Today marks my final day in Amsterdam participating in the Erasmus+ Programme at Universiteit Van Amsterdam. I am extremely sad to be leaving such an amazing city and I am so grateful for the amount opportunities I have had whilst on my study abroad.
Having grown up in a multicultural household (Spanish mum and a South African-Indian dad), taking part on the exchange programme wasn’t a massive cultural adjustment for me personally, but I can still say that the Erasmus+ programme has made me more open and tolerant towards other cultures.
Even though COVID-19 put an end to my experience abroad I’ve been thinking about how Arizona State University is quite different from Manchester.
First of all, there is a designated week for final exams while the rest of the semester has different deadlines. For example, only in March, I had to write three papers, one poster and an oral presentation, a group project report, and an online quiz. All these assignments are worth between 5-20% of the course. This changes my time management quite significantly because rather than having one long paper that is worth 100% of my course and four months to write it, in this case, I have many short tasks to complete, which are spread throughout the semester.
Secondly, not all courses have finals. For example, for one class the professor chose not to have us writing the final but rather presenting a group project, so the last week of the semester I will be free from that class load work and I will be able to focus on the rest.
Third, there are no official mitigating circumstances, instead, it is the student that by talking to the professor works out a different date for the assignment. This speeds up the process and, for me, it alleviated much anxiety that could be caused by the negative response of the request in some cases. In addition, attendance is mandatory and affects the final mark, so there are no podcasts like in Manchester and missing a class means lowering one’s average. This guarantees that students are almost always present and participating, even though months after the class there is no chance to rewatch it online.
All these differences made me feel as if I was in high school again, where I had less autonomy and more time constrictions. Even my relationship with the rest of the class is very different because I have about 15-20 classmates versus 90 in Manchester. So I know all of them quite in-depth, I have participated in activities with everyone, and overall I have a better idea of who I am sharing my classwork with. However, the style again resembles that of a high school and it is far from being that of a lecture, which made me lose the habit of taking many notes and staying focused for longer.
Overall, these two systems are very different but I don’t find any better or worse, it is just a question of preference. However, I also think that having the possibility to try them both was amazing because it helped me become more conscious about my study habits and preferences, and I definitely became more flexible!
Unlike the other Universities in Australia, Melbourne’s midterm break is a gruelling nine weeks into the academic term. By this point you will defo want a holiday, so take that time to plan a great trip away!
It has been two and a bit weeks now since I moved into my studio apartment in Nieuw West Amsterdam in a building called Maassluisstraat which is part of the DeKey housing company. Prior to moving in I was very concerned about living by myself in a studio after having got used to living in an 8 bed house in Fallowfield and always having someone around for company. I am actually surprised at how much I am enjoying living in my studio here and having my own space, I also think it has probably pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit as you don’t have the comfort of ‘flat mates’ to fall back on and has probably contributed to me meeting more people than I initially thought I would. I was also worried that living in a studio would be quite isolating and lonely but I’ve had neighbours knock on my door to say hello etc when they moved in and my accommodation also had a social event early on which helped create a really warm and welcoming atmosphere straight away.
I thought that going abroad was going to be the biggest change in my life this year. But since returning, things are still continuing to change. I have started an internship with the University of Manchester over summer, and in turn, my first full time, professional job. I have lived completely alone for the first time – including setting up all the heating, internet and meters in the house!! And finally, (here comes the biggie) my parents made the decision to move to New Zealand.
I feel as if this year hasn’t just been a monumental shift within myself, but my family too. And without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the things that I have listed anywhere near as well as I have. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been easy, but I have coped and thrived and grown up rapidly in the space of a few months.
I used to be so afraid of change – making the decision to go abroad was not one I took lightly, and I’m not sure I ever truly believed I was going until I stepped off the plane in Toronto. But now, I can feel myself embracing it; my parents are moving to the other side of the world and I could not be more excited for them (and for myself too!)
