A Year of Self-Indulgence?

With the focus on you, the traveller/student/wanderer, transitioning abroad can be tough. There is no doubt that it could be the personal journey of a lifetime. But how much do you want this adventure to be about you?

By George Davies – The University of Calgary, Canada

Being thrusted into a world of independence and personal adventure can be daunting. One noticeable theme that developed whilst preparing for, and moving into, my year in Canada was that of feeling self-absorbed. In no way was I ungrateful for the opportunity that lay ahead on the other side of the pond. I was also prepared for my family and friends to be excited and intrigued by my upcoming adventure. Yet, it felt like the spotlight was unavoidable, and largely consumed the weeks leading up to my departure.

“Oh my god, I heard you were studying abroad!”

“Where are you going? Are you excited?”

“What does your girlfriend think? Are you going to miss her?”

“Did you know that…? Because my friend went to Canada and they said…”

“Are you coming back at all?”

“I bet your mum is worried!”

“When is your flight? Have you even packed yet?”

“Have you got everything ready?”

“Are you nervous or just a little apprehensive?”

It was not a matter of being unhappy to answer these questions from others. Instead, they often overshadowed what was happening in the now. My wish to make memories and have one last hurrah in the UK before I left, came into conflict with the prospect of what lay ahead. For example, questions around my brother missing me or coming out to see me, only encouraged me to critique any opportunity I had missed to be with him over the summer. This sort of anxiety and continuous emphasis, I feel, can be hard to detach from the expectations and transitional period of studying (and living) abroad for the year.

It could be argued, that this is just a repeat of my first year of university in the UK. Or it could refer to a more quasi-philosophical argument that life in itself is just one long chain of self-indulgence and self-centred decisions. But with studying abroad comes an amplified sense of freedom and individualism. Unshackled from the ‘train journey’ home or the weekend visits from friends, my study abroad became a personal, stand-alone adventure.

Yes, studying abroad can feel overwhelming for one person. And it’s build up can be disorientating when trying to familiarise yourself with an expansive city and a new culture. All whilst on a different continent. But do not fear. I came to realise that my year away was not going to be entirely about me. Going into my third week at the University of Calgary, I have already made some awesome friends that are just as interested as I am to explore the mesmerizingly beautiful Albertan wilderness. As well as joining university groups, such as the UoC Outdoor Adventurers, that have already helped to immerse myself into the province and city that I will call ‘home’ for the next eight months.

Coping with the anxieties of going overseas to study is a problem I think many students face. Too often, this happens behind closed doors. Whilst attending the lively North American football games and climbing the many mountains of Banff seems to be all the rage; I have come to find that it is the everyday activities and commonalities, such as reading my favourite book or just having a cuppa with fellow Brits, that has grounded me firmly into Canadian soil. So far.

Having lunch besides a waterfall at the Johnston Canyon, Alberta.


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