Claire P. Exchange Ambassador

What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:


"Exchange is a once in a lifetime experience, and one that you will never forget!" 

CLAIRE P. Claire


Exchange student at BOKU, University of Natural Resources and
Life Sciences, Austria
Winter semester
Studying Environmental Science

  1. What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?

All the wonderful friends I made from all over the world! This experience is highly unique as we are all of similar ages and have similar interests (we’re all studying at the University for Natural Resources for example), however, we come from many different backgrounds, so it was a great opportunity to meet and learn from new people with different worldviews to my own. 

  1. What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?

There were a few cultural adaptions I had to make while here. One of them is that everything in the city is closed on Sundays and stores close much earlier in the day. Another would be that you should not expect everywhere else in the world to be as polite as what we’re used to in Canada! People are not rude at all, they just tend to come across as much more serious. 

  1. Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your exchange?

The coolest place I travelled while studying abroad was Pompeii, Italy. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel a lot over the 3-week Easter break that is in the middle of the semester. 

  1. What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?

Something I know now, that I wish I knew before I went on exchange is how different the course and examination structure at BOKU is to Guelph. For example, for many courses, you have to personally schedule your exam with the professor, and many do not like to plan very far in advance (at Guelph we’re used to knowing our academic schedule right from the start of the semester). There is also something called “oral exams” here, which can come in many forms, but it is basically where you sit with the professor and they ask you questions. It is like a job interview with exam questions! They also have different names for exam styles such as: “open questions” which are short and long answer questions, and “single choice questions” which are what we call multiple choice. It was a bit of a learning curve to figure some of these things out. 

  1. What was your best learning moment?

My biggest learning moment was when I first arrived here and had to learn how to do things all on my own. I have always been independent, however, I also was used to living around my family and friends in the country that I was raised in. In Canada, you know what to expect when you go places. You know people typically speak English, you know its history, you know the traditions, greetings, and customs. When I first arrived here, I knew none of that (there is only so much Google can tell you). Being here all alone was quite the adjustment, especially because I did not speak the language! Little things like grocery shopping or doing laundry or figuring out how to mail a letter were suddenly a challenge. I learned that it takes time to figure things out, but if you are patient and open to changing some of your habits, you will succeed. ​

  1. Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?

The hardest people to leave from home were my family, friends, and boyfriend. I made sure to regularly keep in contact with all of them via Skype, messaging, and social media so the distance was totally manageable! 

  1. Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?

The hardest person to leave that I met on exchange was my friend who I travelled a lot with throughout the semester, as well as backpacked with after school ended! She lives in Finland, so it will be a long-distance relationship for a while! 

  1. If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?

If I were to recommend exchange to my best friend I would tell them that it is a once in a lifetime experience, and one that they will never forget. While it can be more expensive and is definitely farther outside of your comfort zone than a semester in Guelph, the personal growth you will experience will be worth it all. 

  1. Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?

It would be helpful to speak German just for comfort sake, however, it is definitely not mandatory! Most people in the city speak English, and there are lots of classes offered in English. 

  1. Did you live on- or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?

I lived off campus. Most universities in Vienna do not actually offer on-campus residence. Instead, there is a third-party housing organization called OeAD that owns dorms and apartments all throughout the city. I stayed in one of these that was a 10-minute walk to the main campus. 

  1. How did you finance your study abroad experience?

I financed my study abroad experience through personal savings from summer employment, as well as through scholarships and travel grants I received from the University of Guelph. 

  1. What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?

One of my favourite courses I took while studying abroad was titled Rural Development. In it we learned about case studies and the latest research surrounding the development of rural and urban areas in Europe, however, there was also a lot of comparisons made to other countries around the world. This course was offered in English, so there were a lot of exchange students. This made discussions very interesting as many of us came from different countries and continents, with very different laws and regulations. 

  1. How are you including exchange on your resume?

I will incorporate this exchange into my resume by adding BOKU to in my education experience. While at BOKU I also participated in an event planning committee for the international students at the school, where we planned a few events for the student body. I have incorporated this into my resume as well. 

  1. Is there any other helpful information you would like to provide to future study abroad participants?

Put yourself out there! It takes a lot of guts moving to a foreign country, and there are going to be times where you feel lonely or isolated. The best way to remedy that is to remind yourself that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and to go out and seek adventures! Being open to the new environment, new experiences, and new people is how you will make the most of your experience. 

pictures from Claire's travels while studying abroad

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