By studying abroad I proved my ability for independence to myself and to my parents, and I don’t know if they would be moving if I hadn’t gone. The decision to live abroad affects not just you but everyone you know, and if it affects you positively, chances are it will affect them positively too.
I am working with the international office on my internship, and I cannot express how rewarding it has been to be involved with the process of encouraging students to study abroad, and being able to pass on my experience and passion to them. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in this internship, and met the amazing people I have, and gained the life experience that I have, if it wasn’t for studying abroad.
If you haven’t already got the message – go! Study abroad! You will gain a lifetime of memories, experiences and knowledge and grow so much as a person – and this doesn’t stop on your return. And hey, who knows – your family might move to the other side of the world and give you a new place to explore.
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(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)
I want to start off by thanking God for all the opportunities I have had. I am incredibly grateful for everything that has come my way, through His will.
When I was leaving Manchester last year, although I was excited about my upcoming journey, I was equally hesitant. I wondered if I was making the right choice, if it was worth finishing university a year later than everyone else, and missing out on so much time with my friends and family at home. I had so many “what if’s?” in my head, to the point where I was thinking of backing out in the last few weeks before I left. But now looking back, those worries are nothing compared to all the beautiful memories, lessons and friendships I gained. If I could go back, I would tell myself to stop worrying because the most important year of my life so far was to begin.
For my third study abroad blog I thought it would be appropriate to consider the highs and lows of my experiences. What better place to reflect on them, than where I am right now. As I write this, I’m cruising at a steady 650mph, 11,000 ft in the air over Canada. I’m half way into my 12 hour journey home from Phoenix, and headed back to my favourite Northern city of Manchester. As I sit here in my cramped economy seat, I have plenty of time to reflect on the past 5 months in Arizona, and come to terms with the fact that it has come to an end. What an experience it has been! There’s certainly been highs, and there’s certainly been lows, not forgetting the countless in-betweens. Some of these experiences have been unique to me and my situation, and others are likely applicable for many others who have embarked on a study abroad period. Whether you’ve been on a study abroad period or not, or whether you’re about to embark on one, this should be helpful to you! So here it is: the highs and lows of studying abroad (or rather, MY highs and lows of studying abroad).
Let’s start with the highs, as there are plenty more of those than there are lows!
Experiencing a New Culture: As cliché as this sounds it really is true. I never expected that the US would have such a different culture to the UK, and in many ways it is similar. But, in others it really is not! (If you’re interested in the differences specifically, have a read of my other blog https://manchesterontheroad.com/2018/04/02/20-cultural-differences-uk-vs-us/). Experiencing a new culture first hand forces you to challenge your presuppositions head-on, and really engage with the motives and reasons for people’s beliefs and practices that may seem foreign to you. One of my absolute favourite parts of studying abroad was having really meaningful conversations with people, and asking why some things are the way that they are.
Travel: When studying abroad, it’s likely that half of the time you won’t be ‘studying’ at all. Having several months of access to a part of the world which you may not normally be so close to is such a unique experience. Especially for me being so far away from home, I wanted to pack in as much travel as my uni timetable and budget would allow. I loved that when I was beginning to feel a little fed up with the monotony of class, I could think about my upcoming weekend trip and have a cheeky browse of TripAdvisor for things to do in the city that I was travelling to.
A Banging Instagram: Off the back of the travelling perks comes the banging Instagram feed. My photos over the last 5 months have been significantly better, and more interesting than ever before! Whether it’s a national park, museum or beach, you’re guaranteed some enviable pics for the gram (‘@gabiprice_’ if you’re interested).
Increasing Travel Experience: Again linking to the travel associated with studying abroad, the more frequent level of travel helps to increase your travel savviness and skills. I feel far more equipped to find a bargain flight or Airbnb now, than I did before studying abroad, and am also far more confident at planning travel to an undiscovered place without the help of my parents!
