It has been over a month now since I returned from my year abroad in Canada, where I spent nine months living in Canada, studying at the University of Western, in London Ontario, and adapting to Canada’s culture, society, and environment. Living in Canada provided me with an amazing opportunity to travel and explore the depths of Canada, and also significant portions of America. I considered Canada home, and really became one with Canadian culture. However, this was not always the case.
When I first arrived in Canada, I felt out of place. The climate was so different to what I had ever experienced, with thirty-degree heat when we first arrived in August, to a rapid descent in the thermometer with minus temperatures by November. I experienced a period of culture shock. I was unused to having to purchase alcohol from an LCBO opposed to the grocery store, I was unused to groceries being so expensive and food stores being so far out of town. I was struck by the sheer size and mass of Canada, with the state of Ontario alone being eight times the size of England, making travelling to places a lot lengthier and more difficult. I also found significant differences culturally and socially, with Canadians having very different mannerisms. For example, Canadians often say hi how are you, however unlike in England, it is more of a statement then a question, and they do not expect a reply, meaning they have been quite taken aback when we have responded. Similarly, if we every asked where the toilet was or the bathroom, we would get bizarre looks, as in Canada they call them washrooms. I also found there to be significant differences within my education, with a focus more on quantity over quality of work. Although for the first month that I lived in Canada, I found it quite difficult to adapt, I found that overtime, I became a lot more accustomed to Canadian culture and society, and that I became used to the different mannerisms they used, even eventually subconsciously adopting them myself. I became so at one with Canadian culture that on returning to England, I experienced a period of culture shock and re-adjustment. A month on, I have well and truly settled back in, but I do still really miss Canada, and the experiences that it gave me.
Living in Canada for a year was not only a great experience educationally and socially, but in terms of my individualism, confidence and independence, it really helped me grow and mature as a person, as I was forced to adapt quickly and had to really take charge of my own life and experience. One of the areas this was most evident was in my ability to travel on my own. Before leaving for Canada, I had never travelled on my own, or flown to another country on my own. It was a big step for me, and I was incredibly nervous in the lead up to my trip to Canada. I had major anxiety flying there, and travelling to my exchange university in August. However, by the end of the year, I got so used to flying on my own, and taking long bus trips on my own, I actually feel very comfortable and un-stressed travelling by myself.
I also found that in order to cope with the distance and living 3,600 miles away from home, I had to really grow up and mature. Being at Southampton, I was only 45 minutes from home, and I went home regularly to see my family as I was so close, so being so far away was very difficult to begin with, and I felt incredibly homesick. However, overtime I found it a lot easier and felt okay being so far from home, and would even consider living in Canada one day. I think I was also incredibly lucky to make a lovely group of friends who were mostly exchange students too, who almost became like family, as we found we had to rely on each other and look out for one another. I also found that as a result of being on exchange and living in another country for a year, I became a lot more relaxed.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Canada, and the chance it gave me to experience a completely different culture, environment and climate, and the diversity that Canada has to offer as a nation. It forced me to adapt quickly and grow up quickly as you have to be independent and self-sufficient when you are so far from home.