Student s Name: Christopher Shum. UL Course: Psychology and Sociology. Host University: University of Calgary

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1 Student s Name: Christopher Shum UL Course: Psychology and Sociology Academic Year: 2014 / 2015 Semester: Autumn Host University: University of Calgary Host University Code: CAN6

2 Student Experience: Overall, my experience was unbelievable. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, both within the university and the activities outside of it. The integration into the university was quite easy. In relation to getting used to the university, we had a week to get to know the campus before we started classes and we also had an orientation session, which included instructive information and a tour of the campus. Regarding campus life, there were many events on the first week, which gave everyone an understanding of how the campus operated and how to get involved. Nonetheless, the greatest integration involved the ease in which the university allowed people to create new relationships with others. First, I formed a basis with the people that were from my own university. Then, we tried to get to know as many people as possible separately and then we would introduce each other to the people we met. One would also get to know people through classes or else clubs and societies. However, living on residence was the biggest source of my friendships. There were around eight different residence buildings and each building would be split into floors. One would get very friendly with everyone on their floor and these would form the teams that would compete in fun competitions each week for their floor. These contests would range from beach volleyball to dodge ball. They were well organized, non-competitive and fun for everyone involved. It was very easy to mix with the Canadian students. This may be because of their friendly culture but unlike most places, the Canadian students would make a great effort with the international students. They tend to have interest in meeting international students because most of them have international backgrounds because most of the population of Canada is immigrants. I think the

3 only way people would have problems meeting new people would be if they did not live in residence. If this is the case, I would advise the person to join as much clubs and societies as possible, attend as much events as possible and get friendly with people who do live in residence so you can meet more people through the residence. If this does not work, one can always turn to the international office that was always helpful and ready to offer advice. The language spoken was English but the second language was French, which was present on every product and sign throughout the city. This was useful to me because I had a decent knowledge of French and the presence of the language reinforced some of my vocabulary that was getting rusty because I no longer study the language. I joined the outdoors club and the ski club. I joined the outdoors club because I would never get a better opportunity to see the Rocky Mountains. Events were set up every week and the club was organized well. By joining the group, I saved money by going with people who also had the enthusiasm to see the Rockies. The ski club was basic and simply involved one ski trip during the semester. This was slightly cheaper than if one had organized a ski trip separately but again, the advantage is people who are also eager to ski and meet new people surround you. My recommendation would be to attempt to integrate into the university as early as possible. Also, join clubs but don t join too many and most importantly, when you are ever having that thought of deciding about going to an event, stop thinking about it and just go. One will always regret not going to something that could have been good more than going to an event that was bad.

4 Institutional Practices: Before I arrived at the university, the university web page had already informed me onto how to get to the university by public transport. Checking into the residence was easy and all was explained regarding what to do if there were any problems. We were told to arrive on a certain day known as move-in day because it was on this day that there was a barbeque set up where everyone could meet each other. On this day, there was also a bus that went to the nearest shopping retail area, which allowed us to get groceries and pillows and blankets for our beds. We then had until the end of the week to get used to the campus and find our bearings before we had the orientation day. This time was needed because the campus was huge and it also allowed us to go into the city and look around. I felt this was plenty of time to get used to the university and this way, nothing was rushed. It allowed me to know my way around the university before I started but it didn t leave too long for me to get bored without classes. The accommodation was fantastic. I lived with three other people, which consisted of two French students and a Canadian student. This was different to most university accommodations that would not integrate international students and local students. We had our own rooms, with everything that a typical university student would need, a kitchen and a bathroom shared between every two students. A dining centre was five minutes away if people did not want to cook and there were plenty of other restaurants around the campus. As mentioned before, the residence accommodation was definitely the best place to meet new people, weather it was attending the floor competitions or going to parties.

5 We were advised to stay in the residence but we were given the choice between the different residence buildings. Some buildings had more international students than others. In relation to proximity, all the residence buildings were near each other, near all the university buildings and right beside the Olympic oval facility, which was an Olympic ice skating arena free to all students. However, one problem was the train service that bought you into the city was the opposite side of the campus so it was a long walk to go get the transport into the city. The other problem with the residence is that it was very expensive. One had to pay $500 for residence funds, which were spent on food for floor meetings but the money spent on food nowhere near added up to the total paid for at the start. As well as this, an insurance policy was compulsory and we were not made aware of this until we arrived. Regarding safety, the campus accommodation always had security on patrol and nobody could enter the buildings if they did not have keys to the buildings. Fire drills were also carried out. Registering as a student was simple. There was a separate room for registering, there was a separate building to pay any costs and there was a separate room that allowed one to pay any costs in relation to the accommodation. As a result, this was easy to sort out. One did not have to register separately for examinations. In relation to selection of courses, they had to be selected before we arrived. We were given a list of classes we could select and we had to choose within the list. Nonetheless, one thing I particularly enjoyed about the semester abroad is that I was allowed to do a course I would not be able to do at my home university. This allowed me to see was I studying the right subject, to increase

