I completed my exchange in Ottawa during the 2015-2016 academic year. Having now finished my final year at Uni, I’m able to share my experience of my year abroad and how I settled back into life at Southampton!
Before I talk about life back in Southampton, I’ll run through some of my highlights of studying in Canada.
Firstly, the thing I loved most was the fact that doing an exchange gives you the opportunity to travel to so many different amazing places. If you’ve got the spirit for adventure, you’ll be sure to love a year abroad. Whilst studying in Ottawa I visited Toronto, Montreal, New York City, Quebec City, Niagara Falls and more. I was also able to take part in University ski trips and we even had the opportunity to go husky sledging and snow-mobile riding. All these unique things really make the year abroad an unforgettable experience.
Montreal in the fall
Quebec City and dog-sledding
I even got to learn to snowboard (which was pretty painful and made me realise I should stick to skiing)
However, by far my favourite experience was travelling to the West Coast at the end of the year. Term finished at the end of April in Ottawa, so you get a really long summer holiday which is the perfect opportunity to travel to the West Coast. We flew to Calgary, before hiring a car and driving through the Rockies, ending up in Vancouver. The Rockies were absolutely amazing, with so much to see and do. Vancouver was also brilliant, an amazing city! After Vancouver we got a greyhound coach to Seattle, before we flew down to Arizona where I stayed with a friend who had also done a year abroad. From Arizona we went to the Grand Canyon, and over to LA before I flew home!
Arizona and the Grand Canyon
As well as having plenty of opportunities to explore new places, Ottawa itself was a great city with loads to do. Below are some pictures of some of the highlights which included Canadas national art gallery, going to multiple ice hockey games (we even won free VIP tickets once), being in Ottawa when it had the most snow on record in a single day, visiting wildlife parks, american football games, kayaking and much more!
Life back in Southampton
Returning back to Southampton after completing your exchange can be pretty daunting. Many of my friends had graduated so I was a little weary of how fun the year might be. However I have been extremely pleasantly surprised. Once you’ve completed exchange, you kinda of feel like you are part of a little community. I’ve made so many friends who also did year abroad, and it’s nice to be able to compare experiences and reminisce with other people who studied in different places all around the world and are all suffering from the ‘reverse culture shock’ (basically a term for feeling depressed about coming back to England and final year).
Another piece of advice I would give is to try and sort out final year accommodation before you get back in the summer. If you leave it this late it can be hard to find anywhere, and you could end up paying a lot. I was fortunate enough to come home over Christmas, which is when I found a house advertised on Facebook. So just keep your eye out, or if you have a group of friends also doing exchange, try and sort something together!
My final piece of advice is if you are thinking about a year abroad just go for it! I wish I could mine all over again, it really is one of the best and most unique experiences you’ll ever. Whilst moving to a foreign country can be daunting at first, it’s an incredible experience and one that you’ll be sure to love. Try to find out if any other Southampton students are going to be in the same city as you, as I lived with and became great friends with the other students from Southampton and its great to come back to Southampton with new friends!