The bittersweet of saying goodbye

Graphic by Simran Dhaliwal

As this academic year draws to a close and the majority of us are filled with relief, my feelings are a little different.

I have spent the last eight months of a year abroad here at Wilfrid Laurier University. Now that I am preparing to move back home to England, I’m not really sure how I feel about leaving.

Trying to summarise my year abroad in one article would be near impossible, so instead I will offer a few pieces of advice and some reflections on this year in the hope that it might help some of you decide whether to study abroad or not, or provide some suggestions for when you get there.

I think it is very easy for people to say “just go for it” when they are advising on studying abroad, but it is definitely not for everyone, and it is a decision that needs a serious amount of thought put into it.

I would describe myself as a person of average confidence who wouldn’t usually have many difficulties meeting new people, but studying abroad was the first time I felt truly out of my comfort zone when it came to socializing.

Foolishly, I was expecting everybody I met to be keen to make the effort to be friends. Of course, this wasn’t the case — most students at Laurier are already in solid friend groups — especially considering I was taking all third-year classes.

Getting a part-time job at Wilf’s in my second semester helped me substantially socially, and I recommend this to anyone who is studying abroad. Not only does it help fund weekends away that I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, but a part-time job gives you loads of new friends, especially if you work for your Students’ Union where you know you’ll be working with students.

Going on exchange taught me to be confident in my abilities and gave me courage to try new things. Maybe it can do the same for you. There is only one way to find out.

With that being said, moving to a new place where you know no one can have its perks. It allows you to be brave and put yourself out there in ways that you might not have done at home.

I came on my year abroad with a faint idea that I was interested in writing and working in the media. I’m finishing it as a writer for The Cord with a personal blog of my own, neither of which I had the confidence to persue while I was at home — mostly for fear of not being good enough.

You really have the opportunity to try something new when you have nothing to lose. I am so grateful to Laurier and my year abroad for enabling me to do new things that have led to some really incredible memories and achievements.

As a Laurier student, you have the opportunity to go to sixty-nine universities in twenty-six different countries to study abroad for either a single semester or a full academic year.

That is a lot of choice. Personally, I enjoyed my second semester here substantially more than my first, probably because I felt more settled — and because of this I always suggest to people to consider doing the full year.

I am a student at the University of Birmingham in England and I would urge you to consider looking at my school if you are thinking about going abroad. Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK and has so much to offer, catering to all types of people.

One of my favourite things about the city of Birmingham is the very real and down-to-earth vibe that it has.

It feels like it’s full people who work hard and dream big. One of my favourite places to go on the weekend is the Digbeth Dining Club. It’s a multitude of street food venders that come together with various music and arts groups in the local community, and there are different vendors there every week. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re studying at UoB.

I can confidently say that studying abroad has been the hardest thing I have ever done, but at the same time I am so pleased that I have done it, and would urge everyone to consider doing it themselves. I moved to Canada when I was 21 and thought I knew everything about who I was and what the world had to offer me. How wrong I was.

Although the deadline to apply to study abroad in the fall has passed, you can still apply to study in the following Winter 2019 semester — the deadline is Friday June 29, and you can find all the details on the Laurier website.

Going on exchange taught me to be confident in my abilities and gave me courage to try new things. Maybe it can do the same for you. There is only one way to find out.

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