Starting uni is a big deal for everyone, but when you throw moving abroad into the mix, it’s a whole other story. I’ve almost finished my first year at Glendon, and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I’ve learned as a second year British transfer student with Canadian citizenship.
- Everything is different– from figuring out a whole new student finance system to learning what a GPA is to why you’re expected to take a Science class as a Linguistics student- there’s a lot to learn. I wish I had gone straight to Academic Advising and Financial Services on my very first day and asked them to talk me through everything. It would have saved me a lot of confusion and unnecessary worry!
- Small classes and long lectures– in my first year in Cardiff, my lecture halls looked like cinemas: there were probably about 250 students in each class, and lectures were only 50 minutes each. At Glendon, my biggest class is about 35 people, and classes are three hours long. This definitely took some adjustment. I went from being super focused and productive in a short, jam-packed lecture to learning how to stay on track in a three hour class. Smaller classes also mean having more interaction with your profs, and when everyone in the room is a familiar face it’s a lot easier to find a seat.
- Having an accent can kill a conversation just as quickly as it can start one. When I first moved to Toronto as a sassy teenager, I loved that having a “likable” accent meant that people would suddenly want to talk to me. I thought it would help me meet people, and to a certain extent, it did. But as time passed, the more people would rush up to me and gush that they would just LOVE to go to Australia someday. Oh wait, South Africa. I mean New Zealand. The struggle doesn’t end there. Contrary to what I originally thought, having an accent often stops me from getting to know people: trying to have a chat with someone who is more interested in what you sound like than what you’re actually saying is really difficult. Especially when they start imitating your accent (badly). I also had to accept that “England” and “London” are considered interchangeable terminology when abroad. That would be like meeting someone from Vancouver and exclaiming “no way, I LOVE Ottawa!”. But since it’d be unfair to expect people from other countries to know these things about your homeland, it’s better to just grin and forget it. Luckily, Glendon’s international focus means that people are a lot more used to a diverse range of accents than the people you may meet off campus.
- When you tell people where you’re from, they’ll often ask you “why did you leave?!” and you’ll laugh- but during your first Canadian winter you’ll start wondering the very same thing. It gets SO COLD. I’ll never complain about British weather again. Canadian winter changed me as a person. When my family moved here, it was mid-August. It almost didn’t seem possible that such a warm and sunny city could get as cold as everyone warned us it would. We landed at Pearson with a few weeks’ worth of summer clothes. The rest of our stuff didn’t make it to Toronto until the following August (our shipment got lost!). So off we popped to Value Village to stock up on winter coats and boots to avoid actual hypothermia and frostbite. Because that’s a thing that happens here.
- You WILL get lost. It WILL be okay. I have a terrible sense of direction. I’m from a small Georgian town in South West England- so small, in fact, that it’s impossible to get lost there. The British are very different to Canadians in that we never really have that innate awareness of which way is North, South, East or West. After a couple of years here, I can mostly tell which way is which, but it took a long time (and a lot of aimlessly wandering the streets) for that sixth sense to kick in.
- Sooner or later, you will accept Tim Horton’s into your life. For me, it didn’t happen until I came to Glendon and my caffeine dependency forced me to give up my stubborn cafe-snobbery and I haven’t looked back. I’m too busy enjoying my XL Earl Grey and chocolate chip muffin.
- People are friendly. Us Brits are an awkward lot. Polite more out of compulsion than anything else, slightly standoffish when we’re put out of our comfort zones. Canadians on the whole tend to be a lot more likely to plonk themselves next to you and have a good old chinwag. It did take getting used to, but it’s one of my favourite things about Canadians. Glendon takes it that little bit further- in my first month here I already had met more people than I did at the much bigger uni I went to in the UK.
- Your opinion on Drake probably will not matter. In three years of living in Toronto, the only people I’ve discussed Drake with have either been a) in England or b) related to Drake. There is no rule on having an opinion on Drake if you live in Toronto. It’s not a thing. The internet is lying to you.
- You’ll miss things about home, and you’ll fall in love with new things. Naturally, there are things I miss about England: chocolate yazoos, my old cafe haunts, the amount of history in the cities- my oldest and best friends. But coming to Toronto also introduced me to beavertails, poetry slams, maple syrup in coffee, camping in Northern Ontario, what it means to live near all my extended family, and so many more things that have enriched my life.
- Two homes are better than one. Living abroad makes your world seem bigger; it opens you up to meeting amazing new people and it forces you to come face to face with your true self. Home will always be home, but you really can’t live here for long without feeling like you belong. Toronto is one of those places where everyone just fits- you can be Torontonian no matter where else you belong to. Even on those days when I can’t hug my best pal when they’ve had a bad day or I’m really wanting to sit on Solsbury Hill, I remember that I can see my boyfriend without having to cross an ocean and I can take in the view of Lake Ontario. Living abroad gives you another place to call home- and what could be better than that?
Have you arrived in Toronto from somewhere far-flung? What did you learn from the amazing experience that is living abroad? Tweet me @JasminElyGL and share your wisdom 🙂