I have the enormous pleasure to announce that I have been accepted to study at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada next semester! [Cue riotous applause, loud cheering, and bursting confetti cannons in my head...ok, maybe not].
Wow, this is a HUGE one to cross off my list, and to be honest, it was a goal that I didn’t think would ever come into fruition. When I first started toying with the idea back in 2009/2010, I was happily married, had just purchased a house, and was preparing to start my first year of university. I had discussed the possibility of going on exchange with my then-husband, and his response had been, “You should do it”; however, he did not want to go with me, so the dream fell to the wayside, as I could not (as a good wife) ever imagine going overseas to study for 4-6 months on my own. My, how things can change in 2 years….
Last month I wrote about the massive realisation I had about following my dreams, not someone else’s, which culminated in my voluntary withdrawal from the Honours Program. This was the catalyst for my nerve-wracking and mind-blowing decision to apply for the International Exchange Program and to travel to the other side of the world to study for a semester. I realised that this was my last chance to do so, as I can not go on exchange in my last year of study due to prac requirements, and the final date for submissions was soon…as in, that week. So with no money, no plan, no idea what I was doing, and spurred on by an incredibly forceful gut instinct that this was what I had to do, I filled out the paperwork and applied.
Even after that process was completed, I was beseiged by a variety of ‘blockers’: a lack of course details and communication from the host university; an un-willingness on my behalf to graduate 6 months later than intended (as is the norm for exchange students due to insufficient course credits); a lack of funds (that’s putting it mildly); and visits from my good old companions Anxiety and Depression (yup, they spent quite a bit of time trying to convince me that I couldn’t so this – that I was too weak, too scared, too responsible to run off like this). However, at every juncture, every time something popped up that screamed “NO!” at me, I simply stared it back down and shouted a resounding “YES!” right back (I’ll admit, I even stuck my tongue out and blew a raspberry a few times), then proceeded to find a solution to each problem. I hadn’t realised how badly I wanted this experience until I was faced with the possibility that it would not come true. It is amazing how one can overcome obstacles when faced with the prospect of never achieving a dream – it is a pretty intense motivator!
But eventually, I did find the solutions to each problem. I found a new (and much better) university in Canada that provided me with everything I needed, including the courses I had to take to gain credit for my degree; I negotiated my study plan with my Course Convenor at Griffith to allow me to complete all the courses needed to graduate next year as planned and without being penalised; and I won a $3,000 scholarship from Griffith to go with the $6,000 Overseas HECS Loan supplied by the Government (thanks, Jules). Basically, it was like the Universe conspired to make my dreams come true…literally! As for my old pals Anxiety and Depression, I still have visits from them now and again – I find myself caught in an intense state of fear, of overwhelming dread and insecurity – but I’m getting better at telling them where to go and am trying my best to ignore them. Every day I tell myself that I CAN do this, that I DESERVE this, that this is MY DREAM and I will follow it to the end.
I will be leaving for Canada in mid-August and will be staying there until the end of December, with a quick stop in the USA on either side (including a white Christmas with family friends in New Hampshire – stay tuned!), so that means I only have 3 weeks in between arriving home from my European adventure and jet setting off again to my new (albeit short-term) home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia – HECTIC!!! I have to find somewhere to live (hopefully on campus), find out about visa requirements, pay fees, book flights, and start figuring out what to pack. Oh, and I have to quit my job, move house, put my stuff into storage and send Muggy to live with my parents in Murwillumbah (I’ve told him he’s going on an exchange of his own, but I don’t think he’s too pleased with me for leaving him). But I know that all this craziness and running around will be worth it in the end – especially when I’m playing in the snow on my way to classes!
At the end of it all, I hope I will have gained more knowledge and a deeper understanding of who I am: as a person, as a student, as a teacher, as a friend, as an independent woman chasing her dreams and making them a reality. It will be quite a journey (and I’m scared as hell at times), but I know that this is exactly what I am supposed to do with my life right now. And really, that’s all I can do in this moment – chase those dreams, make them happen, live my life the way I think best…even if it means taking a risk. Even if it means moving to Canada!