To think that a year ago today I applied last minute to go study abroad is surreal. It feels like the last five and a half months was a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from and applying for the last few spots for the abroad program was pure luck. To say that studying abroad was the best decision I’ve made in my university career is an understatement. I had toyed with the idea of studying abroad back in second year, thinking about how cool it would be to say “I’m out of here for 5 months”, but I never thought I’d actually do it, and now here I am how many months later back at Capilano U and wishing the program was two semesters long.
The build up to leaving for your trip and contemplating if 6 months is too long makes the trip seem daunting but in reality, it isn’t long enough. I feel as if I was gone for a month let alone five. Yet when I look at all the amazing things I accomplished in 5 months abroad, it makes me realize how much there is to see and how much you can accomplish in a short period of time. Not only did I complete a semester at university, I explored 10 different countries! I’ve also gained a new appreciation for international students taking a risk and coming to Vancouver and Capilano U to study. I now understand what its like to be that foreign Canadian girl who doesn’t know anyone or anything about the surrounding area yet we all hold this curiosity to explore and discover new things about the world.
I’ve noticed a change within myself in the sense that I’m more open to approaching new people and striking up a conversation. Vancouver carries this stigma that we are an unapproachable society and that we like to stick to our own cliques. However, after traveling abroad I’ve realized it isn’t Vancouver, it’s just certain groups within the city that hold this perspective. In our travels throughout our exchange, we encountered numerous different people who would go out of their way to help complete strangers when we were lost or in need of help. One of very first nights in Switzerland we were trying to find our way around at night and had a taxi driver approach us and see if we were lost. We politely told him we were unable to taxi anywhere ( because it was astronomically expensive in Switzerland) but he insisted on driving us anyways free of charge. Its moments like these that made me appreciate others compassion around the world and how such a little act of kindness can greatly impact someone’s day.
If you’re thinking about traveling abroad but haven’t come to a decision yet, I want to ask you to think about one thing: what do you really have to lose and what infinite experiences do you have to gain?
Read Leah's full report(.pdf) on her semester abroad at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland in Olten, Switzerland.