Grace Hall – Film & Media – Level 3
Brock University, Canada
Around three hours in to our 15 minute pilgrimage from Brock Campus to Decue Falls, the group of British, Australian and French students with whom I had become friendly with began to entertain a unanimous hopelessly-lost mentality. Our trusty guide, a slender ‘Modest Mouse’ aficionado named Jack, was keeping his cards on the table as he led us through the dense shrubbery wielding an iPhone 6 and a furrowed brow. The last few days of summer were in full effect and all twelve of us were gleaming with a mixture of perspiration and desperation that was compelling enough to make an innocent Canadian dog-walker pause and shift her feet nervously. Despite her local knowledge and carefully administered directions, we were too far gone at that point to retain anything she was saying. With intentions for a succinct hike and a naïve trust in Google Maps, we opted against bringing rations or bottles of water with us. A worrisome forecast was surely ahead. It appeared in the form of a sprawling vineyard in an unknown location in the Niagara County – which we stumbled upon in the manner that protagonists in 1980s horror movies stumble upon corn fields. At this point, the smokers amongst us lit up and sent plumes drifting through the grapes in the fading light. The rest of us threw the towel in (after the tears had been dried up) and called a fleet of Ubers; giving up on hopes of becoming expert navigators. By some mercy, the chauffeurs arrived with uncanny speed.
And how, you ask? We were only a ten minute drive from campus.
The people who accompanied me on this small venture soon became part of a much bigger ‘family’ of International and Canadian students who helped shape my experience at Brock. In a sense, the ‘Decue Falls Incident’ aptly represents the wider undertaking of being an exchange student in a new country. First and foremost – good humour and friends travel with you and have the ability to transform settings and circumstances for the better. Striving to be positive and truly appreciating people with similar attitudes is an incredibly effective way to do well at university and beyond, since influences move between characters and challenge everyone to step things up. I learned that no matter how excellent you are at planning, things will often detract from your original intentions. Adaptability comes with experience and my exchange presented me with innumerable instances where I had to change and adjust to things that were outside of my control. Before taking this opportunity and studying in Canada, I would typically have responded by catastrophizing things; now I am able to decide my reactions in a far more confident and productive way. Generally, this materialised through focused budgeting, active university involvement and last minute tickets to Raptors games!
As far as employability is concerned, I think the most valuable thing I took from my experience in Canada was an understanding of the culture and national/transnational communications industries. As a film and media student and British Canadian citizen, the likelihood of me seeking out a career across the Atlantic is very high indeed. So far, I have been able to establish valuable connections with family, friends and professionals alike. I was quite sad to leave, but I am very grateful for the experience and am investigating options for the future. I’d advise prospective exchange students to consider the following few points;
- Studying abroad demands either funding from parents/family or a mature attitude towards successfully managing personal finances. If it is something you really want to do, you can make it work if you are willing to make a few sacrifices and stay on top of things.
- Don’t be put off by the challenges of travel, academics, social commitments and culture shock—you will be surprised by how well you are able to manage!
- The International welcome team at QMU and your host university will go out of their way to make you feel at home. Take advantage of all the events they organise and visit new places with new people as often as you can!
Some places that are worth visiting if you’re in the St. Catharines area:
Peppers (underappreciated trashy nightlife venue Downtown)
Niagara Falls (approx. 20 minute drive from Brock)
Niagara-On-The-Lake and Pilliterri Winery (Great Ice Wine here)
Toronto (approx. 1hr 45min Megabus trip from Brock)
New York City (cheap flights from Buffalo, just across the US. border)
Chicago (cheap flights from Toronto)
Cuba or The Bahamas (you might not have to read over reading week)