Monday, 9 May 2016

The Final Chapter: Studying Abroad

I finally saw a black bear in Alberta
Hellooooo! It's been a while since I updated you on my time in Calgary. As I expected, there was nothing too exciting to report over the past semester. However, there are a few things I want to say as my time in Canada draws to a close.

Glacier Skywalk, Jasper
It's crazy how little time I have left living here. The countdown has well and truly begun and I'm feeling a mixture of emotions. Things really hit me like a tonne of bricks when my roommate Ali moved out a few days ago. She has been my rock here in Calgary, the one constant thing throughout my time in Canada and saying goodbye was incredibly hard. Now the sadness is passing, it's being replaced with a feeling of relief (NOT about Ali, just to clarify). I am so relieved to be going back to the UK.

Moraine Lake, Banff
It's a funny thing growing up, travelling and moving away from 'home' because you'll never have just one single place to call home again. And that's difficult to get your head around, knowing that wherever you are, there will always be somewhere and someone who you'll miss. But being here in Canada has made me absolutely certain that I need a base a bit closer to my family.

Emerald Lake, Yoho
Do I regret studying abroad? NOOOOOOO WAY, I wouldn't change a thing. Experiences like these truly make us and show us who we really are and what we really want. I have had such an amazing time here, there are so many things that exchange has brought me and taught me that will no doubt stay with me for the rest of my life...

University of Calgary, AB
At the top of the list is friendship. I have made friends from all over the world. Just the other day I was sat in a full car comprised of a Canadian, a Brazilian, an Australian and an Ecuadorian. And these are some of the most awesome, fun, kind and accepting people I've ever met yet all of us have come from very different backgrounds. Some of the best friends I've ever made have been here in Calgary. It gives me such a great excuse to go travelling to see them again. We'll all share a bond over the memories from Exchange for the rest of our lives and that reason alone would be enough to make it all worth it.

Spray Lakes, Kananaskis
But that's not the only thing. I have seen so many new places and experienced so many new things. I remember the feeling I had being up in the mountains for the first time, the sky was dark and grey and the mist hung low, making the mountains ominous shadows all around. I felt in awe and almost a tad apprehensive. Contrast that to the second time, with the bluest of skies and the sun shining down and glinting off the peaks, making the mountains less ominous but no less majestic. Being here in Calgary and having this opportunity to be so close to the Rockies has reminded me that the world is so big and beautiful and that there are so many places still to see and so many amazing places wherever I may go. It's given me a kick up the backside to continue to explore. Especially the places you may take for granted. Be a tourist sometimes, and you may learn something new about the place you've lived for years of your life.

Spray Lakes, Kananaskis
This exchange has no doubt made me stronger as a person. It's hard to explain but I feel more comfortable in my own skin. When pretty much the only constant person in your day to day life is yourself, you have not only a lot of time to figure out who that is, but you have to portray that to a lot of new people. I don't know if that was explained well... But anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I've had a lot of time and space to grow and to learn what I want and who I am at my core. I feel a million miles away from that scared girl who'd just got off the plane and was overwhelmed and scared of this new, huge place. I feel a lot more confident in myself. There have been countless times on this exchange where I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I've done things even when I've felt nervous, sad and/or scared. Saying yes to things, making your own opportunities, taking a little bit of a risk. That has been extremely important here.

Lake Louise, Banff
It's given me a bigger appreciation for the things that I may have taken for granted, from the big things like my family and friends to the small things like food and drink and humour. My parents deserve a medal for everything they have done for me here in Calgary (and everything beforehand too). Honestly, I am sooooooooo thankful for modern technology because if I hadn't been able to talk to my Mum and Dad I would have struggled a LOT. Being 4,384 miles away from home has made me appreciate my family and friends sooooo much more. Their love, support and good humour is something that I have relied on so much here and I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had that. I don't think I would have been able to enjoy my time half as much without having regular contact with everyone back home. Just talking about them now makes me even more excited to be back in the UK.

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper
But, back to studying abroad. Honestly, I think everyone should do something like it. Simple as that.

Peace Bridge, Calgary
I'm really going to miss Canada. I'm going to miss watching the snow swirl from my windowsill. I'm going to miss the mountains. I'm going to miss my roomie Ali. I'm going to miss poutine. I'm going to miss the friendliness and chattiness of pretty much everyone, everywhere you go (except over the phone for some reason - Canadian politeness doesn't seem to extend there). I'm going to miss the mega bargains at the mall on EVERYTHING and the cheap cinema tickets. I'm going to miss the campus. I'm going to miss the experiences I've had over the last 8 months and just being on exchange in general.

Bow River, Calgary
Oh Canada, thanks for putting up with me. Now off to New York, Toronto and Reykjavik! I'll keep you posted.

Bow Falls, Banff
EDIT: I'm writing this last bit after having left Calgary just over 4 days ago and I just wanted to say that I'm surprised at how sad I've felt about leaving. I've been so focused on exams and on going home, moving my things out and all that hectic stressful stuff that I didn't expect to feel the way I have been. I've felt unbelievably sad as it's finally hit me that I won't be going back to live in Calgary. Calgary was never my favourite city but it's been my home and I've come to love it's little quirks and love its people. I have had one of the best experiences of my life living there and I think i'll always be happy to go back and visit. Until the next time!

Peace Bridge + Downtown, Calgary


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