Jessica Riley – Queen’s University

I will boldly venture where no Riley family member has ventured before. One small step for Jessica Riley, one giant leap for the Riley family! (Ok, well, a 24 hour door-to-door journey including 2 aeroplane flights, but humour me).

In two days time, I, Jessica Riley, a soon to be third-year English Literature student will travel to Kingston, Ontario in Canada to study at Queen’s University.

Neither myself or my relatives would ever have imagined that from a timid child whose Mum always had to attend friend’s parties with me because I was too shy and too much of a home bird to be left alone would even contemplate, at the age of 21, spending 9 months living in a completely new land. Who would have imagined that I could be classed as the explorer of the family?! I’ll be the first member of my family to set foot on a different soil other than European, flying across the Atlantic to adventure to the new lands of Canada. I feel equally nervous, humbled and proud.

My adventure began last October when in lectures we had a brief introduction and suggestion about going on exchange for our third year studies. I remember sitting in my lecture and me and a friend turning to each other and saying, ‘Oh no, I couldn’t, the people who go are so brave and adventurous.’ However, the talk struck a chord with me and I bravely decided to attend the International Office talk on the exchange process. I started to think about turning 21 years of age in December, wanting a challenge and an adventure, taking myself outside of my comfort zone and being able to say to myself, ‘ wow, I did that,’ when I look back on university. All very selfish but thrilling reasons, I think you’ll agree. Once I had heard the talk I was hooked. I knew this was an experience I couldn’t let pass me by.

Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, was my first choice on my application form and I was ecstatic when I found out I was successful in securing a place there. Queen’s appealed because it seems to have a real community spirit mixed with a great work ethic and Canada means cold weather, frosty mornings, heaps of snow and hearty food (hopefully), all the things I love.

The past 8 months have whizzed by and I still don’t actually believe I am going. If I’m honest, my stomach somersaults like a washing machine with nerves but I’ve equally got the biggest grin on my face too. I think the hardest moments of the experience will be the first few weeks adjusting to new surroundings; no doubt getting lost and disorientated and sorting out all the fiddly things such as banking and course choices. However, the hardest part will be not seeing my family for 9 months. The last few weeks my Mum and Dad have been feeding me up, ready to go. I’ve had 3 courses for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I’m well padded against the Canadian minus 20 freezing temperatures, though I keep telling my Mum it will be warmer in Kingston when I arrive than it is in England now!

At the moment I’ve just got packing left to do which is turning into a full blown strategic operation, as deciding what to pack is tricky and how to fit it into the case is another matter altogether. The operation is as follows: place object want to take under heavy book, press down and flatten as much as can, then remove quickly and place in suitcase before springs back up. So if anybody has invented an invisible suitcase or if Mary Poppins would kindly allow me to borrow her bag I would be very grateful.

So, I best be off to try and squeeze as much as I can into my case. I can’t wait to begin my studies in a new environment and the challenges it will bring, along with meeting many new people and ideas. I’ve no doubt that this will be both the hardest and rewarding year of my life and I hope this blog will form a great way of recording and sharing my experiences. Canada – here I come – yay!

Categories: Canada, Queen's


  1. I go to queens university full time. I just wanted to wish you a good trip and that you enjoy your stay at Queen’s. It’s certainly an amazing school 🙂

    • Hello Jara,
      Thank you so much for your comment! Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I have just worked out how to use this blog properly!

      You are completely right – Queen’s is amazing and I am loving my time here. The students are incredibly friendly and welcoming. Kingston is also really pretty too, not too big, so I can easily get around. I’m jealous of the student’s like yourself who get to come here full time!

      All the best, Jessica

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