The experience of a lifetime with Study Aboard

When the applications for study abroad opened in the autumn of my second year, I was at a loss about what to do.  One of the main reasons I chose to study at Manchester was its amazing study abroad opportunities and strong global links.  From past experiences, I knew that I loved international travel and I understood the many reasons why study abroad would be fantastic and hugely advantageous to me.

For a while, I couldn’t decide whether to apply, especially because I was loving life in Manchester and the thought of leaving that behind was heart-breaking.  I’d amassed lots of wonderful friends, was involved in some amazing student societies and part-time jobs, and was having the best time of my life.  To turn my back on all this seemed crazy –could I ever have it this good again?

After much torment, I finally concluded ‘just do it!’ and applied.  It’s wasn’t like Manchester was going to disappear anytime soon, and I knew that good friends would always be there for me, no matter how far away and no matter how long I wouldn’t see them for (I’m getting all soppy and sentimental now ❤ ).  My top study abroad destination was the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, as it ticked all my boxes: excellent University, amazing outdoors activities like skiing, canoeing and hiking, and a beautiful modern city surrounded by beaches and mountains.

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Me snowshoeing with new Canadian friend Cora in the Rockies

A few months later I was stood in the Atrium of University Place squinting at the list of student numbers who had been approved for study abroad.  I stood there for about a minute glancing between the list and my student card with my student number on it.  After about the tenth check all doubt had been stripped away and the mental meltdown commenced – I WAS GOING TO CANADA!!!

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Beware of bears!  Hiking with Canadian friend Nicole (now one of my best friends)

I arrived in Vancouver late at night in early September, and promptly fell asleep after travelling 7312 km.  I woke up at 5am (1pm UK time) and went for a stroll around the city centre.  Within an hour, I had observed sunrise over Coal Harbour, strolled through soaring pines in Stanley Park, watched seaplanes land, breakfasted on coffee and bagels, and dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean.  I’d never fallen in love with a place so instantaneously in my life.

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Vancouver sunset

When term began two days later I put far less effort into attending the UBC welcome events than I did in Manchester.  Having already done welcome week once before, I knew that partying with a load of strangers wasn’t the best way of making new friends. Instead, I took my time and got involved with a couple of the student societies and got to know my course-mates.  Within a couple of months, I’d met dozens of great people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and nationalities, had many good friends and had comfortably settled in to UBC.

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Some friends at the Richmond Night Market

Over my 10 months living in Vancouver, I’d been lectured by world-leading academics, made amazing friends for life, and picked up my high school French by talking to French-Canadians.  I’d learnt to ski, sea kayak and ice climb, and had been on adventures across western Canada and the USA.  In short, it was the most incredible year of my life, and I feel silly for having so many doubts before I applied!

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Learning to ice climb

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Eating oysters with my canoe buddies – caught by us on the beach!

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One of my buddies on one of our canoe trips

In addition to having loads of fun, I’d developed my problem-solving skills and confidence by integrating into a new country, become far better at networking and getting to know new people, felt more competent as an independent individual, and also learnt lots about myself and many life lessons.

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Climbing in Squamish near Vancouver

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Mountaineering in the Valhallas with Nicole

When I returned to Manchester my old friendships were as strong as they ever were and I settled back in immediately, feeling invigorated from my year away and ready to enjoy Manchester again with a refreshed mind.  My boosted confidence helped me discover a love of meeting new people, and now have more friends and connections than ever.

Of course, some less lucky people have less of a good time as I had initially, and often settling into life in a new place takes different times for different people, but most universities have support services, lots of student activities and events to help you make friends and make the most of your year away.  Also, the Manchester Go Abroad office will always be there for you if you have any problems or would like advice.

My study abroad was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve come back with bags of wonderful memories, great friendships and new skills.  My year away has truly improved me as person, and I couldn’t recommend study abroad any more.

So what are you waiting for? Apply and have the adventure of a lifetime!

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