Author: Jacqueline Roes
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium
Throughout my university experience, I never had a desire to go abroad. I think part of my hesitation lied in the fact that I hadn’t left the nest and was nervous of being so far from my family. After applying and being admitted into the Corporate Communications Program and moving away from my hometown of London, Ontario to Toronto, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be an amazing opportunity to take my studies abroad and Seneca offered an exciting exchange program called Going Global. After doing some research, I confidently chose to go to Ghent, Belgium. Friends and family had asked me, why Belgium? My reply to them was that I love to travel and Belgium is conveniently located within Europe. To the north is Holland, to the south is France and just below France is Spain. To the east there is Germany and to the west is England. Fortunately for me, I got to travel to all of these beautiful countries!!
Upon my arrival, of course I was anxious and really had no expectations. I had no close friends who had ever been on exchange and I was also going completely by myself. I am a friendly person but of course there are doubts: will I make friends? Will I get to travel? Will I be homesick? The answer? I made so many more friends than I expected, traveled so many more places than I anticipated and I really didn’t get homesick! So therefore, the overall exchange experience surpassed my expectations more than I could have imagined!
So for those wondering, the exchange program was all in English. All the exchange students plus the locals could speak English and I was surprised how easily we were all able to communicate with each other! To give a very brief blurb about Belgium, the country has two official languages: French and Flemish (Flemish is very similar to the Dutch language). I was in the Flemish speaking area of the country.
I’ve been asked if there was anything I could change about my experience what would it be? My reply was I wish I could’ve stay longer! I met so many incredible people from all over Europe, as well as from the United States, and have made lifelong friends. Even though they are all so far away, my solid group of friends and I have stayed in contact and talk about how we wish we could escape the real world and revisit Ghent. The city was welcoming (most locals speak English), and it is the perfect student town with tons of activities. The historical architecture of the city was stunning and truly has the best beer, chocolate, fries and waffles in the world!!
Through this exchange, I gained more confidence in myself, incredible friends, and a more open and well-rounded perception on life and culture in general. The exchange really opened my eyes to differences in culture and how to adapt accordingly. This was an amazing learning experience and I would a hundred thousand percent do another exchange in the future if the opportunity ever arose!
I encourage anyone contemplating a study abroad program to do it without hesitation! I jumped from thinking I’d never do one, to one day saying I’m up for the challenge and I am forever grateful for the decision I made and for my parents who encouraged me to follow through with my decision! Every day, I miss my friends and Ghent so much and that’s how I know it was worth every second and every penny I spent!
Author: Jacqueline Roes