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!
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 Grace Chan, Exchange to Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
I notice that as I get older, I am more aware of how quickly time flies. Reflecting on when I was younger, I recall that six hours in Elementary School felt like an eternity. My birthday is also in June, which meant that for me, summer could never come soon enough. But today, every hour in a day is shorter, every week zips by, and as I sit in my room in Vancouver, I realized that already half the year has passed. As soon as it hit me, the one thing that came in my head was: what have the past six months meant to me? Did I accomplish any goals, meet new friends, or begin a new job? Needless to say, I soon decided that the greatest highlight of my year so far was the opportunity I had to move and study in Hong Kong this spring.
I could hardly contain my excitement when I first found out I had been nominated to participate in an exchange studies program in Hong Kong. I immediately called my parents to tell them and prepared for my departure months in advance. My mom suggested that I record all my experiences in Asia in a journal, but I had an even better idea: I wanted to create an online blog to share my adventures overseas with my family and friends back home. Since I was new at writing entries and have never kept a diary before, I promised to only try my best at expressing my feelings, mood and stories to my readers. Along with my unbelievably long posts, I also included copious amounts of photographs from my travels. If there is one thing that I would recommend for future exchange students, it would be to start a blog. Not only was it encouraging and touching to read my friend’s comments and their updates, but years from now, my blog will be a wonderful reminder of my journey and memories in Hong Kong.
Unlike many exchange students, I did not stay in the university dormitory but rather lived with my grandmother. I did not mind these arrangements; however, I do believe that my experience as an exchange student was comparably different to others. My mom persuaded me to live with my grandmother and reasoned that we have not spent enough time with her in the past when we visited in the summer. Although we went to dinner together, our conversations were always short and never got very close. Since my experience in Hong Kong this spring, I cannot emphasize how life changing our relationship has been.
Given the chance, I could probably sit and talk for hours about the stories my grandmother and I had. I never expected that my grandmother would share information about her personal feelings, her modest upbringing, and her painful memories with me. What a stark difference this was from the past. One of the most intriguing qualities about my grandmother is her effort and concern over small details. For instance, if my grandmother knew I had an exam coming up, she would make soup that was traditionally known to help replenish the body and boost energy in one’s brain. Or when she realized I had two hours until my next class, she would purposely walk to my school and take me out to lunch so that I did not have do wait alone. I am truly moved by my grandmother’s actions and I appreciate her so much in my life. Although I may not have experienced the typical “dorm life” that other students may have, I did become a lot closer with my grandmother and that is a memory I would never exchange.
Life in Lund – An unexpected dream come true
By Kathy Tse, Exchange to Lund University, Sweden
Sitting on the bench outside of the main building of Lund University, Sweden, on one Friday morning, I looked to the right to see a girl peddling through with her bicycle holding a bag of groceries. She was smiling brilliantly while doing so, and beside her another girl was commenting about the good weather. Not far to the left, I hear the sound of birds chirping and another bicycle making its way through town. The smell of flowers was still present in the air and I could hear the slow rustling of the leaves as the gentle breeze blew against the trees. And I thought to myself, “What a wonderful place!”
Lund University, established in 1666, is one of Scandinavia’s oldest and largest institutions, specializing in education and research. It has consistently been ranked amongst the world’s top 100 universities, and has an extensive internationalization strategy, one component being its international exchange program. The main campus, which is the one that I attend, is situated in Lund, where vibrant student life could be found in every corner of the city, as most students tend to find accommodation here.
Having arrived in Lund for a little over a month’s time, I have come to realize that I have already made this city my home. The culture, people, classes, and experiences that I have gained thus far have become one of the fundamental driving forces of my everyday life here in Sweden. Every single day, I look forward to learning something new, and every single day, I do learn something new!
Of course, sometimes the experiences come as cultural shocks. Such as the realization that everything in Sweden is only in Swedish (street signs, labels, food packaging etc.), the fact that there is a queue for almost everything, the hard-to-comprehend truth that shops do not open on Sundays, the agony I experienced while trying to choose which milk to buy (in Sweden you can easily find over 20 different types of milk in a supermarket-including the different fat levels for the same type of milk), and the critical moment when I almost entered into the male washroom because the Swedish word for “Mr.” is “Herr”.
The weather was also very poor during the first few weeks as there was strong wind and sudden down pour of rain.
But all this has been offset by the amazing people I’ve met from all over the world (Germany, France, Belgium, Turkey, Netherlands, Australia, Bolivia, Singapore, US, Japan, Hong Kong, and, of course, Sweden), the fun international activities organized by the school nations (these are basically student clubs), school trips, cultural events such as the Malmo Festival and Kulturan Night, singing Swedish songs in our SUSA level one Swedish language course, having Fika with my classmates, and travelling to other nearby countries during the weekends (so far I have travelled to Denmark, Norway, and Netherlands), just to name a few.
I have also learned to appreciate my home culture more (I am a Chinese Canadian) by sharing my experiences with classmates about Canada, as well as enjoy the privilege of representing SFU, as I am the only SFU student at Lund University this semester. On top of that, I just had one of my best birthdays two weeks ago with my international friends.
Although I am sure that the other exchange programs at partner universities may be as fabulous as the one in Lund, I would trade nothing for the experiences that I have gained thus far at this beautiful university. Not only have I become more independent and more willing to try new things, but I have also learned more about my capabilities as an individual. In the weeks to follow, I look forward to continuing sharing with you my experiences in this awesome country as well as introduce the unique culture of Sweden. Vi ses!
Simon Fraser University student Jevta Lukic is among eight B.C. post-secondary students to receive the Premier’s One World Scholarship, a provincial award that encourages international education.
Lukic, a fourth-year student at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, is studying this fall at ESCP Europe, one of the world’s top ranked and the continent’s oldest institutions dedicated to business education.
Originally from Serbia and currently living in Burnaby, Lukic is studying for four months in the school’s master in management program. He’ll complete his degree in marketing next year at SFU.
“The scholarship is an incredible gift to me as it allows me to focus on volunteer activities and international pursuits without having to worry about operational costs of a study abroad semester,” says Lukic.
The scholarships, valued at up to $10,000, are awarded annually to support the international exchange of knowledge and culture. They’re funded by the returns on a $13-million provincial endowment for international education.
Lukic hopes to pursue a career in marketing and international business.