Why study abroad?

australia-signsSoon I will be leaving for an incredible adventure – an exchange semester in Australia! There are many ways of travelling abroad, but why choose to do an exchange semester? Why decide to travel at all?

Growing up, I never had much opportunity to travel and I didn’t think I’d be as engrossed with travelling as I am today. Born and raised in Port Alberni, I explored parts of Vancouver Island and had track meets in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Whidbey Island – I had hardly left the country, let alone the province of British Columbia.

Three years ago… In my second year, I became inspired to travel to Costa Rica through a lecture presented by ISV in my biology class. I did my research, applied to the ISV program and was accepted. 

Yay, I was so incredibly excited! It would be my first time travelling abroad. I was so close to a brand new experience. Then I looked at the program fees and they were above my target budget… my hopes were shot down!

That being said, in anticipation of travelling, I had worked up so much excitement that I wasn’t ready to let the opportunity for international travel slip away. I looked into other alternatives. I talked to a friend that had recently travelled via backpacking and asked him how he planned his budget for the trip. He shared many things and, after our conversation, I knew backpacking was how I wanted to travel. This would enable me a cost-effective way to manage the budget for my travels.

After making this decision, I still wanted to go to Costa Rica, perhaps all of Central America. I went by myself and had one of the most incredible life-changing experiences! I journeyed for 5 weeks, deciding to stay within the country which had so much to offer. I experienced changes in culture, language and food. I trekked some of the most incredible cloud forests and rainforests, scuba dived, surfed and was stung by a sting-ray.

I went to volcanoes, tried mud-masks, saw mangroves and immersed myself in the incredibly lush and biodiverse jungle of Corcovado, filled with new flora and fauna. I met many locals and other international travellers. I made new connections, lasting memories and learned so much. Perhaps I will write a future blog about my past experiences in Costa Rica, but this is when I caught the travel-bug and my global horizons expanded even further than they already had at UVic. I learned how vast and unexplored the world is. It has so much to offer and I want to see as much of it as I can.

Costa Rica Sunset

Costa Rica Sunset

I am an incredibly curious person. I love exploring, adventuring and learning about the world in which we live. It is beautiful – the ups and the downs – it all brings us an appreciation of what we experience each day.

Learning about the world we live in – sometimes we hear of differences through news and other media outlets and sometimes we are given the opportunity to talk with others who live those experiences, but the best of all is being able to immerse ourselves in those experiences. 

That being said, there is only so much time we can commit to these world learning experiences and we must pick and choose where we invest our time and interest. This is a beautiful thing and something that makes us unique. We see the world in different ways but, even though some ideas may differ, there is always a human connection.

We come from various walks of life with different stories – all providing insight and perspective into the ways we see the world. 

Costa Rica was a life changing experience that stimulated my interest in future travelling endeavours. After returning, I spent three years planning my next international adventure. I spoke with many international students from all over the world. I knew I wanted to travel and considered going backpacking again or something similar. It was a matter of choosing where, when and for how long. There were so many places that I wanted to go! 

I contemplated the idea of doing an exchange, but dismissed the idea as it was likely that doing a semester abroad would delay my graduation if I couldn’t find the right transfer credits. I figured why not just backpack throughout the world instead? It offers a lot more flexibility, it’s much cheaper than doing an exchange semester and I can still learn and adventure at my own pace.

I didn’t think I would do exchange until, during the Fall 2015 semester of my 4th year, I became friends with several exchange students who changed my mind. During this semester, I worked as a Community Leader in the campus Cluster Housing community, which sometimes had its limitations in being able to share a couple of drinks together; however, living in this community offered a great chance to meet many new people in my community who were on an exchange to UVic (one of my roommates was on exchange from Germany).

With my new friends, I had opportunities to hear about different areas of the world, learn about what it was like to come and do exchange at UVic and see the positive impact of the experience. In learning about the world, I learned about cultural and world differences and there were two conversations in particular with Danish and Finnish friends of mine that really sparked my interest.

It was through these conversations that I was blown away by the differences existing between these countries and Canada with respect to their education systems, health care and cultural views. Through all of these conversations, I had learned about different areas of the world. Perhaps I could have these conversations if I were to travel via backpacking, but there was still something else so unique that I was just beginning to learn. 

Students who are on exchange come from different cultural backgrounds, academic backgrounds and lived histories. This provides many different lenses on how we see the world. Chatting with other students is a practice that provides insight and new perspectives for problem-solving, learning values and ways to see the world – critically thinking about new ideas together. I love shared enthusiasm for life and exchange students are always interested in a new adventure and exploring their new environment.

Juan de Fuca sun

Juan de Fuca sun

There are myriad new opportunities that exist each day. Sometimes life gets us down and, in those moments, it’s important to reach out for support, but sometimes it’s a matter of stepping outside of our doorstep and seeing what the world has to offer.

I want to learn more about the world around me and about myself. This program will allow me to embark on a journey of new challenges and new perspectives.

I have grown up on Vancouver Island in my home community of Port Alberni and haven’t had much global experience outside of what I’ve experienced at UVic. I value global perspectives and I’m excited to expand my viewpoint and the way I see the world.

I am comfortable at UVic – proud and honoured to be a part of such an incredible community, but I am highly anticipating the opportunity to be in a completely different place, one in which I’ll have to branch out and make new connections far from home. It has been a long time since I have thrust myself into a brand new setting. Coming to UVic for my 1st year was terrifying and exciting and, overall, an incredible and life-changing experience. Now that I am in my fourth year, I am ready for a fresh experience – another journey, new perspectives and great possibilities.

I have now landed in Australia and my first adventures here have been nothing short of amazing! …with a few adjustments. 😉

My next post will include many pictures and stories of my new Australian experience! 🙂

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