We asked Adriana to tell us a little more about her experiences of both living and learning in Canada.
Why did you choose to study in Canada?
I’ve been fascinated by the French language and culture since I was very young, so I chose French Studies as one of my majors in University, alongside English Literature and Linguistics- I also thought that this combination would spice up my curriculum! All students in the French Studies department had the opportunity to go abroad for either a semester or a year, so I took the chance! It was a competitive programme and, honestly, I didn’t think I would get a place. How wrong I was…
What did you study?
I studied at Laurentian University; their course which has been designed specifically for international students and includes both an intensive French Language course and undergraduate-level courses in Sociology, Linguistics and French Studies, all of which are delivered in English.
How did you find the application process?
The whole process was long and complex. I made my application in May 2010, received confirmation that it was satisfactory in November 2010 and started the application process properly in January 2011. It felt like many months of documents, application forms, bank statements, English exams and visas. The International Team was certainly very helpful but I remember the whole process being extremely time-consuming, with lots of running from one office to another, and rather confusing.
Did you encounter any problems? If so, what were they?
I don’t think I would describe them as ‘problems’- let’s call them ‘challenges’! Before I arrived in Canada, I thought I was ready for the experience, and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into; when I finally arrived, I must admit that I found myself feeling a little disorientated. This feeling, however, soon wore off!
How did you find the people and culture?
Canadian people are, in my opinion, always extremely nice- even if they were somewhat unhelpful during my early attempts at communication! After the first couple of weeks, which I spent trying to adjust to my surroundings, I started to enjoy the new environment and discover various aspects of Canadian culture which are not immediately evident but are extremely striking- for example, their willingness to help. Canada is ultimately a very safe place and I felt comfortable very quickly.
While living in Canada, I also worked as an Assistant Teacher for an After School Club. It was extremely interesting to see how different cultures perceive us- for example, I was hired because I am South American and therefore, according to the Canadian, automatically an spanish speaker!
Did you learn the language? If yes, how difficult was it? If no, how did you cope?
Yes, I did study French and English for a couple of years before moving to the country – however, as soon as I landed, I understood that learning the languages in a seminar and being forced to use it in real life are two very different concepts! While there was a lot of smiling and pretending to understand what locals were saying for the first few weeks, I must say that the combination of full immersion in the language and culture and intensive training courses helped me to improve extremely quickly.
How do you feel that studying abroad has helped you to further your career?
I feel that studying abroad helped me a great deal in my personal development. Besides enabling me to gain academic skills, choosing to learn overseas allowed me to be in constant contact with people from all over the world and encouraged me to tackle new challenges on a daily basis. As a result, I feel that I have developed expertise which can be used in any kind of academic or work environment.