Christie Butcher: Advice from a student 3 months into their exchange...

Posted on: 2 March 2020 by Christie Butcher in 2019/20

Christie exploring Toronto

Study abroad is a brilliant experience, a chance to explore, learn in a new environment, make new friends and gain great life skills. However, it can also be daunting and sometimes even a bit scary. Here is some of my advice as a study abroad student three months in..

1. Pack LIGHT but not TOO light.

It's worth doing some research on the climate of your host country. I am in Montreal, so the temperature variation is quite large. I certainly overestimated how many summery clothes I needed, and now it's -7 degrees and I am wondering why I brought so many crop tops that I haven't worn! Hopefully, you should have a washing machine so you really don't need tonnes of clothes.
On the other hand, you are going away for a few months, so it's important to make a check-list to ensure you've remembered everything you need. Personally, I like to start this a few weeks before I actually need to pack, as I often realise I have forgotten to add something to the list within those weeks.

2. Remember it's ok to struggle.

Study abroad is amazing, but not every second of it is going to be rainbows and sunshine. You are away from your family and friends for a long time and it can get lonely. Adapting to a different academic system can also be difficult. I'm currently at McGill and the structure of my modules is very different from what I'm used to. I have more frequent assignments and exams throughout the semester and found it difficult to keep up. If you find yourself struggling with the change, your professors are happy to help. Don't struggle in silence, speak to your professors.

If you find that you are really struggling there should be services to help you if you need to talk to someone. At McGill we have a healthcare service within the university that you can go to if you need advice with your health, whether that be mental or physical. If you feel that your health is getting in the way of your studies and you are struggling to find help abroad, the study abroad team are always there to help! Your health is the most important thing and there is no shame in needing to talk.

3. Take pictures.

You will remember this experience for the rest of your life, so document it in some way so you always have something to look back on. Whether it be in the form of a blog, a youtube channel, or just Instagram updates. I am updating this blog so I have a timeline to look back on when I am back in the UK and missing Canada.
Here are some pictures from recent:

4. Have fun!

The workload can be difficult, but it's important to make time for yourself too. This is something I started to neglect, as I felt I had too much work to enjoy myself. It is important to keep on top of your work, but make sure you are staying active. Even if you aren't able to go on a big night out or a trip away because you have a deadline coming up, try and go on a short walk, or meet a friend for a coffee. Allowing yourself a couple of hours to get out of the house will really help you de-stress and be more productive. You are only here for a few months so it's important to see the city as well as do well on your studies!