Studying abroad can either be one of the best experiences you have or an experience to completely forget. During my time at university, I have been fortunate enough to undergo two academic changes, one at the University of Waterloo in Canada for eight months, and one at Tsinghua University, China, for two weeks. Both of these experiences took place under different contexts with different objectives, yet both taught me valuable lessons that I needed.
To begin with, studying abroad has simply made me grow up. I did not realise this before going abroad, but I was lacking a lot of key skills. When I arrived at Gatwick to check in my bags, I had no idea what I was doing, and I had to ask for help. Yes, this may seem a bit odd, but I did not know how to check in a bag and, after asking for help, I soon realised that I would need to ask for help a lot and this is nothing to be ashamed of. I wouldn’t say that I was too proud to ask for help – I think that I was too worried about being perceived as an idiot or lacking in common sense – however, it is better to look stupid for a minute.
Perhaps the biggest thing that studying abroad in Canada taught me was simply embracing the moment
Being in Canada also taught me how to cook home dishes and how to eat better. In the UK we are spoiled by cheap food and frozen goods or takeaways. Whilst Canada has these, they are more expensive, and I also found Canadian groceries in general to be very expensive. As a result, I would rely upon purchasing fresh produce (which was sometimes cheaper) to make exciting dishes that I have brought home and continue to eat. I also cut down on my sugars and made sure to eat fresh fruit and focus on eating better.
Being away from home meant that I could not rely on my family and being overseas can sometimes be an isolating experiencing, so I would spend a lot of free time exploring creative dishes with my housemate who taught me how to cook. When I return to Warwick in October, I look forward to my thrifty and delicious meals! Being in Canada also showed me that education can be more enjoyable than it seems.
Assignments in Canada tend to be more creative and open. For instance, despite being a Political Science student, I was allowed to take classes in Environmental Studies, and I was able to take on field research. It was great fun and my lecturers encouraged us to do practical assignments such as model United Nations debates and writing mock government briefs. I sometimes feel that university is too theoretical, and so the opportunity to apply my knowledge was one I gratefully seized upon.
If you are feeling some dissatisfaction in your bedroom or life, take a brave step and simply step outside and explore the world
Finally, perhaps the biggest thing that studying abroad in Canada taught me was simply embracing the moment. I hope that this is not starting to resemble a self-help spiritual pamphlet, but before going overseas, I did not take advantage of the opportunities before me. I was very happy to spend my evenings watching the Simpsons and maybe reading a book, yet being in Canada forced me to recognise that the world is so much bigger than my bedroom and to seize the moment.
I had no plans to travel during my time in Canada, but I did, and I always travelled alone, choosing to seize the chance that was directly present to me. This is advice that I feel can be applied to anyone, no matter where you are and what you are doing. If you are feeling some dissatisfaction in your bedroom or life, take a brave step and simply step outside and explore the world. Travelling is pricey, but it can be done cheap, and it does not need to be to the other side of the world. Even living in London, you can explore the city and there is great beauty in the UK to be enjoyed!