Having visited Canada twice before, I knew I wanted to attend a Canadian university. Upon asking one of my teachers at the start of the Nature Guide program at the University of Umeå, and getting information about north2north, I knew right away that I was interested.
I attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), in St. John's for one semester. The city is located by the east coast of Canada, and this was one of the reasons why I made MUN my top choice for north2north. Though it is hard to get around Newfoundland without access to a car, St. John's gives close access to the mighty sea, and MUN is very close to heights with a great view, parks, and a lake — the area has some beautiful scenery.
MUN itself has a large variety of courses: languages, history, culture, to name a few areas. Though the weather was much better than how people described it to typically be, a few weeks at the end of the semester, with wet snow and winds, explained part of the reasoning behind the underground tunnel system that connects most of the school buildings.
I feel I understand the North American school culture better, as midterms (large tests taken in the middle of the semester) take up a large part of the study load, and impact the grade significantly, and final tests decide your grades to an even larger degree, and cannot be retaken. Planning for my studies in Canada, I had imagined that taking several smaller courses instead the Swedish standard of doing one course at a time, would be relaxing. It turned out that the looking up of hand-in dates, instructions and course material online made this combination of smaller courses substantially more demanding than expected. I am happy to have gotten experienced what it is like to take five courses at the same time!
Staying in one of the on-campus accommodations, a 7-day meal plan was included. This was a great benefit for me, as it allowed access to dishes I had not had before, such as shepherd's pie, sloppy joe, chicken pot pie to name a few. The dining hall was an interesting experience that I am glad to have, with a large variety from french fries, and pizza available most of the days, to the wide selection of greens available in the salad bar, combined with hundreds of students in the same place (the noise level was amazing!).
Long in advance before arriving at the university, I was contacted by one of the main exchange coordinators from MUN. This helped greatly, as it meant having someone to ask direct questions to, who was on site, able to give answers, advice, as well as to redirect questions to the appropriate people.
At MUN, there were events for exchange students, with excursions for photos and sight-seeing. During this event I met a lot of other exchange students and it was a very pleasant excursion!
Through north2north I've been able to take courses that will benefit both my career as a nature guide and my personal life.
Having done this exchange, I feel calmer, and more ready move on to things in my professions.
My advice to people thinking of applying for the north2north program is to make sure you got a solid strategy for studying in the university school form: this helps greatly when you're in a new country, perhaps working in a new language. Think about what areas you want to visit and why, and what cultures you want to partake in. You are very likely to meet a lot of people and different customs, different areas with varying geographical conditions. So make sure you think about what university you want to visit the most!
And if you do go: make sure you take advantage of the situation and enjoy the visit in a good way. Universities often have a lot of options in terms of activities, groups and meetings and so on. So it's important to look things up, what's available, as you might not be actively handed this information. Also, if problems would arise, make sure you reach out to the right people, as help is often available.
It's easy to get stuck focused on school work, so it's important to stop and enjoy the moments! Think about why you wanted to go.