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Study Abroad

International Services for Students

Exchange Testimonial: Paris, France

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

By Justine Micheli Mallou , Exchange to Institut d’études politiques de Paris

August 21st, 2013 marks the departure date that soon changed the course of my undergraduate career at Simon Fraser University. I am a third-year student in the French Cohort Program pursuing a double major in Political Science and French. Making the preliminary choice of destination is one of the most important decisions of my exchange experience. There are three main reasons for which I chose Sciences Po in Paris, France. Firstly, it was the desire for pure academic challenge. As a world-renowned Grande École, Sciences Po is one of the top French universities in France which classifies as a leading institution in Social Sciences and Humanities.. Secondly, because the main campus is located in the heart of Paris, I was reassured that on top of taking a full-course load in French, I would also have the opportunity to immerse myself in French culture by living within the central metropolis of the Parisian periphery. Lastly, I had also envisioned creating and establishing numerous ties through meeting different students from all over the world.

During my one-year formal exchange in France, I was aiming for a more enriched and cultural experience where I would have an opportunity to communicate with the local people. I also wanted to improve my spoken French so I rented a duplex to live with a host family. To say the least, my experience was definitely different compared to the majority of Canadian students living either at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP) or those renting a studio with a roommate. I had a fulfilling experience with my host family because they treated me as one of their own and that gave me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in French culture. It was not too long after I realized that being a resident in France is completely different than being a visitor. Tourists who visit Paris for the weekend don’t have the same experiences as the local citizens. While we may all think that Paris is the city of lights and that almost everyone eats a buttered croissant and coloured macaroons for breakfast underneath the Eiffel Tower, the reality of living behind this colourful expectation can be easily hidden. Just like any other city, everyone works hard to make a living – or as the French would say, to win their life.

Having been granted the opportunity to study and live in France was beyond a dream come true. In an academic level, the bar was raised high and to say the least, I was challenged. I was faced with students who mastered the art of exposés. Nonetheless, it was with great pleasure to have been surrounded with like-minded and ambitious students who strive hard to reach their goal. I learned so much not only about international relations but also about intercultural relations through the social exchanges I’ve made with my peers. In fact, one year of formal exchange is already a first-hand experience of diplomacy and exploration. In a personal level, I was encouraged to further develop an open-minded spirit in order to absorb the uniqueness and the diversity of the cultural differences between my peers and myself. I learned the importance of liberty and independence and realized the value of stepping out of my bubble to discover the beauty that lies somewhere once unknown. If you are reflecting about taking part on an exchange program, I can assure you that the best decisions are made when you feel that you will be put outside your comfort zone. Taken from the words of Theodore Roosevelt himself, “Believe you can do it, and you’re halfway there”.

Exchange Testimonial: Bangkok, Thailand

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Exchange to Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Hi, I’m HaiRun Huang and I am on exchange here at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, from January to May. The first thing that caught my attention is the way that people smile in this city. People here always seem to have a smile on their face and seeing this puts me at ease and makes me feel less stressed. Another pleasant thing about Thailand is the weather being so warm all the time; the temperature is around 30oC every day.

Our orientation was postponed due to the protest undergoing near the school area, and the welcome party was also cancelled due to the same reason, which was disappointing at first. However, as soon as classes started, I felt satisfied, especially when I had three professors from England, United States and Thailand, all of whom are very nice and friendly. Each professor made a lot of interesting examples when teaching the principles and theories because each of them have precious, in-field working experience dealing with businesses in Asia.

So far, I have made a lot of friends with other exchange students from Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. We also formed a small Chinese learning club at Chula because a lot of Chula students majoring in International Business are interested in learning Chinese. We figured out a time and place to help them practice Chinese and in return, we can also new things about Thailand from them.

The cafeteria on campus is quite spacious, and you can buy your lunch at a very low price of 30 baht, which is like $1 CDN. They also provide fresh fruits and have coffee shops, all of which are super cheap. In all, Thailand is a beautiful country and needs to be explored. I hope to see more of Thailand during my exchange term!

Exchange Testimonial: Malmö, Sweden

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

By Loren Ha, Exchange to Malmö University, Sweden

Nearing the end of my exchange semester (or for many others, the start of theirs) in Malmö, southern Sweden, I’m happy to say that my experience has gone far better than I could have ever imagined. Because of the terrific orientation program that Malmö
University provides, I was already in Malmö by August 13th, more than 2 weeks before classes began and less than an hour after arriving, I was already at my first scheduled information meeting, learning about my new school, life in Malmö and getting the keys to my dorm. The next few weeks were filled with Swedish lessons, information sessions and organized activities where I got to meet the people that I would become friends with for the next 5 months. Some highlights include eating crayfish at one of the largest crayfish parties in the world during the annual Malmöfestivalen, exploring the surrounding region on a bus tour and trying out some local varieties of food stuffs available at the local supermarkets.

