When I first tell people that I am studying in Vancouver on exchange from Seattle, the typical reaction I get is a bemused, “Why?” This reaction doesn’t come as a surprise to me, since Seattle is only a three-and-a-half-hour drive away. People may not understand the “international component” of my study in Canada. Despite the proximity of the United States and Canada, experiencing the differences between the two countries has been an important part of my time in Vancouver. One of the first things that stood out to me was the civility that seemed to be ingrained in the local culture. For example, while waiting for the bus, everyone forms a line. When exiting the bus, almost everyone makes sure to thank the bus driver. For me this is such a pleasant change from hectic Seattle transit! The diversity in Vancouver has enriched my experience as well. Vancouver is a multicultural city, which leads to a diversity of ideas and opinions and, I believe, a greater understanding of other people’s cultures. I have loved exploring the different cultural aspects of Vancouver and learning viewpoints that are different from those I would typically encounter in the States. I have been welcomed with open arms by Canadians and appreciate the kindness I have been shown. Despite the differences in our countries’ leadership, I have found that I have much in common with many of the Canadians I have met. I see my time in Canada, in part, as a way to learn more about Canadian culture and government.
I am so grateful to have this opportunity at the University of British Columbia (UBC) for international education so early on in my academic career. Not only has my knowledge and appreciation for Canadian culture grown, but the international experience of studying abroad will also help me broaden my worldview and better understand the experiences of others when I return to the United States. I believe that being a global citizen is an important part of getting the most out of education because it helps us to understand the diversity and interconnectedness of the world around us.