Griffin left for the Netherlands in January 2020 to spend a semester as an exchange student, then COVID-19 hit Europe. He decided to stay to complete his exchange and has no regrets. Read about his experience!
Why did you choose your program and destination?
A semester abroad is always something that I have wanted to do. After a conversation with my sister who had recently visited Europe, she talked about the Netherlands how everyone there spoke excellent English and that its location in Europe is a central hub for travelling. Only speaking one language, I wanted to go somewhere where I would stand a chance at being able to communicate with the locals. I could not have been happier with my decision to study in Utrecht, Netherlands. The program I studied was Sport and Entertainment marketing, which relates to my major here Marketing as well as my interests in the sports and entertainment industry.
What was the most memorable experience of your time abroad?
It is tough to select just one memorable experience in the Netherlands because it seemed like every day I was doing something new, exciting, and memorable whether that be riding my bike through the medieval old town of Utrecht, through the fields of tulips, doing a road trip through the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland to visit Auschwitz. Meeting new people from different countries and making friends from all over the world.
Were there any challenges? How did you overcome or cope with them?
The biggest Challenge faced was what to do about COVID-19, within all of the chaos of the news about what was happening during the initial outbreak Europe’s numbers were increasing rapidly, Spain and Italy both being put into lockdowns was a bit nerve-wracking at first. It caused two of my roommates to leave to return home immediately then once the Canadian Prime minister asked Canadians to return home, the other two Canadian students returned home as well leaving my flat half full.
My decision was to stay and it was probably the best decision of my life.
With the numbers and cases seeming to be 3 weeks ahead of what was happening in North America I figured that Europe would probably start to re-open faster than North America and this was my one chance to live out the dream of studying abroad. I wasn't able to do it alone, however, I and my two remaining roommates from Mexico and Switzerland agreed that we would have each other’s backs and ride out the virus. With just about half of the students returning home friendships that were set up before had a bunch of people leave so all of the people who stayed behind to continue the exchange became extremely close. I am really grateful because without the chaos the friendships wouldn't feel like family.
Has this education abroad experience helped you personally, academically or professionally?
Yes, this has helped me personally to be more confident in my skills and who I am as a person, it has opened my eyes to many different perspectives around the world. This helped me academically by giving me the confidence of having academic success outside of Canada. Professionally it has helped drastically, getting hands-on experience with large companies such as Sony, Ubisoft, Rabobank. It has also helped me increase my communication skills, presentation skills, writing skills, event planning, and I even ended up learning some Dutch along the way. The practicality of the program was the most valuable part, getting taught by former Nike and Asics sport marketing employees as well as full-time event organizers, the head of sponsorships from Rabobank, Ubisoft employees working on releasing Assasins creed.
What was your experience like when you returned home?
Returning home was good it was nice to see family and friends again however with COVID-19 the route home would take quite a bit longer than it did on the way there. Showing back up into a corona world after being gone for so long was very weird, it felt like home but just slightly off character.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
There is not a lot I would change, I couldn't have picked a better program or place to go to school, and the people I was surrounded by were amazing.
Would you recommend trying an education abroad program to other students?
YES! I think that every student should make room for it in their schedule. I didn't think it was going to be possible at one point, but it is worth every bit of hard work that comes with it. The value of doing an exchange isn't solely about schooling, but going out and meeting and interacting with different people from different corners of the world, being a part of a different culture helps you grow and gain a more positive perspective world.
The growth that comes from this experience is monumental and can change the way you see the world entirely in a positive way. The friendships alone are worth it.
Do you have advice for students considering studying abroad?
My only advice would be to go and do it! More people speak English than you think, and lots of people are willing to help, especially a Canadian, be nice and polite and others will do the same in return.