Posted by: Students Worldwide
Published on: 20/06/2021Back to Blog
When considering universities in 2014, I was immediately attracted by the Study Abroad programme. I’ve always enjoyed exploring new placesand meeting people but I didn’t do a lot of international travel when I was younger. I’d been to Europe (Paris and the South of France) with my secondary school but that was as far as I went. Incorporating a semester of my degree whilst traveling abroad sounded like a brilliant idea! Studying abroad also seemed like a good opportunity to see if I would enjoy traveling long-term or whether it was just a passing phase. It forced me to get myself a passport (I’d never hadone before) and be away from my family for 5 months. I knew that Canada was available as a host country for RGU and I really don’t know why I chose it! As soon as they mentioned Canada I thought of the Rocky Mountains but I didn’tknow anything else about it. I remember saying to my family, (back in 2014) “yep I would like to go to Canada if I go on Study Abroad”. And two years later I did!
Studying in Canada overall is very different to the UK. Some parts are similar, for example in Canada university degrees are the same length as Scotland,(four years) compared to three years in England. At Mount Royal, classes were really fun and informative but intense. As Canadian students pay for their education, (very thankfulthat Scotland pays for our tuition fees!) they knew that they had to put in the work during classes. I’d never met such hardworking students. All classes consisted of multiple assignments through different mediums. One class was solely online and each week you read the assignedtexts and then had to answer questionsin an online “diary format”. Each week you would bemarked and the score would be displayed for you to see in advance. We had 12 weekly assignments(“diary entries”) to write and your overall score would determine your grade. Mount Royal also used a different referencing systemwhich was another learning curve, the library staffput on excellent classes to help this. Other classes were a combination of written coursework, essays, papers and group presentations. I liked this variation and also the attention to each individual’s progress throughout the term which was different to my home university at the time.
The classes were often specific to Canada in general,which was really interesting – I learned about the Canadian film industry, non-profits and government based organisations and the differences and similarities between journalists operating in Canada and the UK. I also learned about Canada’s Indigenous community which I definitely want to learn more about. I also went on Study Abroad during the 2016 election between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump which asyou can imagine, was a hot debate topic in our journalismclasses. Managing the workload was hard at the start and therewere many long days spent in the library working on all the assignments. Even though it was intense, I’m glad I had that experience of studying so hard as it prepared me for my final year of university at RGU in Scotland
Probably exploring Canada overall. I knew of the Rocky Mountains but I never expected to havesuch a strong connection. Outdoor sports are so ingrained in Canadian culture – hiking, skiing,snowboarding, canoeing, mountain biking etc. Everyone loves to get outside and spend weekends out in the Rockies. Obviously, the weather is a lot nicer than Scotland but what I found interesting is that everyone did this. It wasn’ta niche activity, it was a very welcoming outdoors atmosphere. It’s also stunning to drive though.I remember going out to the Rockies for the first time and slowly the tiny mountain ranges yousee from Calgary become these massive mountains. It’s pretty flat up until the Rockies so to seesuch a dramatic change in the land was amazing. I remember we woke up at 2am to drive out to Kananaskis National Park on the front range of the Rockies for a sunrise hike. Hiking in the darkwith torches, we sat on top of a ledge and watched the October sun break through the clouds and light up Barrier Lake below us. This was the first time I saw the Rockies up close and it wasso pretty! I also enjoyed skiing at Sunshine in the Rockies. I can ski (just about!) but it was so much fun. Spending all day out on the mountains was so liberating and made me understand why everyone came out to enjoy the outdoors.
How tiny Scotland (and even the UK) is compared to Canada! I met people who moved fromNew found land on the East Coast to study at Calgary which is roughly a 7-hour flight away. Driving would take even longer. The distance betweenplaces is so large, so you do really rely on either public transport, planes or your own car/truck. Many people have their own cars/trucks in Calgary and it is vital to accessing the city. Also, the weather in the winter. It is a lot colder,(-30 degrees at one point!) and dry compared to Scottish winters and you need many layers before heading outside otherwise you freeze.
On Study Abroad during the 2016 election between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump which asyou can imagine, was a hot debate topic in our journalism classes. Managing the workload was hard at the start and therewere many long days spent in the library working on all the assignments. Even though it was intense, I’m glad I had that experience of studying so hard as it prepared me for my final year of university at RGU in Scotland.
I did not go on a scholarship or through Erasmus asNorth America at my university did not have a scholarship/funding programme. Make sure you doyour research when it comes to locations and if you are able to fully or partially afford it.
Talk to your study abroad advisor at your own university and see if there are available optionsfor scholarships for you. I know friends who decided to go during their summer semesters or fortrips two-three weeks away. The experience did open my eyes to traveling in general. Through my classes I wondered if I could come back in the future and work abroad in Canada for a while. Studying abroad allowed me to see what job opportunities there could be ina different country. Through research, I did find out that I have an option to apply for a 2-year working visa as well.
Canada has two official languages: English and French. Calgary in the West is mainly Englishspeaking whereas on the East Coast (Montreal and Quebec) is mainly French/English. Therefore, I didn’t have any problems with the language but I do remember the style and local dialogue in English was different.
My top tips I learned while studying and living in Canada
Ok, I know I sound like a parent but it’s so true. Towards the end of my semester, I had problems with my UK bank card, resulting in my bank cutting off my card payments which was both good and bad at the same time. How would I pay for things? I did find the second card but no matter how far you travel, always have backup plans A, B, C and D! Definitely look into travel debit cards like Wise (used to be known as TransferWise). They’re really great and you can load up a card and convert it into different currencies online.
Studying abroad no matter where you are is a big decision to undertake. Spending time away from your home and out of your “comfort zone” is also challenging and affects everyone in different ways. My homesickness came and went throughout my four months and some days were harder than others, especially around Christmas time. However I reminded myself that I would be going to Vancouver and Seattle after theChristmas break. It is ok and a normal part of adjusting to change. Remind yourself why you are studying abroadbut don’t be afraid to feel homesick and overwhelmed. You can also make use of all the modern video call softwares as well!
take more risks I learned a lot from both my fellow international and Canadian students about their different cultures. But I also learned a lot about myself inthe process such as work ethic, communication, organisation and planning and taking risks. I realised that I should not take my life for granted and to say, “yes” to all the opportunities that comemy way – you never know where they might lead! I travelled solo for a month after Christmas and New Year visiting Vancouver, Seattle and the Rockies before heading home. I was so nervous about traveling solo but it was one of the best decisions I made and really enjoyed exploringthese cities alone. Definitely look to challenge your “comfort zone” more and traveling is one of the best ways to do that.
Definitely think about it, even if you don’t thinkyou will like studying abroad – you might end up wanting to stay for longer! Also, I should stress– go with no expectations. I know it sounds unusual and naturally it is something we all do. However, if you go with a certain mind-set and expectations, it will not be what you imagined and there’s a higher chance you’ll be disappointed. Whereas going without expectations allows you to avoid disappointment and create positive memories.
Credit – Karen Mitchell