I had a wonderful experience studying abroad! I went to Manchester with 2 friends and we had a blast travelling across the UK and Europe. Unfortunately, our trip was cut short because of the pandemic and we had to return home in 2 months, and complete the remainder of our semester online.
A major challenge was living on my own because I had always commuted from home to UTSC. It was a new experience to manage my own time and it wasn’t always easy to share a space with new people. For instance, my friends and I shared a house with 3 other international students, and I originally faced a language and cultural barrier when interacting with them. Communal spaces were often unkempt, they had visitors over at odd hours, and we faced many miscommunications regarding the heating/electricity bills. However, I was able to overcome this by having an honest conversation about the issues while acknowledging and embracing our cultural differences.
Upon arriving, we quickly realized that our living situation was completely different than what we had anticipated. Our rental home was in disarray, we had difficult housemates and an unresponsive landlord. Moreover, the University’s faculty went on strike and we weren’t able to reach our professors – all of which occurred prior to the pandemic.
In spite of this, the most important skills that I developed were adaptability and resilience. I made wonderful memories with my friends and we were able to overcome (and laugh through) every challenge that came our way.
I went to Amsterdam for my friend’s birthday and we went out for drinks the night before my early flight home. I was flying back to the UK alone and ended up waking up several hours after my flight had taken off. I immediately panicked and rushed downstairs, where I tumbled and fell down an entire flight of stairs. I limped back to my room and realized that my phone charger had snapped and my phone only had 5% battery. I had to rush to the airport and luckily, I was able to book a last-minute flight back home.
My biggest tip is to put yourself out there and embrace the cultural differences that you will inevitably face when you move to a different country. Remember that it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. And set an alarm so that you don’t miss your flights!