By Emily Privett, Geography, Queen’s University, Canada
Everyone’s heard of the cliche ‘time flies when you’re having fun!’ and before I went on exchange, everyone was telling me that the year would fly by and I’ll be home before I knew it. I didn’t believe them then, but now that I’m reaching the end of my time in Canada, both of those phrases are all too true.
It only seems like yesterday that I was getting off my Megabus at Queen’s University and had to ask the bus driver where Princess Street was in order to find my motel way back on the 19th August. Now I’m here staring at all my clothes wondering how on earth I’m going to get it into one suitcase to get on a plane to Vancouver in five days. I can’t even begin to sum up my year in one blog and honestly I have no idea how I’m going to answer the question ‘How was your year abroad?!’ which I will inevitably be asked approximately a thousand times when I return. The reason for this is that so much has happened, I’ve met so many people, experienced so many things and learnt so much that it cannot all be explained accurately in one blog post or one conversation, without it turning into an essay or lecture!
I guess I really just want to encourage anyone reading this and thinking about going on exchange to do it! Actually, even if you’re not thinking about going on exchange, start thinking about it! It has been such a privilege to be able to take a year of my life to leave everything that I know and move to a different country, immerse myself in the culture (possibly a few too many poutines eaten in the name of ‘culture’ though in my case), to meet people from all over the world and travel. I don’t think that you can really replicate this experience any other time of your life.
The friends that I have made over here are what have made the experience truly incredible. Not only travelling with them and making memories, even if some of them include struggling over exams and deadlines, but knowing that I now have friends in Australia, Sweden, Finland, Holland, and of course Canada to name just a few.
Obviously there have been ups and downs throughout my year abroad, and I’d be wrongly representing my year abroad if I pretended that it was all plain sailing. It wasn’t. The first day waking up in my new house when my friend had gone home was terrifying. I felt lonely and I wanted to go home. But it just takes time, and I kept telling myself that I got through first year and so I can definitely get through this year! I have grown in myself in the past two years and so from my experience in first year I knew that what I needed to do was to make friends and to make myself busy. So I did. Connecting with people early on is the best thing to do, and although I was terrified to go to the first exchange student meet-up right at the beginning of September, I knew it was the right thing to do. One of the girls that I met there that night is still one of my close friends so it was definitely worthwhile!
I am notoriously bad at good-byes and so I don’t think I’ll really accept that I’ve left Queen’s and Canada until I’m at home and go to text one of my friends over here to see if they want to do something that evening before realising we now live in different continents instead of five minutes down the road. Having said that, although it will be sad to leave, I don’t regret my decision to go abroad at all!