I began my first official class at Malmö University as September rolled around. The credit system is a little different in Sweden and 30 ECTS credits make up a full-time course load. I was enrolled in two 15-credit courses in the beginning of the semester but each was only a few weeks long so the second class didn’t begin until the first finished in mid-November; this meant taking only one class at a time— a very refreshing change from your typical study regiment. I learned about “co-design” or participatory design, a uniquely Scandinavian approach to solving design issues and quickly saw how my time would be divided for the next few weeks. It varied, but on most weeks there were only 2 days of classes; however I found myself meeting up with my group almost every day to work on our group project which involved cumulative milestones that eventually led to our final presentation. One of the “workshops” that we ran was even featured on school’s website (http://www.mah.se/Nyheter/Nyheter-2013/Design-for-att-paverka/) after it was tweeted out by a local business partner we worked with and retweeted by the Malmö City Twitter handle.

Of course, being in Europe on exchange means traveling around as well and not just staying in your dorm all day! So far I’ve been to ten different countries and my highlights include: going to Saint Petersburg, Russia, taking 2 overnight ferries to get there and visiting Stockholm and Helsinki on the way; visiting Finnish Lapland to see the Northern Lights, ride on a husky safari and venturing into a small village in Norway to swim in the Arctic Ocean; and finally, celebrating new years with my closest friends at one of their homes in the small city of Esslingen, Germany and watching the most amazing display fireworks I’ve ever experienced atop a hill overlooking the city.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and even more about other people and their cultures. If you are thinking of doing an exchange, do it! You will learn more about planning, organization and financial management on exchange than in most of your classes. Managing your time to squeeze in as much travel as possible while balancing school, learning to pack just the essentials so that it fits in just one carry-on bag, finding the most cost-effective way to get from point A to point B, watching your savings dwindle down to dangerous lows while budgeting for the next few months—none of which are easy tasks but what you gain in doing each is invaluable and also highly useful.

Exchange Testimonial: Czech Republic

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

By Becky Ross, Exchange to University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic

My Spring 2013 semester was spent at the University of Economics, Prague in the Czech Republic. The most amazing three months took place in Prague from February to May, followed by an additional two months spent travelling around Europe.

I believe Prague is the most beautiful city. When I first arrived, I was worried that I would be very unhappy there; it was freezing and I was extremely jetlagged. However, two weeks in and I had already fallen in love with the city.

Czech people can seem unfriendly (which many guidebooks and websites had warned me about), but you get used to it and you shouldn’t take anything personally. Communication can be a challenge as many Czech people speak very little English, or none at all. The younger generation has a much stronger grasp of the English language than the older generation, but you can still get by without too much trouble. For instance, it can be hard in restaurants because some of them will only have a Czech menu and the servers may not speak English well. It helps if you are able to recognize some of the basic Czech words (e.g. chicken, beef, vegetables, etc.) because at least then you will have an idea of what you’re ordering. Beware – Czech food is very meat-oriented.

While on exchange, I did weekend trips to Krakow, Poland; Berlin and Dresden, Germany; and Budapest, Hungary. I didn’t travel that much compared to some of my friends, but these trips were some of the highlights of my semester. It’s such an amazing experience to travel to new destinations with new friends on exchange.

Keeping in touch with the friends you make on exchange is very important. I have made some lifelong friends and even though it was hard to leave them, I can’t wait until I get to see them again (whenever that may be)! I have met people from all over the globe and I feel like no matter where I travel in the future, I will have a friend close by.

Exchange Testimonial: France–Weekend in Portugal

Monday, October 7th, 2013

By Layla Clarkson, Exchange to Sciences Po Paris, France

If I was in Vancouver and my best friend asked me if I wanted to fly to Edmonton, Alberta for a weekend trip, I would have questioned her sanity. And yet when my new friend in Paris suggested we go to Porto, Portugal for the weekend, a similar distance apart as Vancouver to Edmonton, I immediately told her to, “Sign me up, buttercup.”

Perhaps I was so inclined to go to Porto because it is a beautiful city entirely different from Paris, and because the flights were reasonably priced too. But the root of my decision to go had to do with the little bit of adventure that develops inside every exchange student. And living in Europe there is an expectation to liberate this sense of adventure by travelling often.

I went to Porto with seven other girls from Sciences Po, and it marked my first hostel experience. The hostel had hardwood floors, a modern rooftop terrace and a view overlooking the city. I was told not to expect all hostels to be this gorgeous, but for now I am very comfortable envisioning that this is the way they are. For a little trip we covered a lot of ground; city exploring, market browsing, Port tasting, pastry eating, beach relaxing, and so on. The area where we stayed in was old, with rusty orange roofs and churches from a different lifetime ago. The city was not at all ritzy like what I’ve become accustomed to in Paris–it had its own character that might be described as colorful and laidback.

