STUDY // Study abroad 5 weeks in

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hello my lovelies!
I cannot believe I haven't posted in over a week. I hoped it wouldn't come to this until finals but it has come early and it sucks. Everyone says that you have ups and downs during your study abroad and the past couple of weeks have definitely 100% been a down. Sure, there have been good bits and bad bits but overall, this past couple of weeks have sucked. If I hadn't made such great friends out here I know 100% that I would have given up and just gone home last week and that would have been the end of this adventure in Van and at least I tried.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say here it that absolutely everything they tell you about how it's going to be difficult and you'll feel sad is 100% true! Yeah, I know - that sucks!

I'm not going to lie. I did not make things easy for myself. I chose 2 400 level modules (4th year of undergrad but still means I have one less year of experience) and have 8 hours of labs a week. You can imagine that it takes a lot of time and effort to get absolutely anything done and if you said that, you'd be right. It's so darn tough.

Up until now I had stayed completely in control. I still don't feel too homesick whilst my friends all want to see everyone back home. My only issue has been my work load. I have 4 modules and have been set 6 assessments for a three day period including a mid-term. How on Earth I have managed to get everything in on time is some sort of miracle (okay I got an extension on one assessment). I have been working from 8am through to 2-3am, spent all day in lectures followed by a night in the library with a few XL coffees and definitely felt the pressure. It's like I have literally moved abroad to just look at a different collection of text books that have none of the right information in them because somehow the module you are in is working on more advanced topics than the advanced text books cater for. Sure, it's so, so, so interesting but it's a lot of hard work and I still don't know how to manage my time properly without becoming a hermit who drinks too many vanilla caps and a whole pack of oreos a day (double stuff of course).

Like I said, I would not be here right now if I hadn't made some brilliant friends who have managed to convince me to stay. Every time I say 'I'm going home' they are like 'NO!' and just that is enough to  make me give it another ago even if it's just for the next day. Just having people to vent to about how unfair work load is and how this would never happen back home (because it wouldn't!) is enough to stop you from completely freaking out and doing something stupid like watch Netflix all day and burn your lab notes because you won't get that lab report in on time anyway.

People said there would be a huge culture shock. The main things that freak me out are the fact that people don't acknowledge drivers stopping for them at zebra crossings and milk comes in cartons and so after 2-3 days my milk smells like vegetables and I cannot tell if it has gone off or not until I pour it on my cereal and it looks like yoghurt. However, it is so much more than that. Here people study 100% of the time. They come in early, go to the library, go to class, ask the lecturer 10 questions and go back to the library. They eat ridiculously healthily and buy small coffees (which are not value for money at all!) and still manage to make everything work out. I just sit there in the library with my XL coffee, 5 text books and sanity gone a long, long time ago.

Maybe I just need to stop worrying about my grades. Who'd have thought I'd say that!? I put 100%  effort into everything I do and maybe that's just too much - it's way too stressful. Sure, I'm getting 80-90% in my lab reports (which is freaking amazing!) but do I really need to get grades that good when I'm turning into a fruit fly in my room that just keeps flying around in circles.

I must say, my metaphors have gotten much better since I started here. It must be something in the air.

Moving abroad is meant to be an amazing experience and so far it feels like it has been more stress than its worth. I know it isn't this way for everyone. If I was on a pass/fail I'd probably not be anywhere near as stressed over my grades! Thank God it's thanksgiving this weekend and I have a 4 day weekend (thanks to 2 days of no labs - that's almost enough time for a mini trip to LA!) and I have decided I need to get out of the house. I've got some lovely plans made (including a frat boy cooking a turkey - that'll be interesting) and a much needed shopping trip.

They say bad things come in threes and I have literally had three multiples of three. It's all going to sort itself out and that's good. My Macbook is fixed, my grades coming back are good (for the most part) and I have made an entire weekend free so I can do whatever the hell I want. I think that's just so important. You cannot let your grades control you. Sure, I'm getting the best grades in the class for one module, which is great, and the worst in another, which is understandable. It's so different studying abroad and there is already so much to worry about, let alone what your position in the class is. I think the main thing I have learned from this experience is that, at the end of the day, you can only do your best and if that isn't enough for your lecturers then it is their problem. All you can do is try your best (and by that I mean actually try and not procrastinate all day) and 9 times out of 10 they will understand. If UBC has taught me anything so far it is to not be a perfectionist. It's just too much effort and will likely get you absolutely nowhere. There isn't any point in doing well in two modules if you are going to fail two of your finals.

There have been some times when I am in complete and utter shock over how comfortable I feel here in Van. I somehow manage to navigate my way Downtown instinctively, I call it home, I walk around like I have been here my entire life and I have only been here for 5 weeks. I really do love it out here - I just don't get to explore it at much as I'd like. I want to go to the beach and the science museum and to all the independent coffee shops and read a book. I don't want to be that person who hides a duvet and pillow in the cleaning closet in the library - really!

At the end of the day, this whole studying abroad thing is really, really difficult. It is a lot more difficult than I expected. At least you know that you are not alone and you will not be the only person constantly freaking out over the fact you put the wrong units down on the front cover of your report or let word autocorrect 'definitely' to 'defiantly' all the way through your essay (yes - they are different words!). I'm trying my best and that's all I can do. I'm pretty much working through a -'there is plan A and if plan A doesn't work there is plan A' which is slightly flawed but it's all I have right now.

I know it's going to get better and before it gets better, it's always going to get worse. And you know what? That's okay.


  1. I'm sorry to hear your having a tough time! But it's clear that you're a very dedicated person and it just wouldn't feel right slacking off either. Stay in there, mid terms aren't far away, then it's xmas break!! :) enjoy your weekend, it will feel even better being so well deserved!!!

    1. Definitely not! When I come across as unprepared I cringe so much! I've already had 1 mid-term, now i've got the two hardest ones left (and then finals!) but at least I have a nice three week break to look forward to!


  2. Sorry to hear you're having a tough time out there, it's good that you're keeping so positive though she remembering the grades aren't everything. You need to take time to enjoy the experience while studying because college/uni doesn't last forever!

  3. Looks like you're having fun though! xx


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