The need to know before going international

Graphic by Alan Li

As an exchange student from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, packing my bags and moving my whole life 3,606 miles away was fairly significant.  

 I arrived in Canada on Aug. 30, so I have been at Wilfrid Laurier University for two months now, and I already feel like I have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions.  

 If you are thinking of studying abroad, or going on an international exchange, here are my thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly.  

 I also talked to Morgane Poilvet, an exchange student from Sciences Po Lille in the North of France, to get her opinion on moving to a country where they don’t speak her native language. 

 To start, going abroad is probably the most expensive thing I have ever done. Not only is it costly to fly across the globe, attain a visa, get health and travel insurance, but the actual process of making a life in a new home will require some funds.  

 I came to Canada with one big suitcase and one carry on; in that I had no bedding, toiletries, textbooks, food, decorations for my room or anything of the sort. On top of this I was moving into an unfurnished flat. 

 All I can suggest to overcome this is to start saving early. I had a part-time job while at university, and then over the summer I worked full time to maximise my funds. On top of this, I also received help from my parents. Studying abroad is not cheap; be prepared so that it is no longer a factor. 

“I think it is a unique experience which allows us to learn a language, to meet people from all over the world, to discover a new culture and to learn more about ourselves.” 

 My British accent has sometimes proven difficult for people to understand, and often, expressions and exclamations are completely different. If you are considering studying abroad, you may have to encounter a language that isn’t your own, and Poilvet experienced the difficulties that this can bring. 

 “In the first few weeks, maybe the biggest difficulty was to adapt to a new environment and to understand people who don’t speak my native language”, Poilvet said.  

 “At first, I did not understand everything, especially when people were talking to each other very fast”. 

 Perhaps the difficulties encountered by Poilvet and many other exchange students will result in the most rewarding part of their exchange – the opportunity to learn and perfect another language.  

 “I made progress and now I do not consider the language barrier to be a problem. I still do not speak very well but I can understand almost everything, so I really feel more comfortable”, Poilvet said. 

 One of the things that enticed me into studying abroad was the opportunity to travel to new places. Before coming to Canada, I had never been to North America, and so far I have spent a few weekends in Toronto, which I love. 

 In two week’s time, Poilvet and myself will travel to Montreal, and over reading week, Poilvet spent the week in Chicago.  

 If you are considering an exchange in Europe, you will find that trains and buses will allow you to get from city to city in a matter of hours. 

 If you are interested in studying abroad, International Education Week will take place from Nov. 13-18 on Laurier’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses, with events and activities happening each day. 

 On Monday, Nov. 13, the International Opportunities Fair will take place in the Concourse, where information on each of Laurier’s sixty-five partner universities will be displayed.  

 “I would advise all students to go study abroad”, Poilvet said.  

 “I think it is a unique experience which allows us to learn a language, to meet people from all over the world, to discover a new culture and to learn more about ourselves.” 

 You can keep up to date with the schedule for International Education Week as more events are confirmed by going to  

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