The Final Chapter (Belgium)

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Author: Phillip Owen-Scott
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

When I started this journey 4 months ago, I was a combination of anxious and excited to not only study in a new environment but also to experience all that was going to be offered. It was the first time I had ever been alone and not to point any fingers but a lot of people told me that it wasn’t going to be easy, especially since it was in a completely different continent. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the honesty of people telling me what it was going to be like instead of having someone tell me that “Everything was going to be great” or that “You’ll love it from the second you get there”. I’d much rather have someone tell me the truth than be disappointed. I kept going back to what Maurice Platero, one of my Seneca professors taught us about the culture shock curve and what was to be expected, and surprisingly enough it was exactly as stated (with some small differences). I had some moments when I thought “I’m in a different continent with nobody I know within at least 300km and I don’t even speak the native language. Nevertheless the confidence that you build from that makes almost anything look manageable, from meeting new people to climbing mount Everest, I’ve come out of this with the mentality that if a certain person can do it, why can’t I?

 With that in mind I set a bunch of goals/bucket list that I wanted to achieve while in Europe and made sure that up until the last day there, I would try to accomplish all of them. From going to Paris to visit family to eating chocolate on the channels with a friend we accomplished all of them. To some they might seem like not that difficult or “lame” goals but it was something that made my trip feel that much more accomplishing. I wanted to set out and build as many bridges as possible, so that going forward in life there would always be another opportunity to cross over that bridge.

 I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but travelling overseas gave me a better understanding of what many of the students at Seneca experience daily. They have to deal with a new place, new weather (usually freezing cold), new people, and new culture that they might not enjoy or even understand. I talked about all the things I loved about Belgium (and trust me there was a lot!), but there were down sides as well. The cost for starters was no laughing matter, the general public was not nearly as friendly as back home, and a lot of the comfort food from home didn’t exist in Ghent. I remember telling Clemens that the second I get home I’m going to run to the closest Timmy’s and grab myself a Double Double and breakfast sandwich. That all being said I came to understand the position a lot of my friends at Seneca were in, and going forward will try my best to help them feel welcome just to give them that extra bit of comfort.

 If you remember my previous blog, then you would remember the quote I used within it “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”. Looking back at it, I feel sort of cheesy about using the line, but at the same time it holds quite amount of weight in my mind. The main goal I had when travelling was to learn as much as possible about people from other parts of the world, Americans, French, Bavarians, Dutch, Finnish, Germans, Spanish, Italians, Spanish, Basque and many others. I wanted to be a sponge that just absorbs as much about them as possible. I learned about places that was never known to me and heard about how they felt about different world situations. Their opinions of Trump (I won’t give you the colorful details), too what they thought about Canada and our trade agreement (CETA). Learning all this changed my view of so many things, politically or otherwise, and made me the person I am today. I’d like to think that because of these experiences with my friends that I’ve become more accustom to others and understanding of how the world works. It’s those experiences that I cherish the most and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Never be scared to try new things (Netherlands)

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Author: Amanda Cook
Program: Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

It’s my last week here in the Netherlands and the end is quickly approaching. Some of my roommates have begun to leave already and saying goodbye to them has definitely been the hardest part of my exchange. They all will be returning after Christmas to finish the last month of the semester however, I will be finishing mine from Canada as my Seneca semester will be starting in January.

With the end so near I have started to really reflect on my exchange and realize how blessed I was to have such amazing roommates, professors and support from Seneca. They all have allowed me to have an enjoyable and successful semester abroad. To anybody who may be even considering going abroad for an exchange ABSOLUTELY take the experience! You will learn a lot more than academics could ever teach you.

Some of the things that I have learned or improved on since arriving in the Netherlands would be how to interact and see the world through many cultures. I had class with Dutch students every day and got to know a lot about some of them, learning about what they do for fun, what they like to eat and their different religions and beliefs. Also by living in a flat with 7 different cultures other than my own with people with all the same interests as me but from different backgrounds you really get to see how accepting the world really is.

I have also learned a little bit of Dutch and a few sentences in Vietnamese, Turkish, Spanish and topped up my French. However, by being out of my element and comfort zone I believe I learned the most about myself. I learned to be more confident in myself and that I can really do whatever I put my mind to if I really want it such as, going to a foreign country not knowing anybody, not knowing what to expect and still having the time of my life. I learned you really do have some of the best times when you are out of your comfort zone. Never be scared to try new things.