One of the things I liked the most about the city was the friendliness of the locals who offered us directions when we were lost and wanted to socialize. At night, the young people of the area get together in a square before going out, and we joined them. In this meeting spot, we found our waiter from lunch and we got to know our tour guide from earlier in the day as well. In contrast, bonding with the Parisian locals is difficult; many are sheltered and protective of the groups they already have.

When the trip was over I went straight from the airport to my French test at school… big backpack, airplane clothes and all (a fashion faux pas at stylish Sciences Po). I didn’t do that well on the test, which was a wakeup call I needed. That little adventure inside us exchange students has led me to focus less on my classes, even though I really enjoy them. I am trying now to be more on top of my studies, while still keeping my sense of adventure. Everything is one lesson at a time, c’est la vie after all.

Exchange Testimonial: France–SFU Student Settles in to Life in Paris

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

By Layla Clarkson, Exchange to Sciences Po Paris, France

Before I left for France I would lie awake in bed and try to picture what my trip would be like. I imagined meeting new people and exploring the city, but none of the images in my mind were concrete. This is because I truly didn’t have a clue as to what Paris would be like. Now I am seeing it all firsthand, and it is so much more than I ever expected.

Getting here was the hard part. Applying for my study Visa and trying to get accepted into student housing in Paris was difficile. I am living in a residence separate from Sciences Po called Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris or, as it is more commonly known, ‘Cité U’. The residence is divided into different houses based on nationalities; fittingly I am at Canada House or La Maison des Étudiants Canadiens. To get in, I called and emailed over 15 times for a status on my application followed by more calls and emails to convince them to offer me a room. Often when it comes to French administration, they tend to respond to those who are persistent, and luckily I have some grit in my genes. I had to make a strong case for why I should be here, and for that I was successful. I have had the same experience trying to get into certain classes at Sciences Po. The administrative processes are long and grueling but it is something I will have to get used to, just like the stores closing at lunch time and the French keyboards. But when in Paris do as the Parisians do. Wrong quote? I think I already have visits to Rome on my mind.

Overall from what I’ve seen, the City of Light is beautiful and full of life. I’ve floated down the Seine River on a boat cruise, walked by Notre Dame (no hunchback spotted), discovered a different bar every night, and I have attended class at my posh school in its posh neighbourhood.

The crème colored buildings are historic and lovely; the details on each balcony are uniquely French. But beyond this, I want to focus on how lucky I feel to have already made friends through the Welcome Programme to share these new experiences with.

I’m still in awe about living in Paris, and I do not think it has hit me that I’ve left BC. No homesickness yet, just excitement to bring on the unexpected.

Exchange Testimonial: France—SFU Student Begins Her Journey

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

By Layla Clarkson, Exchange to Sciences Po Paris, France

I knew I was destined to travel to France again ever since I went on a short exchange to Nice, France in high school. It was during my first year at SFU that I began researching study abroad opportunities to get me back to the country of baguettes and berets. Now I am happy to share that I’ve been nominated for two terms as an exchange student to study at Sciences Po in Paris.

This September will mark the beginning of my third year of undergraduate studies in Communication and International Studies. I’m passionate about Nutella crepes, writing and foreign affairs… perhaps in that order.

I’ll arrive in Paris on August 21st and will be blogging regularly about my experience overseas. In fact, I’m no stranger to the blogging world. Previously, I blogged for the Victoria Times Colonist and Hero Holiday website when I embarked on a volunteer trip to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico and helped build houses for families in need.

I also frequently blogged and wrote travel articles in my time as a Public Relations Coordinator for AIESEC SFU. In addition, I was the Faculty Representative on the SFU Communication Student Union (CMNSU) where I ensured that content covered in the school meetings was reported back to the CMNSU and Communication undergraduate students–often via blogging for the CMNSU website.

Stay tuned for updates and photos from what is bound to be my exciting exchange in Paris!

Exchange Testimonial: Fiji

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

By Rosemarie Perkin, Exchange to University of the South Pacific, Fiji

I didn’t expect my exchange in Fiji to be like it was. But when I think about it, I really didn’t have any expectations. I knew it’d be warm, I knew it would be different in many ways from living in Canada and I knew I’d be challenging myself.

Being able to study abroad for two semesters was amazing. It gave me enough time to experience and embrace the culture, make friends with locals and internationals, see the country and neighbouring countries, improve my sailing, hiking and diving skills and, of course, learn in my classes. I really enjoyed having the time for friends and family to visit so I could fuse what feels like two different lives together.

