I am going to Wales!!!

September 2011 I began attending Camosun College, in the city I have lived my entire life, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Previous year to that, I was at Belmont Secondary, not graduating, but just taking enough (English 12) to get into Camosun and take Humanities courses. And 2 AP courses, which I got good enough grades on the exam, so I got 12 Camosun credits (4 classes) without ever being on campus. But I digress.

September comes and I am enrolled in 4 classes, and yes really liking them. And while waiting for my sister to finish her class so that she could drive me home, I would be in the library not doing homework but looking up various ways to get to Europe. I considered being an Au Pair and/or SWAP for a couple months, me thinking that as soon as my first year was over that I would get on a plane and go. But, it did not seem like the best plan, and it never went farther than just looking at various websites. My plan at that point was, for at least a little while, spend a year at Camosun, then do a year at the University of Victoria, do an exchange through them, then finish my last year back at UVic. Way back in highschool I had considered doing an exchange through Camosun, but discounted the thought after seeing the…calibre of schools UVic does exchanges with, and then Camosun. This was after a very quick overview of the Camosun schools, and in no way do I want to disparage them. I just mean,  going from the UVic to the University of Exeter (ranked in the top 10 universities in England, I think) to a tiny university in Wales, at a glance did not seem the most exciting. That was months and months ago, before I really researched the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

In December, 2011, I went to the international office at Camosun just to ask one question: “do I qualify for an exchange?” And the answer was YES, so then I began to seriously think about going to Europe through them. They have reciprocal programs with several universities and colleges all over the world, but I was only interested in Europe. In Europe, they are mostly business or language school, but Wales was always my first choice. Well, I mean when I first looked at Camosun site over 2 years ago, I thought “Oooh, Wales would be cool!” and that was it. In December, I was actually thinking about going to the Czech Republic, though I found out in January that the exchange with Camosun was no longer happening. Oh well, when I actually thought about going to the Czech Republic, it was very exciting, but also quite a bit of anxious fear. So, I looked more into Wales, that wonderful country where they speak with an entertaining accent, but it also shoved to the side for the more well-known places of England and Scotland. When people speak of the UK, Wales is not the first place people think of, though it is for me now…

The application deadline was the end of March, and all that was needed was a resume, 2 references, a couple of pictures, and a cover letter. And the application form filled out of course. I actually got 3 references, one from Dr. Keith Martin, someone I have known since I was a baby, and 2 teachers, my Philosophy teacher and my History teacher.  So thank you to them for giving me – I imagine – good nice references. This application process was done all the while I was stressing about school, doing actual schoolwork like writing papers and studying for tests, though that is what I have always done in school, while in the moment, I always thought about next year.  Once it was handed in though, nothing that I could do about it. Just sit and wait to hear back.

Oh, but of course I would not just do that, instead of doing important things like homework, I would browse the internet about exchanges and stuff. One of these occasions I went back to the Camosun main website and saw that there was a scholarship that I could apply for, as it was specifically for an exchange. This was mid April. The deadline was the last day of April. The last day of the semester was mid May, with 3 final exams. Yes that was a stressful week. I needed new references, and a new cover letter, and a personal statement as well. And official transcripts. I thought that I was done with filling-out-forms stress! So I asked Keith to write me another reference, though he couldn’t as it was really short notice (I think only 5 days) and he was not even in the city. But I got someone else that I have known pretty much forever to write one, also a politician, Lillian Szpak, to write a very glowing review of me, to which I say thank you. I also asked my History teacher for another reference, which she gave to me so quickly, so thank you again.

But before that there was the cover letter and personal statement to do, which I got my parents and older sister to read and edit and re-edit and re-re edit, staying up really late to get it just right. Evidently though my sister did a good job of making me sound good, as shortly after I handed in my application I received an email notification from the Camosun International office that I had been awarded a $1000 scholarship. A very happy announcement. Actually, I did not even find out by email. Camosun is really close to a good, cheap Japanese takeout ‘restaurant’ supermarket place, and all year I had been thinking of taking the bus and going. But I never did, though as it was near to end of the year, almost May, I figured I should just go. While I was there, picking out my sushi, I saw one of the people from the International office, who I had initially seen in December but had not really dealt with since. I saw him, and he congratulated me on getting the $1000, and I did not know what he was talking about. I was hoping that he had the right person. But I also asked him if he had forwarded my application to the head office of this scholarship, as Camosun was in charge of 5 $1000 scholarships, and then for more money it had to be sent directly to the Victoria Foundation. I asked if I should send more official transcripts, as the second semester was almost over and I should have them soon. He said no, but also that he might not have sent it off to them, so he would check when he got back to the office. Now I don’t know if he really had not sent it before, but I think if he hadn’t, that it is very fortunate that I ran into him, not at Camosun but at a sushi place, at that exact time. Because, a month after that encounter, I got a very good letter through the mail.

I had just returned home from my first day of work at a new job, so I was a bit tired and my feet hurt. I went into my room, and saw this envelope on my desk. My first thought was “Oh yay, Wales has accepted me!” But it did not come from Wales, rather from the Irving K Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society in Partnership with the Victoria Foundation. I though it was maybe that $1000, but as I read the letter it said that they give $10,000 scholarships, and I had been selected as a recpient of one of these Premier International Scholarships! Seriously, a letter addressed to me, was saying that I was going to get $10,000. All that I had to do was tick a box saying “accept” (there was also a “decline” option) and send in the form before the end of May. Now I could have sent it in by post, but the Victoria Foundation office is conveniently located in Victoria, so I went and handed it in by hand. That is not a very important piece of information, but lets be detailed! Soon thereafter I got my check, and found out I was one of 22 all accross BC to recieve this scholarship http://www.victoriafoundation.bc.ca/news/22-post-secondary-students-receive-premiers-scholarships-study-abroad

And, just June 8th, I got an email from Camosun saying that the University of Wales Trinity Saint David had accepted me. I have yet to see this letter of confirmation, but just knowing that it exists is enough for me to begin this blog, writing about the stress and excitement about leaving. I have looked up many other blogs about study abroad, however none of them have really spoken about Wales, or a town as tiny as Lampeter, where I am going. If they do speak about the UK, it is usually England or Scotland, so I hope to write much about Wales, when I do finally get there. I have never been, though as future blog posts will show, I have been to Europe, and hope to see much more of it. But first, I shall try enjoy the summer! (indoors, writing blogs and tweeting. I sunburn quite easily, so Wales is really a perfect fit:)