Once in a lifetime

February 21, 2017

Students share their experiences studying abroad

It’s Reading Break at MacEwan—and a lucky few have headed overseas to have incredible learning experiences. Here, we share the Global Awareness Week stories of students who have gone abroad and returned with a lifetime of memorable moments.

Image-story-GAW-MarcOur guide pointed out this one square in Lille, France where they have tango every Sunday. I dance a little tango, and so I went there the following Sunday with a few friends. While we were dancing, I had this out-of-body experience where I realized, "Wait a second, I'm here dancing tango with a French person under the stars in this 16th century square. This is good, this is all right."

A philosophical aspect of studying abroad is you get to be away from Edmonton and your life here. Creating a new life in a new country with new people is very rewarding because you can be whoever you want to be. You can be your true self. Having that freedom to express yourself and try new things is also very rewarding.

Do it. Go travel abroad. Get as much new experience while you can. Don't make excuses. It is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and it can completely alter your life in great ways. You start living life instead of being a passive recipient of it. It's a wonderful thing.

— Marc, 3rd year, Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy major

Image-story-GAW-CynthiaI actually got kicked out of a public bath in Japan because I have tattoos. There, tattoos aren't regarded as pleasant things—they're actually associated with gangs. I thought, being a foreigner, it wouldn't translate, but it did.

I lived in "student housing," but it was a bit different because the university rented apartments in the city. I was the only student in that apartment building, so that was a more authentic experience living in Japan as opposed to living on the dorms on campus. I really felt like I was working abroad and attending classes on the side.

Even though you might be going with someone from MacEwan, or you might make friends while you're abroad, there are certain aspects of life that completely change when you go to a foreign country, and you really have to be self reliant in a lot of regards. Whether that's being able to travel on the trains by yourself, where you don't necessarily know all the words of the language on the signs, or having to navigate an entire city alone, that's a skill you develop while you're abroad.

— Cynthia, 4th year Bachelor of Arts, Psychology major

Image-story-GAW-LukeWhen I was in Sweden, it was the first time I felt independent in a meaningful way. Edmonton is only an hour south from where I grew up—Sweden is a world away, and I loved the ability to travel and see new places on a whim.

My friends Michael (a New Zealander) and James (an Australian) invited me on their road trip to the northernmost tip of Norway. I will forever thank them for dragging me along.

We got on a train and went up to this town called Narvik. It took 13 hours to get there. We stayed overnight and then it took us another three or four hours up to Tromsø. There is no equivalent in Canada to how far north that is. Because we constantly travel by plane now, you don't really feel the distance. It was 24-hour sun in June, and it was cold. But being there was something otherworldly.

 One of the biggest things I learned in Europe is the fact that the only time we ever learn what it is to be Canadian is when we're not in Canada. You know the game we all played when we were younger, ""what are you?"" Are you Scottish? Are you English? Are you Rastafarian? When you go to Europe, you put all preconceptions of what you are aside and you become truly Canadian. There are no more worries about what province you're from or what ancestry you have. You are well and truly Canadian, and that is one of the greatest gifts I ever got from going abroad.

— Luke, 4th year, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science Honours

Learn more about Education Abroad at MacEwan University.

This story is part of our Portraits of MacEwan series where students, faculty and staff share snapshots of their lives with the university community. Read more at MacEwan.ca/Facebook.

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