Emma Craib – Human Biology – Level 3
Brock University, Canada
In my second year of university, I signed up for the opportunity to go on an exchange at the start of my third year. When I applied, there were three thoughts running through my head;
- It can’t hurt to try
- Canada is really pretty
- I probably won’t get picked anyway
But lo and behold, picked I was. The Vice-Chancellors Fund helped pay for my flights which was a blessing and before I knew it I was picking my modules for the upcoming semester at Brock University, Niagara. Niagara was a beautiful area; filled with nature, the falls, and just enough people that it didn’t seem desolate. The university was apparently ‘small’ by Canadian standards but there were still easily 10 times the students there than there were at QMU. It was a big adjustment to make. Thankfully, the girls I lived with in the halls of residence were wonderfully helpful and friendly. Since some of them were first years, we took it upon ourselves to familiarise ourselves with the campus and its various amenities (including four coffee stops). One of them in particular, Christina, became an incredibly close friend of mine who I still keep in touch with to this day and saw various times outside of term time during say our reading week or the festive period.
The lecturers were all very adept and passionate about their fields and, upon finding out I wasn’t a local, did their best to ensure the exchange was as seamless for me as possible. Their approach to teaching was a little more hands-on than I was used to with weekly tests for some modules that counted towards your final grade and more class time as a whole, but it wasn’t an unwelcome change at all. I found myself working harder, studying for longer, and taking things a little more seriously. It’s something I took back with me, thankfully. My grades weren’t straight A’s, don’t get me wrong, but the learning curve was something I’m incredibly glad I experienced. Though I will say, their exam rooms were…Daunting. At LEAST 10-12 rows of students in a huge gym hall, easily over 100 students in the one hall sitting an array of exams for multiple modules. It was probably more stressful than the exams themselves. The concept of midterms is also something I hated but appreciated. I didn’t want to do exams a month after I started the year, but I will admit they made me pay attention in class. The academic side of things, summed up, would be it was gruelling but impressive.
And on the more sentimental side of things, it let me meet people I would’ve perhaps never had the chance to otherwise. Friends from video games and forums I was a whole ocean away from were suddenly only an hour bus or a two-hour drive away. All of them were as wonderful as I knew they were, but seeing them in person was equal parts remarkable and surreal. The most incredible example of that being when I met my partner. The culmination of a long-distance relationship. This exchange let me bridge the gap in a time when neither of us were really sure when we’d be able to do that. It let me spend every weekend for nearly five months in his company, and it made me ridiculously happy. My mental health improved, despite the higher demands I was less stressed, and the nicer weather and better gym facilities (which were free with a student card) improved my physical health as well. I returned a better, happier, more rounded person. So, when I say the exchange is good for you, I cannot fairly put it into words just how great it truly is. The only way to understand is to experience it for yourself. After all, it can’t hurt to try, right?