Margarita W. Exchange Ambassador
What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:
"As cliche as it sounds, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is the kind of opportunity everyone should take."
Exchange student at University of Strathclyde, Scotland
- What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?
I got to fly to Naples, Italy for my birthday week; I visited Pompeii, hiked up Mount Vesuvius, and ate lots of really tasty ricotta-and-citrus-filled pastries called sfogliatelle.
- What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?
Scottish people sometimes say "Alright?" instead of hello and I could never quite figure out how to respond without feeling awkward. But other than that, it quickly became clear to me that the cultures of Canada and Scotland are actually very similar!
- Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your exchange?
Honestly, every place I visited was cool, but I'd have to say Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle (shout out to my sister for insisting that I had to go!). The castle is absolutely beautiful and it's a great place to see the full majesty of the legendary loch.
- What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?
How many stairs I'd have to climb! The University of Strathclyde is on a hill, which made every grocery shopping trip a real workout. Here's a tip - don't just look up your host city or institution on a map; go to Street View and take a quick virtual walk around. It'll help you get better at finding your way around when you do get there.
- What was your best learning moment?
Getting to volunteer at Social Bite, a fantastic social enterprise that provides food and safe housing to people experiencing homelessness in Scotland. I got to meet people from all walks of life and get new perspectives on issues I'd never really given much thought to.
- Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?
The hardest person to leave was my mom; we're extremely close and even when I'm at school we make sure to talk every day if we can. With the seven hour time difference while I was away, that wasn't always possible, so instead we would sometimes just share photos back and forth over the course of a day. Updates from her - and updates about my cat! - really helped whenever I was feeling homesick.
- Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?
The hardest people to leave were my Social Bite co-workers, who were all incredibly lovely people. But I've made plans to visit Glasgow again with my family in the near future, and we'll definitely be stopping in to see them.
- If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?
As cliche as it sounds, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is the kind of opportunity everyone should take.
- Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?
I didn't have to know any other languages, but I recommend getting more familiar with different Scottish accents, because they actually vary quite widely and some were much harder to initially understand than others.
- Did you live on- or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?
I lived on-campus; I recommend this option because it was a much easier process to secure housing through the university's housing services than it would have been to find an apartment in the city before I got there.
- How did you finance your study abroad experience?
I had some funds saved up from my summer job, and my scholarships covered the cost of tuition. I also got funding from OSAP and a travel scholarship through the university.
- What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?
I took a history course called 'Disability in Modern Britain' that opened my eyes to the field of disability studies, which is now something I want to incorporate into my future work in museum design.
- How are you including exchange on your resume?
I will be adding the University of Strathclyde to the education section of my resume and also adding my experiences with Social Bite under work experience.
- Is there any other helpful information you would like to provide to future study abroad participants?
Make a 'bucket list' of places you want to go and things you want to try while in your host country - and aim big! Opportunities will arise and you'll be better prepared to see them.