“I think going abroad and moving away from home was the best choice I’ve made in my life,” says Kirby Dick-Frank.
He’s got the breadth of experience to prove it.
Kirby has spent the past several years abroad, completing a BSc and MSc at Wageningen University in The Netherlands.
“In 2007, I came to Europe to look at different universities,” he says. “I fell in love with this little university town.”
That trip would lead to a five-year adventure – and a horizon-broadening experience for this student from Dundas, Ontario.
A trip begins
After arriving in Wageningen in September 2010, Kirby spent a week living in a hotel and getting his bearings.
“Most international students get assigned a room right away, but I wanted to move a week earlier to get used to the place,” he says.
Soon he found himself joining other students and adjusting to the academic expectations of a new environment: Wageningen University emphasizes practical work and hands-on learning, which fit with Kirby’s desire to put his new knowledge to the test.
“One major difference is the way papers, reports, and exams are graded here,” Kirby says. “Depending on the course, you might be stuck inside the library for weeks!”
Fortunately, he found the university and staff welcoming and supportive, both inside and outside the classroom.
“I’m on a first-name basis with all of my teachers and professors. It’s common for students and professors to hang out outside of the school environment.”
That support helped him negotiate an inevitable bout of homesickness after being away for a year.
“The university has an amazing support system for international students,” Kirby explains. “They helped me through it so I could refocus.”
A big picture perspective
In addition to unique learning opportunities, studying abroad is a great way to connect with unique people. In fact, Kirby found the friends he made were the most unforgettable part of his trip.
“Wageningen has so many international students, that I’ve made friends from all around the world,” he says. “I’m definitely planning on visiting every single one of them in their home countries one day.”
There’s a good chance he will, as Wageningen is just an hour away from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, a bustling travel hub. “I’ve discovered my passion for travelling,” Kirby says. “It’s an opportunity to see the world and gain a different perspective.”
Kirby is due to return home in September of 2015 – and his professional horizons look broad.
“I might go into research, but there are so many opportunities out there,” he explains. “The options are limitless. Even though I want to settle down in Canada one day, I’m open to starting my career elsewhere.”
He’s confident that his travel experience will give him the momentum to succeed as he starts his career. Studying abroad provides great evidence that you can perform in an international setting and adapt to a new environment – great skills to offer an employer.
“I think that experience made me grow up faster and I feel much more independent than I was before,” Kirby says.
“I now feel like a citizen of the world and I proved to myself that I can pull it off.”
Advice from Kirby
With several years of experience living and studying abroad, Kirby has some handy advice if you’re thinking about studying outside of Canada:
- Do your research
A little preparation goes a long way.
“Gather as much information as you can, so you can make an informed decision,” Kirby says.
His recommendation? Explore every resource you can find that focuses on studying abroad.
- Be open
Recognize how many opportunities are open to you!
“Don’t just focus on familiar options,” says Kirby. “I chose a small town that I had never heard of before in a country that is smaller than Southern Ontario and it turned out to be the best decision of my life!”
- Take the plunge
Don’t let travel be a “someday” kind of plan.
“Think about whether or not you’re up for this adventure and once you’re sure, commit to it,” Kirby says. “Once you’re committed, the sky is the limit.”
Remember: Your journey of learning and travelling abroad can reflect whatever unique opportunities and experiences you want.
While it’s true that everyone has a different travel experience, Kirby thinks that there is always an opportunity for self-discovery.
“I believe that you will learn more about who you are and the world around you,” he says. “I’ve gained priceless memories from this little adventure that I will carry with me forever.”
“Not to mention the cool factor in 10 years when I can say: ‘I remember when I used to live in Europe.’”
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