International Programs Office

International Programs Office

International Programs Office

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Learn about exchange from a Peer Adviser

The IPO is currently recruiting 2017-18 Peer Advisers. If you're returning from exchange and would like to apply to be a Peer Adviser please visit: 

Exchange Peer Advisers are returned exchange students who have undergone training so they can advise their peers on how to best prepare for the program. They attend events and spend 1.5 hours in the International Programs Office each week so they can meet with students who have questions about the exchange program. 

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Check out our 2016-17 Peer Advising Team! We'll be introducing our 2017-18 Peer Advisers in mid-September. Stay tuned!

Diana Zhao
Exchange Country: China
Host University: Tsinghua University

Discipline: FILM/POLS

Two years ago, the thought of spending five months in a city with a population almost as high as Canada would have seemed far-fetched and terrifying to me. During my second year at Queen’s, the bilateral exchange program for Arts and Science students caught my attention and led to the most fulfilling semester I have ever experienced. Studying abroad in Beijing allowed me to grow both personally and academically, and offered me refreshing perspectives. Studying in country that is thousands of miles away from home has taught me how to be independent and adapt to an entirely different society. With exchange comes many challenges, and this experience not only taught me the importance of facing my fears head on, but also allowed me to develop my problem solving skills. In an environment that is different in culture, structure and official language, even the obtaining the simplest things can present great challenges. My time in Beijing taught me to adjust to a new lifestyle and to be able to adapt to living in a new environment.

This experience also taught me how to stay organized, prioritize and manage my time efficiently during stressful times. In a city that is so diverse, there are endless opportunities to explore and travel. However to fulfill my academic commitments, I had to efficiently mange my time and create a schedule for myself to stay on top of my work while I travelled. This also taught me to establish a balance between academics, my social life and exploration. Even after returning from exchange, I found that I am a much more organized person.

My favourite aspect of my semester abroad was making friends that come from all over the world. Not only did it improve my interpersonal skills but also allowed me to be more open-minded. Learning in a different cultural setting and meeting a variety of people gave me new perspectives regarding culture, traveling, and the world. My newfound open-mindedness led to more creativity and better interpersonal skills, both of which has helped me excel academically and improve my employability.

Although my semester abroad ended a few months ago, the lessons my experience taught me and my personal and academic developments stayed with me. After returning to Queen’s I was able to use my experience to guide other students looking to participate in the academic exchange as an IPO Peer Advisor, as well as been a mentor to first year international students at Queen’s. Overall, this experience enriched my education and allowed me to become more confident in myself. To me, the learning experience does not end when academic exchange ends, instead, it offers a glimpse of what the world has to offer, inspiring me to keep learning and discovering the world.

Susanna Huang
Exchange Country: Hong Kong
Host University: Chinese University of Hong Kong

Discipline: LISC

During the winter semester of 2016, I went on exchange to the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The densely populated city has over 7 million inhabitants but it is filled with breathtaking views and exciting activities for the young generation. Exploring the city was one of my favourite things to do since each district has its unique features being either attraction, food or entertainment. With the convenient transportation of the Mass Transit Railway, you can easily reach all the main districts of Hong Kong.

The campus itself is situated on a mountain so every morning I had the privilege of waking up to a beautiful mountain view. I lived in one of the many residence buildings filled with other exchange and local students. My residence held several off-campus events where I had the chance to meet new friends from all regions of the world. The courses that I took were unique and the class sizes ranged from a few hundred to 10 students. The smaller classes were especially enjoyable as it allowed more engaging discussions with the professor and students frequently had the opportunity to share their thoughts during class. I took a child psychology and medical anthropology course which enriched my learning experience as we often compared and contrasted the western and eastern perspectives on the subject.

Lastly, my favourite part of exchange was the opportunity to travel to neighbouring countries with new friends. Although there were many challenging moments when adjusting to the new cultures and lifestyles, it was an invaluable experiences that provided me with a greater sense of independence and gain the confidence to pursue greater challenges. Exchange was truly an incredible experience and gave me some unforgettable memories. If you want to take that next big step and immerse yourself in a whole new environment, I encourage you to apply! 

