When and why did you decide to go abroad, and how did you figure out where to go?
I think I decided I wanted to do study abroad one or two months into my second year of uni. I decided I wanted to do a year abroad because it provides you with an opportunity to travel and see new things from a different perspective. When deciding where to go I had three universities in mind: UEA, UCL and Lund University. I had UEA in my mind from the get-go as I had heard that it was a top university for Geography and also overall student engagement and satisfaction.
What preparations did you have to make before you went abroad?
As I have both a Canadian and British passport, I didn’t have perhaps as many complications as other study abroad students. Before heading to England I obviously went to SFU’s Study Abroad ‘get prepared’ events. SFU Study Abroad really puts you at ease with the whole ‘this is actually happening’ shock and they are always there to help if you are a bit apprehensive of something or have any questions.
Where did you stay while you were in Norwich?
In Norwich I stayed at the university provided student accommodation. For the full year I stayed at Constable Terrace. It cost around $8,000 for the year, and I was sharing the flat with seven other students. Everyone had their own private room and en suite and the kitchen that we shared was top.
What were some of your most memorable experiences from studying in Norwich?
I think Norwich is just a really beautiful city - you don’t get that sense of history in a place like Vancouver. What was a lot of fun was going out on a Saturday night to Gonzos: if you like good music, you have to go to Gonzos, its a small tearoom by day, and at night they take the chairs out and play funk and soul music, and you don't have to pay to get in on most nights. Its also a nice way to meet people from the local arts university, and a range of different ages go to Gonzos. After that, having flat pancake Sundays were brilliant. Always good for flat bonding. The uni also has a decent size lake right beside it, and walking round it would make for a nice afternoon stroll. But seriously, one of the most memorable experiences was being in such close proximity to the beautiful Norfolk Broads, and beyond that, you could take a half-hour train to get to the coast (the city of Cromer is definitely worth checking out). Living away from my family for eleven months meant I could learn to live independently and clearly establish my own values. I became more politically engaged, attending protests in London and Norwich against MORE Tory government cuts to the NHS, as well as the unacceptable response of Theresa May and the Tories to Donald Trump’s proposed ‘Muslim Ban.’
I also got to see the Wailers and the Maccabees live which was pretty good.
How did your time abroad enrich or add to your knowledge of Geography? Were you able to apply things you learned at SFU while abroad?
I think there was a lot more group work with my Geography courses at UEA. In my Biodiversity/Conservation course for example, we were put in twos and I was more focused on the human geography side of things whereas others were more grounded in their understanding of physical geography (I was able to apply things to this class esp. from classes like Geo241, 322 and 381). Classes such as the Biodiversity/Conservation one were really great because we could go out to the Norfolk Broads and see the biodiversity there, which is completely unique to what we find in Greater Vancouver.
What were the biggest differences that you noticed between England and Canada?
I think the sense that you can travel a lot easier was one of the big differences. My year at UEA gave me an opportunity to explore volunteer/work opportunities through a website called HelpX. In January I taught English for two weeks to a family of five in Aubusson, France. In April, I worked for an Italian couple who ran a small B&B. I also spent this past summer volunteering in Wales, Catalonia and Sicily. In Wales I worked at the Kestrel Inn, a remote pub in the Brecon Beacons. I then travelled to Celrá, a small town in the heart of Catalonia. Here I taught English, painted the house and gate and helped work on the farm feeding the animals. The family showed me around Catalonia, as we went fishing in the Mediterranean, rock climbing, eating salmarejo, and exploring Costa Brava, Barcelona and Girona. For August, I went to Palermo, Sicily and worked at the Rainbow Hotel, where I put my Italian to good use and could eat gelato all day.
What advice do you have for other students who are considering studying abroad?
You gotta do it.