Academic Life at SFU

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Finals have just finished, ending semester 1, and I head home for the holidays in a couple of days, which I’m so excited for. My first semester at SFU hasn’t been the easiest, however, once I finally settled in and found my feet, things have only gotten better. The academic side of life at SFU is what I’ve had the least issues with; it was what I expected and hasn’t yet caused me any major difficulties.

Lectures are fairly similar to Manchester in layout and teaching, although not all professors use slides or put them online. The size of lectures depends on the course, mine range from around 40 to 100. Other differences are that people participate in lectures more by asking questions or actually answering the professor’s questions, which wasn’t really done in Manchester. Lectures are usually based on the week’s reading, plus some extra detail. Therefore it is vital to do the week’s reading, especially as they are then discussed in that week’s tutorial. Tutorial participation and attendance is a percentage of the course’s overall grade, so people get involved a lot more and show interest in the topics, which makes the content easier to understand and remember.

In terms of workload, there are fewer essays: I only had to do two this semester. Instead, there are smaller exercises such as group presentations, weekly readings, midterms and final exams. The grade boundaries here are also a lot higher than Manchester with a B- equalling 73-77 and an A- 86-89! Exams for geography typically involve some short answer questions and definitions, and an essay. SFU has exams morning, afternoon and evening during the exam period and even on the weekends! I am definitely not a fan of 7-10pm exams!

Seattle
Seattle
Seattle
Seattle

However my first semester hasn’t been all work. I’ve been up to lots, including visiting Seattle, watching the Canucks play, visiting the Vancouver Aquarium and much more. Vancouver also gets very festive over the holiday season, with snow, the Vancouver Christmas Market (definitely not as good as Manchester’s), Roger’s Santa Claus Parade and Bright Nights at Stanley Park. I can’t believe how quickly this semester has gone and that I’m halfway through my exchange. Time is running out so I really need to get started on my dissertation, as well as doing all the other things I want to do and see. I’m looking forward to second semester and the adventures it brings!

Yaletown
Yaletown
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Downtown
Downtown
Bright Nights at Stanley Park
Bright Nights at Stanley Park

First Weeks

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

My first two weeks in Canada and SFU have been so busy I have barely had a minute to let it sink in! After two lonely days in Vancouver sorting out a phone and exploring, I took a taxi to SFU. I hadn’t been nervous about starting until I saw the mountain looming in the distance and it hit me how much of a big adventure I was undertaking.

Downtown Vancouver
Downtown Vancouver

IMG_3358Moving into my accommodation was fine with everyone being very helpful, however, it was early to move in (which mainly first years do), so my accommodation was very empty which was a slightly strange experience. However, I was able to make plenty of friends through orientation week, which I hadn’t realised would be so hard-core (7am to 9pm every day). Highlights of orientation included a great inspirational speech by a comedian/musician, the cheerleaders teaching us the SFU chant and a day trip to Lynn Valley. This was very different to Manchester’s Fresher’s week, which I surprisingly hadn’t expected, with more activities and guidance such as campus tours, which are great when everything is new.

Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge
Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge

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Being on a campus university on top of a mountain is extremely different to Manchester and something I am still not sure on. The campus is small which can be great for getting to classes, but also means there is a limited amount of things to do. The bus to downtown Vancouver takes an hour, which isn’t too bad but isn’t as convenient. However, the facilities on campus are great and there are some great views of Vancouver and the surrounding mountains, especially from Burnaby Mountain Park. I am not looking forward to when the rainy weather kicks in, as it can get very grey and foggy up here, especially as it blends it into the concrete architecture. Although it has cleverly been designed so you can walk from residence to class without having to walk in the rain. In the coming week are the club days, so I am looking forward to see what’s on offer and getting more involved in university life. Classes so far have been more similar to Manchester lectures than I anticipated, the main difference being the expensive textbooks that some the classes require.

SFU Campus
SFU Campus

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View from SFU
View from SFU
View of Vancouver at sunset from Burnaby Mountain Park
View of Vancouver at sunset from Burnaby Mountain Park

Weekends are busy with exploring and activities, especially as my to-do list only seems to grow. Attending the SFU homecoming football game was a weird experience, they are as stereotypical as you imagine and exactly like the movies! Having access to both mountains, beaches and the city is amazing, sunset at Kitsilano Beach can’t be missed! I already have my tickets ready for a Vancouver Giants hockey game and a trip to Whistler. There is just so much to do and I can’t wait!IMG_3416

Sunset at Kitsilano Beach
Sunset at Kitsilano Beach

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The Final Countdown

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada)

After all the applications, research and planning for what seems like the past year, I’m leaving for Canada on Monday! I feel slightly mentally unprepared but otherwise I have pretty much everything sorted from accommodation to my timetable. The only thing I’m dreading is saying goodbye to my friends and family, although it’s not too bad as I’m back at Christmas.

As this is the first year Simon Fraser University has been available to the University of Manchester for exchange, there hasn’t been any previous Manchester students I could get advice from. However SFU have a Buddy Program where they partner you with a current SFU student who is looking to study at your home institution. Therefore you share advice and help about studying at each other’s universities, which has been really helpful. As I am one of the first University of Manchester students studying at SFU, I hope to portray through this blog what SFU is really like to help provide more information on the university to prospective study abroad students.

So the only things left for me to do are to pack and squeeze in as many goodbyes as I can before I leave! I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet how much of a big adventure I’m about to embark on but I can’t wait for it to begin!