It’s strange to consider that it’s been 12 months since I left England behind to begin my adventure to London, Ontario in Canada. It’s stranger still when I acknowledge that it’s been four months now since that adventure ended. When I look back and recall all the experiences and friends I made in those seemingly short eight months, it’s enough for me to honestly recommend studying on exchange for anyone who’s given the opportunity.
The first couple of weeks were some of the most active of my time there, with Pre-Orientation week for the international students and Orientation week for the incoming freshers. While being entertaining and filled with activities I might never have tried by myself, that period might well have been the most stressful part of the exchange, as I’m sure anyone would imagine. Surrounded by unfamiliar faces in an unfamiliar place would be enough to make anyone uncomfortable, but the staff and students were more than helpful in making anyone feel involved and welcome. Before long I was out of my shell and enjoying trips to farmer’s markets, an ice hockey match, and even Niagara Falls. The real Canadian experiences.
By the time classes started, I was feeling a lot more comfortable with the new environment which was only made easier by the super helpful teachers who were a real blast in every class. They were very laid back, and I found lectures to be really enjoyable for it. While English doesn’t really seem like a subject you’d go abroad to study for any reason, I was glad I did if only for the opportunity to see how differently classes are taught in Canada from here in England. The classes also had their fair number of trips, including to a couple of stage plays, and a trip to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto.
Canadian weather proved to be more unpredictable than I’d expected. September was met with some sweltering heat that reached at least 35 degrees Celsius at times. When winter came around I was expecting heavy snowfalls, but besides a few light sprinkles in December, we didn’t get anything major until late January. And once that came it didn’t stop until mid-April. Given I hadn’t seen snow since 2010, I was far from complaining. I was just disappointed by the lack of a white Christmas.
Of course, that’s not to say that the trip was without its downsides. Indeed, due to a matter of poor planning on my part I ended up finding myself painfully short on funds halfway through the year. While I had enough to pay off my accommodation and food bills, I was unable to afford some of the additional activities, like a trip to Montreal in February. In that regard I feel I might have missed out, and would recommend to anyone looking to take a year out that they scrimp and save a lot more than I did in the following months. Fortunately, despite what I missed out on in some areas, I can say I was able to make up for that with my other undertakings.
In my time abroad, I decided it would be a shame if I went the eight months without trying a new hobby – a thought process that ended with me regularly getting involved the Western Comedy Club, routinely taking part in their Improv Comedy routines. For someone who’s as much of a bundle of nerves as I am, this was far from what I’d envisioned myself doing while away but the actual experience was above and beyond exhilarating. I included a picture from the Improv War show, a friendly competition between three competing colleges.
Not only that, but by far the most memorable part of my trip was my participation in a stage play called The Refugee Hotel. On a whim I decided to audition for a part in this play, and to my surprise was given one of the lead roles as the character of Fat Jorge. What followed was two months of rehearsals with a genuinely wonderful bunch of people in the cast and crew. The show was performed in Downtown London and was a massive hit with audiences receiving standing ovations on every night, which I think is a pretty good sign something went well.
Overall, despite whatever downsides might have emerged I don’t regret for an instant ever deciding I wanted to take part in the exchange. For all whatever stresses I found, I’d have been more disappointed if I neglected the chance to see a different part of the world and to take part in the activities I was presented with. For anyone considering if they wanted to take a year out and travel to study in a different country, no matter where in the world it is, I’d wholeheartedly recommend they do it should they be able, if only for the chance to say they did something different.