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California Dreaming

by Matthew Shanahan January 26, 2016
California Dreaming

Why every student seeking an adventure should study abroad

I was a scrawny little 19 year-old kid in my first year at Concordia University when I began to educate myself about potentially studying abroad in my second year. I love Montreal, but your 20’s are a time for exploration and adventure. An Exchange provides all these opportunities allowing students to discover what’s beyond their university campus.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

Photo by Savanna Craig.

When I tell Montrealers that I studied abroad for a year, the first thing they usually ask me is, “Why California?” Given that I had never lived on my own, I wasn’t looking for a big culture shock—I wanted to stay in North America.

Like any Quebecer who travels to California for the first time, the palm trees and the calm demeanor of the people had me completely mesmerized. Sights aside, what truly made the experience phenomenal though were the people I encountered.

Among exchange students, everybody generally becomes friends right away. People are readily open to embrace other people’s cultures and ways of life.

I remember spending so much time throughout the year talking about what we observed in regards to Californian and American culture. We exchange students would share our thoughts regularly through the lens of our own culture, whether Canadian, British, French, Japanese and so on.

With Los Angeles being an entertainment capital, I got to visit the set of the Late Late show for a special taping when transitioning between former host Craig Ferguson and current host James Corden.

The ultimate climax came when I saw the taping of the series finale of “Two and a Half Men” and was briefly in the presence of the stunning Mila Kunis. This was a true Hollywood experience that could not have taken part anywhere else in the world.

As a sports fan I got to visit some incredible baseball stadiums including Angel Stadium in Anaheim, which has one of most impeccable center field backdrops. I even was fortunate enough to go to those ballparks multiple times and set foot on the pitcher’s mound and in the dugouts of Angel Stadium.

The provincial government provides travel bursaries that pay students up to $1,000 per month while abroad to help cover expenses, with many campuses offering part-time jobs as well—depending on your host country. The experience doesn’t necessarily have to break either, with students paying the exact same tuition as they would here in Quebec.

Either way, I can assure you that taking out an extra student loan to finances this adventure is worthwhile, because the student exchange program experience is more than just traveling and making friends, it’s both those things and more that come together in such an incredibly unique way.

So for your own benefit, if you’re debating whether or not to go on exchange—just go. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity and make sure you never look back with regret, because you’ll live with that lingering “what if” question for the rest of your life.  

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