Vanessa Ajagu
Exchange Country: England, United Kingdom
Host University: University of Warwick

Discipline: PSYC/SOCY

About this time last year, I was packing my bags for a trip I expected to embody one of the most exciting times of my life and it sure was. It’s interesting because 2 months before I was to start at University of Warwick, England, I decided not to go on exchange anymore because I was afraid of change and the unknown. I literally change my mind a few weeks before classes were to begin, applied for my visa, got my one-way ticket to London, and decided to take a chance on life. I am so glad I did because I got to meet some of the best people, travelled to some of the most beautiful cities for cheap, and got the rare opportunity to live in the moment.

Because Warwick class sizes are relatively small, I got to have great talks with my profs and learn in a very interactive way. In fact, I recently applied to law school and one of the professors that wrote my letter of recommendation was my Warwick prof, Thomas Hills (an amazing prof, I must say). My experience was not just fun-filled but also career fulfilling.

Looking back, I remember how touristy I was, squealing when I saw steering wheels on the right side of the car, giggling when I heard thick British accents, and full of ecstasy when I took pictures in front of the London Eye. Going on exchange was by far my best decision of 2016. I wish I could relive every second of my experience again. Can 4th years go on exchange please?

Jing Wang
Exchange Country: Germany
Host University: Universität Tübingen

Discipline: DEVS/LANG

Going on exchange is like entering first year of university all over again: you’re extremely nervous but also have never been more excited in your life. You meet tons of new people—except they come from all around the world this time. For me, packing up my bags and spending a semester abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I spent my exchange semester in Tübingen, Germany. While Tübingen has a similar population and student population size to Kingston, it also couldn’t be more different. People were more environmentally conscious there, and life in Tübingen was much less commercialized…almost all stores are closed on Sundays in Germany! I spent a lot of my time outdoors—studying, playing games, and barbequing in the park. The university system is also hard to navigate at first, but soon enough I had adapted to life there. I had learned so much about German culture and social norms, and having these comparisons made me realize just how much the world has so much to offer.

I have countless stories about Tübingen and my time abroad: I kayaked in a rainstorm and fell into the river in the process. I drove a quad for the very first time around an island in Greece. I did a lot of travelling and even travelled solo for the first time! My German improved a lot and I am now able to converse fluently in the language. I made friends from all over the world and am currently making plans to go visit them. Most importantly, I became self-reliant and independent in ways that I had never had been before.

Perhaps it was the magic of the city. Perhaps it was the amazing people I met. Either way I couldn’t have imagined the changes I find in myself now six months prior. Everyone’s experience will be different, but deciding to leaving familiarity and embracing change will definitely lead to personal growth. Never would I have thought that I would find a piece of myself (and then leave a piece of myself) in Germany. I definitely recommend going on exchange. The experience is incredible! 

Sam Fraser
Exchange Country: Scotland, United Kingdom
Host University: University of Glasgow

Discipline: ECON

Studying at the University of Glasgow for the winter term was the experience of a lifetime. Although it was challenging to adapt to my new surroundings at first, Glasgow quickly felt like home. I learned a lot, enjoyed my classes, and was able to travel around the continent of Europe and briefly in Africa. However, settling into a new city and a new way of life was my favourite aspect of my experience.  I was also lucky enough to meet amazing people that have become lifelong friends of mine. Going on exchange will open you up to many amazing experience that you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, or drop in during my office hours if you have any questions or concerns about selecting prospective universities, the application process, or anything else!

Luke Van Ryn
Exchange Country: Scotland, United Kingdom
Host University: University of Edinburgh

Discipline: ARTH

Doing an exchange was something that I knew I wanted to do from the moment I found out that it was a possibility. From the minute I stepped onto campus in my first year at Queen’s everything I did and every mark I got was for me a step closer to being able to study abroad. When I found out that I had been selected to participate in the exchange program and that I would be given the opportunity to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland I was completely elated and indescribably happy. Before I left for Scotland I made innumerable lists and visited countless websites to try to make sure that I was fully prepared to make the most of my time abroad. What I didn’t know was that there’s nothing that I could have done to fully prepare myself for the indescribable experience that is exchange.

