Waites: Embracing life ‘outside of our comfort zone’

Special to Western News

Studying in Australia did include petting kangaroos and surfing at gorgeous beaches. Surprisingly, however, those are not the highlights. As I reflect on my time at Bond University, I appreciate the diverse learning experience I had and the ways it challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone.

Last semester, I had the privilege of going on exchange to study at Bond on the Gold Coast of Australia. It was a beautiful university that embodied Australia’s amiable culture. I know I am not the first student to say it, but my exchange was an incredible experience and it left me with a new perspective.

I am a third-year Faculty of Information Media Studies student currently working toward an honours specialization in Media and the Public Interest, and a minor in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction. Being in a fairly specialized program often means there are common values and mindsets between students; we are in the same program because we think in similar ways. My classes at Western have always been very open environments, where my peers and professors support and contribute to my ideas.

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At Bond, I was a part of a very diverse student population, as international students make up a large portion of the university. My classes were comprised of students from various fields of study who were from Australia, Germany, China, the United States and Switzerland. Classes were filled with diverse students who challenged my largely Canadian perspective, offering different views from around the world. It was a chance to engage in a sort of collective learning, free from the confines of textbooks. Learning did not solely come from the content the professor was teaching, but also from what everyone else had to say about it. In one class, we got into a particularly heated discussion about gun laws, as each student proudly defended the policies their home country enforces. I was completely immersed in these discussions and gained insights into the realities of life around the world.

I think the most evocative learning occurs when we step outside of our comfort zone, whether it is going to a different university, taking a new course or striking up conversation with someone new. My exchange challenged me to dive into difference and be uncomfortable. I was in a new environment with people whose experience and values differed greatly from my own, and it was awesome.

I have so much appreciation for the Jack and Sharon Cowin Scholars Award program, which allowed me this opportunity. My time at Bond will be a constant reminder to step outside my comfort zone and learn from the people around me.

I am now back home at Western, settling into life in a colder climate, and feeling very grateful for my experience. I could never love a school more than Western, but Bond got pretty close.

Kara Waites is a third-year Faculty of Information Media Studies student currently working toward an honours specialization in Media and the Public Interest, and a minor in Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction