It is painful to grasp the fact that I have a mere eight weeks remaining on what has been one of the greatest experiences of my life… Although it sounds cliché, my semester abroad at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada has gifted me more lifelong friendships, experiences, stories, memories and knowledge than I could have ever imagined.
All of the original stresses I carried about financial stability, finding a place to live, ensuring my enrolment was correct, and believing that I could actually cope overseas for four months were soon forgotten when I arrived and met the countless other exchange students. We quickly formed bonds and friendships and dove straight into making memories. The first journey saw a trip to a local lake; a few weeks later we ventured further to the northern end of the province to the famous Cabot Trail, and in a couple of weeks, we will visit New York City. Within these experiences have been moments of hysterical laughter, feelings of comfort and kindness, and an overwhelming sense of friendship.
Dalhousie University has provided an incredible environment to enhance my academic journey. I am undertaking four courses from the Arts and Social Sciences faculty, after deciding to utilise my free electives on exchange. The subject I have found most engaging is Historical Issues in Indigenous Studies, taught by local Mi’kmaq woman – Patti Doyle-Bedwell. What has been most confronting are the grave similarities of the colonisation and cultural genocide that took place in Canada and Australia. Understanding the impact of the residential schools and ongoing trauma that Indigenous Canadians face has been difficult to comprehend. Conversely, however, I have been exceptionally fortunate to witness the opening of a Legacy Room in the library and experience Treaty Day in Halifax. There is always something special about connecting to other First Nations people, albeit on the other side of the world.
Another highlight of my exchange has been the opportunity to play rugby union alongside an incredible group of women with the university’s club team: the Dalhousie Tigers. Being in a team environment and feeling the camaraderie between my teammates has been an experience I will never forget. Hopefully, we make it to the grand final and I return to Australia uninjured!
The reason I am currently living halfway across the world, studying at an international institution, making lifelong friends and unforgettable memories is that I decided to stop wishing I could do all of these things and decided to actually make it happen. If you are in a similar situation, I recommend taking that leap of faith. You never know what, or who is waiting for you on the other side of the world!