By Sophie Black (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
It’s been a year since my time at UBC ended.
The sense of spontaneity and adventure has long gone, taken over by the dreaded dissertation and final year stress.
Living in Canada for the year taught me to be flexible, open-minded to different cultures, and adapt to new ways of thinking and doing things. I have grown in so many ways – I have more confidence, I am far more independent, and my mum says I am noticeably more mature (I’m not sure what she is insinuating… but I’ll take it as a complement!). It has made me more appreciative of what I have – a spin on the phrase ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. Since I lived ‘without’ them for a year, now I have returned from Canada I value my family and friends so much more.
My year at UBC undoubtedly made me feel so much stronger academically. This was only compounded by the fact that I was able to take modules beyond my Geography degree, spreading my understanding into the anthropological, sociological and psychological realms. I have frequently found myself referring back to concepts and theories I learnt out at UBC, subsequently making my essays and exam scripts seem interdisciplinary in addition to giving the impression I have gone way beyond the reading lists!
My time abroad has led me to constantly encourage younger students to take the same path. When the academic year started again in September, I took the opportunity to become a Global Guidance Ambassador for the International Programmes Office. This job has run perfectly alongside my final year of university, giving me eight hours a week when I can escape from my dissertation and just chat to students who are thinking about studying abroad. It has enabled me to share my wonderful experiences and hopefully encourage more to take the same opportunity. It does, however, come with one major downside: I am SO jealous of all the students who still have their time abroad ahead of them!
I totally appreciate those who find the idea of studying abroad terrifying. I too had many an evening of tears to mum in the weeks prior to my flight out to Vancouver, panicking about being away from home for so long. Yet think about it this way: how many people have you ever heard tell a story of their awful time studying abroad? How many say they regret going? (hint hint) Going on exchange is an incredible experience. If you have the chance, go!