By Meredith Theus
In applying for, preparing for, and completing my LOREX exchange at the University of Montreal, I had many expectations of what it would be like to be a visiting research student at a new university in a new place with a new language and a new culture (both in and out of the lab). Now that I have finished my exchange and have begun reflecting on the experience, I have realized that my experience did not necessarily match my expectations but was still good and successful.
The lab that I am a part of has hosted a couple international PhD students, so I had some level of expectation of what a visiting student experience may be like, though the visiting students in my lab had different experiences from one another. I expected helping with field work, getting some guidance/advice from the host PI, and being part of the department social scene. Although I did get to interact with the lab group to some extent and had the opportunity to join in the field while on my exchange, I think that the big standouts of my experience was the amount of skill/knowledge I gained and the guidance I received from my host PI and other researchers I got to meet. This will especially be helpful for my upcoming research projects.
The skills, advice, and connections that I made while abroad are invaluable to my PhD and career beyond. And the ability to experience a new culture and new place like Montreal has made me a better and more experienced person.
In talking to other LOREX students (even those that visited the same country or institution), it seems like everyone had different experiences and sees different benefits from their exchanges. I am very grateful for the opportunity and delighted that my experiences were different from my expectations in great ways! For those reasons, the advice I would give to future international students is to be willing to be flexible, adapt, and to be comfortable with being somewhat uncomfortable. In the end, it was these skills that helped me make the most of my experience!