Starting out and First Impressions Abroad

January 29, 2018

Welcome to my first ever blog post! It is a bit all over the place because I needed to burn through a lot of things that have happened in the past little while and I didn't want this to be a novel. My future posts will hopefully be more focused but for now, enjoy! 


Recently, I took probably the biggest step in my life towards change and personal growth. After living in the same house in Canada with the same lovely people for 23 years, I decided it was time for something different. Not that I don’t love my home or the people in it, but it was time to try and move forward a little bit, it was time to really challenge myself and see what I am capable of on my own. That challenge has come in the form of studying a semester abroad in England. This seemed like the right thing to do as it has given me a lot of independence that I was looking for, fulfils my desire to travel more and still allows me to work towards finishing my degree in journalism. It all is a lot to  take in as almost every aspect of it is new to me. It is my first time moving out, first time living on my own, first time traveling alone, first time outside of North America and fist time studying outside of Canada. I had been waiting for a long time to do something like this because I wanted to be completely ready to do it and never thought I was. I held the notion that one day I would wake up with a revelation and I would know I was ready. I thought that there would be this feeling inside me of complete fearlessness, confidence and certainty that it was time to go. But as time passed, I got tired of waiting and realized – through other aspects of my life – that those feelings were not going to happen. I learned that sometimes it is necessary to embrace the uncertainty and just go. Therefore, I did not come into this experience with complete certainty, but I did come into it as prepared as I can be and with a reasonable amount of confidence that I am be able to adapt to the things I didn’t prepare for. There is a little bit of anxiety and fear that comes with that but I feel like I have been handling it fairly well (I’ll go more into how in a later post).


I have been in Southampton now for about two weeks and it has been a pretty smooth experience. I had basically no problems on journey from Canada to England except for sleep deprivation and some confusion on the train from London to Southampton. I had to deal with a train that split in half (on purpose) to go two separate directions and changing trains at one point because of course the day I get there is the one day there is no direct train to Southampton. Luckily I met a kindly train supervisor who helped me on my way.


I got to Southampton in the dead of night and went straight to my dorm to sleep so I did’t get to see much of the city until the next day. When I finally got to walk the city a bit the first thing I noticed was the grass. In Canada, when you go outside in the middle of January, you are more likely to see a healthy coating of snow covering the ground than grass that is the deepest, healthiest colour of green that you have ever seen. From that, the next thing to notice is the architecture. It is so strange to come from a country that is so young to one where there are skyscrapers made of glass standing right next to buildings made of stone that have been there for centuries. The weather is also worth noting, it is unpredictable and could generally be described as gloomy with a sprinkle of sunlight here and there but I find that it adds a little bit to the experience and charm of England and I am a fan of the unique aesthetic it creates.


The university that I exchanged to, Solent University, has a pleasant familiarity to it in comparison to Mount Royal University back home. They are both smaller universities that have a casual feel to them. The professors are friendly and approachable and you call most of them by their first name like you would a classmate or a friend. This university also has a spaceship-like structure in it with classrooms inside of it and a study area on top, which is pretty hard to beat.


I have not experienced a lot of the city yet but I look forward to visiting all the pubs, parks and museums where I can learn more about the Titanic (I didn’t know coming here that Southampton was the port that the Titanic left from). I am also looking forward to exploring the surrounding areas like the Isle of Wight, New Forrest National Park, the rest of England, Scotland, Ireland and I would never forgive myself if I didn’t take advantage of the trips the school offers and go to Liverpool for the Beatles tour. Overall I am excited to be here and can’t wait to see where this experience takes me. I’m not sure if it’s the best omen that I’m starting the travels in my life at the place where the Titanic started from but I think I should be fine and I look forward to experiencing everything I can while I’m here.

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Mason Benning

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