Today we speak with Ivana from Canadian Girl Meets World, who shares her experience living a traveller’s worst nightmare – losing a friend and doing a surgery in a foreign land, and how you can prepare for your trip better through Facebook groups!
1. What’s your name, age, occupation and country you are from?
Ivana, 21, student, Canada
2. Why did you decide to study overseas?
Learning Spanish in junior high, high school, and university was a great starting point, but I knew I had to make an extra effort in order to achieve the level of proficiency I was after. This meant immersing myself in the language as well as the culture. Having visited Spain twice with my family, I knew it was somewhere I could see myself studying. Plus, the proximity to other places in Europe was too good to pass up!
3. In which country did you study and how long?
I studied in Granada, Spain for five months.
4. Share a favourite photo taken while you were studying abroad!
5. Describe a scary experience you encountered.
On a weekend trip to Paris, my roommate and I were heading back to the metro station from visiting the Eiffel Tower. It was fairly late, maybe around midnight, by the time we reached the station. The train finally arrived and we realized as it flew past us that we were standing too far off to one side of the platform. We had to book it to make it to where the train had stopped. I slipped inside just as the doors were closing, but my roommate didn’t make it. I watched horrified through the glass as the doors closed on her hand, refusing to open again.
The train left and my roommate was left stranded at the station. Neither of us had a working phone, nor a plan. Great. I decided to get off at the next stop in the hope that she’d be on the next train. Twenty minutes later, still no sign of her. Terrified of having to navigate the Paris metro on my own in the wee hours of the night, I tried to think of where she would have gone. Normally, our hostel would be a safe bet, but we had made tentative plans to go to a different hostel to check out a band, so I didn’t know what her course of action would be.
I knew that before anything else, though, I needed to find wi-fi! Fortunately, I made it back to our hostel safely to find a message from my roommate explaining that she was at the other hostel and to meet her there. Another journey through the Paris metro into a sketchy part of town and we were reunited at last! This little adventure definitely tested my street smarts as well as my self-confidence.
6. What was the best thing that happened to you on this trip?
My Spanish improving more than I could have imagined. Before I left, I was hesitant about participating in class discussions or having a conversation with native speakers. Now, I feel confident enough to see myself living in Spain long-term. I learned more Spanish in five months than I had in eight years. It has opened up so many more doors for me!
7. How did you overcome a challenge that you faced while you were overseas?
I actually had to have a minor surgery when I was abroad – a traveller’s worst nightmare. Instead of going home to have the operation as my insurance company advised, I chose to cough up the 1000 euros and do it in Spain. I knew that if I left, I wouldn’t be able to come back due to the recovery process. While it was definitely a setback, I don’t regret my decision at all. The opportunities I would have missed had I gone home were worth so much more than the price of the surgery.
8. What’s your favourite travel website, whether it be for travel planning or travel inspiration?
World of Wanderlust! Brooke has absolutely been my biggest inspiration. Her tips helped me start up my own blog that I am extremely passionate about. I can only hope to experience as much of the world as she has!
9. If you had 2 tips you could share from your study abroad experience to students feeling apprehensive about taking this leap, what would they be?
Don’t feel like you have to have everything figured out from the get-go. I’m someone who loves to plan. I’m also aware that sometimes things don’t go according to plan. You can do as much research as you want, but there are always going to be things you’re unprepared for. Embrace it. Trust yourself. Ask questions. You will sort it out, stressful as it may be.
Read about other people’s experiences! Before I committed to Granada, I read testimonials from classmates at my university who’d already gone. Everyone had the same thing to say – do it, do it, do it! There also tons of blogs and Facebook groups with people willing to answer all your questions. Girls LOVE Travel and Girls vs Globe are two of my favourites.
Student Travel Series seek to showcase travel stories from students, for students. The aim of this series is to inspire more youths and students to take the leap and discover a world outside of your own!
What do you feel about Ivana’s story? Let us know below!