Where did you go on exchange?
Carla: University of Southampton in England.
Ian: University of Bergen in Bergen, Norway.
Dakota: Lund University in Lund, Sweden.
Adam: Queens University Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Maria: Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
Ryan: National University of Singapore (NUS) in Singapore.
Chris: Vrije University in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
How did you obtain housing on exchange?
Carla: Through the university residence.
Ian: I obtained housing through my host university. I lived in a residence that was similar to a typical Canadian university residence: I had a single room and I shared a kitchen with five others.
Dakota: I obtained housing through LU Accommodation, which is run through Lund University.
Adam: Through the school, I was allocated a room in residence.
Maria: There was no on campus housing but the QUT website had a page directing incoming students to convenient student housing in the city. I ultimately settled on an all-student apartment building where I shared a room with another person and common areas with 14 other people. This building had a lot of amenities but I do wish I had tried to find a house with other students.
Ryan: I was lucky to get a place in – very reasonable – student housing on campus. Other options would have been logistically tricky and quite expensive.
Chris: The University arranged my housing. I lived in an apartment building of all international students.
How was day-to-day life in your destination different than Halifax?
Carla: The culture and way of life is very similar to Halifax. However, I spent most of my time travelling and didn’t do a lot of social activities with the other students there.
Ian: The biggest difference between day-to-day life in Bergen compared to Halifax is the price of living. For example, a pint of beer at a bar in Bergen costs about $15 CAD. Students tend not to go out to bars or restaurants very often—and instead socialize at home. The other big difference is the amount of time I was able to spend in the outdoors. On most weekdays I would go hiking for a few hours after class, and I think I went on longer hikes every single weekend. It is possible to take buses to the various trailheads, and there are hundreds of kilometers of trails surrounding Bergen.
Dakota: My day-to-day life in Lund was actually very similar to my life in Halifax. One of the biggest differences was that to get to and from places, I biked instead of taking transit. It was a lot cheaper and more enjoyable. Another difference was that my day started later and was usually more relaxed. Things didn’t really open in Lund until about 10:00 am.
Adam: Less class, only six hours per week. [It] rained a lot. [The] temperature [was] slightly warmer. In Halifax I am mostly doing readings, in Belfast I had more time to exercise and spend time with friends.
Maria: The weather was of course a big change. I found myself much more motivated to get outside each day and this led to me see areas of the city outside of my home/school bubble. I’ve always felt contained to the downtown/university area while in Halifax so that was a nice change.
Ryan: Getting used to the heat in Singapore takes time. The infinity pool across from my building helped with this. I swam laps every morning and sat in a sun chair, sweating profusely, to do my readings. I had no kitchen, so I ate out for all of my meals. This was not expensive. I was pleased with most of the differences between life in Halifax and Singapore. One exception to this rule, however, was the cost of having a drink. A – crap – beer in Singapore runs between $7 at a 7-11 and about $25 at a trendy rooftop place. Needless to say, I kept a healthy stash of duty free liquor under my bed.
Chris: In Amsterdam, I biked everywhere in the city and spent a lot less time in the library and much more time exploring the many unique cafes, bars and restaurants that the city had to offer.
What was the most memorable thing you did on exchange?
Carla: Visiting other Dal Law students on exchange in Amsterdam
Ian: Kayaking through Nærøyfjord with some other Dal Law students is an experience that I will never forget.
Dakota: Walking through the streets everywhere that I traveled. Each place that I visited had such a different atmosphere.
Adam: Exploring Munich, Germany by bicycle.
Maria: Driving up the east coast of Queensland was amazing. I rented a car with two of my friends from Norway who were also on exchange and we just stopped anywhere that looked interesting. We got to see a lot of things and meet a lot of people that I don’t think we would have if we had just followed the standard tourist route.
Ryan: I arranged to finish exams on November 16th. The next day, I flew to Nepal and began a 22-day trek around the Annapurna Himal. The route I followed covered about 400 kilometers and took me from an elevation of about 800 meters all the way up to 5,400. Temperatures ranged from a balmy 25 degrees right down to -20, with substantial wind chill. Physically, my trek was challenging, but the most rewarding part for me was the sense of journey. When I travel, I wander on foot compulsively –– sometimes 30 kilometers a day in any given city. My experience in Nepal allowed me to see a decent chunk of a country on foot. I passed through jungles, forests, high alpine zones and arid plains. The local people, their food and their customs were equally diverse.
