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Study Abroad

International Services for Students

Exchange Testimonial: Maastricht, Netherlands

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Hi, I’m Sonam Swarup and I am on exchange here at Maastricht University in Maastricht, Netherlands from August to December.  So far my experience has been amazing. In the short time I have spent here, I’ve fallen in love with the city and the way of life here. I sometimes have to pinch myself that I am actually living in Europe. That said, here is a brief overview of my experience (so far) living in Maastricht.

The people: One of the other main characteristics of Dutch people I found is that they’re very down-to-earth and have a great sense of humor. When meeting a Dutch person, it’s very common to shake hands or when you know someone better, to give that person three ‘kisses’ on the cheeks (alternate each side).

The language: As it is an open and internationally-oriented country, almost everyone can understand English. That doesn’t mean that the locals won’t appreciate it when you, as a foreigner, try to speak Dutch. You’ll probably find though that people tend to rapidly switch to English, since they feel that is easier to speak to you.

The city: Maastricht is a beautiful city. It is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. As you walk down the city you can see traces of its Roman beginnings, remains of the medieval fortified city and religious centre of pilgrimage that it once was. Maastricht has a very rich cultural life with a variety of museums, art galleries, and performing arts schools. It is also situated on the border of Belgium and Germany, which makes it easy to take daytrips to sister cities like Aachen and Liège.

The food: The Dutch are very open to other cultures; something that reflects on the cuisine as well. Traditionally, a standard evening meal would consist of potatoes, vegetables and a piece of meat, but foreign products and ingredients are more and more added to the daily cooking (especially Indonesian cuisine). That said, there are some amazing Dutch snacks that I have found myself nibbling on these days like: stroopwafels, fries and mayo, and appeltaart.

The campus: The campus is divided all throughout the city. The university is known for its Problem-Based Learning (PBL) teaching methods. It is a highly student-centered, rather than teacher-centered approach in which independent learning is stimulated and rewarded. I would say that the workload is similar to SFU. Maastricht University attracts students from around the world, so it’s interesting to have various nationalities and perspectives in one classroom.

Although I don’t question that the other exchange programs at other partner universities may be as wonderful as the one in Maastricht, I would trade nothing for the experiences that I have gained thus far at this beautiful university and city. I look forward to continuing sharing with you my experiences while I near the end of my time here.

Exchange Testimonial: Hong Kong, China

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

By Maria Camila Rincon, Exchange to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

My Summer exchange trip to Hong Kong was one of the main highlights of my university career at SFU. I’m very thankful I was able to learn a language in a new city and university, while meeting so many international students and making new friends. My trip to Hong Kong made me realize how much I love being in a fast-paced city and that I want to continue my career there one day.

Classroom: The classroom environment was small (SFU tutorial style) and very fast-paced. The professor was enthusiastic, engaging, and very encouraging. We had quizzes every week, weekly assignments, and a final exam. I took a language course in Cantonese (lower division elective). The professor taught in English and Cantonese. Classes were 3 times a week for 2.5 hours each.

Campus: Very beautiful and reminds me of SFU because it is also situated on a mountain! Swimming pool, recreation and gym facilities were available for students. This university has its own MTR train station so it is very convenient to get anywhere. Be careful of mosquitoes during the Summer (there are so many because it’s such a green campus).

I highly recommend coming to The Chinese University of Hong Kong for an exchange program and exploring the amazing city of Hong Kong. Be prepared to try new foods, explore the city, its nightlife, and shop! I did not personally live on campus, but heard great things about it. Two people share a dorm, and the buildings are new! Air conditioning, internet, and phone access are available in each room. The variety of food in Hong Kong is incredible and everything is delicious! However, the same can not be said for the university’s cafeterias. The food is mediocre and there are not a lot of vegetarian options. Your best friend will be the Maxim’s Restaurant (HK style cafe) at the university MTR train station. Two train stations from the university is the biggest mall of the area called New Town Plaza which has all the stores you can think of PLUS lots of food choices, including: Pizza Hut, Japanese food, Dim Sum restaurants, McDonald’s, Ruby Tuesday, huge cafeterias, and Chinese food restaurants. However, there is a must-try: the very famous Lemon Pie at the University that students rave about!

I highly recommend coming to The Chinese University of Hong Kong for an exchange program and exploring the amazing city of Hong Kong. Be prepared to try new foods, explore the city, its nightlife, and shop!

Exchange Testimonial: Paris, France

Monday, September 8th, 2014

By Enrique Velazquez Lopez, Exchange to Sciences Po, Paris, France

My exchange took place in Sciences Po, Paris, France during the Spring 2014 semester. While my academic program with Sciences Po ended in early May, my exchange experience does not feel like it’s over, especially because I have developed meaningful relationships with French and international students and people that I met during my stay in Paris with whom I remain in contact.

