My study abroad experience in Canada: If Plan A doesn’t work, is it worth going somewhere else?

Monika is one of our Essex students who started her year abroad in Canada in 2022. We asked her about her time abroad and the challenges faced along her journey…

Why Canada?

It was the most commonly asked question, right after ‘What’s your name’ and ‘What is your major’. The answer was never easy. I could always come up with something short like 'I love skiing' or 'Winter is a pretty season', but lies are never worth it. The truth is that I never planned to go there. The concerned looks that I received right after telling the truth were just hilarious. Long story short, I have always thought about an exchange somewhere in Asia, but due to Pandemics not everything went according to plan A.

Why did you still decide to go?

I always wanted to travel and explore. Originally, I am not even from Great Britain, the University of Essex was already studying abroad for me. I knew that such an opportunity may never happen again, so why not try? Maybe it will be worth it? Truly, it was.

What were your initial thoughts when you arrived in Quebec?

At first, I just felt like I don’t belong here. I am pretty much sure that there are not just my thoughts. We, exchange students somehow realise that it is an adventure, just a temporary one, no one will ever perceive us as something more than short-term pieces in their life. Everything seems odd at first, even in Canada that not drastically different to British culture. However, just those first days, they are hard, but it goes away fast.

a large castle like building by the sea

How did you manage to change this initial feeling of discomfort?

The most important thing is to get out of your comfort zone. Such a cliche, but there is no better advice that I could have ever been given. Happily, at Bishop’s University, everyone is speaking English, so I didn’t have to overcome the fear of speaking another language. I tried to talk with someone new every day. Quickly, I got to meet plenty of people that made my time there truly unforgettable. The key is the 'Yes' approach, to open yourself to experiencing and never turn down upcoming opportunities.

What did you like the most about your experience?

I would say the sense of community. Bishop’s University is located far from the city hustle, you could think that there will be nothing to do there. Nothing more wrong! University on its own is amazing, with pretty buildings, and many facilities, but it is not about that. Such a small university is a home for people from all around the world. Every day we all met in the canteen, we were sitting there for hours, laughing, and talking. Nothing teaches you more about yourself than discussions with people with other cultural lenses.

A red brick University in the snow

If you were to choose again, would your decision be different?

Without even a second to think, I would go there again. I would never expect this spontaneous choice to now be a place where I feel at home. I’ve grown as a person and gained much bigger self-awareness. Even though it was not my Plan A, my Year Abroad in Quebec was truly one of the most valuable experiences of my life.

Inspired by Monika's story? Find out more about Study Abroad opportunities.