Henrietta Connor11 December 2020
School of Social Sciences
International Exchange Placement
Where did you go?
I went to Canada and attended the University of Ottawa.
What motivated you to do a year abroad?
I knew before coming to university that I wanted to go on a year abroad as I love travelling and exploring new cities. I was also motivated to go abroad and study, as I wanted to experience what it was like to attend a university outside of the UK and meet new people from all over the world. Also, the chance to study for a whole year intrigued me as it would allow me to settle and fully immerse myself in another city.
What were your top 3 highlights of your year abroad?
1: The people- It was amazing to meet people from all over the world who were also studying abroad as we could travel to new places, share cultures and support each other as we were all in the same position. My flatmates were also great because they were all Canadian so they helped me navigate the university systems, show me their favourite places around Ottawa and just generally made me feel like I was living the normal Canadian student life.
2: Travelling– Cities in Canada are FAR away from each other. A 4 hour car journey becomes the norm but it’s worth it to explore the surrounding cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Kingston. Road trips through Canada with friends was amazing and a lot prettier than driving between UK cities, especially around October time in Canada.
3: Ultimate Frisbee– Having already played at Cardiff University, I knew I wanted to try out in Canada and it was one of the best decisions I made. I was able to meet a whole new group of people, be taught by coaches and travel round Canada and the US with them to play at a variety of tournaments.
What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was my confidence as I get nervous meeting people for the first time and going to societies by myself. I quickly had to overcome this; however, I did have a friend from Cardiff attend the same university as I did which made it much easier. I quickly realised that your year abroad is what you make of it and you have to take all the opportunities that are given – so I went to most of the international meets that they put on for incoming students- which is where I met most of my close friends. I also looked up what sports societies they had and joined field hockey and ultimate frisbee- as I knew this would allow me to make friends with normal Canadian students. In all – all the nerves you have when you first get out there, all disappear within a week or two because of the all the new experiences that are happening so fast.
How has your placement been beneficial to your studies at Cardiff University or your future career?
My year abroad pushed me to become more organised and better with time management as I had to sort out all the pre-departure prep and balance socialising with the university work. In terms of future career, a year abroad shows employers the willingness to explore new cultures, adaptability to new environments and a better understanding of the wider world.
What is the one thing you wish you’d known before you left?
I wish I had known not to pack so much as Ottawa University has a FREE STORE- for all students to access during term time- the free store has clothes, kitchen products, electronics, bedding- basically all the essentials you need to live. You also end up buying more and more things along the way and know that anything you forgot in the UK , you can buy when you are there. ALSO- don’t buy your winter coat from the UK- wait till you’re in Canada and go to Marshalls or a similar shop where you can get a perfectly good winter coat but without paying $200- Marshalls- is like T K MAX- past seasons branded clothing but cheaper- also saves you space in your luggage if you buy when there.
What would you say to a student that was unsure about spending a period abroad?
Going abroad through the university is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Having the opportunity to travel internationally or in Europe, experience a new city/culture, is a chance you cannot miss out on. You will meet such a range of different people and make life changing memories. If you are nervous or need help- the university are easily contactable, and you also receive a bursary of some kind which helps with the expenses. Similarly, if you are finding it difficult when abroad- know that so many other exchange students will be going through the same and you can help each other out.
What are 3 things to do in your host destination?
- Skate– Rideau Canal is the world’s largest outdoor skating rink- Around December time to Feb- the Rideau canal freezes over, and you can rent skates and skate the whole river. It was nice to see families, friends, and individuals skate along the river. There are also food and drink stands on the ice where you can get a Beaver tail- flat sugary fried bread- similar to Mr Pretzel- but better.
- National parks– Go visit Gatineau Park- it is a huge national park to which you can get a bus or drive. It is in Quebec but as Ottawa is on the border of Ontario and Quebec it is only a short distance. When autumn starts, Gatineau looks beautiful with the orange, yellow trees, and the blue green lakes.
- Parliament Hill – Ottawa is the capital of Canada- so you may be able to spot Trudeau. The multiple parliament buildings lay on a hill, which is surrounded by greenery and from afar looks like a royal building. There are tours which take you inside and around the grounds, and marches/ events take place here. There are free firework displays and light shows that are put on throughout the year.
Please sum up your experience abroad in one sentence.
Most exciting and memorable year that I will never forget.
What are you looking for?
We're looking for enthusiastic students who are currently abroad, or are soon going abroad, to share their experiences and write for our pages!
If you're interested, get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org