each night with the setting of the sun.
Interested in studying abroad? Come to India on a Field School!
India offers every visitor a vivid kaleidoscope of landscapes, magnificent historical sites and royal cities, as well as a rich mix of cultures, traditions and artistic innovations. This Field School offers every participant a broad introduction to the Arts and Culture of Contemporary India.
The deadline for applications is coming up soon – September 30th. Apply now!
Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Location: North AQ, SFU Burnaby
Join us this September for the annual SFU GO Fair, hosted by International Services for Students. This is a large annual event where students can explore study abroad as well as international coop and volunteer options. This is your opportunity to meet students/faculty/staff who have been on an exchange or field school and to hear about their experiences.
By Kelly Rowland, Exchange to Monash University, Australia
I absolutely fell in love with Melbourne in the short time I spent there. It is, as many Melbournites are keen to remind you, “The Most Livable City In The World”. Melbourne is a huge sprawling city, with suburbs that go on forever, but it still manages to seem small. The city houses everything from old Victorian buildings, to new cutting edge skyscrapers, and lots and lots of green parks. Parks which always seemed to be in use, from the hordes that descend to run the track around the Botanical Gardens the cricket games that spring up, or the people like me who preferred lazing under a tree reading a book.
In my time abroad I opted to live off campus so I would be able to live closer to the city. I’m so glad I did! I was very lucky and was able to get an amazing flat within 10 minutes of the city core. I used that to my advantage as much as possible as it meant that I could easily take part in the endless sport and festivals that Melbourne is famous for. One of my favourite experiences was the Australian Rules Football (“Footy”) matches I was able to attend. Not only is the sport incredibly fun to watch, but Melbourne “Footy” fans take the sport very seriously and love to welcome in the initiated. At all the games I attended strangers were so excited to tell others about their favourite team, and teach you the chants so you could cheer alongside them.
Melbourne also always has amazing festivals going on. With festivals celebrating everything from beer to film, something was always being celebrated in the city. My absolute favourite was the renowned Melbourne Comedy Festival that ran from March through April. It took over the city and comedians were always on street corners trying to convince people to attend their shows. I loved all the crazy acts I was able to see and I felt like I learned a lot about Australia through seeing what makes them laugh (mostly it would seem, making fun of Tasmania). I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend in Melbourne. It was incredibly hard to leave, not only the fantastic friends I’d made, but also the city I had begun to call home.
My Week in Krakow
By Eva Szymczyk, Exchange to Sciences Po Lille, France
I chose France as my study abroad country in order to improve my French speaking abilities. I also selected Europe as my preferred continent because, outside of my nuclear family, all of my family still lives in Poland; I saw this experience as my opportunity to reconnect with them. My host university, Science Po University, is located in Lille, a quaint French city situated close to the Brussels border and only a 2-hour airplane-ride away from Krakow, a city located at the south of Poland. Lille’s close proximity to Krakow made my choice of spending Easter with my family an evident one.
I remember being so eager to pass some quality time with my family; I found it challenging to sit still the week before Easter. When I finally arrived in Krakow and embraced my aunt, for the first time in 2 years, I knew that this exchange to France was most definitely the correct decision. I spent the week in Poland baking and cooking an abundant amount of Polish delicacies and dishes. My cousin walked and drove me around the beautiful city of Krakow taking me to Wawel, a castle, the Sukiennice market, and the city centre. Throughout the week I was tracing my mother’s roots and learning about her childhood and lifestyle before her immigration. I felt like I was at home; I call it my home away from home, now.
Image top left: Walking through the main square in Poland, I remember feeling very content; Image middle right: My traditional Polish Easter basket filled with sausages, eggs, bread, horseradish sauce, chocolate as well as sheep, duck, and hen figurines; Image bottom left: Posing with my aunt and uncle on Easter Saturday.
By David Di Tomaso, Exchange to Macquarie University, Australia
Going on exchange to Sydney, Australia was probably one of my best experiences as university student. Before going to Sydney I had no idea of what the city had to offer me. But after being there for a couple of days, I realized that the city had so much to offer for people because it is the oldest/most developed city in Australia located in the state of New South Wales. Sydney is probably one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The most iconic suburb within Sydney is called “The Rocks” because that is where the harbor is (Darling Harbor, Sydney Harbor Bridge, the world famous opera house and the botanical gardens).
The best part of my exchange, though, was meeting people from all over the world. For example I met people from Australia, United Kingdom, United States, France, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Indonesia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey, Norway, Pakistan and Mexico. Australian culture is similar to Canada’s, although way more relaxed, but since I made close friends from all over the world I got to experience their cultures as well.
In terms of Macquarie University, the structure of classes is the same as at SFU (lectures and tutorials). The university, though, offers a lot of programs to exchange students such as cruises around the harbor, trips to the south coast, the blue mountains, Canberra (Australia’s capital city), Hunter Valley winery to name a few. The university also offers exchange students a chance to apply for an internship program. This program allows students to volunteer with a company and earn academic credit.
When I first started my degree at SFU, I had no idea that I was going to go on an exchange until I found the SFU International Services for Students. This department offers all students a chance to create an experience like this so make sure that you take advantage of what they have to offer you. Always take look for opportunities and pursue them.
Sydney is truly one of the BEST CITIES IN THE WORLD!