At first, Bryn Dykstra didn’t know what to expect from studying abroad.
He knew that he loved travelling and wanted to see more of the world. So the Nanaimo, B.C. native turned Business student at Vancouver Island University decided to take his education further to the University of Hertfordshire in Hertfordshire, England.
Immersing Himself in English Culture
Initially, Bryn chose England because he wasn’t ready to face a large culture shift. Descended from English heritage, he felt studying in Hertfordshire would be a good way to get closer to his cultural roots. Moreover, as a rural county located only an hour away from central London, Hertfordshire was the perfect spot to explore the English countryside and urban scene.
However, he discovered that the U.K. was quite different from Canadian culture. From driving on the other side of the road to not refrigerating eggs, he came to appreciate the small yet significant differences between the two cultures. His classes too, were more formal with a greater focus on self-learning than what he was used to in Canada. With the support of his engaging professors and fellow international students however, he settled in comfortably.
Building Lifelong Friendships
As someone who’s a little shy, Bryn was worried at first that it would be difficult to make new friends in Hertfordshire. His worry dissolved when he arrived at his dorm, where his flatmates were all international students like himself from countries across the world. In their first meeting, Bryn and his flatmates cooked food from their native cultures for each other and talked about their lives. This allowed them to bond in the shared struggle and triumph of living on your own in a foreign country and relishing the opportunity to travel and see new sights. He was equally fascinated to find out about their own cultures through them.
“Having friends around the world gives you a snapshot into how someone thousands of kilometers away can live and do all sorts of exciting things,” Bryn says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of flatmates.”
While moving to a new continent was challenging, it made him realize that doing something new is not half as scary as it seems. The other students were just as nervous as he was and in helping each other out, they formed a supportive community for each other and became lifelong friends. “Until you step out of your comfort zone, you just can’t know what you can do,” Bryn says. “Through my study abroad experience, I became a much more confident person. I learned more about what I can do, but also that no one else has it all figured out.”
Travelling to Dover
Even though school kept them busy, Bryn and his friends made time to travel around England. One of his most memorable trips was one to the town of Dover. In Dover, they toured a beautiful castle and enjoyed a ferry ride to Calais, a port city in Northern France.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though – the hostel he and his friends stayed at wasn’t what they expected and Dover was a bit too quiet for their travelling taste. Despite this, they made the best of their trip and strengthened their friendship by supporting each other when things didn’t go to plan.
Taking His Career International
Before he knew it, Bryn’s study abroad experience came to an end. After such a successful study abroad experience, Bryn knew he wanted to choose a career that would allow him to work internationally. He is currently pursuing his Accounting designation, and although his dedication to his program means he’ll have to stay in one place for a while, he’ll be earning credentials that are internationally recognized.
Bryn recommends an exchange or international study experience to every student, because in addition to receiving a high quality education, he grew as a person. “My study abroad experience helped me become more confident in myself,” Bryn says. “I learned not to worry about what others think of me as much as I used to. When you’re doing something new, you start to understand that others don’t magically have their life together. It’s a journey.”
In the end, Bryn’s choice to move to another continent took a little courage but it changed his life in more meaningful ways than he could have imagined. Sometimes it takes moving away to find your true self and for Bryn, the experiences he’s had have positively shaped him for life.
“Challenge yourself to learn what’s out there in the world,” he says. “You’ll learn more about yourself and others, because you’ll get to live another experience and get to know a new culture.”
Bryn’s Top Three Tips for Studying Abroad
1. Bring more money than you initially budgeted: you never know if you’ll need it to take that awesome trip your friends want to go on.
2. Make new friends: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
3. View travelling as an investment in your career: travelling abroad will boost your CV and help you become a better person. It’s a learning experience that will help you understand who you are, what you need and what you want from life, all of which will help set you on the right career path.