When else would I wake up to the mist rising off the lakes in Algonquin provincial park?
My year abroad in Canada is an experience I will never forget. Enhanced by the people that I met along the way, Canada is simply stunning. This was a year of firsts and a chance to become even more independent; I hadn’t really flown before let alone for 7 hours so that was the first big hurdle. I’m also one of those really annoying organised people that like to have a plan so turning up in Hamilton, Ontario (for McMaster University) with only a few nights booked in an Airbnb and just a list of houses to view was a very surreal and scary prospect for me. My year abroad taught me to be more spontaneous and relish in the opportunities to not plan, which made my year at times a lot less stressful (and occasionally a bit more). This was especially true when planning my end of year trip, moving between different groups with different levels of planning along the way, I just had to make myself go with it and just enjoy it!
The Canadian culture is quite similar to home, so there wasn’t so much of a culture shock. But the weather can change dramatically over a matter of minutes. It’s common practice to carry a raincoat and hat scarf and gloves alongside a pair of sunglasses in your backpack…
The education system was quite a shock, with much smaller classes where the professors were insistent on learning your name through the production of a “bio sheet”. Midterm testing is a normal thing over there so I spent more time in the library than I have before and I learnt how to continually study rather than intensely cram for an exam (or so I hope so…).
I was also able to develop my social skills, despite a huge number of students from Leeds at Mac, there is still the need and want to make Canadian friends. Typically Canadians are friendly and approachable so I learnt how to lessen the “uptight” impression that the British often give off in favour of a more smiley friendly approach and took to introducing myself to everyone. It’s a year abroad so no-one really knows you – if it’s too much or you don’t get on you can always move past it.
Generally my year abroad was my best year so far and I can’t wait to return next August to visit everyone. I think the confidence and the skills learnt will really show when term starts again at Leeds, but it was the most incredible year and allowed me to explore and live somewhere completely new.
Written by Kit Wolverson – McMaster University