The 101 survival guide of being an exchange student – part 3

3) Don’t be afraid to be a tourist, get travelling. One of the most difficult challenges you’ll face as a study abroad student is the fine line between seeing the country you’re living in and getting good second year grades. During ‘Reading Week’ I did no reading at all as the name suggests and got the Greyhound all the way to Vancouver. I spent the week soaking up some rays and sightseeing. I don’t regret anything and ended up doing just fine. As soon as I got back I was straight in again with my work. Some weekends I really wanted to go travelling but remember you have time either before term starts or afterwards to go and cross some landmarks off your list.

Image of Vancouver

4) Take modules that you usually wouldn’t get the opportunity too. My study abroad advisor suggested this to me. As long as you’ve matched up the core modules that you’ll be doing in Lancaster then there isn’t much of a problem if you want to do a few wild and wacky ones. I did the whole geography of Canada so now I’m some sort of expert! It was really good to take modules offered by another university as much as the content that I did was focused on Canada and other North American cities specifically, so I found it really interesting to learn about the region I was living in. Nerdy I know.

5) Get a little part-time job. It’s the best way to meet new people and as a study abroad student it’s much easier to get a job on campus because most visas allow this rather than having to apply to work off campus and left waiting. I worked at two little Starbucks stores on campus. Nearly all of my colleagues were students so we had a great laugh taking the mic out of each other’s accents. They didn’t know what I meant by ‘rubbish’ and apparently I was saying ‘mocha’ wrong. I got discount off drinks and a guaranteed laugh. Those extra Canadian dollars also helped to fund my travelling!

Image of Laura working inStarbucks

6) Date an ice hockey player! This last tip is a joke. However I did date an ice hockey player during my time in Canada (hehe). If you don’t get the opportunity to date one (not that you’d want too, they embarrass you beyond words when they take you on a date ice skating), then attending ice hockey games is just as fun. The fans from both teams actually mix together and you can get unlimited hot dogs and beer. Watch out for the ‘dome beer’ though at the Saddledome, that stuff is lethal and you’ll be drunk after just one sip! The atmosphere is amazing at the hockey games and I know the Canadian National Anthem off by heart now. “Oh Canada…”

I hope that this mini guide has helped any of you considering doing a year abroad or are already down to do a year abroad, you lucky sods! I’m green with envy and I’ve only been back for a few months now.  If you want know any more then you’ll probably find me in Bowland bar, although as a third year student I should now be in the library until the early hours of the morning with my duvet and 5 empty cans of Relentless. I know that this sounds cheesy but follow your dreams and make the most of every minute during your year abroad.

Try to do things in moderation! “Work hard but play harder”, that’s something that they told me in Canada. If you do go to the University of Calgary though please be prepared for the fire alarms going off in residents. You’ll find yourself walking  to the dining centre, wrapped up in a blanket at 5am as they decide to do a fire drill. That’s the only downside of my whole trip!

The 101 survival guide of being an exchange student – part 2

So a little about the logistics! When it came to selecting my host university I only wanted to attend a Canadian university, all the US universities were crossed straight off my list, not because I dislike the US but because I’m a true Canadian at heart, get me some skis, a pint of Molsons Canadian and I’ll happily get up to some Canadian mischief!

I set about ranking the Canadian universities with exchange student places and was eventually told that I had a conditional place at the University of Calgary. So it was decided, I was going to Cowboy Country! In your first year at Lancaster you’ve got to get a minimum of a 2:1 to be able to study abroad. Getting an email confirming my first year results was the best feeling, especially as I was in Belin at the time.

Before I went away the prospect of taking 9 months worth of stuff in a single suitcase (I didn’t want to pay extra for another one because I’m tight), being away from my Mum and my friends as well as being in a ‘foreign’ country seemed very daunting. However, as soon as I started my journey to Calgary I couldn’t sit still, I was so excited I just wanted to get there. I found myself settling in straight away. I honestly had the best time of my life, so I’ve created a 101 survival guide on studying abroad so you can make the most of every opportunity like I did and things that I learned from my experience.

1) Attend all the events during O-week. O-week is our equivalent to Freshers’ Week. Here you’ll meet many freshers but you’re guaranteed to meet many other study abroad students just like yourself. You’ll find that the people that you meet in your first week will be your friends for life. Now I’ve got contacts all of the world, I have places to stay not just in Canada but in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the list goes on. It’s often these other exchange students that’ll want to do all of the touristy stuff with you such as go up the Calgary Tower that Canadian’s have probably done 1,000x before and find boring.

Laura dressed as a banana during O-Week

2) Get in with the locals. Whilst I was in Canada they had two Thanksgiving dinners. I had nowhere to go, it wasn’t like I could fly home for an extravagant Sunday dinner. So I resorted to making friends with Canadians. It wasn’t difficult at all, I just spoke to people in my classes and I soon had a whole group of Canadian friends. Honestly they were so hospitable and warm, my friend’s Mum invited me around on numerous occasions when she’d made too much dinner!  What? I know that I should like a vulture but I’m a student that normally lives off baked beans after all!

Laura's image of Thanksgiving dinner

Please see ‘The 101 survival guide of being an exchange student – part 3’ to find out the other must-do’s!

The 101 survival guide of being an exchange student – part 1

Sitting in the computer room at sixth form I was approached by my tutor who was delivering a thrilling lesson on how to apply to university. I think that he must have seen my forehead crinkling slightly as I stared blankly at the UCAS website. The problem was that I had no idea whether I wanted to go to university or not! When I told him this, well that was it, he started to lecture me on how intelligent I was and that it would be a shame to throw away all that talent, after all I was expected to get solid A grades… But still the uncertainty…

I began to look anyway, I copied what my boyfriend at the time was doing, ordering the same prospectuses as him (Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews… mmm yeah I wasn’t quite sure if those places were for me and that I’d even get in, I mean getting asked to describe an egg in your admissions interview, what the hell?!) and trailing my way through the different types of geography degrees offered.

Finally a prospectus from Lancaster University was delivered through my letter box, definitely not to be frowned upon. I opened up the prospectus and to my amazement there was a three year course which involved a year studying abroad in North America. Seeing this degree was such a relief to me, I knew at once that it was what I wanted to do. Having always had the travel bug and liking Canada so much after my first ever visit I thought why not?! I guess that you shouldn’t be as spontaneous in picking your degree like that but why would I want to spend three years in one place, especially Lancaster, yes they have a castle and a cathedral but still, it isn’t for me and it rains ALL OF THE TIME… Anyway, I’m a jet setter and couldn’t wait to set off!