My study abroad experience

Erin Thomas is in her third year of a Sociology degree. She spent a year studying at Carleton University in Canada, as part of her studies.

Why did you decide to spend a year studying abroad?

Before I started university, I spent three years working as a Welsh Lady in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I was the most photographed woman in Wales in August 2015! That experience of working in tourism, and meeting so many different people every day, inspired me to travel. I got to meet people from America, China, Russia and more – I met a really nice couple from Canada who told me all about their country, so I really wanted to go. The minute I started my first year, I was set on going abroad in my second year.

What were the most memorable experiences?

When I knew I was going to Carleton University, I started to research Ottawa and found out that I had family there. I contacted them to ask about Carleton, and it turned out their daughter is at Carleton University. So, while I was there I got to go to Thanksgiving with them and spent some of the Christmas break with them too before I went home to see my family. If I hadn’t thought about going to Canada, I would never have met my Canadian relatives – now I have a connection with people 3,000 miles away, which is such a nice thing to have.

Dancing is something I’m very passionate about, and something I can’t imagine my life without. It was really important to me that I continued dancing in Canada. In the first month, I decided to try-out for the cheerleading team. There were 200 people at the try-outs, so I wasn’t expecting anything – I just wanted the experience. But they liked me so much, they put me on the team for a year. It was so amazing to be a proper Canadian cheerleader. Then I was the mascot for the first game, one of the biggest Canadian games ever in front of 30,000 people – I was Rodney the Raven! I have so many pictures, stories and memories about that. I feel so lucky to have had that experience.

Did the experience live up to your expectations?

I was so scared going there. Although I’ve been travelling my whole life, and I thought I was comfortable travelling, I was quite worried about spending a year on my own. In the end, it was absolutely amazing – I thought I might struggle, but it was wonderful. There was no need for me to be so worried.

How did the experience benefit your degree and your future prospects?

Their system is completely different – they go from 8am until 8pm. Because of the long hours, the lectures are longer. They also awarded participation and attendance marks. It has given me a push for my third year – I finished my second year on a massive high and have carried that forward. Because I know I did so well last year, I’m certain this year will be even better. It’s given me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities.

Studying abroad, you learn so many things about different cultures and the ways they work. Because I was the outsider, I got to experience what international students feel like. Now I’m living in Lancaster with an international student, and I feel like I can relate more to her experience. We can bond over that shared experience – it’s great!

I had so many experiences in Canada, and I’m hoping that future employers will see that, and will understand that I’m committed and have a really good work ethic.

What advice would you give to new students considering a trip?

Do it! It was amazing, absolutely incredible. You have nothing to lose – more people should do it!