Exchange diaries Barbados: Easing into exchange life

Julia Mitchell is in Barbados on exchange this year. She’ll be sharing her experiences every three weeks as a regular contributor to Lifestyle.

Over the past month, I’ve settled into somewhat of a new routine here at my new home at the University of the West Indies in Barbados. Exchange has proven to be a lot of highs and lows — sometimes I’m so happy and thankful to be able to study and travel in this amazing and unique part of the world, but other times I really miss my family and life in Canada in general.

I’m slowly growing more accustomed to the eccentricities of my new home, such as the large population of wild chickens roaming about.

One hen with recently hatched chicks wanders outside the building where I live, giving everyone a daily dose of cuteness. The roosters sometimes squawk loudly in the mornings, but at least they aren’t violent or devious like the squirrels in a certain town I know.

The University organizes tours and activities for all the exchange students, which is great because we get to see more of the island. Barbados isn’t very mountainous, so it wasn’t as extreme a course as I’ve been on before, but traversing through the jungle was definitely an exciting experience.

Having group activities with the exchange students was helpful, because it gave us a chance to connect with people who are all going through the same experience of moving to a new country. Although I’ve loved meeting people from all over the Caribbean and experiencing the culture in my new home, I was relieved to meet some Canadians who feel the same way as I do about being here. Even though we can’t get enough of the beautiful beaches, we still miss sweater weather.

Other than being pockets of air-conditioned bliss in the middle of my day, classes aren’t too different from how they are at Queen’s. I’m taking a course on Caribbean history and it’s intriguing to hear perspectives on slavery in a society where it actually occurred.

I have found that when the topic is taught in Canada, it’s done in an objective and apologetic way. When my professor here talks about it, there’s a real sense of anger in his voice. I’m also taking a class on peer education on HIV and AIDS, which ends with a 20-hour internship counseling people.

I’m nervous I won’t be able to provide adequate help and support due to my lack of real-life experience with this issue, but there’ll be training beforehand that will hopefully prepare me.

The ups and downs of exchange are smoothing out as I settle into everyday life. Even though I still miss home and the Queen’s community, I’m trying to make the most of my opportunities here. And I still have lots of time — one month down, seven still to go!

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