Exchange story - Penny Peng

Penny PengPenny Peng was our Bachelor of Engineering Civil Engineering student, she graduated in 2011.

I am an international student doing civil engineering at UNSW. I went on exchange to McGill University in Montreal, Canada for a whole year in 2012. Everyone I met who went on international exchange told me that it was the greatest decision they had ever made. I was so looking forward to it, but I was also nervous that it wouldn’t be as good an experience as others had had. Now, I can confidently say that I had the best time of my life as well.

McGill University is considered to be the best in Canada and its engineering faculty is also in the top ranking internationally. Montréal is a French-speaking city, but this is nothing to worry about because everyone is bilingual and all the classes are taught in English. Studying there is a good chance to learn French as well; their government offers many classes for different levels. The international student association there also offers free French classes that are taught by French students.

Courses you take at the host university have to match ones you would do here, so you can get the credits for your program. This can be quite difficult. It’s easier if you go on exchange early because it gives you more courses to choose from when you’re looking for ones that match. I had just finished my third semester when I went on exchange, so it gave me more opportunities to find matching courses at McGill.

I was able to find matches for Structural Engineering 1 and 2, Transport Engineering, Traffic Engineering and Simulation, Construction Materials, Hydrology and Water Resources, Design of Steel Structures and Sustainable Project Management. And it’s probably be better if you get more courses approved than you actually need to do in the host university, because you never know the schedule until you get there.

Like every freshman, I was anxious at the beginning, and worried about meeting people and how I would get on. Luckily, it all turned out well. I really didn’t feel bored for a second when I was in Montreal; there are things to do every day. The international student organisation has a pub crawl every week and it is a great way to meet friends. There are also many places to visit during the weekend, like Quebec, New York and Boston. New York is less than two hours flight and Greyhound buses run every day from Montréal to New York mean that you can make the most of this geographical advantage.

Being an exchange student means that you can have as much fun as you want and you’ve got the chance to do things that you wouldn’t ever imagine doing back home. Because you can make friends with people from all over the world, exchange students all have a positive attitude and want to have the best time possible. Montréal is cool place, with good food and beautiful sights. There are lots of festivals in the summer and when it comes to winter Mont-tremble is the best place for skiing.

I have to say that going on exchange was the best decision I’ve ever made. I did meet lots of friends and travel to many cities last year, but the best thing I found about exchange is that you get to know yourself and get to know what you actually what. I encourage everyone who has the chance to apply for exchange and I am sure it would something in your life that you always remember and definitely not regret. Everything that you are worried about will disappear once you get there. And you will end up realising what an awesome time you had.