Caitlin is a third-year UFV student who is completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, with a minor in History. Caitlin has a passion for studying the planet and the environment as well as the history of events which have occurred upon it, both of which fuel her hunger for travel. Caitlin is a valuable feature for our study abroad blog since she has not completed one, but TWO study abroad terms! “We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful and prosperous country, but there is so much more to this world. I was bitten by the travel bug in 2017 during [a] trip to Southeast Asia and could not wait to book another trip. A couple of months later, I was off to Scotland for my first study abroad and now here I am two years later, studying in Poland!” Caitlin studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in the Fall of 2017, and is now attending the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland.
As always, the decision, planning process and follow through of studying abroad can be a challenge! Caitlin advises students who are planning to go abroad to “be prepared for some miscommunication if you are planning to study in a country where the first language is not English. In the beginning, such a language barrier can be stressful and even frustrating trying to get all of the logistics sorted out, but I assure you it will work out eventually! Send the extra email (or 5), because after all, it is your study abroad so you should have all of the info you want,” Caitlin shared. Perseverance in these situations is key, especially if you are on a shorter planning timeframe as Caitlin was.
Speaking of advice: Caitlin has some for students who are thinking of going abroad in general. She tells future #UFVExplorers to “step out of your comfort zone [because] amazing things will happen. Also, if you’re studying in a country where the native language is not your own, be patient. Patient with yourself and patient with others. Learn the language the best you can. Taking a Polish language course was one of the best decisions I made. What better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than by learning the language. Locals love when you try to speak to them in their language, regardless of how bad you may be at it!” I think the moral of the story here is to embrace your surroundings! Not speaking the local language can be frustrating, but it is way easier if you roll with the punches.
Surprises can also pop up, however, even for seasoned travellers such as Caitlin. I am familiar with many of these myself, and her experience is very relevant to all travellers, experienced or not. “People like to tell you things about places they have never been. I was told all sorts of things about Poland that weren’t true. And there were some things I was never told and wished I had been. Yes, Polish people are friendly, the food is great, and no, its really not that cold here! Contrary to popular belief, there is lots to see, do and learn here. Poland is beautiful. The biggest shock [I had] was how differently our university systems work. We, as UFV students, are used to a certain level of efficiency and order from administration. In Poland, and certainly in other central/eastern European countries, administration does not run as smoothly as we are used to, which can be frustrating at times. But in the big picture, it’s nothing but a bump in the road,” she says. Getting an understanding from folks who have visited the countries you have moved to of their experiences can be very useful, but be wary! Not always are their experiences a blanket authority for how that country is all of the time, which includes any of their bad experiences with food, weather, or the locals!
To wrap up our interview, I asked Caitlin about her favourite experience(s) so far. She shared an anecdote about a recent trip to Warsaw: “I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness when I realized how lucky I was to be exploring a new city with some amazing people from Greece, Croatia, Armenia, Italy, Spain and Turkey! Under what circumstances other than traveling abroad could that happen?”
Yes – studying abroad is an experience like no other folks. But, you have to live it to believe it!
~~If these encouraging and exciting anecdotes don’t convince you to go on an adventure you’ve been dreaming of, come on in and let us know how we can help! Let’s bust those #studyabroadmyths in your mind and send you packing. You’ll be glad you did. Thank you, Caitlin, for sharing your experiences!~~