6 my knowledge and to see things from a different perspective. Unfortunately, some classes filled up very quickly so I did not get all my first choices but this is an unavoidable problem so it is understandable. There was no guidance of what courses to take by the lecturers. Finally, the collecting of the transcripts of results was simply done through the Internet and it was free. In comparison to UL, the university courses were very similar in regards to class size, approachability of staff and contact hours. However, one major difference is the exams are completely continuous assessment. This means that one is constantly working but the stress is cut in half for the final exam. I found this method is better. Cultural Differences: The language in Canada is the same as Ireland. Most from the country have a second language in French and all signs and products will be in French as well as English because it is the official second language of the country. This is beneficial if one has a small bit of French that they wish to improve. As an Irish citizen, getting into Canada is not a problem if one is only going for a semester. A visa is not needed because you are only studying in the country for less than six months. This is convenient because unlike America, one does not have to worry about visas. This was an influence on my decision to choose Canada over America. At the airport, the proof of the acceptance into the university along with one s passport was needed to be shown at the security and the security then asked a few questions such as what you would be studying but other than that, there was no issues in entering the country.

7 The form needed to be filled out for the student id card was done before I arrived so all that I had to do was visit the id card office, get a picture taken (bringing photos was optional also) and I then got my id card. This card also had my meal plan on it, which allowed me to buy food in the restaurants on campus (this was also organized before I arrived) and a sticker, which allowed every student to use the buses and trains throughout the city. The train was the quickest way of getting around the city because the buses stopped at every stop. However, as stated above, the train station by the university was the opposite side of the campus in relation to the residence. Nonetheless, the trains are still better because not only are they faster but they are much more easy to understand compared to the buses. In relation to sites to see, most could be done in a day. Calgary has what most other cities would have such as a zoo, a theatre and museums and other attractions are the Calgary tower, which showed the whole city from a high ground, the Saddledome, where the city s hockey team plays and the Stampede park, where the world famous Calgary stampede is held. While this comes across as a place a tourist would avoid, once one goes outside of the city and into the beautiful natural environment that holds the Rocky Mountains, these are the sites that will take your breath away more than several times. The scenery is so fantastic, the car drives are the most amazing car drives you will ever have and then when you arrive at your destination, a hike is normally necessary to see the glacier, lake or sight of the prairies and no matter how difficult the hikes are, it is always worth it when you finally reach the sight. I could not recommend seeing the Rockies enough. It is healthy regarding the hikes and it produces spectacular sights that one could not see anywhere else in the world.

8 In relation to food, poutine would be the main Canadian food I would recommend that one must try. These are chips with gravy and melted cheese on them and they are delicious. More than likely, one would have tasted maple syrup before but the Canadians like to put it on literally everything so if you are experimental, one will try sausages or bacon with the syrup. I also tasted elk burger, which was nice but other than that, the food is similar to what it would be at home. Two disadvantages in relation to the food were that it was quite expensive, adding up because of tax as well as just a generally higher price than Ireland and similar to America, it is easy to fall under the influence of the unhealthy fast food chains that are cheap. Hints and Tips: My first main tip is to meet as much people as possible. I understand most people probably say this but my tip will differ in the way that I would advise to form early friendships and attend events in small groups rather than by yourself. This is because although you will meet new people, it often happened that I showed up and people were all in little groups that they had formed before the event. However, if you are in a group, don t be unsociable. One should still go talk to others and welcome others into their group. I would then advice one to get the meal plan but at the same time, one should cook now and again. The meal plan is cheaper because there is no taxes, easier because one doesn t have to cook and much more convenient if one is tired after a hard day of lectures. However, although the food it provides isn t the worst, there is no harm in buying some groceries in a supermarket and buying nice, healthy food that one can cook. However, one limitation to this is one needs

9 to buy cooking utensils but I was lucky because I had roommates that cooked all the time so I just borrowed the necessary cooking utensils. My last tip would be to get out as much as possible. One can watch Netflix in Ireland but they cannot see the wonderful sight that is the Rocky Mountains. One should get out to the Rocky Mountains as much as possible. I would even advice this to the extent of going every weekend. One will never run out of places to see there and regardless of how many times one has seen the superb scenery, it still amazes people. The main attractions such as Lake Louise are famous for good reason but for me, I found the less known places more impressive because they were more quiet and I felt it was just me, the people I was with and the surroundings, rather than having many people around you taking pictures. Renting a car for the day is not expensive and I feel people would much prefer they spent their money well going seeing the exquisite landscapes than staying at residence doing nothing. As well as this, I would also recommend getting out and walking around the city when one can. Although I did not give the city the best review, there are still nice streets in the city where one can walk through and experience the true culture of Canada. It is something one will never do again so just get out and embrace it.

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