Learning From a New Perspective: I know I previously said that half your time won’t be studying, but that was perhaps slightly exaggerated. You will of course STUDY, when you are studying abroad. College classes in the US were far different from home for me, and this provided the unique chance to learn from a different perspective. For example, I learned the art of the multiple-choice test (surprisingly, it’s not pure guesswork). Although I may not have loved that method of testing, it definitely increased my skills and broadened my academic horizons!
Learning About Yourself: Again I know this may sound a little cringe or cliché, but for me it really was the truth. I learnt so much by being away from a comfortable environment for 5 months, and essentially being ‘on my own’ without family or long-established friends. Being far from home forces you to challenge what you’re comfortable with, and genuinely challenges the ways that you think and act. For example, an ‘epiphany’ I had about myself whilst abroad was that I don’t think I’m cut out for 9-5 life. Call me lazy, or a classical millennial, but it’s the truth. I realised that I don’t want to live my life waiting for the weekend. I want adventure and challenge, and something that enables me to explore the world and make a difference in it.
Finding ‘Your People’ Across the Globe: This encompasses all of the other ‘highs’ that I have mentioned, and my experiences abroad would not have been the same without the people that I met. I was repeatedly told before I came abroad that I would find ‘family’ in Arizona, and I didn’t really know if that would be the case. I thought that I would definitely make some good friends, some people to spend time with whilst I was there, but I could have never imagined the deep friendships that I would make. I’m tearing up thinking about the people I have had to leave behind as I write this! I met some incredible people in Arizona, people from both the US and other places around the world. You will find ‘your people’ when abroad, and when you do you’ll leave a little bit of your heart behind with them. To all of the people reading this who I met in Arizona, you know who you are and I miss you already. (please come and visit me soon!).
Despite the abundance of ‘highs’ the ‘lows’ still exist, and that is just a part of life and a part of studying abroad.
Missing ‘Your People’ at Home: In order to go ‘abroad’, you of course have to leave where you live. In leaving where you live, this often means leaving behind the people that live there too. I never imagined a period of my life where I wouldn’t see my mum for over 5 months, but it happened! Leaving behind friends and family will always be hard, and whether they can visit or not doesn’t change the fact that you don’t see them as often as you normally would. It’s hard, but it’s doable, and it makes you all the more grateful and excited to see them again when you return. (I cannot wait to see so many of you who will be reading this!).
FOMO: Alongside leaving your friends and family behind, you’re leaving behind your normal life, and the things that you would usually be around for. Whether it’s genuinely exciting occasions such as weddings or birthdays, or whether it’s something as simple as being a little jealous that your flatmates are going to your favourite club without you, it’ll happen. You’ll learn to deal with it by posting fun Instagrams of what they’re missing out on.
Running Low on Money: It doesn’t have to be a crazy expensive experience to study abroad, but if you’re travelling a fair bit, and generally just investing in fun experiences, it’ll probably set you back a bit more than a normal semester at uni would. Although this may be a worry for some people, my attitude is very much ‘enjoy it while you can’, this is a unique experience in your life which you probably won’t have again. Make the most of it!
Not Being at Home for ‘that’ News: Last week I received some pretty sad news from home, my wonderful Grandad has passed away, and I wasn’t there to say goodbye. This hurts, and there is no easy way to deal with it. For me, I was blessed to have supportive people around me in Arizona, and to know that I was coming home very soon to be with my family. That won’t be the case for everyone who experiences ‘that’ news, and it’s hard. However, I know for me and for many others who have experienced loss whilst away from home, it shouldn’t stop you from going. My grandparents were very clear that I should enjoy my time abroad, and make the most of it regardless of if anything happened. I hope I was able to do that, and honour my Grandad the way that he would have wanted.
Leaving ‘Your ‘Abroad’ People’: As I already mentioned, the hardest part of this whole experience was having to say goodbye to the friends that I have made. I’ve cried about it, and I’ve wished it wasn’t the reality of this situation. But it is. It is definitely a low, but it’s okay! The world is vast, but nowhere is too far away to go back to. I know that I will see those people again, and I know that this 12 hour flight won’t stop us from meeting again someday.
