My year abroad studying psychology in Canada

The option to study abroad is available to all University of Manchester Psychology students, something that makes the course appealing to many travel-crazy undergrads. Final year Psychology student, Salma Rana, spent her year abroad in Canada at a University that is surrounded by Lake Ontario. Here, she tells us how Queens University compares to the University of Manchester and why she’d recommend a year abroad to everyone…

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Leaving Manchester last year for a year of studying abroad at Queens University in Kingston, Canada was a daunting experience. Yes, I was excited about my upcoming journey, but I was equally hesitant.  I had so many “what if’s?” in my head, to the point where I was thinking of backing out in the weeks leading up to my departure. But now looking back, those worries are nothing compared to all the beautiful memories, lessons and friendships I gained. If I could go back, I would tell myself to stop worrying because the most important year of my life was about to begin.

The academic structure is very different at Queen’s University. Firstly, “electives” are encouraged there. When I arrived at Queen’s, I was only given two psychology modules for the semester. So, on top of these psychology modules I took some gender studies courses where I got the chance to understand history, politics and sociology in ways I hadn’t considered before. I was also given the chance chance to learn about the indigenous history of Canada, something that isn’t talked about enough. These ideas allowed to me think about my major, psychology, in a more inclusive context, opening my mind to knowledge that I may not have been exposed to if I had stuck to only psychology courses.


The workload was VERY intense. At Manchester for each module, I am given one piece of main coursework and one exam at the end, with both being weighted around the same. At Queens, there is coursework due in almost every week, with midterms, participation marks… and a final exam. This was stressful at the beginning of the year, but now I am actually very grateful for it. It meant that I have learnt and consolidated so much information as the semester goes on (not just around exam time), as I was assessed regularly.

I was also very much inspired by the lecturers. Something I loved about the experiences I had with my lecturers was that they made an effort to connect with us. I managed to collect so much wisdom passed on from the experiences of my lecturers. My psychology professor often turned segments of his lectures into motivations talks, where he talked about how important it is to be optimistic. He contextualised his own experiences, where he went from wanting to be an accountant, to becoming a cleaner, to becoming a Clinical Psychologist and a hockey coach. This reminded me that there isn’t just one linear road in life, you can take many twists and turns and end up being more content than you ever imagined.


One professor talked about how life circumstances left her financially independent during university, having to pay for tuition and living expenses by herself, but is now an insightful writer, a passionate activist, an inspiring teacher.  She made me want to stop feeling sorry for myself when things didn’t go to plan. Just being in her presence made me want to do more. I will always remember another professor coming up to me up at an MSA (Muslim Student Association) stall, and while not being Muslim herself, she told me that she was rooting for us. This led me to redefine my personal understanding of unity. My lab instructors taught me that patience is a bigger virtue than I had realised.

A huge part of my learning experience was spending time with other exchange students, from all over the world. I got to know and learn from students from Japan, China, Nepal, Australia… and more! I have been inspired by students such as Satsuki, who kept an “English” journal – whenever she learnt a new word during a conversation, she would write it down in her journal, researching it later, and then applying it in another conversation. There was also Juno, who worked hard day and night, reading everything she could about Renaissance art and Romanticism, dreaming of opening a history museum when she would return back to China. Then there’s Franziska, who was one of the rare people in her town to have left it, breaking the norm and stereotype there, that women are to stay at home.


While experiences like these were motivating, they also made me aware of some of my privileges that I have unknowingly taken for granted, especially in England.  It can be very easy to stay in a safe bubble in life, spending time with people like you, but it is definitely worthwhile to talk to people who are different to you (whether it is because they come from a culture that is different to yours… or just study a different course). We can’t live a hundred different lives, but we can learn from a hundred people who live a different life to ours.

For more posts from Salma, visit her blog –


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