For me, going on exchange was an inevitability; my addiction to travel gave me no choice in the matter. I could not even contemplate waving goodbye to my friends as they jetted off on exchanges while I was left behind – I had to have my own adventure.
The only factor that made me hesitate was a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Even though a year abroad was almost guaranteed to be a dream come true, I knew that if all my friends stayed behind in Edinburgh I would be missing out on a lot of crucial memories.
Luckily most of my closest friends chose a year abroad and now, although thousands of miles apart, we are helping each other through the process. As for the ones staying behind in Edinburgh, they are bound in a promise to keep in touch (for those of you reading this, remember our daily Snapchat promise!)
When it came down to choosing my exchange university, I was at a loss – the list of partner universities is extensive to say the least! From Delhi to Seattle, from Sydney to Ottawa.
I had to be honest with myself – as much as I love to travel to places that challenge me, I needed to go somewhere that spoke English. For me, going to a city where English was not the primary language for an entire year added a great deal more stress to exchange.
So, I began to narrow down my list and (eventually) I was left with America, Australia and Canada as my top destinations.
I had visited Canada once before and had fallen in love. I was taken aback by the rich and diverse indigenous cultures across the northern nation – a stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers of the major cities – and by the country’s pride in their natural stunning landscapes. I knew this country would be perfect for my Sustainable Development and Anthropology degree and so, for each of my five university preferences, I put Canadian schools.
When I received my offer to Carleton in Ottawa and began my research, I was a little confused – every online article on Eastern Canada was dominated by tips about visiting Toronto and Montreal while the capital was largely neglected.
As my nerves began to surge exponentially, one story stopped them in their tracks – a little tale from a previous exchange student about running out of drinks, strapping on his skates and taking a quick trip down the icy canal to stock up.
I could not remember the last time I experienced a white Christmas – snow in Scotland is becoming less and less frequent. I was craving a winter wonderland and Ottawa promised this and more (it can get down to -40 degrees here!) I could not wait to get my own skates and fly down the canal – excitement quickly overcame my nerves.
Now I have arrived at Carleton, I can safely say that this is the place for me – I have already booked on to a white-water rafting trip (complete with a bonfire party), sunbathed beside the rushing river on campus and explored the bars downtown. I cannot wait for the moment when I can skate down the canal into the city but, for now, I am enjoying the summer sun and tending to my sunburnt Scottish skin.