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Lucy Mitchell

MMath, BSc Mathematics (International)

Where did you go during your study abroad year?
I studied at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Waterloo is a town about 2 hours away from Toronto and a similar distance from Niagara Falls and the US border.

What was the best thing about the year abroad?
One of my favourite aspects of my year abroad was the residence community. I lived in university halls, which were actually more like a village. Each house had 2 international students and 2 Canadians. The village community provided chances for me to experience cultural activities from all over the world including France, Germany and Switzerland to name a few. I was also fairly proud of my attempts to learn some Swedish phrases although I think I can now only remember ‘I love you’!  

Are there any attractions or places of interest in Ontario that you would recommend?
The Kitchener Rangers Ice hockey team is definitely worth a trip. It is the local hockey team but the size of the stadium and attendance to games is crazy. It is only $20 for a ticket but it’s as full as a premiership football game and the atmosphere is awesome. Also Toronto and Niagara are definite must-sees as well as the local village of St Jacobs and the farmers market there. If you are into snow sports, the local ski slope Chicopee is well worth a trip and if you join the Waterloo snowboard coalition you get cheap lift passes. They also do trips to other ski/snowboarding places such as Mont Tremblant and Blue Mountain.

What skills did you gain?
Well superficially I learnt to ice skate and brushed up my skiing and snowboarding skills! More influentially, the work load in Canada made me revaluate my work style and I came home with a much more positive attitude towards my studies. I would also recommend the experience simply for the independence and confidence you will gain from living so far from your friends and family

How did the academic facilities in your host institution measure up to those at Leeds?
The University of Waterloo has a vast array of modules available including a number of advanced level modules which were a real test! I was able to take a number of modules which cannot be offered at Leeds simply due to the vast size of the Mathematics faculty at Waterloo compared to Leeds.  The rare Combinatorics and Optimization department was a real find for me as I discovered most of the areas of maths I enjoyed fell under this title. Possibly the biggest change for me was adjusting to the workload. With final exams worth as little as 30%, the use of midterms exams and the large proportion of ongoing assessment was a big difference from Leeds but (as I said above) it helped me develop a more consistent work style and would benefit many people who don’t like having final exams worth 100%

Would you recommend doing a year abroad?
On the whole I experienced a much more demanding style of work and worked a lot harder than I ever have in Leeds but I also played harder! My work effort was rewarded every time I got to visit a new place or experience a new aspect of Canadian Culture. I met a lot of new people and some lifelong friends, I checked at least 20 places off my bucket list and I experienced possibly the most commercialised natural wonder in the world, Niagara Falls! I would definitely recommend studying abroad to anyone.

Any tips or advice to give students thinking about doing it?
The first thing I’d say is you don’t need to decide for sure until 2nd year. My best advice is to really consider your decision and make sure you are making the right choice for you. It is a big commitment, financially and academically but it can also be the best year of your life. Do your research and really prepare so you know what to expect.  Once you are actually abroad my only advice is to be really open to new experiences and take every opportunity you are offered. It’s the best way to ensure you get the most out of your year; you will be surprised how quick it can go!

Has it helped your current career in any way?
I have been accepted to do a PGCE in secondary mathematics next year. I know that in teaching mathematics I will have to draw from all my experiences of having been taught. In this way I’m very glad I did a year abroad as it has given me a great insight into alternative teaching methods and styles of work.