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Raquel Jakac

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology
Study Abroad › Exchange

Experience Faculty
My exchange allowed me to gain new learning perspectives for my future studies and expand my interests.
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

Once you find out about your acceptance I would begin looking into any important documents you may need to submit and plan your course schedule at SFU the semester prior accordingly since you will be going on exchange (dont use up all your electives). I suggest having a valid passport before even finding out if you are accepted or not because you will need it to apply for your Visa. There is a Visa requirement for students to have an acceptance letter by the host institution in order to be submitted, but while you are waiting on that, you can start filling out the information in the application and then go back and upload any documents you were waiting for. Macquaries application process and acceptance is very quick, because they do not wait till after the deadline once everyone has finished applying to let people know if they got in. The sooner you apply the sooner you get accepted.  

My institution provided me an option to pay for my overseas health care through them, but since I was not going to be there for the entire period the insurance covered I did my own research based on the alternative options they provided and ended up saving over a hundred dollars when adjusting the dates. I used Allianz Care and picked the 1st of February to the end of June. Although their healthcare is free, you do have to pay a $20 fee if you go to the doctor each time you go. 

If you are tight with money but want to travel, I recommend looking ahead of time into flights and accommodation. I would also recommend picking up a part-time job overseas and then traveling before or after your exchange so that you aren't cramming school, work and travel all within 5 months while your bank account is crying. It is also easy to take the train  to other cities as it is often cheaper.

Previous Experience

I have never been to Australia before so this was a whole new ballpark, and I was worried about the bugs and snakes before going, but there was nothing to be scared of. 

Financial Preparation

Before leaving for Australia try to apply for as many scholarships, nurseries and grants you can find. SFU provides quite a lot of options and so does the government of Canada. 

When it comes to credit cards or having a bank account, you are totally fine with using your Canadian card (TD/ RBC visa/mastercard etc) unless you are going to have a job there. As well, when you have a group of friends and you need to pay someone back, the Canadian e-transfer system is not the same, so the best bet is to set up an app like PayPal or one that the rest of your peers are using. 

Travel and Transportation

When looking at flights I would suggest booking a round trip ticket and basing the return date on the last day of exams or your traveling adventures, because it is cheaper to change a flight date than to book a whole new flight (most of the time). There was an option for a van/bus provided by your accommodation to pick you up from the airport. If you don't have a lot of luggage and really want to explore on your first day then take the transit, it will be the cheapest option and will get you wherever you need to go. If you decide to take Uber or Didi (its like Lyft), then you will pay between 80-100 dollars. ALSO once you land and you are in the waiting area at the airport, get your sim card right away. There will be multiple providers there to choose from. I went with Vodafone which was 40 dollars a month for 80GB of data (which is more than enough) and unlimited talk and text. 

Preparation Tips for Future Students

I went during the summer session, and I must say that when it is hot there it is very very hot, but during the winter there is no insulation so it gets really cold really quickly and I was only there a month into it. Don't focus on things that you can get there and will use within that time frame. Do not only bring summer clothes, bring a few hoodies and warm sweatpants. 

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Orientation week on the campus is really fun, there are dozens of stalls to check out and clubs to join. They are also handing out a lot of free things which is always a bonus.Every day for the 5 days there is a different activity happening in the evenings to get people together. During this time frame, there is not a whole lot of school to be discussed. 

Accommodation and Living

My accommodation was called  Student Village North Ryde, which was previously known as Macquarie University Village but changed during my stay there. It was a great option because it allowed me the most freedom and was right across from campus. This is where I met most of my exchange friends because everyone lived so close to one another. The village would host a bunch of movie nights, barbeques, and other small events for you to meet people not only at the beginning of term but throughout. When you go on the host university website you will be given a list of a lot of different accommodations which include or don't include a meal plan and are varying distances from campus with different room sizes and the number of roommates. The good thing about where I stayed was that I could cook what I wanted to and when I wanted to, I had a living room area and a decent size room with a private bathroom which was necessary for me. But I did have to buy my own plates, pans, silverware, cups, bedding, fan etc. I would try to get accepted into a Facebook page before you go and see if anyone is giving away their stuff so you don't have to buy it. Something to keep in mind is that the university is roughly an hour away from the city or beaches by transit so if you want to move closer you would have to look into separate living accommodations which will be more expensive. 

Learning and Adaptation

You will find that the majority of the classes you take, unless it is a language course, will consist of 2-3 assignments that will make up your entire grade. There are pros and cons to this. A pro is that you are not stressed every week and aren't trying to cram to hand things in, but a con is that when you do need to hand something in you cannot slack off. Lucky enough for us we only need to pass our classes and take the credits since GPA is not transferred or applied to courses at SFU. A lot of class formatting will be one-hour lectures and one-hour tutorials throughout the week, the lectures are not mandatory but the majority of the tutorials are. Any exams or assignments will not be on the day you have classes, so do not feel intimidated if you have multiple lectures the same day in fear of potentially having multiple tests or quizzes. They provide a mix of online and in-person lectures, as well with tutorials so class size varies. The grading system is not numeric but goes by HD- high distinction, D- distinction, and so on. 

Accomplishments and Challenges

One of the challenges was making friends from my classes. Macquarie is a commuter school just like SFU so most of the time people leave right away, don't show up regularly for lectures and live a decent drive away making it hard to make plans and build a relationship. For this main reason, I would suggest staying in a university housing community and joining on-campus clubs or sporting activities. Another challenge was budgeting because once you get there you will automatically be spending more money in the beginning then towards the end, because you don't know the prices, you will need to buy things to settle in, you’ll want to explore Sydney and the food it will have to offer, etc. Once you get the hang of how much your phone bill is monthly, along with groceries you might buy or the cost of eating out, gym membership or planning trips, it will get easier. 

The accomplishments I have are the trip itself and the friends I made. Traveling across the world by myself was very intimidating and anxiety provoking because you don't know what to expect on the other side. You hear stories and read up on the country, but your experience is truly unique and incomparable to others.  Being able to feel relaxed and make a home for myself in such a small time is what I think I'm the most proud of. The people I met and bonded with are from all over the world, some were exchange and some international. I feel very blessed to have surrounded myself with such amazing and selfless individuals that it has helped me with my personal growth. 

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Sydney is very similar to Vancouver with its multiculturalism and diversity but the people are a lot nicer and more open. Life there is slower-paced, and people work to live rather than live to work. 

Reflection & Tips

Going on exchange is probably the best experience you will have at such a young age. I thought it was hard to say goodbye to my friends and family when I left Canada, but it was even harder to say bye to the new family I made in Australia. Between the people, culture, food, and beaches there is nothing better. It has opened new opportunities for me to travel more across the world to reunite with some of my friends, and helped me understand cultural differences on a micro-scale. Make the most of your trip by taking risks, trying food you wouldn't think of ever trying, step out of your comfort zone and let the journey guide you (but stay safe). 


Raquel Jakac

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology
Study Abroad › Exchange
visibility  311
Jul 4, 2023