I'm not going to lie, on the plane journey over here from England, I was a nervous wreck. Let's be honest, nobody particularly enjoys the couple of days before starting at a new educational institution. The question "what if nobody likes me?" plagues everyone at some point.
And travelling a good 7,000 kilometres to an utterly foreign land where I knew absolutely nobody certainly did not help matters.
Of course, as soon as my plane landed safely on Canadian soil I stopped worrying. I've absolutely got to give it to the people of Canada, you certainly do know how to make a new face feel at home; I was totally bowled over by the politeness of everyone.
It seemed that even the airport staff wanted to give me a long hug, but just could not bring themselves to do so simply because of the professional issues that might be provoked.
Which leads me perfectly to my mentor and new best friend, the quite wonderful Beth Rowe. In the early days of the summer, I signed up with the mentor program organized by the brilliant Centre for International Students and Study Abroad, which pairs international students with a University of Calgary student from Canada.
I was reassured that should any matter of my new-found university life turn for the worse for whatever reason, Beth would be there to hold my hand and help me along. What was even better were the three Alberta steaks Beth's mum plated up for me on my arrival. Upon being fed and watered the true Albertan way, I reflected aloud to Beth's family how I could see myself liking Canada.
You would be surprised at how many petty differences there are between university life here and university life back in England—certainly nothing life-threatening, but little things that count nonetheless. For example, back home professors are "lecturers," more often than not there are smaller, generally discussion-based sessions after class called "seminars," and taking laptops into class is almost unheard of.
Beth is slowly but surely transforming me into the Canadian I have long hoped to be since I signed up to study here. Not only has she helped me fit into the Canadian university lifestyle, she has also helped me to well and truly fit into the Canadian lifestyle.
Adventures to Drumheller and Heritage Park have been and gone, a road trip to the Canadian Finals Rodeo is yet to come.
Sure, I'm working a little harder at school than I'm used to, and I'm forever warned about the almost life-threatening weather, but I can safely say that Canada really has made quite a first impression.
I will never forget the moment I saw the Rocky Mountains in all their glory for the first time. It really is only when you get up close and personal that you can truly appreciate the magnitude, the beauty, the sheer magnificence of not only the physical geography a new country has to offer you, but also the human geography.
It is for this exact reason that I whole-heartedly recommend going on exchange to anybody and everybody.