So to sum it up, do I regret studying abroad because of the lows? Absolutely not. The highs far outweigh the lows, and the reality of life is that you will have lows wherever you are. Studying abroad is an insanely unique experience which is like no other. You will laugh, you will cry, and will miss home. But you’ll love it, and you’ll meet incredible people around the world that you wouldn’t have met otherwise. You will broaden your horizons, and you will leave a little piece of you behind wherever you go. I could not be more thankful to have had this opportunity. To all of the people that made this experience, I just want to say thank you. Those from YoungLife ASU, my fellow foreign exchange students, my classmates, my roommates and everyone else that I met along the way, thank you from the bottom of my heart. YOU made this experience for me.
Until next time, this is me signing off! I’ll be back for another blog once I’m settled back in at home. Until then, find me on Instagram for pretty photos @gabiprice_ or message me on social media if you know me personally and want to chat about any of this.
One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to see the artwork home to that place. Other than museums, something that have I loved about my travels was the beautiful street art embedded within the cities. These told me unique stories about the culture and history of the cities they were created in. Below I give you some of my favorite pieces and recommendations of neighborhoods you should visit if you get the chance.
A friend and I ended up in St-Laurent by accident. After climbing up Mount Royal, we thought we would take a different route back, to get more of a feel of the city, and ended up there, a boulevard home to some of the most incredible art, music, fashion and food festivals. There are murals painted on all corners of St-Laurent, and we were so captivated that we ended up walking through the whole boulevard until we arrived back to our hotel on the other side of the city.
As I observed the beauty painted on boards above parking lots, on the sideways of shops, and even on the road below my feet, I remembered the words of Rainbow Rowell, “Art wasn’t supposed to look nice, it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Toronto is bustling with gorgeous murals throughout the city, with many neighborhoods and alleyways dedicated to creativity. I absolutely love Kensington Market in particular, because as well as amazing artwork, the choice of food is abundant – from halal burger places (Burgernator and Top Gun!) to ice cream shops, bakeries and cafes.
When my friends and I arrived in Mexico City, in the early hours of the morning, the first thing I noticed on the drive to the hotel was how there was vibrancy everywhere. Even in the dark I could see that all the shop shutters were painted in a rainbow of colors. We stayed in Centro Histórico, and I definitely would recommend taking a stroll before stores open (9/10 am) because the store shutters are genuinely so beautiful.
I decided to stay in America over the Christmas break instead of flying back home and I would encourage other students to do the same.
I was lucky enough to travel to Montreal, New York, Boston and Miami and each destination was completely different from the last. After overcoming the initial loneliness of spending Christmas away from my family, I really valued the opportunity to travel and spend time with other exchange students who were in the same position.
Before coming to America my friends and I decided to spend Christmas together in Montreal. This was an easy choice to make for me as the flights home from Cleveland are extremely expensive. Instead, I decided to use the money and travel around as much as possible. I flew out to Montreal on Christmas eve, got a freezing cold greyhound to New York, spent less than 24 hours in Boston and took a spontaneous trip to Miami to finish off the holiday. The four cities could not have been more different and Miami has since become my favourite place I have visited.
I spent my Christmas day and New Year’s Eve in Montreal alongside other students from Manchester studying abroad. We stayed in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood and I would recommend taking the walk-up Mount Royal to get great views of the city and to go ice skating.
On Christmas Eve, we were invited to have dinner with other exchange students from all over the world. Spending Christmas away from family can be tough, but it felt special to meet so many other students making the most of their time abroad. All of us were given Christmas cards despite being complete strangers and it was a sweet gesture.
On Christmas Day, we managed to successfully cook a full Christmas Dinner for 10 people in an Air BnB, which was as chaotic as it sounds. We went on a Christmas day walk, watched Love Actually and exchanged presents; it felt like a home away from home.
