Leave Your Comfort Zone Behind

Name: Derek Ward-Hall

Study Abroad: Nice, France (Winter 2014) & UFV Chandigarh, India (May-November 2015)

Going to university, Derek decided that he wanted to take every opportunity possible. Taking multiple classes and working for Student Life on campus, Derek realized that there was another amazing chance he wanted to take: studying abroad.

For the Winter 2014 semester, Derek headed to Nice, France. Being in the Bachelors of Business Association (BBA) program, there are many choices for schools that UFV is partnered with around the world. “I took French immersion going through school,” says Derek, “so I already spoke French. I figured I should go somewhere that I could use that knowledge. It was pretty useful! IPAG was a great school.” Classes were similar to those at UFV and they were in English, making things a lot easier. He found that although the classes were important, it’s really the life and friends that you make studying abroad that matter the most.

Derek lived off campus, just across the street from the amazing beaches of Nice and right by the old town of Nice Ville. “It was definitely an interesting experience! I lived in a small 1 bedroom apartment with 3 other guys. They were from the U.S. We had a system where we switched rooms every month so that one person wasn’t stuck sleeping on the floor and everyone had a turn sleeping in the biggest bedroom.” Although it wasn’t the best sleeping arrangement, it worked great for the guys and their location really was the best part.

The people you meet and the places you see are what make study abroad the best experience. Rome, Italy.

The people you meet and the places you see are what make study abroad the best experience. Rome, Italy.

Derek had a few great stories about his apartment: “We were only on the first floor (just above ground level), and we only had one key. So sometimes, it really sucked when you couldn’t get back into the apartment. But part way through, we realized that we could just climb up onto the patio and go in through the door there. It made things a lot easier!” He also mentioned that when he came home, his parents had a postcard of Nice – and his apartment was in the picture! Pretty cool to have something so integral in your study abroad life be captured in such a small way.

Derek really stressed that his time in Nice was amazing. “The city is great! It’s not the best place to go as a tourist, but to live there is really cool. The nightlife is fun and it is incredibly easy to travel around.” Derek was lucky to make a lot of amazing friends, who were also international students. “One of the first trips I went on was to Barcelona. We ended up having 15 people on the trip, and we had an amazing time!” He also travelled to many other places in Europe during his time there, including Italy, other parts of France, Spain, and many other places.

After his experience in Nice, France being so positive, Derek decided to go abroad one more time. He found out that UFV has its own campus in Chandigarh, India for Business students (along with a few other programs as well). So, in May of 2015, Derek flew to Chandigarh to take one class for the summer and to work on a project before starting his semester.

The UFV campus in Chandigarh is very unique compared to other study abroad experiences. “The campus there is technically another UFV campus,” Derek explains. “The UFV campus is a part of another university campus. Although, calling it a campus is technically generous. It is basically a hallway, 6 or 7 classrooms, and some offices.” The classrooms are similar in size and the classes are the same as most of those offered at UFV – plus all of the classes are in English.

From the months of May until August, Derek took 1 class on the campus while working with a company. “It was like work experience. The company was called QBiz, and creates quizzes for grades 11 and 12. So for the summer, I travelled to 17 different cities around the country. It was amazing! But it was the only travelling that I was really able to do. I was shocked by how green and lush parts of it were when we were going through the Himalayas. And there was one town that was basically the Indian version of Hope – it’s kind of just there and you drive through it…” He also got to see the Taj Mahal and many other parts of the country. Driving was a little crazy and scary though – “I was very thankful that I wasn’t doing the driving!”

Working with QBiz during the summer was a great experience! I got work experience, learned a lot, and got to travel India.

Working with QBiz during the summer was a great experience! I got work experience, learned a lot, and got to travel India.

During the summer, Derek was the only international student on campus. “It was great though,” mentions Derek. “I got to know the staff and students on the Chandigarh campus, meeting people of a different culture.” While in Chandigarh, Derek lived in a guesthouse apartment in the city. It was a 5-10 minute drive or a 35 minute walk. As mentioned before, driving was a little crazy, so walking or taking transit could even be interesting at times.
Derek stressed that it wasn’t hard to adjust once he got there. “Communication was hard at times, but it wasn’t as difficult living there as I thought it would be. It was basically taking my life here and just putting it in India – I still went to school, went to work, the gym, I met friends, and I went home. It became everyday regular life.”

The differences between the city and the rural were really stark when Derek was travelling around the country for work. “It was like night and day between the two. But it was great to see both.” For a couple weeks, Derek’s girlfriend came to visit him in Chandigarh. She had previously spent a semester there as well, and had become good friends with a family. “We went to visit them in their town, and they were so amazing. They cooked us this great big meal and were so welcoming. It was nice to have the hospitality, to try their traditional food!”

After going abroad twice, Derek really wants to urge other students to take every opportunity. “We are lucky to have the ability to study abroad – and if you take that chance, why not take every opportunity while you are away? Think of the amazing experiences you could be having, and don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone.”

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