Meghan Rennie spent her Spring 2023 semester studying Music Marketing and Management in the Netherlands at Hogeschool Utrecht. The student exchange left her with invaluable memories and life experience.
Why did you choose your program and destination?
I looked at the partner institutions on the ULethbridge website, then found an institution whose own website was easy to navigate for incoming exchange students (i.e., what programs were being offered that I was eligible for and fit into my interests and Program Planning Guide).
What was the most memorable experience of your time abroad?
That is so hard to say. So many aspects of the experience were wonderful, and even those that weren't wonderful in the moment are interesting and funny to look back on. Here's a particular crazy story – while on my exchange, I learned that one of my favourite bands (Florist) was touring through Europe and was playing a show in Utrecht, where I was studying. Tragically, that show was already sold out. This was probably the only chance I'd ever get to see this band I love, so I was a bit devastated. I'm from rural Alberta so I’m not used to getting to see artists perform live. I'm not familiar with the ins and outs of ticketing. So, I took to the internet to ask if there was any way I could potentially get a ticket to this show. Everybody was so nice: giving me advice on where to watch for tickets, saying they'd try to get a ticket for me if possible, telling me to contact the venue and explain my story, etc. Eventually, someone said that they knew the artist who was opening for the show, Sophie Janna, and that he could probably get me in through her. That's exactly what happened! Sophie Janna was so amazing. I loved talking to her before her set, and her music was wonderful, too.
I cried for basically all of Florist's performance. They even shouted out "Meghan from Canada" in the middle of their set, which was so cool.
Were there any challenges? How did you overcome or cope with them?
Sometimes it was unnerving to contend with the public transit system in Europe. Overcoming this was just a matter of paying close attention to maps apps and planning to get to every destination quite early to have a time buffer if something didn't work out.
Has this education abroad experience helped you personally, academically or professionally? What skills did you develop during this program?
Oh, absolutely. I grew a lot as a person by learning to manage the stressors inherent to traveling alone and exploring a new geography/culture/infrastructure.
I also developed many close relationships with people from different countries, so it opened my worldview to new perspectives and has left me with connections that I'll continue to cherish.
I also got to learn a lot, academically, in ways I couldn't access at ULethbridge.
What was your experience like when you returned home?
I went straight from the exchange into a 5-week French immersion course in Quebec, so it was a rather interesting transition. I didn't really have time to process everything. I was afraid of coming back to Alberta/Lethbridge – I thought that, after all I'd experienced, I might find the life back home to be underwhelming or ill-fitting. Happily, I was completely wrong. I had forgotten how much I loved this place, and how connected I was to so many people.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I would get a bike to travel around in the Netherlands. Attend more concerts and other live music events (I was there studying the music industry). Start being friendlier, sooner, with my fellow classmates.
Would you recommend trying an education abroad program to other students? Do you have advice for students considering studying abroad?
Absolutely. It's easier to handle the experience if you have a bit of adulting under your belt already – if you've spent time away from your family and community before, if you're used to taking care of yourself, etc. The image-scanning feature on apps like Google Translate and DeepL will be your best friend.