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Emily Feng

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
Peer Education › Career Peers, Athletics + Recreation › Recreation

Program:
University
Location:
Experience Faculty
Going on exchange was the best decision I’ve ever made. Living independently in a different environment for 5 months was a lot of fun, but coming back home and realizing how much I matured in such a short time was even better.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation
Financial Preparation

Preparing for exchange was a lot of work, but after I received my offer, I completed and returned any required documents as soon as I could. I suggest considering your budget and funding options before choosing to go on an exchange to Australia, as it can be much more expensive than other countries. Before I left Canada, I had already spent $600 on a student visa, $230 on a specific health insurance that exchange students must purchase, and $2000 on my roundtrip flight tickets.

Thankfully, I applied for and received study abroad and EDI IMA awards from SFU and Global Skills Opportunity (GSO), which covered the entirety of my pre-exchange expenses. I highly recommend applying if you are eligible, as accepting the exchange offer would have been a very difficult decision if I did not have the added financial support!

Packing

I read other students’ exchange reports for ideas on what to pack, but they definitely underplayed the importance of bringing warm clothes. From my experience, the hottest days (30-38 degrees daytime, 20-25 nighttime) lasted for about a month until mid-March, the majority of the exchange was moderately warm (18-24 day, 10-16 night), and the tail end from June to July was chilly (14-18 day, 4-8 night).

To cut down on costs, I brought my favourite cooking pot and as many home necessities as I could fit within my weight limit (23kg) including blankets, bedding, sheets, and pillowcases, and kept my important documents such as residence contract, printed visa, and bank forms in my carry-on bag and backpack. I brought a few of my favourite items from home such as a miniature llama that my friend crocheted for me, and a few photos to pin on the bulletin board provided in our rooms.

Travel and Transportation

I recommend against booking a flight with a layover that is shorter than 2 hours, as the overseas customs line in Australia is unreal and it took me 2 hours just to get through, almost missing my connecting flight departure by a margin of 30 seconds. Upon arriving in Melbourne, you can apply to have a personal driver from Monash University pick you up from the airport with their car for free – otherwise arranging your own transport from the airport would cost you upwards of $100. My driver was really nice!

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

Moving into the student dorm and unpacking took around two days in total. A mattress is provided, but you do not get pillows, bedsheets, or blankets. They give you the option to pay $120 for those three things, but I brought my own. Move-in day for the dorms happens two weeks before classes start, so there were a lot of social events in the dorms every day, geared towards breaking the ice between students and helping them settle in. They even booked out an entire theme park for just Monash students, and we got to go on all of the rides for free!

We did a shopping trip to IKEA using one of the campus shuttle buses and loaded up our shopping cart with hangers and cutlery, which made for a funny photo.

There was also a mandatory orientation session in which information about the university and resources available were shared to approximately 500 exchange students at Monash. They assign you to a seat with students from different countries, and make you chat with each other – I made very two good friends this way!

Social and Extracurricular Activities

I befriended many local students, but also many exchange and international students from all over the world including from the UK, France, Philippines, Turkey, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Netherlands, and Korea. I spent a good chunk of my time outside of classes chatting and playing pool or table tennis with these individuals whenever I wasn’t exploring the city or trying new foods. I also frequented a nearby shopping mall called Chadstone (pronounced chad-stin, as I soon found out after being roasted on a spit for my mispronunciation). It is the biggest mall in Australia, which means you won’t run out of things to do there.

Just how Canada’s population is mostly distributed along the US border, much of Australia’s population is distributed along their coastline as the maritime climate makes the cities livable. This means that flights to other Australian cities are dirt cheap, and make for great trips. I attended the annual Vivid Sydney event to see the vibrant colours, and then went to Gold Coast, learned to surf at the world-renowned Surfer’s Paradise, and hugged a koala! I also did a trip with my local friend along the Great Ocean Road and made stops at the famous landmarks.

Initially, my travel itinerary also included New Zealand and Cairns (to dive the Great Barrier Reef), but due to some health issues on my end I stayed in Melbourne. I still made the most of the tail end of my trip by spending quality time with good friends!

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

Going home was bittersweet. Some friends drove me to the airport at 3am (they’re the sweetest) and when I saw Vancouver again from the airplane window, I found myself baffled at how long it felt since I’d last been home, even though it had only been a few months. Our mountains looked much bigger than I remembered, and seemingly jumped out at me. I immediately noticed which restaurants or cafes had been replaced, as well as new installations. It felt good to give my mum a tight hug for the first time in forever, and waking up at home felt like a dream for the first few days. I was severely jet lagged but I didn’t mind at all – being home again was exhilarating.

I always wondered if I would be able to make it on my own, but now that I’ve done it, I feel ready for anything. It was incredibly stressful and painful not to have anyone to lean on when I was going through some of the toughest times of my life, but that made me stronger (we love some free character development). Living at home, five months seems like such a short time and it flies by, but I think the idea that I had to cherish every lesson and interaction of my exchange made these months feel much longer, so I will strive to do the same in Canada. I met people who were wise beyond their years and adopted a few philosophies that I’ll always use to guide my thinking and decisions.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

For courses in my programs of choice, the structure is similar to the structure at SFU. They, however, appear to have permanently adopted a hybrid model for courses in which you are not doing technical learning. For my programs, lectures and notes were all posted online and you are expected to attend tutorials having watched the recorded material and done the readings. The discussions were very interactive and all students were encouraged and expected to participate.

The grading is much easier, since anywhere from 80-100 percent (high distinction) equates to a perfect GPA score compared to our 95-100 percent range. The emphasis on written exams in my program was also smaller, with quality research and application being prioritized at Monash. There is also a mid-semester break as well as a “SWOTVAC”, which is a week given to students between class end dates and exam start times. My courses were research paper-heavy, so since I only had one final exam, I used this time to travel to Sydney and Gold Coast and met up with some awesome exchange students from there as well!

Advice for Future Students

On January 1st of this year, I started journaling about my everyday experiences, interactions, and reflections. I have not missed a day, even while I was in Australia. I highly recommend starting this and making it a habit as soon as possible. My best souvenir from my exchange is my journal, because it details everything that I remember for every day of my exchange. It’s the most valuable for moments when I didn’t take photos, or ideas that only words could describe. It also allows me to reflect on the kind of things that were on my mind at the time and understand my impulses. Overall, I see everything that happened on my exchange as a positive experience because I wouldn’t change a thing about it. This chapter of my life will always be one of my favourites.

Author

Image of Emily

Emily Feng

SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
Peer Education › Career Peers, Athletics + Recreation › Recreation

Emily Feng is a Criminology student at Simon Fraser University. She formerly volunteered as a Career Peer Educator and is currently volunteering as an SFU Recreation Promotions Assistant. She hopes to continue writing articles that will help and inspire other students. 

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Oct 24, 2023

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