Being on exchange afforded me a sense of freedom that I had never before experienced and that helped me grow into the person that I am today. Living away from the country in which I had been raised and having the opportunity to go anywhere in Europe at almost a moment’s notice allowed me to really think for myself and take my life into my own hands. My exchange was something that was uniquely mine and that I could shape in any way that I wished. I chose to shape it into an experience wherein I was able to travel to more than ten different countries and make memories that I’ll hold onto for the rest of my life. I really do feel that the exchange experience is indescribable because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully articulate how much personal growth the experience afforded me and the amount of desire to see the world that it instilled in me. In short, going on exchange was one of the best experiences of my life and one for which I will always be grateful.

Nicky Gayle
Exchange Country: France
Host University: Sciences Po, Reims Campus

Discipline: FREN/ENGL

I spent my exchange at Sciences Po in the beautiful region of champagne called Reims, France! Since I began learning French, my dream was to spend time in a country filled with a rich history, exceptional cuisine and infamous culture. When I discovered that the I could spend a semester abroad with the International Programs Office, I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass! On my exchange, I learned in a new environment, managed to travel to thirteen countries, and met some incredible people.

When I look back on my exchange, it is not the big details that stick out to me, but the little moments along that way that build up the idea of “my exchange”. I remember walking along the cobblestone roads when I first arrived and realizing that this was going to be my home. I remember the satisfaction of recognizing people in the hallways of my university and the comforted feeling of returning to my petite apartment after traveling on the weekend with amazing friends I met. These little moments are what made it for me!

I encourage everyone to take the opportunity to partake in an exchange to broaden their education experience, meet new people and take a chance! Its one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

Madison Ford
Exchange Country: Sweden
Host University: Lund University

Discipline: LISC

I find it difficult to find the words to truly describe the incredible journey of my exchange experience. I can honestly say that my decision to study abroad was one of the best I have ever made. The 6 months I spent in a small historical town in the south of Sweden opened my eyes to international travel and taught me to think beyond my national borders. It was hard to envision the possibilities of living in a foreign country on the other side of the world. Everything seemed so distant and I was unaware of the endless academic and career opportunities there were to take advantage of; Europe and globally. The world we live in is incredibly interconnected no matter the distance and I am so appreciative for my exchange experiencing in helping me to realizing this global reality.

All of the experiences I was lucky enough to encounter on exchange are too numerous to relay in just a few paragraphs, but they ranged from in depth study courses and unique field studies to exposure of the rich cultures of 20 cities across 15 countries. The 2 courses I was able to take while in Lund were a refreshing change. With only having one course at a time I felt I was able to really immerse myself in the material, absorb lifelong knowledge, and explore real interests in the topics covered. Classes were small and intimate and this allowed me to develop meaningful relationships with both my colleagues and professors. A particular highlight of my academic experience at Lund was a week-long field study excursion that involved full class participation. We stayed at a youth hostel on the east coast of Sweden in the countryside and explored various ecological areas each day, possessing research questions, collecting data, analyzing it and presenting our results each night.  This allowed the students to implement and transpose material that we had been learning in class into a real-life scenario.

The extra-curricular student life at Lund was something that is truly unique to just Sweden. They have organizations called “student nations”, 13 in total, that are large student social clubs similar to sororities and fraternities, but minus the exclusivity and with an endless list of benefits. Each nation is like its own little community that offer a very wide range of activities and services, including lunches, brunches, pubs, housing opportunities, sports, night clubs, formal balls and traditional festivities, among many other things. What’s really incredible about these nations is that they are completely student run, mostly on a voluntary basis. The nations were a great way for me to really immerse myself in Swedish culture and get to know Swedes and other international students.  I was a very active member in the nations and my favourite volunteer offerings were to bar tend and waitress the events. I also took advantage of all the events nations held including attending balls, dinner events, and traditional festivals. It’s safe to say there was never a dull moment while I was in Lund.

