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Photo of me at the National Art Gallery in Edinburgh Scotland looking at a beautiful painting of Achilles lamenting Patroclus

Tallisen Smith

(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Global Humanities
Study Abroad › Exchange

Program

When COVID hit back in 2019 I was attending Langara College and preparing to go to Italy for a field school. I was heartbroken when the trip had to be canceled and I moved forward with my graduation before the trip could be replanned. When I transferred to SFU I knew that despite having never been off the North American continent my dream to study abroad was something I was determined to make a reality. So I worked hard; I kept up GPA up, I applied on time, and I expressed my ambitions for furthering my education through an exchange experience. 

When I got accepted I was ecstatic. Then the planning process started, and five months felt like all the time in the world to prepare for my trip. Staying on top of everything and advocating for what I needed while away, like Disability Services at my Host Institution, applying StudentAid, and choosing classes became a way for me to develop my self- confidence and independence. During the planning process, my mind was a flurry of to-do lists, worries, and emails; and then it was the end of the fall semester and time to go. As soon as I stepped off of the plane in Scotland I was hit with the unreal feeling of "I did it, I made it". My desire to go to a new learning environment fuelled my ambition and love for education, and this has only increased since being abroad. So far in the semester, I have learned so much about myself and from my classes I have already gained new perspectives and understandings in topics from comparative literature, art history, and ancient civilizations. Being "forced" to be independent, especially when family and friends are asleep for most of your day was something I definitely had to get used to; but it also fostered a sense of self-reliance. Through the ups and downs of the first couple weeks, I started to trust myself and my ability to problem solve, advocate, and explore all on my own. In those first weeks, small things like braving the transit system, trips "downtown", and exploring the natural landscape on my own became less daunting and became more exciting. The loneliness for family and friends back home is still there, but it feels less like an emptiness and more like just missing familiar connections. Finding friends in a new place can feel like middle school all over again but I've learned that the chances are the people around you are just as nervous about making the first move. Finding connections with other exchange students from all over the world has also been an exciting part of making connections here. I have found that picking simple things that remind me of home has been a welcome comfort for my well-being; whether it is food, watching TV shows with friends back home, activities I did back in Vancouver, or hobbies, these give me a sense of control while allowing me to calmly tackle all the unknowns and new experiences.

Although it has only been six weeks, I have fallen in love with Scotland and the University of Glasgow. It is truly a magical place to be and I look forward to all the adventures and learning I will have and do in the second half of the semester. 

Semester
Year

Author

Photo of me at the National Art Gallery in Edinburgh Scotland looking at a beautiful painting of Achilles lamenting Patroclus

Tallisen Smith

(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Global Humanities
Study Abroad › Exchange
visibility  191
Feb 16, 2024