Being in Montreal in the middle of winter was tough and you should not underestimate how cold it will be. But the city had a lot of culture and history and was a great location to spend time with friends.
We took an 8 hour Greyhound to travel from Montreal to New York and stayed there for 5 days. New York was packed with things to do and great food but was as hectic and busy as you would expect. The city was full of character, the street scene was interesting and all the tourist attractions were definitely worth visiting.
We visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Centre, High Line, Times Square, Central Park, the list could really go on. I would not miss visiting the World Trade Centre Memorial as it was breathtaking.
Even though we were hit by a massive snowstorm across the East Coast, we managed to pack in a lot in the 5 days but it was not nearly enough time to cover such a great city.
We stayed in Boston for a night but this was not nearly enough time. Compared to New York, Boston is a laid-back city with a lot of open space. Having visited Boston since it has really grown on me. It is a nice city to walk around with my favourite area being North End where there is familiar European architecture. If you have limited time like us, I would not miss Faneuil Hall Marketplace. There are great food stalls selling Boston treats like Clam Chowder in a bread bowl.
In a rash decision, I decided to extend my holiday for a few more days and join some friends in South Beach, Miami. After battling – 20 degree weather and snow storms the warm beaches and palm tree-lined streets were much needed. Miami has now become one of my favourite destinations. I loved the bustling strip of hotels on South Beach, the colourful art deco houses and the idyllic sandy beaches.
Little Havana was a great neighbourhood to walk around and try delicious Cuban food. The downtown area was flashy and extravagant, like most of Miami. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money in Miami, but I would go again in a heartbeat.
A year ago, I would not have pictured myself jet-setting around North America instead of spending Christmas at home in England. Yet my holiday was one that will be remembered for a long time. I loved the way students in a similar position came together and supported each other during the time and I would urge other people to do the same.
My first semester as an exchange student, in Canada, is coming to an end, and those of you at university know that sometimes this can feel like a lifetime. I’m going to do some pitstops of my experience here so far, showing you my highs and lows, some of the lessons I’ve learnt and things I have been inspired by. This will be split into a few blogposts that I will be posting over the next couple of weeks.
The past few months have been a true learning experience. The academic structure is very different here at Queen’s. Firstly, “electives” are encouraged here. When I arrived at Queen’s, I was only given two psychology modules for this semester. Although this was stressful at first, it turned out to be one of the best things. I took some gender studies courses instead, where I got the chance to understand history, politics and sociology in ways I hadn’t considered before. I was also given a chance to learn about the indigenous history of Canada, something that isn’t talked about enough. These ideas combined has allowed to me think about my major, psychology, in a more inclusive context, opening my mind to knowledge that I may not have been exposed to if I had stuck to only psychology courses.
First tip: Take some courses outside of your degree! I promise it will be worth it.
The workload here is A LOT more intense than what I am used to at the University of Manchester. Over there for each module, I am given one piece of main coursework and one exam at the end, with both being weighted around the same. Here, however, there is coursework due in almost weekly per course, with midterms, participation marks… and a final exam. This was stressful at the beginning of the semester, but now I am actually very grateful for it. It has meant that I have been learning a lot as the semester goes on (not just around exam time), as I am assessed regularly. And, as incredibly cliché as it sounds, I have to say that I have been improving my time management skills.
Second tip: When considering which country and university to do your exchange in, it is important to research the assessment methods and weighting. This can affect your satisfaction with your exchange as a whole. I have met many students who are unhappy because the emphasis on coursework does not suit their needs.
I also have been very inspired by the lecturers. Something I love about the experiences I have had with my lecturers here is that they make an effort to connect with us. I have managed to collect so many anecdotes and wisdom passed on from the experiences by my lecturers. My psychology professor often turns segments of his lectures into motivations talks, where he talks about how important it is to be optimistic. He contextualised his own experiences, where he went from wanting to be an accountant, to becoming a cleaner, to becoming a Clinical Psychologist and a hockey coach. This reminded me that there isn’t just one linear road in life, you can take many twists and turns and end up being more content than you ever imagined.