Amongst my time studying and exploring Lund, I was able to find ample time to travel as much as possible. A week into class studies, I was off jet setting to one of my absolute favourite city’s Venice, Italy to wander and get lost in it’s never ending winding alleys and canals. Not long after, I visited Madrid, Spain where I learned of the cities rich history, marveled over the royal palace and helped myself to too many churros and chocolate. In the heart of winter I went to Oslo, Norway to see the absolutely stunning fjords and explore the cute and shimmery city. I joined 80 exchange students from Lund on a Baltic cruise to Estonia, Finland, and Russia where I was awestruck by the Winter Palace. Three connecting plane rides and a ferry got me and friends to Morocco where we rode camels, wandered through the streets of the blue city Chefchaouen, and enjoyed a traditional Moroccan feast in a palace. London England was another city I had the privilege of visiting, exploring the stunning architecture and most adorable cafes. My dream of visiting a real Disney-esque castle became a reality when I visited Neuschwanstein Castle in the German Alps. This same trip was contrasted with extreme sorrow as I toured Dachau concentration camp in Munich. Myself and two friends had the privilege of having a veteran tour guide of the camp to ourselves for 3 hours to walk us through the horrors that took place in the walls of this place. Traveling provides you with knowledge, sights, experiences and memories you could never learn in a classroom and I will always be so appreciative of the opportunity to visit these cities as well as the kind people in each and every one that made me feel welcome.

The times I spent in Lund as well as the many other places I was able to visit were truly amazing, but what really made each and every second so much more special were the people I met.  It’s hard to write about the friends I made on exchange because it often brings a tear to my eye thinking about the journeys, laughs, smiles and endless memories we’ve shared. I don’t think I’ve smiled and laughed so much in the short span of 6 months and I can honestly say it’s because of the group of people I got to spend this time with. My friends on exchange were like a second family to me, and really still are. Even though I was so far from home, I knew I had a solid support system that would always be there for me. I am extremely happy and proud to say that even to this day not a day goes by that I don’t talk to at least one friend from exchange.  So for many reasons, this exchange opportunity has enriched my life experience and provided me with valuable insight into international studies.  It truly is an adventure that I would highly recommend. 

Alyssa Pinder-Moss
Exchange Country: Scotland, United Kingdom
Host University: University of Strathclyde

Discipline: POLS/DEVS

“People make Glasgow” - that was the saying I saw everyday as I walked throughout the beautiful city and it proved to be extremely true throughout my year abroad. As someone who had never even left North America, leaving for an entire year was a bit daunting. As my departure date drew closer I remember becoming nervous. Would I make a lot of friends? Would I like the city? Would I adjust? By the end of the first week in Glasgow all of my fears were gone. 

Through exchange I was able to make lifelong friends with whom I made countless memories, grew very close to and even travelled throughout Europe in the summer to visit before leaving for Canada. Glasgow became my home and by the end of the year the University of Strathclyde felt more familiar than Queen’s. On exchange I was able to get involved in extracurriculars, jet-set to a new country for the weekend (and still not miss class), explore nearly all of Scotland, make new friends, make countless memories and just over-all have one of the best and most memorable years of my life. I fell so in love with life in Europe that after I had finished my year of school I decided I was not quite ready to leave. This led me to working in Northern Germany for the summer. In Germany I was able to continue to broaden my horizons and really get to immerse myself in another culture. Being in a country where English wasn’t the predominant language also provided new challenges, but also some amazing memories. It really is an experience I am so grateful to have had.

Over-all my year abroad was more than I ever thought it would be. By the end I had gone from a girl who had never been outside of North America to one who had traveled to 14 new countries and had gotten to make friends and learn about cultures from all around the world. Before I left I never imagined living anywhere else in the world, now I am looking at graduate schools in Europe. It really was an experience of a lifetime. 

