Just over a year ago, the process of applying for an International Exchange Programme at Keele began. It consisted of visiting the Peer Advisors at the Study Abroad Fair, attending a handful of compulsory meetings, and then the very very long application process of applying to a selection of your favourite universities that have partnered with Keele.
Whilst the whole application process separated out the ‘I want a holiday’ students, and the ‘this could be a life-changing experience’ individuals, lecturers had to support your application, and there was still a chance that your application could be denied. But luckily enough, I was able to proceed, and soon enough, I was completing risk assessments, attending the most random of ‘study abroad preparation’ lectures, and completing VISA waivers…
Two weeks before my flight, I started to panic and I was in that position where my mind and ambition wanted to go adventure abroad, but my heart was wondering if it was the right option for my studies. Was it? Well, at the time, my mind was saying ‘it’s kind of too late to turn back now (and I won’t get my deposit back this late on in the process!), but I bet with myself, and agreed that in five months, when I’m due to return back to London, I’ll look back at this as one of the best adventures in my lifetime!’
Now, five months on, I feel as if I have gone through so much both mentally and physically: the hassle of needing to write two lab reports a week, to hand in pieces of online assignments every day, as well as in-class pop quizzes every other lecture. But despite the amount of stress, tears, and time I’ve put into the semester, it has somehow made me so much more passionate about the subjects that I’m majoring in.
And now, moving to the point in hand… the 9 reasons why I loved studying abroad:
- Being the Selfie Queen
In general, there aren’t that many people who have the opportunity to study abroad in a country they have never visited, for a semester or two. I know for a fact, however, is that once you step foot out of the airplane, you won’t regret it. Obviously it depends on where you are heading for your exchange, but usually, you’ll take thousands of selfies and photos of your surroundings – and yes, everyone else actually wants to see them, even if they say they don’t (or you could just shove them onto Instagram like I do)!
Your ridiculous number of selfies would then be shown to everyone in your family, your close friends and so on… If you know me, whether through social networking, or if I’ve known you personally for years, you’ll know that whenever I go out with friends or family, I always take hundreds of photos (like it or not!). I love being able to do so because you don’t usually get to visit a place twice – so having that memory stored as part of a photo is just something that really makes me excited.
2. Sometimes change is a good thing…
Don’t get me wrong, I love Keele. I really do. But studying abroad at another university, on the other side of the world, is something I have been considering since high school. Here, I’ve not only learnt to be more independent, but I’ve also learnt to adapt to change (new friends, new country, new courses). Everything: styles of teaching, the variety of food, the fact I had a roommate, was all new to me. I had never really experienced that much change all at once before, but after a few days, life was all good again!
I also thought of it as a good way to get a fresh start. Whilst abroad, I came across so many different types of people, and it definitely brought out different parts of my personality in ways that I had never expected before. I learned how to be confident in myself, and most importantly, learned how to make friends (all of who later turned out to be the best selfie, foodie, and study buddies in the world!!)!
3. The Accents
So we are all aware of the fact that most Canadian people, as well as American people, love British accents. Why? I have no idea. But whenever I went to order food from the res cafe, or whenever I went to get a Frappuccino from Starbucks, they just stared at me for a while, and was like ‘OMG YOU’RE BRITISH’…uhhhh, yep.
4. BEYONCE: The Opportunity to Study Outside of Your Subjects
So this is a more academic point. I never in a million years thought that I’d be able to study Human Neuropsychology. It was never really part of the Keele Neuroscience syllabus, so when I found out that I had successfully been registered for this course, I quite literally was over the moon. Yes, it was by far a ridiculously difficult class, with most of the students being 3rd/4th years; but I guess this made me study harder.
Your exchange would mean that you don’t need to pay tuition towards your host university (since you’ll be paying your normal fees towards your home university) – and this means that you can really take advantage of the number and variety of courses your host university has to offer.
I honestly really wanted to take UVic’s Beyonce course, but since it clashed with some Chemistry classes, I couldn’t! But if I were ever to go back to take a summer course…I’m hands down signing up for it!
5. MMMMMMMM…the foooooood is definitely better!
Alright, when you compare the quality of the food in Victoria, to that of London, you’d want to move to Canada ASAP. Not only is the quality of food in Canada better than anything you can get in London, it is also fresh-(er) (yes, I’m referring to the many many many many Sushi restaurants I visited), and cheaper too!
You could literally have a huge bowl of noodles, bubble tea, and a side for under $15 (approximately £7.50 [pre-Brexit!]). BARGAIN!
I’ve found that a high majority of people living in BC love food; yes, they’re now proudly called foodies! They know all the best places for Korean BBQ, Sushi, seafood, Italian and so on – literally every place that I’ve visited whilst in Victoria and in Vancouver, was recommended to me by the locals and no regrets!
6. The friends you’ll meet will be your friends for life
In saying this, I obviously can’t predict the future. But ultimately, the people you meet whilst traveling, the people you live with, the people who motivate you during exam periods when you’re sat in your messy room on the verge of tears, are all-in-all, the people you will be best friends with for the rest of your life.
If you lived in halls like me, you’ll see the same people everyday, at every meal, and I guess you can never really forget that. (Update: We’re still on some pretty slick Snapchat streaks! – Oct 2016)
Okay, I’ve actually had a few people emailing me asking if studying abroad is like a semester-long vacation. As much as I’d hate to admit it, the truth is…no. You actually have to study whilst you’re abroad…believe it or not!
The first few weeks of the semester were challenging as I had to adapt to all these new systems and with the workload so I barely had time to do anything aside from going downtown and uptown to take some photos, and then when I had more time, it was time for midterms, and then it was time to start preparing for finals.
To be fair, traveling around BC is one of the reasons why I decided to change the date I arrived back in London though. If you’re given the opportunity to study for a 2nd Semester, definitely do it. Canadian schools finish their Winter Term in April – whereas UK ends in late June. This gives you a solid few months, and then the rest of the summer break, to travel (then you can send pics back to your friends back home…and let them be jel)!
For most students, until the day after you graduate, you might not actually have the time to go traveling as often as you would like – therefore, if you can manage to nab a semester or year abroad, this will basically be a period for you to have fun (and study too)!
8. Employers might even love you more!
When you apply for jobs, you want to stand out from other people. You want to be able to get the job because in our minds, we have to do better than everyone else. Studying abroad might help in doing this.
Employers want to know you can live independently, they want to know you have the ability to adapt to changes, and survive in different social and economic environments too.
What more could they want from a graduate?
9. You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do…
I know so many 2nd and 3rd years right now who are regretting not taking the opportunity to study abroad. Therefore, don’t be them…
Study abroad may not be for everyone, but you will never really know until you try (or, at least explore the idea of going abroad)!
PS: Now I’ve finally got around to blogging again, I honestly cannot wait to show you all the food pictures, landmarks, and basically everything I’ve done this semester!