Why did you choose to learn abroad?
Personal (has been my goal to do an exchange and really wanted to meet and spend
time with family I haven’t seen in a very long time)
Academic (different perspective in the
environmental and urban planning sectors)
Professional (volunteer/intern abroad)
What are the specific skills that you learned or developed?
Taking risks – I am usually the type to think everything through. But since I had limited time in London, I took every chance I got to do the things I wanted to do (i.e. travelling in and outside the UK; trying new things)
Problem-solving skills – Even though I was in an English speaking country, there were quite a few cultural differences that took wing of things and understanding English terminology (i.e. when I ask for the washroom I get blank and/or confused stares lol).
What benefits did you get from the experience?
Personal – I getting to meet family, spending time with them and becoming close. I found it interesting that my little cousins were fascinated by my accent and what we call things back home (i.e. fries instead of chips; candy instead of sweets) and their curiosity about Toronto and Canada. Through teaching them things about Canada, I learned quite a bit from them about the UK as well.
Global benefits – Cross cultural learning and the ability to get the full picture of underlying values, beliefs, and norms of a city/region.
Please, name 2 challenges that you faced and how you overcame them in your experience.
Homesickness – 3 weeks into my exchange I started to notice that I had some symptoms of homesickness (not eating as much, loneliness etc). I reached out to a few of my family members in London and let them know how I was feeling. They were very supportive and made me feel less homesick. I also called to family and friends back home, and identified what made me feel homesick in order for me to figure out how to make myself feel less homesick.
Making friends – I took for granted the ability to easily meet up with a friend even though I don’t get to see them often. It’s was a bit hard make friends at first, as I was only there for one semester and by the 2nd/3rd year most people had their friend groups. But to quickly make friends outside of school, I volunteered off-campus at a non-profit where I met and became friends with various individuals from the community and different schools (a few were fellow Canadians doing their Masters or on exchange as well!).
Would you recommend learning abroad to a friend? Why?
YES! YES! Not only because for the personal, academic and professional development but to have a change of scenery during your degree which in my opinion re-motivates you when you return to UofT.