Kaitlyn S. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you cannot do when you're 40 and settled down. It is SO different than going on vacation for a week or two, as you can completely immerse yourself into the culture, and learn so much about yourself in a very important time in your life."
Exchange student at the University of Dundee, Scotland
Studying Molecular Biology and Genetics
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
I got to meet up with my best friend in Amsterdam, where we rented bikes for the day and biked to the windmills (Zaanse Schans). It took a lot longer than expected, but immersing ourselves into this unique transportation culture and exploring the Netherland countryside was definitely worth it.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
Grocery Shopping! You don't realize how nice it is to see the same brands and products every day until every product is unfamiliar. The peak of this for me was when I ended up staring at the granola bar section for 10 minutes, not knowing which ones would be good or healthy. It was very funny, but something I had never even thought of before.
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your study abroad experience?
My friends and I rented a couple of cars in the fall and did a road trip up the Isle of Skye. This by far, was the most amazing experience of my life. I felt like I was in a dream, as the landscape was simply astounding.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
How fast it goes by! You think that a semester at your home institution goes by quickly, but when abroad it goes by 3x as fast so take advantage of it while you can! Make sure to explore your host institutions city as well, I found by the end of my semester I had gone to numerous countries and other cities but had barely enjoyed Dundee itself. Don't forget to be a tourist in your own city!!
- What was your best learning moment?
The monarch history of Scotland, England, and Great Britain! Since most of my classmates in my history classes grew up in Dundee, or Scotland, they didn't need to be taught that King James VI and King James I were in fact the same person (the 6th of Scotland, but the 1st of England). It took me two weeks to realize this.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
My mom! Luckily, she took the excuse of me travelling abroad to also come and explore Scotland with me a week before orientation began, so it was easier to say goodbye. Talking to my flatmates who were going through the same thing also helped and was comforting.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
One of my flatmates who I bonded with a lot. We had grown together a lot throughout our exchange experience and saying goodbye was especially difficult. Luckily, the summer after our exchange, she came and visited Canada for a week and we got to catch up.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend what would you say?
GO! Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you cannot do the your 40 and settled down. It is SO different than going on vacation for a week or two, as you can completely immerse yourself into the culture, and learn so much about yourself in a very important time in your life.
- What are your packing recommendations?
Leave room for souvenirs when packing to leave! The last thing you want to do is not have enough room to bring back all your cherished memories. But that being said, buy economic souvenirs that don't take up that much room (ie. I bought a postcard from every city I went to.. but I also bought a huge tartan wool blanket so I should have taken my own advice).
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
I always think it would be helpful to know another language, but in Scotland, they all spoke English. At least, what they called English. It was often hard to understand the Scots with all their slang and slurring but I eventually picked it up! Unfortunately, I don't think there's a way to prepare for this, other than watching a lot of Outlander.
- Did you live on-campus or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived on-campus and would definitely recommend it. I was placed with 5 other exchange students from the USA, Australia, Germany, Spain, and France. This in itself was a very unique experience. We were also all in the same boat, of being separated from our friends and family, but also wanting to make the most out of the experience. It's a great way to make life long friends for sure.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
I worked, a lot. I also applied and got a travel grant through the University of Guelph, and qualified for OSAP. My parents were able to get me roundtrip flights on air miles as well, so that helped a TON.
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
I took two history classes I loved: Scotland and the Wider World and Rise of the Atlantic Empires. I loved learning about the history of the country I was residing in, as well as I could never have taken these types of courses at Guelph.