Whether you’re deciding whether to go, writing your application, or actually at the terrifying packing stage of heading off for your year abroad this September, there’s a few things you need to know that you won’t find in any of those dull university booklets. Having just spent a year in Canada, I can say from experience that I wish someone had told me this before I went, so I could be better prepared for this whirlwind of a year…
Check Luggage Restrictions and Roll/Vacuum Pack Your Stuff
Needless to say, I am not great at packing. I arrived, packed and ready for 8 months in Ottawa, with two suitcases filled with absolutely no winter clothes. Not even a coat. This meant that until I went home at Christmas, I was wearing the same outfit every week. Before you go, check your airlines luggage restrictions – it turns out I could have brought a small suitcase as hand luggage too, not just a flimsy handbag that carried hardly anything in it. And roll your clothes, or get vacuum bags. You need enough to last you months on end, for a variety of seasons, and one and a half suitcases of shorts and t shirts probably won’t cut it.
You Will Run Out of Money – Fast
Bring enough cash to last you for your first week, then a little bit more. I optimistically brought about $300, but what you don’t realise is exchange students need to buy a LOT more stuff when they move in than if you were just heading off to your uni in England. Duvets, adapters, saucepans, and many a shot whilst making new friends all add up, so prepare for the first week of university abroad to be one of the most pricey you’ve ever had.
There Will Always Be a Language Barrier
Now Canada’s not exactly China, but there were still some words that baffled me. For example, what exactly does ‘hooking up’ entail? And when they say ‘eh’ at the end of a sentence, does that require a response? Living in Canada made me realise that wherever you end up studying abroad, the locals will always have a different way of saying things, even if the language is fundamentally the same. You can’t really fully prepare for this, just get ready to be faced with some confusing terminology, and if you get it wrong just laugh it off and use this opportunity to learn some new vocab and confuse your friends back home.
Things You Will Miss
You’re going to really miss some things, so act accordingly. Try and squeeze some English chocolate, cheddar cheese, tea, and sweets in your suitcase (I’m going to assume that you’ve rolled your clothes to perfection and have plenty of space for this). Within a couple of months, you will start to get cravings. And even if you have incredible will power and don’t miss these treats, you can bribe the locals to be your friends by letting them try your exciting foreign snacks.