Chris: I went hang-gliding in the Swiss Alps! Another memorable experience was celebrating at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany with fellow Dal students Sam Ward and Jackie Tmej.
What was the most memorable place you saw on exchange?
Ian: Inside of Norway: Nærøyfjord. Outside of Norway: Gdansk, Poland.
Dakota: Rome. There was just so much history everywhere. Although, I would give an honourable mention to Madrid. The San Miguel Tapas Market was so good.
Adam: The Residenz, Munich, Germany
Maria: That’s a toss up. Whitsundays was by far the most beautiful relaxing place I’ve ever been, but I also spent a week in Indonesia which really put me out of the westernized comfort zone I had found in Australia. Kelingking Beach and Jakarta were the two most memorable places I went while in Indonesia. The former because it was the most challenging and beautiful hike I’ve ever done, the latter because it was the most culturally unique place I’ve been.
Ryan: See Previous Question
Chris: Hiking through the Dolomites in the Italian Alps was incredibly memorable, as the area is a UNESCO world heritage site and the unique geography of the region provides for breathtaking view from the summits of the mountains, and life in the valleys below is very serene and quaint.
Visiting Prague was also memorable, as the beautiful architecture of the city, such as the Prague castle, was mostly spared from bombing during the War. As well, the city has a fascinating history, as it played an integral role in world events form the Protestant Reformation all the way to Nazi occupation, the Spring Uprising and fall of the Soviet Union.
What was your favourite thing about living in your exchange location?
Carla: I lived in City Gateway Halls. It was very clean and well-maintained.
Ian: Getting to spend time so much time hiking around the mountains surrounding the city.
I also loved getting to know some Norwegians and learning about Norwegian society and culture. To generalize, I found that many Norwegians are a little bit reserved in public, but extremely friendly and hospitable once you start speaking with them.
Dakota: I loved how easy it was to bike in Lund.
Adam: More free time, very green.
Maria: Meeting new people. Travelling to Australia on my own really forced me to come out of my shell to make friends. I learned very quickly that if you aren’t willing to go up to strangers and introduce yourself you were going to have a bad time, and now I have friends that I still stay in touch with all over the world!
Ryan: Singapore is in some ways a contrived, sterile place. That said, culture and uniqueness can be found if one goes looking for it. The easiest route is via Singaporean food, which is a wonderful blend of Chinese, Malay, and Indian. I spent much of my time sampling stalls in hawker centres, which are sort of giant food courts set in warehouse-like buildings, open to the air along their periphery. A good meal seldom runs more than $6.
Chris: The beautiful and unique architecture of Amsterdam, as most of the buildings have their original facades from the 17th century, and biking around the Canals.
How were the students at your exchange university different than Dal?
Carla: They were all around [age] 19, so much younger than Dal.
Ian: Law is an undergraduate degree in Norway, so the students are a little bit younger. But other than that, I did not find the students to be very different.
Dakota: Almost all of the students in my classes were also exchange students. I think the biggest difference was that a lot of them don’t want to be lawyers. In many of their countries, law is seen as a good general degree to get if you aren’t sure what you want to do
Adam: No different.
Maria: I can’t say I noticed a huge difference in the students in Australia. The broke student trope seems to be pretty universal.
Ryan: Singaporean law students are young, and I find that it shows. Female students come right out of high school, and males generally do two years in the military prior to their arrival in the LLB program. Culturally, there is a stronger focus on academics and the career, and everything in students’ lives seems to center around the school. Many put in six long days on campus each week. Interestingly, local students tend not to engage with the professor in class –– this is, for better or for worse, left to exchange students, who are numerous and diverse at NUS.
Chris: Most students at the Vrije University were younger than students at Dal Law, and were mostly international students as well so they were from all over the world.
How was the curriculum at your exchange university different than Dal?
