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My Exchange Experience

3L Nicole Zavalkovsky dishes on her unforgettable exchange experience.

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I’d be lying if I said that this whole exchange thing was something that I was actually considering before approximately one hour before the application was due. I had friends ask me if I was thinking of going on exchange, and I had roughly 100 reasons to say no; For one, I was already putting my significant other through two years of 3-hour drives to and from Kingston. Was it really fair to upgrade that 3-hour drive to an 8-hour flight? I was also concerned about courses. How can I go on exchange when I have so many QL courses that I still need to take? All I could think about was how to pass the bar and survive articling, and what courses could help me get there. Finally, as someone who is super attached to my family (stage-5 clinger status), I could not imagine living in a different country for 4 months. I was in full-blown panic mode (as I usually am), and doing an exchange was at the very bottom of my list of priorities.

Even though I had so many reasons to say no, for some strange reason, at the very last-minute, I had a sudden urge to apply. I was not convinced that it was the best option for me, but all of my friends were applying, so I basically copied them, even though this is basically the first lesson your parents teach you NOT to do when you start making friends. Don’t get me wrong – I love to travel and saw a lot of value in an exchange program, I just wasn’t sure that I was ready for it myself.

I remember sitting in class and receiving an e-mail which stated that I had actually been accepted on exchange in my favourite city in the whole world – Barcelona. It was at that very moment that everything started to fall into place. I flew to Spain in September, and would spend a semester away from friends, family, and the cozy little world that is Queen’s Law.

Fast-forward four months and I am officially one of those people who runs around telling every single 2L I see to go on exchange if they can. The reason for this is simple: it was honestly one of the best decisions I ever made. For those four months, I was truly able to completely disconnect from everything and live a little. I traveled to different European cities almost every weekend. Yes, my wallet suffered a tiny bit (a lot) but to me, it was totally worth it. The fact that I would never have the opportunity to just drop my life in Toronto and live in Europe for a few months ever again was definitely what pushed me the hardest to get up and go. Once articling begins, getting even a single day off will be a blessing, so I wanted to get as much traveling in while I still could.

In addition to being a totally unique adventure, being away allowed me to remove myself from the aforementioned “Planet QL”. Don’t get me wrong, I do love our school and the people who go to it, but sometimes all of the talk about grades, jobs, and exams can get exhausting. In Spain, they operate a little differently, summed up on one word: Siesta! The Spanish take their siestas very seriously. Even the public libraries are closed between 2pm and 4pm daily (which was rather frustrating during exam season). This relaxed attitude was definitely further reflected in my academic experience. There was no curve and no competition. I was able to learn about the law from an entirely new perspective, but there was no pressure to master it. I cannot emphasize enough how refreshing and completely necessary that was for me.

All in all, if you are trying to decide whether or not to go…just go. If I had let the 459535 doubts get in my way, I would have never experienced the incredible things that I did. The funny thing is, everything and everyone will be waiting for you when you get back. The learning commons will still be here, all of your law pals will still be here, and don’t worry, the smokers will still be here too.

Below you’ll find a few photos from some of my favourite travel destinations. Just think, this could be you!!!

Cheering on FC Barcelona at Camp Nou

Cheering on FC Barcelona at Camp Nou

Enjoying Germany's best export at Oktoberfest in Munich

Enjoying Germany’s greatest export at Oktoberfest in Munich

The picturesque town of Hallstat, AustriaThe picturesque town of Hallstat, Austria

The gorgeous Comino Island in MaltaThe beautiful island of Comina in Malta

Finally, soaking up the sun in Nice, FranceFinally, soaking up the sun in Nice, France

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