By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada)
After a lovely Christmas break at home, I returned to SFU feeling refreshed and excited for the second semester. So far I have enjoyed this semester more than the first as I just feel so much more settled and in the swing of things. I took the opportunity to do two courses from Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, as well as two from Geography. I have found these really interesting and definitely recommend other exchange students to do courses outside of their normal subject as it’s a nice change and a chance to learn about other things that interest you. I have also been trying to sort my dissertation out as I was undecided for a long time, but now have an idea so will hopefully be starting my research as soon as possible as I only have just over two months left at SFU! Time really does go quickly, so if you can have things like your dissertation sorted before you arrive for your exchange and start the work early then you won’t need to stress as much as I have, and have more time to enjoy yourself.
Apart from doing small stuff in Vancouver, my main travel and exciting experience of this semester so far has been going to Hawaii for reading break. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and when I heard previous Vancouver exchange students had gone I knew this was my chance to go. Luckily, one of my closest friends here also wanted to go so I didn’t need to worry about going alone. A direct flight from Vancouver to Honolulu is about six hours, which is quite far, but this is the closest I am going to get and for the cheapest. The trip was worth it just for the sunny and warm weather alone, which was a nice break from rainy and foggy cold Vancouver. Our trip included exploring Honolulu and Waikiki, visiting Pearl Harbour, hiking, visiting different beaches such as Lanikai and Kailua, snorkelling at Hanauma Bay and going into the mountains to Manoa Falls where they filmed some of Lost! I had such a great time, Hawaiians are so friendly and helpful and the island has such a nice feel. I would definitely recommend it, although now I have definitely seen enough retired Americans in Hawaiian shirts to last a lifetime!
I am so glad I took the opportunity to go to Hawaii, an example of the amazing opportunities and experiences available to you when you choose to study abroad! I have managed to do a lot of the things I planned to, which I am proud of as it shows I am making the most of my time abroad and that I will have little to regret. However still left on my study abroad bucket list are visiting Victoria in Vancouver Island, and exploring east Canada after I am finished at SFU. So fingers crossed, I will have seen and done everything I wanted to by the end of my time in Canada!