Overall, my semester in Sciences Po, Paris was very exciting and fulfilling. I learnt a lot and became more confident, flexible, tolerant, independent, and mature. I constantly pushed myself out my comfort zone since I was faced with many challenges that I was not used to in my daily life, such as adapting to Sciences Po modus operandi, familiarizing myself with France and Paris, learning French, and making new friends.

All the planning and resources involved to make my exchange possible made me more organized. Also, all that work paid off, and I could not have invested my time and energy better. I will never forget this experience, and I will always cherish the friendships I made. Moreover, I expanded my academic knowledge and skills since Sciences Po offers a competitive and intellectual atmosphere, which is excellent for networking as well. Although it was not easy to adapt to a new place, the end result was wonderful, unique and exciting.

I recommend to future exchange students to always remain open to all kinds of opportunities, to be positive even when feeling disoriented, lonely, and nostalgic from home, and to focus on making the most out of your exchange because time flies and you will miss it so much when it is over. Hope new students enjoy and learn from the exchange experience at Sciences Po, Paris as much as I did or even more.

Exchange Testimonial: Brighton, England

Friday, September 5th, 2014

By Bianca Lucken, Exchange to University of Sussex, Brighton, England

My experience studying at the University of Sussex was unforgettable. Brighton was beautiful and enchanting with its unique pubs and quaint shops, and the campus was picturesque with rolling pastures just three steps away from my door. However, some of my best memories weren’t spent on campus or in Brighton, but rather, travelling abroad with friends. It was a surreal experience to meet people from across the globe at the University of Sussex. Within a week of knowing each other, we already planned trips for periods up to 3 weeks in length. At the end, I realized that my exchange wasn’t about the academics or living abroad; it was about self-growth and the relationships I fostered. I probably found out more about myself in those 6 months than I ever have. I discovered what I enjoy doing and with whom I can enjoy them.

I learned to take chances and, most importantly, how to be responsible for myself. England provided me the opportunity to visit over 8 countries and create my own agenda. It was not up to anyone else but myself to ensure my safety and my happiness. I really learned how to make decisions for myself and not just follow someone else’s lead.

The trips I enjoyed the most was the weekend in London where we explored the side streets, watched the sunset disappear behind Big Ben, and walked across London Bridge which was alit with red twinkle lights for Valentine’s Day. I also enjoyed the week in Greece where I drove an ATV along the coast of Mykonos. Prior to that, I spent two weeks in Portugal and Italy, visited famous churches in Paris with a friend from home, and shared drinks in a pub in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s those memories that I will cherish forever. It could not have happened if I wasn’t in an environment with like-minded peers at the University of Sussex.

Exchange Testimonial: Adelaide, South Australia

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

By Karen Ho, Exchange to Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia

My exchange trip to Adelaide in South Australia was amazing. I came across so many great and friendly people with whom I plan to remain in contact. I truly encourage everyone to take this fantastic opportunity to do an exchange trip because it allows you to immerse yourself deeply into a culture – something you can’t do when you’re travelling as a tourist.

I got along very well with my housemates in Flinders Living. I chose to live in the units, which is more modern and felt more like a shared apartment. We clicked almost immediately and we felt like a real family. We laughed a lot and even had dinner together and watched TV.

In terms of their culture, it seemed to be a blend between British and American. Something interesting I found out when I was there is that Australia is made of up convicts that came from Britain, with the exception of South Australia. And yes, footy is a huge thing and if you do end up in Adelaide, their showdown (Adelaide Crows vs. Port Adelaide) is a huge thing. I was very fortunate to have tickets to attend it – it was definitely an experience of a lifetime! Not surprisingly, there was a fight that broke out right beside where I was. Luckily, police were present and no one got badly injured.

Adelaide itself is fairly small. I would say it’s somewhere between a small city and a larger town. Since I lived on campus which was quite central, I could take the bus to the more populated areas in a short amount of time. The largest mall was about a 5-minute bus ride away, while the nearest beach was about 20 minutes away. Downtown, which they refer to as the central business district (CBD), is approximately 40 minutes away from the university. Flinders University feels very similar to SFU, especially because it is on a mountain.

My takeaway from this trip and advice for future students going to Adelaide, or Australia, is to leave travelling to the end of semester. If you leave it to the end, then you can budget yourself throughout the semester and not have to worry about how much you are spending ahead of time. It is very possible to do that. I went to Sydney for a few days during the mid-semester break but did not enjoy it as much as I enjoyed Melbourne, Cairns, and Brisbane (including Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast) which I visited at the end of the semester. This is because I had projects and was involved in other work during the mid-semester break, so I didn’t have the chance to fully enjoy myself in Sydney.

Exchange Testimonial: Paris, France

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

By Justine 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.