I arrived in Montreal months ago and it feels like I’ve been here for much longer. I cannot actually believe how little time I have left here. I’ve met new people, I’ve changed time zones and I’ve started to recognise streets whilst also calling some cafes my spots. A multitude of things can happen in just a few weeks.
I wanted to talk about dealing with lots of changes happening at the same time, and how that can sometimes take a toll on everybody. I realised that since arriving in Montreal, I’ve been going through constant changes. And although I’m not always 100% conscious about this, it does affect me, in various ways.
Change can be something big, from the first step of exchange: changing cities, changing continents and changing education systems. This may seem like the most important, but everything which comes after is a small change and adjustment cycle. Whether it’s getting the hang of everyday life, like getting a phone plan, or adapting to a different format for exams and lectures, it all comes in little pieces.
A semester can definitely help you integrate, or at least it helped me. But when the 2nd semester came around, I experienced a bit of the same feelings from my 1st semester. I was unsure of which courses to take, I started to realise how little time I had left in Montreal and also, some friends had left. Maybe the last part does not make sense, since I said I’ve kind of integrated into my life abroad. But it should, because having a social circle did help and it was amazing how much (or even how little) you could get to know someone in a few months. Nevertheless, some of my friends happened to be on exchange for one semester, and I’m still here. I’m glad I invested time in getting to know more people at the beginning and also full time McGill students. That’s due to the fact that having them around made the situation much better.
I’m actually thinking a lot about one picture I was shown during my departure sessions from Go Abroad. It was this wave which was supposed to represent the shock you feel when you first arrive somewhere new, and how it gets better until you feel like everything is going alright. Then, it keeps fluctuating. I’m actually happy to say my experience has been much better than what I think that picture was trying to explain. But I can still agree that the subsequent fluctuations did occur, in a subtle way though.
Now, in the middle of my second semester, and change is still something I have to deal with. It’s figuring out summer internships, it’s mentally preparing to go back to Edinburgh after a year of being away, it’s all the other things which don’t necessarily have to be related to exchange. And as a result of having gone through it for quite a while since arriving, I think I’m doing better than before.
That being said, what did specifically help me whilst dealing with change? Friends, new and old, from Montreal and from Edinburgh, some of which visited me or with whom I regularly chat on Skype. My mom, which is always there to hear me out. Discovering the city, and my favourite spots for a good coffee, as one of my favourite past times is finding amazing cafes. Reading books from my favourite author, which I associate with my favourite travels. Pictures of me and my friends, which I have splattered all across my desk and wall. Writing about my experiences. Keeping in mind everything I’ve achieved so far.
I hope that by writing this students preparing to go on exchange can get a glimpse of the journey. Also, I hope that students currently on exchange may use this post as a reflection point. That is because I think most persons can agree that being on exchange is an amazing learning curve, which I think has definitely helps someone develop as a person.