Students gathered in front of statue

One hundred seventy-five days. Who knew your life could change so much in just 175 days?

My study abroad planning process started when I was 16. When I came to Ryerson, I deliberately lived at home and commuted over an hour every day just so I could save money to study abroad during my third year. Most importantly, I had the University of Surrey picked out as my #1 destination for years, and I would be asked all the time what the point of choosing a school 30 minutes away from London was when I could have just lived right in the city. I chose Surrey for many reasons, and if I’m being honest, it was the best decision I have ever made in my life.

For starters, I chose Surrey because it wasn’t directly in the city. Don’t get me wrong, London is absolutely incredible (it was only 30 minutes by train into the city and we would visit all the time) but the thought of going to another university in the heart of a big city was not what I wanted for my exchange experience. The University of Surrey is located in the small town of Guildford. It’s a town I am now proud to call my second home.

Gardens

The Guildford Castle spring gardens

Just think of your quintessential British town, with thousands of years of history, picturesque rolling hills, a quaint little river, cute shops lining the high street, and even a castle surrounded by gardens (which I have to say were the most beautiful I had seen during my six months in Europe). Life in Guildford is also quite a bit cheaper than life in London, which was definitely a plus considering the current state of the Canadian dollar.

The University of Surrey was great and was always filled with fun events on campus and tons of student residences, making it extremely easy to meet and hang out with all my friends. Did I also mention that Surrey has a four-week spring break?! Resulting in four weeks off of school used to travel around Europe. Just let that sink in…

Group at Buckingham

The Queen’s 90th Birthday parade at Buckingham Palace

Now fast forward to the end of June when everyone was forced say their goodbyes. There were 65 exchange students at Surrey during my semester abroad, with students visiting from countries all around the world. You would be surprised just how close you can get to people when 65 international students decide to pick up their life and settle down in a foreign country with foreign customs.

The friendships that were formed during my time abroad were like no other. We acted like a family. We stuck by each other through everything from the worst homesickness, to the adventures of getting lost in a foreign city, and to the numerous all-nighters spent laughing and watching the sunrise.

King Arthur

King Arthur’s round table in Winchester

If you couldn’t already tell, I found my time at the University of Surrey to be the greatest time of my life. My entire experience abroad opened me up to so many new things. It’s amazing just how much you can learn about yourself and about life in just 175 days.

Do I wish I had another 175 days at Surrey? Absolutely. I cannot wait until the day I am back in Guildford, sitting on the castle grounds and climbing the tallest hill in town to watch the sunset, reminiscing about my time spent there, and how my decision to study abroad (especially at the University of Surrey) was in fact the smartest and best decision of my life.

Interested in going on your own international exchange?

Visit the TRSM International Exchange website for more information and to find out when you can attend a program information session.

Posted by Erika Sgromo

Erika is in her 3rd year of Marketing Management and attended the University of Surrey in Guildford, England, in the Winter 2016 semester.