By George Davies (The University of Calgary, Canada)
Before the start of my study abroad experience, I had not planned on returning to the UK until the following summer. I had assumed that my schedule in Calgary would not be able to accommodate for any time to take a trip home. Moreover, it seemed to me that it would have only be a backwards step. Coming all this way across the Atlantic and half of the North American continent, it seemed foolish and a waste of time to venture back to where this story began.
For many prospective study abroad students, the concept of being abroad for the year may be seen as the next rational step in becoming a fully-fledged independent student, and person. I initially saw the similarity between my first year and study abroad year as milestones for making new friends and becoming a bit more self-reliant. Going home was the last thing on my mind. Studying in a new place and living in a new country seemed to be a pretty exciting progression; as I had seen on the likes of Facebook and Instagram. Hence why, I had planned on making the most of every moment during my furthest ever journey from home. I tried to make sure I was out every weekend, be it hiking with the Outdoor Adventure Society or skiing with friends. It was only after 6 months in Canada that I felt like a trip home was needed. There were two key reasons why I had felt this:
- Taking a break
I had originally opted to head home as an excuse to my close family and girlfriend for staying in Canada for the summer. If I was to go home during the reading week in second semester, I saw it as a convincing argument for being away from home longer. I kept telling myself “if I can be away for 6 months, then popping home for a week or so should give me another 6 months of hassle-free time abroad”. Yet, as I sit in the departures lounge in Gatwick, waiting for my return flight back to Calgary for the final stint away, I’ve come to realise how naïve and wrong I was.
Being back in the UK certainly grounded me. It gave me the time to reflect upon what I had done in Canada so far, as well as giving me head space to think of what I wanted to do when I returned. Just as important as this realigning of perspective, was the reality check that being at home gave me. I came to appreciate that life didn’t just involve me throwing myself of the edge of mountains in some far-flung place. But also involved those at home, who were invested in my time away. Moreover, I found the extent of the much feared ‘reverse culture shock‘ to be easier than described by others who had been away for an entire year.
- Free flights!!!
For those of you studying beyond the borders of continental Europe (such as Canada, Mexico or New Zealand), it is important to consider the wonders of Student Finance’s ‘travel grant’. Despite being a pretty mundane topic, it is a vital aspect of saving money for your time away. Thanks to the travel grant, I had been able to get a return flight home fully reimbursed, making it a no-brainer to skip the pond once again.
Briefly heading home was one of the better decisions I’ve made this year. All in all, there are no guidelines to studying abroad for the year. Nothing is set in stone.