Where are they Wednesday?

Allison Ostle
Author: Allison Ostle

Living Abroad

My few months living abroad have been many things, but predictable is not one of them. It feels as if every week offers me new opportunities, challenges, and life lessons. And while attending school at a foreign institution has taught me a lot, the majority of these life lessons come from everyday things such as going shopping, or figuring out how to do recycling. These mundane tasks that we often complete without much thought are suddenly made into the toughest challenge of the week when our knowledge base is suddenly stripped from us. Little things like buying food become much more laborious when you have to translate every bottle to find the right spice your looking for, or when you are suddenly made aware that the Netherlands does not sell cream, only milk, and you are going to have to improvise if you want to make the dish that you've been craving.

Things like travel on the weekends are turned into life lessons about how strangers in different countries interact with each other, or how on earth you're supposed to navigate this new metro system. Of course technology such as google maps is always there to help...that is until you run out of data in the middle of your day and have to figure out how to get home from the train station via memory.

You learn to be more open minded because there really is no option not to be. This is especially true when you share your new flat with two complete strangers from entirely different parts of the planet. You learn that while the institute you go to is English speaking, you are one of the only native English speakers attending. Suddenly you have turned into everyone's favorite English teacher, and you are constantly asked what the meanings for words you've long forgotten are. And while you feel confident in your English abilities in comparison to your new friends, you are reminded that they all speak upwards of two languages, while you struggle with one. You learn that being self-sufficient will only get you so far when you can't get access to the documents you need to set up a bank account, and suddenly you are reliant on your new flat mate to pay for your monthly train subscription until you get everything in order. You learn the hard way that holidays impact train scheduling when you suddenly can't make it to the airport, and you have to pay over a hundred pounds for an Uber just to get home.

You may be greeted with exceptional hospitality at your stay in Northern Ireland, just to be harassed in the following weeks by beggars on the streets of Paris. At times everything feels wonderful and amazing, and you can't believe that you finally made it abroad. But there are also times of isolation when you realize the nine hour time difference makes it virtually impossible to call your best friend who you desperately miss.

But most of all, living abroad has made me more aware of my own nationality. I never understood Canadian culture until I was taken away from it. I never understood what our traditions were until they were no longer celebrated. All the little things that we take for granted on a daily basis are in fact tangible parts of our own culture, and it isn't until you leave it all behind that you realize just how much your national identity matters. 


- Allison Ostle

Tourism Management student at VIU

Fall 2022 semester Exchange to Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.