Dal has so many exchange and study abroad opportunities that allow you to see some amazing places around the world. While travelling is an amazing experience on its own, studying abroad and immersing yourself into another culture for an extended period of time can’t be beaten. My abroad experience affected my future dreams and ambitions and changed how I view the world. My recommendation to you? Hurry up and apply before the Jan. 31 deadline (Jan. 27 for Dal AC students)!
I decided early on at Dal that I wanted to go abroad. What better way to experience the world while I’m trying to find my place in it? I applied during the middle of my first year for placement in either New Zealand or Australia. Dal has exchanges with 131 universities in 33 countries, run through the International Centre, so narrowing down the options wasn’t easy! But I was eventually placed in incredible Wellington, New Zealand.
I had heard the benefits of going abroad and was doubtful at first, but I can honestly say my undergrad wouldn’t be the same without my exchange. Plus, by planning since first year I was able to take my required prerequisites ahead of time and enjoy my elective courses abroad. These are just some of the ways my exchange has impacted me and what your exchange could do for you!
Self-discovery (aka identity crisis)
For me, this was the most important part of my exchange. Before I left I thought I had my life all figured out. Instead, I met new people who had taken paths I hadn’t even considered. During a hitchhiking race, I met a guy who travelled the world for 11 years before returning home and doesn’t regret a minute of it. I met a girl who has taken three different gap years during the course of her undergrad because she felt it was important to travel.
These worldly individuals had a way of looking at their lives that I had never considered. For the first time, I realized life doesn’t have to be a list of checkmarks and that I’m able to make my own path. My future plans are now open to change and I know I want more out of life than a steady paycheque. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to have my entire life all figured out!
For me, this really comes down to marvelling at nature and appreciating the small things in life. I did a lot of road trips in New Zealand, which consisted of a PB & J diet, spending nights in the car, and drinking a lot of coffee. This simple way of travel allowed me to really check in to everything happening around me. I learned a lot about my fellow travellers and have substantially grown my music collection! There’s nothing quite like seeing a rainbow once you reach the summit or relishing in the fourth waterfall of the day.
Discovering new interests
The best way to see the world is to say yes to the opportunities presented to you. In a new and foreign environment, I tried to say yes to as many things as I could without overwhelming myself. But I found that even the smallest effort had the greatest reward. During my first few weeks, I tagged along with a Danish exchange student to an architecture presentation. We ended up becoming best friends and did a lot of travelling together. She pushed me to climb Mt. Doom while hiking the Tongariro Crossing, and opened my eyes to ‘The Danish Way.’
I fell head over heels in love with New Zealand—with the people, the landscapes, and the laid-back mentality. I saw the rugby world champions, the All Blacks, play and start their game with a Maori war chant called the Haka. Some of my friends even performed their high school Hakas for me. Seeing this performance is so powerful and isn’t comparable to anything back home. Even geological differences stood out. In Wellington, earthquakes occur more often than lightning storms, and the average wind speed is 29 km/h!
Coming home is hard, and reverse culture shock can be worse than the initial shock of your exchange. It only gets more frustrating once you’ve been bitten by the travel bug. After boogie-boarding down sand dunes and hiking snow-capped mountains, I can’t wait for the next adventure. Until I’m able to travel again, I’m trying to re-explore Nova Scotia to appreciate all of the things to do and see here. Sometimes playing tourist can be fun and show you a side of your home you never think to see.
Better time management skills
I didn’t believe my time management skills would improve while on exchange—if anything I thought they’d get worse. After spending a semester travelling every weekend and taking only four courses, I didn’t think I’d be able to adjust back to the hectic academic schedule here at Dal. To my surprise, trying to fit everything I could into 5 months while still maintaining good grades had a positive impact. While the academics are more difficult at Dal, I find I have so much more time than I’m used to. I’m still trying not to spend all my newfound free time browsing Reddit, but I’ll get there.
When I was living in residence for my first year and a half at Dal, I really had it easy. Moving to the other side of the world presented challenges I didn’t even know I’d encounter. I’ve had almost every travel mishap possible, and for a time was unable to use my debit card anywhere. Everything ended up working out, except the excess baggage fees (pro tip: Air New Zealand is so much better than JetStar, but I had to figure it out on my own). Problem-solving with a 16-hour time change was stressful, but it made me a more responsible, independent person. Now that I’m back in Halifax and living off campus, these “adult” problems are just inconveniences and I know I’m fully capable of taking care of them.
I’m so grateful I was able to embark on this crazy adventure and cherish the memories. Going on an exchange is an eye-opening experience and impacts the way you view the world. Personally, I think every university student should do it at least once. Now’s your chance! Check out all the opportunities Dal has to offer at the International Centre! For students on the Agricultural Campus, the International Office has drop-in advising times on Jan. 19, 20, 24, and 27 from noon to 1pm.
And if you’re still not convinced, check out former Dal Student Life Street Team member Tim’s short video that highlights some of the things he experienced when he went on exchange to Glasgow:
Delainey spends all her free time now planning her next adventure.