Carla: Southampton focuses on Maritime law. The courses available to visiting students were more limited than those available to Southampton students, so I’m not sure how many courses Southampton law school actually offers. The courses were similar for the most part other than special courses like Maritime law and EU law
Ian: Law is taught more as a social science than as a professional degree. The school seemed to offer a wide range of courses, though. There were various classes in international law, competition law, corporate law, taxation, and other subjects.
Dakota: At Lund University, you only take one course at a time. For the entire semester you take two courses. The classes that I took were broken into three parts. The first part was a traditional lecture, the second part was a series of group projects and presentations, and the third part was a paper. At the end of the second part, there was an exam that tested you on the lecture and project materials.
Adam: [The curriculum was] more essay based than Dal. Also, more practical, hands on learning.
Maria: The curriculum was very comparable in the way it was organized however, in Australia law is an undergraduate degree that you can start right out of high school and takes five years. For this reason, I noticed a big difference in the degree of work required in lower year courses (1000-3000 level) and upper year courses (4000-5000 level). Also, at QUT all classes, with the exception of workshops, are recorded and posted online; this was incredibly helpful if you happened to miss a class or just didn’t fully understand something the first time around.
Ryan: As far as I could tell, there is very little difference in course offerings, though the selection is slightly broader than that offered by Dal, and methods of teaching. LLB students at NUS do a four-year degree, and there are more mandatory courses, particularly in the realms of business law, international law, and arbitration. The international aspect of NUS is reflected in my selection of professors: two were English, one a New Zealander, and one a Sri Lankan.
Chris: The classes I took were much more focused on international law as well as EU law, and less of a focus on common law principles and case law.
What is the most interesting thing you learned on exchange?
Carla: I learned how a law school operates in a different country and how similar [or] dissimilar the laws are in the UK.
Ian: I had no idea that it was still legal to harvest whale in Norway. I tried some and found it pretty gross. On an occasion that we went out to eat, Peter [Faour] ordered a whale burger.
Dakota: Law school varies dramatically across countries.
Adam: The law of war and the international conventions on antipersonnel landmines.
Maria: Two things: first that I am much more comfortable talking to strangers and travelling on my own than I thought, and second that Australia does not always live up to the relaxed and progressive nation that we as Canadians might assume. Politically and socially they are notably more conservative. This became clear when I learned in class that abortion and gay marriage were still illegal. Though the latter was legalized while I was living there and some states have made steps towards accessible medical abortions this lack of progressive idealism permeated many aspects of Australian life.
Ryan: I thrived in particular in the admiralty course that I took with Professor Paul Myburgh (highly recommended). I can’t pick out a specific factoid to wow you with, but I’d recommend the course for anyone who loves history, gazes longingly at the sea and appreciates dry humour.
Chris: I took a masters course on refugee and family migration law, which taught me the basics of international refugee law, but the most interesting part of the course was learning about the standards and processes for dealing with asylum applications in Europe imposed by the European Union, and how individual member states interpret and apply them. The course allowed me to better understand the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, and the role that lawyers can play in addressing it.
What would you tell another student who wanted to go on exchange?
Carla: It’s a great travel and educational experience. Take courses that will teach you more about the laws in that country.
Ian: Go for it! Also, I recommend trying to get involved in the community that you are staying in. I joined a law school running group. I was the only exchange student in the group, and people were very welcoming and happy to have me. Through spending time with them I ended up learning a lot about Norwegian culture and society that I would not have otherwise.
Dakota: It’s worth it. If given the choice to go on exchange again, I would go in a heartbeat. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience!
Adam: Do it. I would recommend taking on extra projects at school if you do not want to travel every weekend but do not want to be bored.
Maria: Get out of your comfort zone. Even if you’re not sure about something do it anyway, nine times out of ten you wont regret it!
Ryan: Whatever your circumstances, go on exchange. Don’t use the cost as an excuse –– most of the options can be done cheaper than Halifax, particularly with SWIF funding ($2000) and some measure of planning. Peripheral travel will of course add to your cost, but I don’t think there’s a better use for your line of credit at this stage.
Chris: Going on exchange is an incredible opportunity that everyone should take advantage of if they are able to. My advice to those who go is to take full advantage of every opportunity and travel as much as you can!