Back in August, I packed my life into a 23 kg suitcase, heading to a country I’d never visited before.
After a lengthy application process and months of planning, I travelled over three thousand miles to start my exchange year abroad at Queen’s, from the University of Warwick in England. Now, with just over two weeks until my exchange year abroad is completed, I’m wishing I could do it all over again.
Here’s why you should take the jump and do it too.
As an avid traveller, the prospect of living and studying in a country I hadn’t visited before was exhilarating, but not without natural apprehension about the logistics of being far away from my family, friends, and boyfriend. Admittedly, the process can be scary.
However, the friendships you make are completely worth it.
During my time in Canada, I’ve developed such a strong support network and lifelong friendships with my roommates. They’ve been a source of fun, genuine friendship, and support both during the positive times and the inevitable down periods of missing my loved ones back home.
I’ve also made good friends with other exchange students. These relationships are invaluable as it’s so comforting to have friends who can relate to the experience and potential worries that accompany living and studying in another country.
Being on exchange also gives you the opportunity to travel and explore new places and new cultures.
In my experience, exchange students are up for travelling and exploring, so I’ve had the opportunity to travel around Canada and the United States with some of my closest friends, including trips to Washington D.C., Montreal, Ottawa and New York.
As an English literature and creative writing student at my home university, I was so excited by the plethora of course options at Queen’s both directly related to my degree, as well as in
other fields like history. It’s been enlightening to expand my knowledge in courses I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take at my home university, such as “Canadian Literature” and “True Crime Memoir.”
I’ve also embarked on an internship at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, an experience which immersed me in the local Kingston life.
Living in another country for eight months allows you to gain such a deep understanding of cultural intricacies you wouldn’t otherwise have had time to experience on a short vacation.
I’ve been able to find out the best restaurants and shops that aren’t in the UK, become familiar with Canadian phrases, enjoy Canada in all four seasons and realise just how much snow can fall here in the winter.
Studying and living abroad makes you appreciate life back at home even more, too. Each time I returned to the UK during my study year abroad, I felt a renewed gratitude for the simplest things: talking to my loved ones in real life, not through a screen; the familiarity of my local supermarket; and hearing the accent of my hometown after so many months away.
Having said this, choosing to go on an exchange isn’t without its difficulties. There are
all the formalities you must go through before you even step foot in your host country: an endless stream of application papers, finding housing and organizing the logistics of travelling and flights, and navigating time differences when staying in touch with friends and family.
All of the problems you might face on an exchange are overshadowed by the awesome feeling of growing independence and confidence in your self-sufficiency.
As I head back to the University of Warwick for my final year of undergraduate study, I’m instilled with an unforgettable experience I highly recommend to anyone with the opportunity to do so.
There will be inevitable apprehensions, worries, doubts, and fears that may accompany your debate to study abroad. You’ll wonder if you’re strong enough to embark on an exchange.
Regardless of what apprehensions you may have, the answer is a resounding yes.
Abroad, Exchange, Student life, Travel
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