Melisa Karasu, University of British Columbia, Canada
Well I can’t believe that my time abroad has finally come to an end. I’ve only been back home for a couple of weeks and it already feels like it was all a dream! Now I have settled back into life in England, I think a post dedicated to reflecting on my experience is in order.
Studying abroad really is a whirlwind. Everyday is a new adventure, and you have to make sure you make the most of it. At home it can be easy to leave things until tomorrow, plans..catchups. Here, you literally have to ‘seize the day’ and be sure to plan your time (though not too much – there will be a lot of spontaneity!), with a healthy balance between studying and exploring of course. I really found that you learn a lot about yourself in a way that you just can’t do unless you are pushed outside of your comfort zone, so make sure to say yes to every new opportunity that comes your way – you may not get another chance!
If you find yourself on some days cooped up in a pile of work and studying, be sure to have a break and get out! Even if you have no plans, even just going for a simple walk outside and just marvelling at the amazing beauty on campus is enough to put you in a good mood. Walk to the shop, through campus to the Rose Garden, or take a trip down to the beach.. it is only a 10 minute walk!
Also, don’t be disheartened if when you first arrive at UBC you are overwhelmed at the sheer size of it, wondering how you will ever find your way around. I felt exactly like this when I arrived on a cold dark night amidst the snow and ice, and it wasn’t long after that people were asking me for directions. You’ll soon make it your home.
Enjoy being in such a fabulous city – the main things I observed about Vancouver was that despite the size and vastness of it, it had a very calm and peaceful atmosphere, it was never too busy and it didn’t seem like people were in a rush. Also, you will notice how clean it is! Sometimes at dusk the city looks like a movie set – be sure to head down to Gastown – a beautiful part of downtown that you will probably recognise from some films! Another thing you will notice is down every street the insane backdrop of the mountains – they almost don’t look real! Vancouver really does have it all – mountains, sea, beaches – get out and see it all!
Academically, I loved the freedom I had to tailor my degree more to myself personally – my tutors often allowed and wanted us to seek out our own material and research of interest to use in our assessments, and this is something that is not as common back home. Despite the fact that sometimes this freedom meant that we had less direction in terms of what to expect on exams, it was so nice to experience this different approach of teaching and to challenge myself to what I was not used to.
Overall, to repeat what I concluded with in my first impressions post (it still rings loud and true!), really there is nothing or no one that can truly prepare you for your time abroad, so be sure to go out with an open mind and an awareness that sometimes things don’t go to plan and the world can seem at an end – but then this happens in all the best trips! You will come back with so many stories, new friends and a richer outlook on life – it will undoubtedly be the time of your life!