Roughly two years ago I was sitting in a hot, crowded, and rather small lecture theatre. I was 17 and being told that I had the opportunity to go live and study in another country for 8 months. At that moment in time, this was the first university I'd ever been in, and this was just a visit on an open day. The prospects of living in another part of the country without my parents didn't yet seem real, and so to be honest I wasn't really paying that much attention. Yes it would be nice to live abroad, to find out how other people lived, to be completely independent, to have new experiences and learn new things; but it'd never happen to me. Two years later, I am sitting here finishing off the final part of a visa application and wondering what the heck happened.
Just Pick a Country
So let me go back a bit. I started at Leeds University last September, and there is a study abroad program for my course which gives you the opportunity to spend your 2nd or 3rd year in a different country. This, to me at least, sounded like a fantastic idea, I just needed to pick a country (or so I thought). Germany, and Spain were immediately discounted as I can't speak the languages and these were very closely followed by France as I had enough trouble writing essays in english, let alone french. Holland was also left as there was only one place available and I figured I wouldn't get it, plus, it's not a country i'm too fussed about visiting.
Which meant I was going outside Europe, something I'd only done once before when i was a kid. Australia appealed to me loads but in the end I decided against it because a) I'd have to start in the second term, b) flights would be ridiculously expensive and c) Indiana Jones movies have given me an irrational fear of snakes. So twas a toss up between Illinois in America or Waterloo or McMaster in Canada. I guessed that America would be somewhere with a load of applications and as there was only only one available place at Illinois I put it as my third choice. Waterloo was my second and McMaster my first basically because McMaster offered more courses to choose from.
The Forms Begin
Having never been to Canada and having very limited knowledge of the country I did at one point wonder whether I knew what I was letting myself in for, however I very quickly pushed this thought to the depths of my mind and started my application. This involved filling in a 3 page form and writing a 300 word statement on why I wanted to study abroad and why I'd chosen the Uni's I had. At the time, this seemed like a lot of work and I rather naïvely thought that that would be the end of it, as i'd put so much info down they couldn't possibly want much more. Guess what? I was wrong.
Just before I went home for christmas I got an email saying that Leeds at least, had accepted me onto the study abroad program for McMaster. Over the holidays I received a handbook through the post (opening that was almost as exciting as opening my presents actually) and shortly after my January exams I started filling in some more forms, this time online to McMaster. These forms wanted a personal statement about myself, a resume, and 2 academic references which, because my tutor was away doing research, meant having to call up my old college form tutor to get the reference he'd put on my UCAS application. However it eventually got sent off to Canada and I waited to hear from them.
Finally in May, one week before my exams I got a confirmation email telling me I was pretty much definitely going. Needless to say I was over the moon. Although it was pretty certain I was going anyway, there's always that niggling doubt in the back of your mind telling you not to get your hopes up (Despite the fact I've now also got the grades to get in, I'm still worried I won't get my Visa or they'll turn round and say that actually I'm not eligible or something. I doubt it'll go away till I'm actually in the country, standing on campus grounds.). After another wait, which seemed liked months to me but was in fact only 3 weeks, I got my acceptance pack through and started the accommodation, registration, and Visa application processes.
And so here I am. I've filled in even more forms (seriously, Health and Safety inspectors have nothing on me) and spent more money on stamps in the last week than I spent on food last 2 months. BUT I've got my account set up so my accommodation, meal plan and health insurance fees can be paid; I've chosen which courses I want to take; I've filled in the Visa application - including the study plan which asks you random questions such as "What ties do you have to your country of residence/citizenship?" which translated means "How do we know you're going to go back home and not stay in country forever?"; I've booked my flight; sorted out bank accounts; and (most importantly of all) I've changed my Facebook network to McMaster.
So now, as I wait for my Visa to come and the 30th August to role round, I'm finding out everything I can about the uni and Hamilton. The more I read, the more excited I get, but the harder it is to drown out the thought that I may not have fully realised exactly what I'm letting myself in for...
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