It’s the experiences that I will remember the most.  Being able to watch the sunset and play cards at the top of a mountain overlooking Suva with four new friends, making my first few friends at the university’s paddling club and feeling welcomed, and being screamed at to “Sail better!” by my coach even though he was less than a metre away from me were ones I won’t forget.

•   Scuba diving for the first time and diving in reefs that looked better than pictures in the National Geographic, drinking Kava on my Marine Biology field trip with my classmates and meeting friendly Fijians in my classes were incredible experiences – as was learning how to make and prepare traditional food on a friend’s farm,

•   watching Fiji win rugby sevens with my entire dorm and feeling like I knew everyone in Suva and everyone knew me.

I still miss  eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner, enjoying beautiful sunsets while standing on top of a sand dune and giving up on umbrellas and raincoats, and embracing the rain.

The pineapple was nice, the beaches were great, but what will really bring me back is being able to see the smiles on the faces of the friends I made and got to know over the year once again.

Exchange Testimonial: Malaysia

Friday, July 5th, 2013

By Marton Jalkoczi, Exchange to Monash University–Sunway Campus Selangor, Malaysia

My exchange semester at Monash University’s Sunway campus has officially ended on the 4th of July in the warm and sunny Sunway City.

As the first SFU student to spend an exchange term in Malaysia, I will never regret my choice.

Malaysia is an amazing and peaceful country with delicious food and friendly people. It is “Truly Asia,” meaning that its population is comprised of 60% Malays, 30% Chinese and

7% Indians. As a result, all these amazing cultures have a strong presence in the country. In addition to that, Malaysia is blessed with such a flourishing economy, that its economic growth has impressed many nations. Malaysia, as a former British colony, is a nation where English is widely used and spoken in public places. However, Sunway Campus offers classes for its students learn the Malay language.

Monash University is based in Australia and is famous for its high quality education. I am proud to have been a Monashian for a few months. Given the Australian connection, I was able to get to know a lot of fellow exchange students from Australia and exposed myself to various cultures at the same time.

Sunway Campus hosts a myriad of active student clubs. Never have I seen such enthusiasm and activism from students!

The Orientation Bash, organized by the Monash University Student Association, took place at a beach in Port Dickson. The freshmen students were divided into groups that played games on the white sand of the seaside. It was fun but the nearly 40 celsius heat made all of us aware of the Malaysian climate where winter is non-existent.

The Kuala Lumpur tour enabled us to get to know the dazzling capital of Malaysia. Stopping at the Royal Palace, KL Tower, Petaling Street Market, KLCC shopping mall, and the Petronas Twin Towers made the long walks all worthwhile.

I joined the Green Representative Network during club days and we organized a beach cleaning and mangrove tree planting event at the Bagan-Lalang beach near Sepang. It was

interesting to find out more about the local ecosystems and religious rituals practiced at the seaside.

Another club, The Monash Adventure Club organized a two-day trip to the Chilling Waterfalls. Sleeping in the middle of the jungle in a tent is something I will remember for as long as I live.

Malaysia has a lot to offer; warm climate, friendly people, delicious food, paradise-like beaches and tropical jungles with all the creatures that only show up in our nightmares. It is a wonderful country to visit and if you have the chance, explore it. Just leave your winter coats in Vancouver.

Exchange Testimonial: France

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

By Sarah Marriott, Exchange to Sciences Po Paris, France

With 31 days to go before the end of my year abroad at Sciences Po Paris, I started to appreciate just how much I’ve settled into my neighbourhood and all the little things I’m going to miss. On the list is Kristoff, “my” hairdresser. It’s always a bit of an adventure getting a haircut in a foreign language (French-English dictionaries are your friends – you don’t want anything lost in translation). But in France, it’s a full on cultural experience.

The day was Good Friday and like any good Parisian, Kristoff was heading off early to enjoy an Easter long weekend in the country. Thus, when I arrived for my noon appointment he was enjoying his lunch, complete with a glass of wine, which he continued to sip as he cut my hair (with much panache as always) and bopped back and forth doing la bise (the French two-cheek kiss) with all the customers who come into the shop – “Bonjour Madame Gingras!” And of course he poured me a glass too and I got the low down on all the distinguished older ladies getting their perfect French blowouts around me (and getting crêpes hand delivered to them from the crêperie next door).

Other very stereotypical topics of conversation included: 1. the forced repatriation of Roma to Romania (accompanied by 300 euros each from the French government) (see BBC) – much “ohhhh la la-ing” ensued (the French version of tut-tutting) 2. the recent hold up of an entire metro car by 16 teenagers (see France 24) and 3. President Hollande’s speech on the TV the night before in which he didn’t say very much at all (Kristoff said he was much too busy on the phone with his friends discussing what kind of cheese they were going to bring for their weekend away). Needless to say, I spent most of my appointment trying not to laugh. Oh la France! It’s going to be lovely, but very, very strange to come home.