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Junelle K

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health

My experience at Monash University enhanced my intercultural competencies, engaged me in a deeper knowledge of global affairs and ignited a passion for aiding in global Indigenous relations.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation
Financial Preparation

I began planning for this exchange one year in advance of my application. I began by putting away $100 a month into savings, give or take, depending on my financial situation at the time. However, I quickly realized this would not be enough, as Australia is an incredibly expensive country to live in (comparable to Vancouver). I usually work 20 hours a week while taking 4-5 classes, so I had limited options for how to expand my disposable income. 

I decided that I would only be able to pursue this opportunity if I also could secure funding, so I applied for the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion International Mobility Award (EDI IMA) and the Diamond Family International Mobility Award. 

I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have been awarded both of those awards, which paid for the majority of the fees associated with studying abroad. I would heavily suggest looking into any and all funding opportunities, as the costs add up quickly and you do not want to be stuck in a bad financial situation while living abroad. 


A must-have for Australia is a travel charging adapter. Be advised that there are different voltages used in the country, and I have heard horror stories of people using adapters with the wrong voltage and wrecking their electronics. However, I found that using an adapter on Canadian electronics (including laptop, hair straightener, etc.) did not damage them at all.

It took me a week to pack, but I was also moving out of a rental unit at the time. The time of year you are going to Australia will greatly impact your packing process. Canadian summer (June-August) is Australian winter, and Melbourne is known for having unpredictable weather. The average temperature is between 5-15℃, and it can get quite rainy, therefore I recommend a warm, waterproof jacket. 

Travel and Transportation

I flew from Vancouver (YVR) to Sydney (SYD) then connected to Melbourne (MEL). I booked these flights with Air Canada well in advance, but a direct flight to Melbourne was not possible at this time. My flights cost $1318CAD one way, and amounted to 17 hours of travel time. 

My flight to Sydney meant to depart at 10:00pm in Vancouver, however it was delayed by two hours. I was rescheduled on a different flight to Melbourne. I received meal vouchers for the inconvenience in both YVR and SYD, meaning I got free food the whole way to Australia! 

I was picked up in Melbourne by family, and was shocked to see them standing at the airplane gate waiting for me. Surprise! For domestic flights you can go through security and up to the plane gates without a ticket in Australia. 

The main mode of transportation from Tullamarine (MEL) to the city is the Skybus. Tickets can be purchased online and they will take you to a main train station in the CBD of Melbourne. From here you can use the famous Melbourne trams, trains or buses. Uber and DiDi are popular ride-sharing apps here as well. 

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Orientation was held on campus at the Clayton campus of Monash. This is their bigger campus and the one you’ll most likely attend if you are taking lower division classes in sciences, arts, humanities or business. This was the only time I visited this campus, as most of the Health Sciences classes were held at the Caulfield campus. 

Orientation was useful and broke down the details of life in Australia (including health insurance, laws and more), had icebreaker elements and connected us to exchange events. It was a nice chance to get to meet people and sign up for orientation activities that explored Melbourne.

The first few weeks in Melbourne, I mostly attended orientation events and tried to get ahead on classes, which were posted on their version of Canvas (Moodle) two weeks before they started. 

Accommodation and Living

I chose to live off-campus, as I was moving in with my partner and had lived on my own before. The rental market was insanely competitive & expensive in Melbourne, comparable to Vancouver, and I would not recommend living off-campus unless you have someone in the country who can do viewings and make a deposit for a room on the spot. 

For my situation, I really enjoyed being able to live away from school and actually immerse myself in the city, however I think if you were only staying for one semester, it would not be worth it to live off-campus, as rental agreements are almost always a year long commitment.

Rent in Prahran for a one bedroom unit was $1300AUD a month, and bills were an additional $200 a month. You also must provide your own fridge in most rental units!

Learning and Adaptation

The tutorial sizes were comparable between SFU and Monash, except in my first term of study tutorials were mandatory for students. This meant that you could only miss 2 tutorials or you failed the class. However, this rule was scrapped as of January 2023. Lectures were all online as of this time too. 

The academic rigor was very similar, I found the difficulty of classes to be the same. Be advised that Monash does not grade on a curve, meaning whatever mark you get on an assignment/in a class, will be your final mark. This meant averages were significantly lower than at SFU, with the highest grade (HD, equivalent to an A+) being anything over an 80. 

There were some great differences in terms of course selection compared to SFU’s Health Sciences courses. Monash offered public health and policy classes in undergrad, as well as other interesting electives. A huge advantage for Monash is: any class that they offer that semester, you are guaranteed a spot. This means you do not have a different enrollment date to anyone, and you can pick and change any classes you want without fear of not getting a spot. They simply hire enough people to teach the amount of students they have, it's truly incredible.

Accomplishments and Challenges

It’s always an exciting opportunity to be in a new country, make sure to take advantage of it. The teachers at Monash were so open to offering mentorship and research opportunities, so ask any professor of classes you like of how to get involved! 

It will always be challenging to be away from home, so be aware that homesickness is real. Even for myself, whose home is not Vancouver and I am regularly away from family, I found it hard to adjust at the beginning.

However, homesickness is temporary. Use FaceTime and chat with friends/family back home but also get out and explore the great city you’re in! 

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Being at Monash University enhanced my intercultural competencies by increasing my awareness of a huge array of cultures I have previously not experienced. There was a large focus in their Health Sciences department on intercultural communication, and how many people of varying cultures communicate differently than what is thought to be 'mainstream' Australian. We had mandatory units of interpreting communication signals and practicing active listening. 

Being in another country also enabled me to experience the interpretation of global affairs in a different context. This included seeing different nations as global powers than I was used to and gaining a deeper understanding of Australia's history and how that has impacted their policy decisions. Being at another university and participating in policy courses meant I was constantly immersed in current affairs and their interpretation, which was eye-opening.

Reflection & Tips

Studying abroad was one of the best experiences I have had in post-secondary. It gave me a chance to gain new skills, test my academic ability in different settings and learn about new cultures. I cannot recommend an exchange highly enough! 

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

My passion for global Indigenous affairs was nurtured during my exchange, because it allowed me to see the very similar effects of colonisation in another country. Especially being in Health Sciences, and learning about the history and continual barriers to health that Indigenous Australians face, made me see the similarities between our two countries and their history of Indigenous marginalization and colonisation. This experience made me want to start getting into knowledge sharing and truth-telling between not only local Indigenous nations, but global nations. These similar experiences of the consequences of colonisation and the community-led solutions that are working to rectify them, can be shared amongst Indigenous people.


Junelle K

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences › Population and Public Health
visibility  189
Aug 23, 2023