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Top 10 Most Unbelievable Things To Happen On Exchange

Part of what makes going abroad so wonderful is the sheer unpredictability. It's hard to know just what will happen when you are in a brand new country and culture with the freedom to explore. Here are some of the great adventures University of Waterloo students have had!

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Falling in love in Scotland.

Shawn McGouran

"On exchange I met one of the most important people in my life. It was a brief run in on campus while waiting to be served at the student's union. We struck up a conversation and after a while, we exchanged numbers. Blair and I began to travel together on our weekends. I had a personal tour guide, an amazing travel partner, and a wonderful boyfriend. Meeting Blair completely changed my international experience. Our relationship is a constant reminder of this amazing experience and journey. I walked away from this experience with more than I had ever hoped for and I could not be more thankful."

Shawn McGouran
Program: Honours History
University of Dundee

Travelling through the family tree.

Kristina Overbeek

“My dad is an excellent storyteller and growing up my favourite stories were of his childhood in the Netherlands. I've always wanted to go to Holland to learn about my Dutch culture and going on exchange gave me that opportunity. During my time at Tilburg, I took a train to my dad's hometown. I took pictures of his home and neighbourhood and sent those back to him. Not only was it very cool to see in person the places I had heard about, but I am so happy that I was able to take those photos for my dad and share those memories!”

Kristina Overbeek
Program: English Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Tilburg University

Watching the sunrise on an active volcano.

Supreet Singh

“For our first trip in Asia, a group and I decided to go to Bali. Upon reaching there, we learned about this active volcano, Mount Batur, a popular hiking spot for tourists. We set out after midnight and trekked in the dark to catch the first rays of sunshine. That sunrise was one of most magical views I've ever seen. We were on top of a volcano, with mist surrounding us when the sun first came out. It made that two hour hike worth it!”

Supreet Singh
Program: Mechatronics Engineering
Nanyang Technological University

Hanging with Local Celebrities.

Andrew Andrade

“Locals invited us to an indie short film festival presenting social issues facing Southeast Asians in their daily lives. At the festival we were invited as special guests to the VIP function held at the Hin Bus Depot. We had the opportunity to network and socialize with Singaporean comedian Kumar, Hollywood actor Sullivan Stapleton, and award winning cinematographer & director Christopher Doyle. We also made long lasting friends with Filipino TV and movie star Cai Cortez and managing producer Vanessa Amante. One month later, I was invited by Cai to come to the Philippines to the National University of Singapore (NUS) where I learned firsthand about Filipino culture. I explored old Manilla with Cai and experienced a bit of what life is like as a local celebrity. The experience was truly amazing!”

Andrew Andrade
Program: Mechatronics Engineering
National University of Singapore

Getting stuck on the Matterhorn in a storm.

Lily Hwang

"When travelling to Switzerland during my exchange term in Lyon, I met up with an old high school friend in the capital and we decided to hike the Alps together. In the Alps, the trails were well-marked in the beginning, but as we reached our third hour of hiking, we started to get lost. We ended up on a plateau-like area a few hundred meters from the top of the Matterhorn trail. That is when the storm clouds started rolling in - giant, dark clouds looming above and threatening us with streaks of lightening. The scariest part was that nobody else was around. We were so close to the view of the tip of the Matterhorn - we couldn't stop yet!

The cable car that would bring us down was not in service due to the inclement weather, thus we had to backtrack the three and a half hours downhill on the slippery earth. Of course we were disappointed that we could not reach the top, but we were safe, and best of all, I had a tremendous view of the Matterhorn.”

Lily Hwang
Program: Arts and Business, French and Speech Communications
Ontario / Rhône-Alpes

Eating chicken fetuses with new friends.

Charlotte Chan

"The second time I couch surfed was in Manila, Philippines. I was travelling with two of my friends, whom I met on exchange. I had contacted a popular host in Manila, named Wero. We had no idea what we would expect. One night, we did the "Balut Challenge." It’s where you eat a boiled egg that has a 16 week old chicken fetus inside it. It’s considered a delicacy in the Philippines and all three of us completed the challenge. It was hilarious, yet not the most tasty. It was incredible travelling with Wero and his roommates. They welcomed us with open arms, despite not knowing anything about us. We bonded over our stories, and our differences.”

Charlotte Chan
Program: Systems Design Engineering
National University of Singapore

Picking up a canine tour guide in a Grecian costal village.

Deanna Ritchie

"My unbelievable experience happened during Easter break when my friend and I travelled from Germany to Lindos, Greece. In Lindos, there is an ancient acropolis that hovers above the city on the ocean cliff-side. As my friend and I started our climb to the top of the acropolis, we gained a third member, a dog. This dog didn't just follow us, he decided to lead us to the top of the acropolis. Our canine tour guide amazed us when he snuck his way past the acropolis security and joined us for the breathtaking view at the top. As the day came to a close we headed to the bus station, and of course the dog joined us. It was heartbreaking to leave him sitting in the grass, head tilted to the side as if to say "why are you leaving already". I don't know whose dog he was, but he made our visit to Lindos absolutely magical.”

Deanna Ritchie
Program: Global Business and Digital Arts
Mannheim University

Joining the Pride Parade and making local news!

Krystina Wilton

“I was travelling around Amsterdam and found a bus that was leaving to Brussels for ONE Euro. I booked a seat and was on my way. When I arrived I discovered that the pride parade was happening. I got a flag and joined the parade. I marched with dozens of LGBT supporters and ended up on the Belgian news!”

Krystina Wilton
Program: Honours Arts and Business, Speech Communications
Lund University

Becoming a pro soccer player for the day.

Maggie MacDonald

“I had the opportunity to be a part of the opening of Manchester City’s new Academy Stadium in England where Lionel Messi had been practicing weeks earlier. I was playing as part of the University of Leeds Varsity Soccer Team, and we were invited by the University of Manchester to a friendly game. The teams who played were treated just like professional players. There was security at the field, we were announced walking onto the pitch, and entered the stadium through the players’ entrance and tunnel. We had the opportunity to tour the new facilities and access parts of the area that are closed to the public. As a soccer fan this was the most amazing experience I could have ever asked for.”

Maggie MacDonald
Program: Joint Honours Legal Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies
University of Leeds

Ripping your pants at a sacred temple.

Sravanthi Dornadula

“Among all the sights and sounds of South East Asia one particular incident is ingrained in my mind. My friend and I went to an unnamed Chinese shrine close to the famous Wat Pho temple. Just as I was about to leave, I decided to donate some money. As I bent down, I hear a sharp sound. My poofy pants that I painstakingly bargained down the night before ripped – right in the middle of the temple. As soon as I was able to snap out of the rush of emotions, I was able to quickly grab the scarf I had in my backpack and tie it around my waist. My already eclectic outfit was taken up a notch. And thus I set out in my outfit (made up of a friend’s shirt and cheap slippers - an outcome of horrible planning) to explore Bangkok.”

Sravanthi Dornadula
Program: Global Business and Digital Arts
Host Institution: Nanyang Technological University

Which one of these stories was your favourite? Or, have you had your own unbelievable experience while abroad? Share them in the comments below.

If you’re interested in learning more about study abroad opportunities talk to one of the Global Learning Coordinators by emailing studyabroad@uwaterloo.ca

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