One professor talked about how life circumstances left her financially independent during university, having to pay for tuition and living expenses by herself, but is now an insightful writer, a passionate activist, an inspiring teacher. She makes me want to stop feeling sorry for myself when things don’t go to plan. Just being in her presence makes me want to do more. Another professor has taught me things I have yet to truly understand (no seriously, I have a word document full of long words I have not had a chance to dictionary.com). I will always remember her coming up to me up at an MSA (Muslim Student Association) stall, and while not being Muslim herself, she told me that she is rooting for us. This led me to redefine my personal understanding of unity. My lab instructors taught me that patience is a bigger virtue than I had realised. Honestly, I don’t understand how they dealt with me being confused about statistics for a whole semester.
Third tip: Introduce yourself to your lecturers.
A huge part of my learning experience has been spending time with other exchange students, from all over the world. I have been living in “Jean Royce Hall”, located a 10-minute bus ride away from the main campus. This is the only residence offered to exchange students and at first, I was a bit hesitant, because of the location and the fact that I would have to live in shared accommodation with many people. However, it turned out to be a good choice. Firstly, there is a shuttle bus that goes to and from main campus every 15 minutes, as well as other city buses that are even more frequent. All students at Queen’s also get a free bus pass, which is definitely a plus. Also: there is a very pretty library just next door, which has meant that on my days off, and especially when the weather is bad, I can study productively… in my pyjamas.
Disclaimer: If you are considering living in Jean Royce, a fallback is that it is on the more expensive side – it turns out that if I lived off-campus in a house it would have been half the price….
Fourth tip: Pros of living in residence at Queen’s are meeting lots of different people, it is regularly cleaned, it is very safe and there is a library. Pros of living off-campus are getting to know Canadian students better, it’s cheaper and possibly closer to the main campus.
MacDonald Park, Kingston
Living with other exchange students has meant that I have been able to get to know and learn from students from Japan, China, Nepal, Australia… and more! This has been so eye-opening and inspiring. I have been inspired by students such as Satsuki, who keeps an “English” journal – whenever she learns a new word during a conversation, she writes it down in her journal, researches it later, and tries to apply it in another conversation. There’s also Juno, who works hard day and night, reading everything she can about Renaissance art and Romanticism, dreaming of opening a history museum when she is back in China. Then there’s Franziska, who is one of the rare people in her town to have left it, breaking the norm and stereotype there, that women are to stay at home.
While experiences like this are motivating, they also have made me aware of some of my privileges that I have unknowingly taken for granted, especially in England. It can be very easy to stay in a safe bubble in life, spending time with people like you, but it is definitely worthwhile to talk to people who are different to you (whether it is because they come from a culture that is different to yours… or just study a different course). We can’t live a hundred different lives, but we can learn from a hundred people who live a different life to ours.
Fifth tip: Spend time with people who are different to you.
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
As the end of the semester approaches, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would reflect on the incredible experiences I have gained from studying abroad.
It is easy to forget why you chose to study abroad when you doing the third round of midterms and have spent endless evenings in the library. I was feeling slightly lost, terribly homesick and unmotivated until I realized how lucky I am to have experienced new things and to have travelled around the world.
Over the last month alone I have managed to travel to Toronto, see Niagara Falls, experience a traditional American Thanksgiving and walk around downtown Chicago. I will try to share some of the incredible things I have done and encourage people to make the most of studying abroad:
Hello, my name is Emily and I’m addicted to talking about study abroad.
I’m back, lads. Back in Manchester after studying abroad at McGill University and do not need much prompting at all to start talking about Canada. I don’t want to be a typical ‘Gap yah’ continually talking about my year in Canada but it’s not hard to slot into conversation something that happened in Canada, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Just to reiterate, I studied abroad for a year at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, I feel everyone needs to know.