Studying away has many perks like seeing new things, experiencing a different way of learning, and gaining more independence. Yet the one thing I cherish most, and wouldn’t have been able to survive the year without, is the people I have met and the support system I have gained. While being far from home, friends, and your normal routine you have to find not only things to fill up the space, but people. Whether it be people to study with, to go on adventures with, or to relax with when the stress of school is building up, friends and a support system through your peers is important. Personally, I have met friends for a reason, a season, and for life while here but I appreciate all of them and what they have added to my experience in Canada.
My friends for a reason are mostly other students that I met on campus, people I study with and sit with in class. They are the people I walk with around campus and can text about the homework or lectures if I need help or missed a class. These people help the “study” aspect of studying away easier and a lot more fun. First semester I was worried about talking to people, especially in lecture halls filled with hundreds of people. But once I reached out, simply complimenting someone or asking a question I missed the professor saying, it was easy. Everyone is in the same boat, so starting conversations and building these kinds of friendships are easy. The classes I had connections in I did a lot better in, especially because the style of learning and the classes I am taking at my host university are different from back home. Different/new grading scales, lecture styles, and subjects can throw students off, especially after two years at the same university where you know how things work. Yet creating study groups, having people to bounce ideas off of, and building friendships in the new classes helps create a positive and productive class environment.
The friends for a season are a little different, though I will say all three of these types of friends can be made in the classroom most of my friends for a season were met outside of school. Friends for a season are those who you hang out with because they are friends with people you know or acquaintances. These are people who bring something new and beautiful to your experience studying away, but may not be people you keep in touch with through more than social media. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about them, or love spending time with them, it may just be the level of closeness you have with them. I have friends I probably won’t hear from much after we leave in two months, yet I am excited to see what they do in life and how we both can grow. We may not snapchat a bunch or make plans to fly across the world to see each other, but they have been great friends. These people can add some amazing things into your study away experience that you may not have gotten otherwise, such as different interests or personalities that you may not have connected under different circumstances. I think these people are very important, not everyone is going to be your best friend but that doesn’t mean you can’t still love them and have an amazing time with them.
Now here’s the big one, the friends for life. I think I was lucky enough to have met some amazing people and made more life friends than I ever expected. I thought maybe I would make a few, yet I have made so many close friends here who I know I will talk to and go to visit after leaving. People I want in my life forever, even if it takes a lot of work with different time zones and 10+ hour flights if I want to see them. I was lucky enough to be placed in housing with three amazing girls, who are all very different, but who have become some of my closest friends. Each one brings something different to the table and brings out a different side of me that I love, each betters my life in their own way. While I know this isn’t common, these three girls have become life friends for me. I am planning on going to Europe to visit two of them in 2021 and the third lives in Canada and is planning on coming to visit me next school year.
Aside from these lovely ladies, there are some other amazing people in our friend group that I hope to be friends with for as long as possible. These are people I not only have fun with, but can go to for serious things such as homesickness or when I am having a hard time. These are people who I can sit around with for hours, no matter what we are doing. One thing I will say is these kinds of friends I expected to click with right away, yet some of these friends weren’t the people I expected at the beginning of the school year. Yet over the last six months they have grown and become an irreplaceable part of my life, so I always recommend staying open minded when it comes to anything, but especially friends. Differences can make friendships stronger and can bring you out of your comfort zone, helping you find new interests you may not have found otherwise.
Finding good people and a good support system can go a long way in ensuring your exchange experience goes smoothly and is the best it can be. While it may be scary at first, it is worth taking the leap.
Submitted by Caleigh Nordan