By George Davies (The University of Calgary, Canada)
There is no doubt that going away for a year to a foreign land can be remarkable. The endless stream of Instagram posts and vlogs are clear evidence of this. From the shots of students lost in the urban paradise of Hong Kong, to my fellow Mancunian travellers taking snaps in the idyllic rural landscapes of South America. For those that want study abroad, there is certainly enough substance out there to tickle your taste-buds and inspire you to go on an adventure.
Reflecting on my first semester here in Calgary, Canada, I can rightfully vouch for the good times many students have whilst away. I’ve met some of the most interesting and fascinating people, skied down some of the gnarliest slopes in the Rocky Mountains and skated on the fastest ice in the world. All in all, the first semester has been a whirlwind. Yet, as a pre-warning for you imminent wanderers, it isn’t always as smooth as it looks.
The academic experience can be exciting and refreshing. For many, the choice to study abroad presents itself as a method of escapism. As an escape from the Oxford Road commute or the Main Library, Blue 2 study spaces. For me, the opportunity to study 50 per cent of my year in any subject of my choice has been an eye opener. But there certainly has been no escape from the anxieties of final exams or squeezing in coursework submissions. On top of this, any day spent in the library can feel like a missed opportunity to be out in the mountains or taking a trip to see fellow Manchester students in Canada or the USA. To put it frankly, it can be hard to write an essay on the failures of contemporary North American politics, when you’ve just seen that a Manchester student has para-glided over the golden east coast of Australia.
And then things can get ugly. For me, this ugliness came in the form of a ruptured appendix the other week. It should be clear that when you are curled up on the floor of an emergency clinic in agonising pain, that things aren’t going so well. After having emergency surgery on a shattered and infected appendix, as well as spending several days in a 4-person recovery ward, I realised that it may have not been my best experience yet. But despite the post-surgical vomiting and uncontrollable bowel movements, I think it’s important to consider expectations.
Yes, a lot of your time away will most likely be enjoyable and exciting, but just be aware that sometimes things don’t work out. And that’s okay. Because when they don’t, there is no need to rush. Take your time to chill, look after yourself and the good times will be waiting just around the corner. Those gnarly slopes aren’t going anywhere fast.