Katherine Venturi
Exchange Country: Australia
Host University: University of Western Australia

Discipline: POLS/HLTH

When asking yourself if you should apply for exchange, the answer is always, yes. Since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia, which came true in the winter semester of my third year. In my opinion, Perth is the most underrated city in Australia that hosts some of the world’s most beautiful beaches along an unparalleled coastline. The exchange program combines a perfect combination of studying and travelling, while gaining a whole new perspective on yourself and the world around you. While studying in Australia, I had the opportunity to travel around Australia, to New Zealand, Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, which is an opportunity few people will have the chance to experience. The exchange program exceeded my expectations and taught me lessons that will resonate throughout my university career and future endeavours. Thanks to the exchange program, I now have a second home in Perth, Western Australia and tons of new friendships from all over the world that will last a lifetime. I truly believe that my experience of studying abroad with different people outside of the Queen’s environment has enriched my outlook on life academically and personally, which is something I will eternally be grateful for. Although you will never look at Queen’s the same upon returning, I urge everyone to get out of their comfort zone and see the world from a different perspective, while enriching their academic experience. If granted the incomparable opportunity, I wholeheartedly believe that you will return to Queen’s a new person with a new outlook on life that is indescribable.  

Brianna Mackey
Exchange Country: Republic of Ireland
Host University: University College Dublin

Discipline: BIOL/FREN

My exchange experience took me to University College Dublin in Ireland, a country that I had always wanted to visit. As soon as I heard about the international exchange opportunities at Queen’s, I had my heart set on going abroad. My international exchange was one of the most incredible and exciting things I could have ever done.

Dublin was a city full of culture, heritage and some of the most genuine and friendly people I had ever met. After four amazing months in this city, it was truly starting to feel like a second home to me. While abroad, I also had the opportunity to travel to 9 other countries in Europe that opened my eyes to the bountiful and amazing world around us. I visited many cities and landmarks that I had always dreamed of seeing. Some of my favorite memories are from my travels around Ireland. Ireland itself was filled with music, green hills, amazing views and a never-ending history lesson. 

University College Dublin offered me the opportunity to expand my education and take various courses on Irish history, architecture, and folklore. One of my favorite courses at UCD was a Plant Biology lab course with four students and two professors. The class was hands-on, engaging and I came out of it with a new appreciation for this aspect of Biology.

Exchange offered me a new outlook on many aspects of my life, my goals and my ambitions. It was a whirlwind of a semester that most definitely enriched my undergraduate experience. I would highly recommend participating in an international exchange to anyone who is looking for the experience of a lifetime! 

Aleksandra Popovik
Exchange Country: The Netherlands
Host University: University of Groningen

Discipline: POLS/ECON

Last winter semester, I studied at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. Groningen has a population of just fewer than 200,000 and every fifth person in is a student, which gives the city the highest student population density in the Netherlands. Groningen is full of life and young spirit because most people are between the ages of 20-24. It was a wonderful adjustment getting used to biking everywhere and going to the fresh farmer’s market every week. I lived in a student house of 300 internationals and it was the best way to meet new friends from all over the world. In addition to the amazing cheese, bike culture, and friendly people, the Netherlands also has one of the best educational systems. Most of my classes were seminar style with engaging professors. I took a Dutch contemporary history class and a Dutch communications course, which enriched my exchange because it was amazing studying about the culture and history while living there. Going on exchange was the most incredible adventure that inspired me to take more risks and be more open to new and exciting challenges. Studying and travelling abroad helped me hone my leadership skills and gain confidence in a new environment. I would encourage anyone to apply for exchange because it is an unforgettable experience where you will make the best memories. 

Laura Pottier
Exchange Country: Norway
Host University: Universitet i Oslo

Discipline: HIST/POLS

I can honestly say that my involvement in the Queen's Bilateral Exchange Program has been one of my most rewarding experiences at Queen’s. In 2015 I travelled to Oslo, Norway to study at the Universitet i Oslo. Over the course of the year I met lifelong friends that shared in some of my most memorable experiences. Living and studying abroad afforded me the opportunity to learn both about other people’s cultures as well as my own. It gave me confidence in and awareness of my own abilities.

