Danielle McKeirnan, a fourth-year English student, reflects on how spending a year on exchange in Lancaster, England helped her discover more about herself while also learning about a foreign culture. 

Let me preface this post with the notion that no one has ever gone away to study abroad for a year and came back saying it was the worst year of their life. If they did, what did they do wrong?

I’m kidding, study abroad perhaps isn’t for everybody, but it is for the majority of people.

I studied abroad for my third year at Lancaster University, cleverly located in Lancaster, England. The sun barely came out, it rained a lot, and I ate way more meat stuffed pies than anyone should ever ingest. But it was also the greatest year of my life, filled with new life-long friends, cheap travel around Europe, and adorable British accents. If you haven’t guessed already, this post is almost my ode to studying abroad.

While studying abroad is extremely fun and exciting, it’s also a great opportunity to learn more about yourself. So cliché, right? Sadly, it’s true. When you are stripped away from your comfort zone, thrown into an atmosphere where you don’t quite understand what people are saying, with weather and food very different from your own, you naturally change. It was not having my comfortable four seasons, same friends, and Carleton University that not only enabled me to grow, but really forced me to adapt. I would like to consider myself a friendly and open person, but having to make all new friends and adapt to new environment can be difficult for anyone, right? Just like what you did a few years ago when you came to Carleton University for the first time. Perhaps you still retain many of your old high school friends and similar surroundings, but coming to Carleton was completely new for you. Since you have already had to adapt once, why not do it again…in another continent?

There is something amazing about being completely terrified and excited all at once. It is as if you are so scared you are going to mess up and somehow lose everything, but you’re also very excited to lose everything and start over again. Studying abroad offers a chance to start over, to put behind your first two years of University, and show you a completely new part of the world. It’s not an escape, nor should it be used as one. Escaping is impermanent, and unfortunately studying abroad for a year cannot erase your past. Although it can offer insight to your past problems, and give you time to reflect on what you were so scared of before.

Studying abroad is not necessarily frozen moments in time, but it sure can feel that way. I had these amazing, life changing experiences that even six months after my final departure from the UK still do not feel tangible. To put it simply: You get to do things you never thought imaginable.

Unfortunately, I cannot escape clichés when speaking about my time abroad because they are so interconnected with explaining what the experience was like. The truth is, it’s almost impossible to explain what studying abroad is or does because it means so many different things to each individual that does it. I guess what I’m saying is, you should study abroad because it’s an experience that honestly cannot be fully defined or replaced.

Submitted by Danielle McKeirnan, a fourth-year English student. 

To learn more about exchange opportunities at Carleton, visit carleton.ca/isso/international-opportunities/exchange/


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