For this international student spotlight, I had the opportunity to chat with Amber, a Dal student from the Netherlands. Amber Bonsee is a third-year International Food Business Major at Dalhousie’s Agricultural campus in Truro. Her home university is Aeres University in Dronten. Amber is 20 years old and currently on a food safety internship in Kamloops, British Columbia. She told me about her move, making friends, and advice she has for students considering studying abroad.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the Netherlands, in a city called Almere, the population is about 200,000. Growing up in the Netherlands was pleasant, but I always felt the urge to travel. For fun we would take short trips to Germany, France, and the UK, as traveling throughout Europe is fairly easy. North America, in particular, caught my eye. I would fantasize with my friends on what it would be like to move to another country but never expected it to actually happen.
When did you leave home?
I left home for Canada in August of 2016. This was my first time overseas and my first time moving to another country. My boyfriend at that time, his mother, and my mother brought me to the airport. Leaving was one of the hardest things I had to do. Since I was flying alone, it was even more difficult and knowing the moment I left that things would inevitably change. An adventure would await on the other side of the sea. I had one layover in Iceland and then on to Halifax. The flight was pretty good. My landlady picked me up from the airport and drove me to Truro. The first few nights were different, and a lot of mixed emotions on whether I was doing the right thing or not crossed my mind. Since I had no agricultural background at all, I was not sure whether I would fit in, or what to expect. I was prepared for the long, cold winters because that is what everybody told me about Canada. Once school started, on my first day, I made a Canadian friend called William, who has never left my side since then.
Signing up for international orientation is a great way to make new friends at Dal!
What do you miss most about home?
The Dutch treats and appetizers!
What has been your favorite thing about Canada?
My favorite thing about moving to Canada has been the friends I made and just the overall experience. There are a lot of similarities, as well as differences, between the Netherlands and Canada. The people are very friendly and interested in you, which made me feel at home more easily.
How was the academic system different for you in Canada?
The academic systems are very different from each other. In the Netherlands, there is only one final exam on which your grade is dependent; if you fail that test, you will need to do a makeup exam. Here in Canada, there are multiple chances to get your grade up and every assignment counts towards your grade. Also, there are a lot more resources available to help you, and there are a lot of school clubs. In the Netherlands, there are no school clubs and it is basically, going to class for a few hours, and then going back home. This year though, I got very involved in the school community, I was part of SAIL (student advancement in leadership), Cultiv8 Sandbox and did various volunteer work in Truro.
Visit the Dal’s Campus Life page for ideas on ways to get involved. Societies, communities, and leadership programs help you build your Dal family!
Studying abroad has definitely changed me, things I thought I wanted or what I found important in life changed. Long-term relationships faded, friends moved on, made new friends, and I started going out more and enjoying life overall. I admit I had a lot of doubts if I really wanted to go to Canada, but in the end, it has been the best decision I have made in my life and I would not change this experience for anything. I made valuable friendships and learned a lot. It made me a stronger and more independent person and I advise everyone to travel and see more of how other people live. If I would find a job here later, I would certainly consider moving here for good in the future.
Catalina is from the Bahamas (lucky!) and loves meeting other international students.