How Lethbridge embraced and welcomed me with open arms when I arrived on Sunday 6th September 2015, by Hamza Kazmi.

Hello there, this is my first blog post about my experience whilst on exchange in Alberta, Canada. When I went to Canada it was my first time leaving the UK on my own so at first I was slightly nervous and it is completely acceptable to feel this way. I stayed one night at a youth hostel in Calgary and took the Greyhound at 8.30am in the morning to the University of Lethbridge. The journey in total took approx. 3 hours and 30 minutes despite Calgary – Lethbridge only being 2 hours apart.

The best tips to be comfortable in my opinion are to:

  • Explore your local surroundings (campus or the neighbourhood)
  • Attend Orientation Events which will allow you to make friends and develop connections.
  • Plan your week on the first day of what you would like to do that day and share ideas with your roommates.

It was at the point when I arrived that I realised that the distances between places in Canada is mind blowing. However, when I arrived I was welcomed by the International Exchanges Co-ordinator and shown where to collect my residence key and after went along to move into the Village (picture above). When I got off the bus I did not realise until I had picked up my key that the person sitting near me on the bus was also an exchange student who came from Germany, and he will be my roommate living next door to me in the same house. So before we went over to Rez Village, Diane drove us to the nearest grocery stores and Dollar store to buy some essential items to last us couple days to help us settle in.

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The first couple of days when you will arrive in your host institution and move into residence (usually or be moving into a house off-campus) you will feel overwhelmed, but as long as you take it slowly you will soon adjust and will certainly feel at home.

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Remember though, you are all in the same boat as you are experiencing a different country and different lifestyle. The Canadians I met were super fantastic and really wanted to help you in any way they can. For example: I was given a ride whenever I needed to go to the grocery store because my roommate had a truck and I would jump in with him if he’d be going shopping.

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How To Survive The First Few Weeks of Term, by Nicolae Radulescu.

Hey everyone. My name is Nicolae Radulescu, but all the people I know call me Nico and I have recently become a student blogger for the Government Department even though I am studying Liberal Arts which is from another department. I decided to write a few lines for you as most of my modules have been from Government so we have a lot in common.

Even though I am third year student now, I still remember very clearly the first time I arrived on campus and how I survived the first few weeks at uni. Before coming here, I did not know anyone from Essex and I was even more afraid that it was the first time I would live by myself in another country.

Arriving at Essex

After I took the bus offered by university from Stansted, I met a lot of other students who were nervous exactly as I was. Getting on campus, I had to pick up my key card and to get settled in my new room in Bertrand Russell.  Although I was nervous as it was a completely new experience for me, I was welcomed by some of my flatmates. This is how my surviving journey started.

Retrospectively looking at that period now, I realize that surviving the first two weeks was not a nightmare. The first thing I knew then was that I would need to spend as much time as I can with my flatmates as thus, I could cement some lasting friendships and so it was. I made friends I had fun with and we went together through some difficult moments such as cooking your own meal, doing laundry for the first time as well as finishing the first assignment by the deadline. Going through these experiences was fun rather than worrying.

Events on campus and getting involved

Another thing that I did then was attending most of the events from my welcome pack, from the registration and welcoming event of my department to the “How to get the most out of your first year”. I found them useful as from there I started doing a lot of other things that are going to be in this blog post. Although, I participated at some of the events and went to a few parties as all of you will probably do, you will need to bear in mind that you do not need and cannot attend all of them, so just do as much as you can during the first 2 weeks as long as it is not overwhelming. You will have plenty of time later.

Joining societies!

At the same time I started to join different societies. This happened during the Freshers Fair which is always fun as all the societies are up there exhibiting their activities. There is also a lot of free stuff such as Dominos or other snacks. Societies are good time to spend some time with as you join different groups where you will find people with the same interests, you play games and make more friends. If you will run for the committee positions, you will also get some experience to put in the CV.

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Since from the beginning I started thinking about jobs as I was sure that sooner or later I would need more money. This is why I joined vTeam which is the volunteering team run by the Students Union. They have regular projects where I could go to schools and teach children or they have the one-off opportunities which I attended. I enjoyed all of these as I went with my friends and had fun whilst giving something back to the community. This made me win the Volunteer of the Month award which helped me later as I had something more in my CV and managed to get a frontrunner position at the end of the year.

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I did as much as I could then because the more active one is, the faster that person will get settled. This is what happened to me. I managed to go through almost all of my degree now and I still have my friends from my first yea. I currently live with 3 of them in the same house and all the extra-curricular activities that I did then helped me considerably as over the last 2 years, I managed to win 9 awards and have 4 jobs and can easily say that I have a really good CV.