By Genevieve Taylor, Graduate of the School of Business Management, Ted Rogers School of Management
The thought of exploring the world is exciting and exhilarating, it gets your blood pumping and imagination flowing. Traveling to new countries and cities is both eye opening and breathtaking, and yet many don’t realise how emotional and frightening it can also be.
For my last semester of my graduating year I decided to apply to the Ryerson International exchange program and begin the trip of a life time in Lisbon, Portugal.
I knew in the back of my mind that I would be picking up and leaving everything in my life behind for nearly six months and yet that didn’t faze me due to the unknown possibilities ahead. At the end of January 2017, I packed up my belongings and flew across the ocean to begin what I now know as the greatest decision I have ever made to this day.
Despite the rough first month and a half of having to face a huge culture shock, language barrier and lack of my close knit support system, I was finally able to accept the facts in front of me and begin my very first solo travel experience within Europe. Between classes at lSCTE School of Business and settling into the Portuguese lifestyle within Lisbon, I had the privilege of travelling to 7 different countries and 20 different cities throughout Europe.
During each trip I had the opportunity to meet and learn from local people about the different cultures and traditions that made the city and country so unique. It was also very humbling to be able to see how interested many Europeans are to learn more about Canada and all of the incredible things we have to offer as a country. I was always very proud and passionate when talking to others about our country and how important Canada is to me.
After returning home from what seems like a dream, I have been able to truly reflect upon my overall exchange experience and begin to understand all of the pros and cons of each adventure. Packing everything up and beginning a new life somewhere might sound like a dream come true, but there are also many challenges that come along with it as well. For example, life still moves on at home regardless to where you are in the world. People change, your friends may graduate and or move away for their own personal growth, your family dynamics might change and coming home might not be the same cozy nest it once was when you left.
To anyone who has travelled you will understand, and to anyone who is looking to travel, please be mindful. Taking part in an exchange program is absolutely incredible, but one should be aware that in the beginning it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It can be intimidating and scary and possibly make you want to just give up and go home. However, once you know these facts (and trust me it helped to know what I was to be faced against) you will be able to push past it and remind yourself of all of the amazing things that are yet to come.
One of the favourite parts of my trip was when Lisbon truly became my new home. I had the opportunity to make life long connections with a group of Portuguese people and they truly treated me like family. With the ability to be on a gorgeous beach within 30 minutes by public transit or travel to a whole new region of Portugal within 3 hours by train, I without a doubt fell in love with the country and all of the unique aspects of its culture, food and landscapes. Six months might sound like a long time, but it felt like a blink of an eye while learning, travelling and having the time of my life throughout Portugal and Europe.
For more information about OUI exchange opportunities with Ryerson International visit our new website!
For tips and tricks on financial planning for exchange see our blog post!