Throughout exchange I met a lot of amazing people doing extraordinary things in the world. It inspired me to look beyond conventional paths and be open to pursing goals that previously felt unobtainable. Whether it’s hiking alongside the fjords, sitting in lecture, having potlucks with roommates, or travelling to other countries with international friends, my exchange experience was something I will never forget and always be thankful for. 

Celeste Wright
Exchange Country: France
Host University: Sciences Po, Paris

Discpline: SOCY

Last semester I had the chance to study abroad at Sciences Po in Paris. Going on exchange was one of the best experiences of my life. It gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture, travel, and explore my interests in a new academic setting. Although the French school system was challenging, it taught me new ways of thinking and analyzing critically. Studying in Europe sparked my interest in social justice and gave me new insights into international issues, allowing me to explore a variety of options for graduate school and future careers.

Living in a place with so much history and diversity exposed me to new things like food, art, history and fashion everyday. Additionally, I got to travel throughout Europe and meet people from all over the world with views and traditions different from my own, many of which eventually became some of my closest friends. While exchange was challenging at times, it helped me gain independence and build my self-confidence. I learned how rewarding it was to take risks and push myself out of my comfort zone.

All in all, going on exchange was incredibly rewarding and I would encourage everyone with the opportunity to go and make the most out of their time abroad. 

Emily Dzongowski
Exchange Country: Scotland, United Kingdom
Host University: University of Edinburgh

Discipline: LISC

I was lucky enough to spend my Winter 2016 semester on exchange at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. My time abroad was truly amazing. Besides having the time of my life, I learned so much about myself, developed confidence, and gained new perspectives. I can confidently say that exchange changed my life! 

Edinburgh was an incredible place to live; it is a dynamic and beautiful city with so much to explore. The university itself has over 400 years of history, and through my studies there, I was able to explore subjects outside of my major and adapt to a new style of learning and assessment. I formed amazing friendships with people from globe (and some from right here at Queen’s!). Additionally, over weekends, school holidays, and admittedly, the pre-exam study period, I made my way to ten countries across Europe, visiting renowned landmarks, trying local food, and soaking in the incredible scenery.

I miss my exchange every day. Being home, I no longer get to hear bagpipes playing on my walk downtown or hike an 800-foot high extinct volcano for a study break. However, I will be forever grateful for the memories, friendships, and life experiences that exchange provided me. It is so incredible to have a second place in the world to call home and I can’t wait to return to Edinburgh in the future

Heather Poechman
Exchange Country: Morocco
Host University: Ecole de Gouvernance et d'Economie

Discipline: PHIL

My year abroad in Morocco was an unforgettable experience. The moment I stepped off the plane onto the tarmac in 30 degree heat after leaving Canada on a chilly September day I felt as though I had entered into another world. French and Arabic dominated the signs hung in the airport and I watched hesitantly as taxi drivers wrestled with my bags to decide who would take me into the heart of Rabat. To say living in northern Africa was a culture shock would be an understatement. But as time passed, I grew used to the palm trees swaying with the breeze off the Atlantic Ocean, the hustle and bustle of a crowded medina, and the endless stretches of desert sand as I travelled through the country. Eventually I found my place in this foreign land with new laws and social expectations and I settled into my life abroad.

My fondest memories are of my travels, and of the friends I made throughout my journeys. I remember the sound of our laughter ringing through bare streets in the early morning hours in Chefchaouen as we picked up a paintbrush with the locals and painted the town its famous shade of cerulean blue. As we rode camels through the Erg Chebbi area of the Sahara I can still recall the feeling of wonder as I gazed at the millions of stars as we rode in silent awe of the vastness of the universe. In Essaouira I took a video of the waves crashing so as to never forget the day where I felt on top of the world, flying with the birds that rode the wind as it rushed up the cragged cliffs on the edge of the city.

I encourage everyone who is considering an exchange experience to absolutely take advantage of such an incredible opportunity. Living abroad changes your perspective, opens you to new and diverse situations, and provides you with the chance to meet people from around the world who will become your best friends. Going on exchange can be difficult, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime and I would highly recommend such an experience to other students at Queen’s University.