So, it’s been well over a month since I flew out from Sydney Airport and arrived in Canada, and I can happily say I’ve settled into university life here. It wasn’t hard to adjust; there are many similarities between university here, and back home at ANU. Everything is taught in English, classes include tutorials, seminars and lectures, everyone still comes to class with coffee cups in hand, and Birkenstocks are everywhere. However, there are also an abundance of differences. Unlike at home, there are no early classes here; I have no classes before 11am, which means some nights I don’t finish until 10pm or later, the earliest gym classes are around 9am, and even the library and Starbucks don’t open till 10am; so, if you’re after an early brunch with the girls, get ready to cook yourself. Even more abnormal though, socks and Birkenstocks are an obvious choice here when walking to class in the cold mornings – bonus points for taking socks off halfway through the day when the sun starts to shine!

In terms of the difficulty in classes, I am taking five courses here to account for four courses at ANU, yet I haven’t actually seen a big difference in the difficulty. Potentially, the marking here may be a bit more relaxed, but the compulsory readings, amount and length of assessments, and expected study hours are all very similar – if anything, my weekly readings are a lot longer. One thing I find very strange though, is that essays and long written assessments are measured in pages – not in word count. For example, next week I have a 10-page essay due for my political conflict course, and the week after, an 8-page midterm due for my environmental politics course. No word counts necessary, but all essays are double-spaced so I’m finding the word counts aren’t that dissimilar.

Class enrolment is another aspect that is quite different; all my classes here (both commerce and political science subjects) have only lectures between 1.5 – 3 hrs each. So, instead of having tutorial enrolments (as I have no tutorials), you actually have to sign up for courses themselves in the same way as ANU tutes – first in, best dressed. Given I had some very specific courses approved as equivalent courses at home, I was quite stressed I wouldn’t get into my classes. However, the professors are aware of this, and you can click yourself into a ‘waitlist’ if anyone drops the course in the first 2 or 3 weeks. I was lucky, and I got into all my courses I needed, but the changes in people in the first couple of weeks was intense – one of my classes had over 15 people drop it after the first day! Especially if someone had only picked up a course while waiting for a different one, and then would drop out when a spot became available elsewhere.

Guelph is fantastic in the sense they offer meal plans campus wide; although I live in a self-catered residence, I have an “ultra-meal plan” which is connected to my student card and allows me to get food and drinks anywhere on campus for a discounted rate (about 10-15%) and I can just tap my student card that has pre-loaded funds. I would recommend this for anyone coming on exchange. It’s fantastic – you only have to put a minimum of $200 on at the start, and I think over a semester I would easily spend that on coffee alone! There are also cafeterias where you can choose a different plate of any cuisine (salad bars, pasta bars, Asian, Indian, pizza, pasta and so much more) and pay per serving; it gives you more freedom then having a full meal plan where you’re paying for three full meals a day, and missing half of those meal times anyway because of class.

The campus here is beautiful though; although many of the lecture halls and food courts are so similar to ANU its not even funny, there are some stunning last century stone buildings, covered in vines and ivy, 30 acres of Arboretum grounds that stretch out beyond my residence, and towering mapletrees lining every lane. I am extremely happy with my choice to come to the University of Guelph; my classes (especially my political sciences courses) are extremely interesting, and very different to any courses I’ve taken at home, my professors are engaging and supportive, and the social life is thriving. What more does a girl need?