by Nerea Hernández
Here at VGC we have helped thousands of students to reach their English language goals. Our students come from a variety of different countries and have diverse backgrounds. We are excited to share some of their stories on the VGC Blog.
Nerea is 21 years old and originally comes from Spain. She was a VGC student in February and March 2017 after winning a scholarship to study at VGC by her agent. She’s back in Spain now and wrote a report about her amazing time in Canada, her best memories and what she loved most about being here.
It’s said that “home is where your heart is”, and it must be totally true, cause I’ve spent my whole life living in the same city and since I came back I feel that my heart is divided.
I really love summer… and who doesn’t, actually? Beaches, friends, vacation, getting up late… and of course it’s even better if your summer lasts till the end of September. I still remember waking up so early in the morning for no reason a day of last September, and as I couldn’t sleep, I just took my phone and checked my Facebook… and there I found suddenly a very attractive announcement from a page called “ESVAN”: “Would you like to win a grant to study English in Canada for 4 weeks?” Of course I wanted to!!! It only took me a few minutes to read about the rules of the contest which had started some days ago. Then, I only had to write why I would like to travel to Canada to start participating, but it wasn’t an easy task at all. I spent some hours thinking about something appropriate, witty and brief that would adjust perfectly to what they were asking us to write, and once I was finally ready, I sent it and started participating and telling all my friends about it so that they voted me. Little by little my votes increased till I found myself in the first positions, but always considerably below some participants whose votes almost triplicated mines. That’s partly why, at some point, I even forgot to keep reminding my friends of voting me… after all, which was the probability of winning?
However, the answer to that question arrived two months later with a phone call when I was at university. I still remember how my legs shook after I heard “Congratulations, Nerea, you’ve won the grant from ESVAN!”. Many were the questions that came to my mind at that moment: is this actually true or just a fraud? Am I really going to spend 4 weeks studying English in Canada with practically all expenses paid? But then, once again, time confirmed everything. As weeks passed by and the travel preparations were getting ready, I was looking more and more forward to start living that experience. Canada was waiting for me!!
Without noticing it, like that, the week before leaving arrived with lost of documents to fill in, millions of things to put in my bag and above all many different feelings in my body (nerves, among others!) as well as some questions in mind: would I really be able to speak in English all the time? Would I have jet lag? Would the school where I was going to study be boring? Would I like the city? How would my accommodation and flat mates be? Would I make friends in just one month? And many other questions like these ones. I didn’t know what to expect at that moment, but for sure if there’s something I didn’t expect at all was the fact of asking before starting writing this: “Do I have a limit of space? Cause I’ll exceed it for sure!”. Vancouver… Who could have imagined it? Before leaving my city I didn’t even know how to situate it in a map and after a month I can reproduce tons of streets, places and experiences in my mind just closing my eyes.
It all started with what has actually been the longest trip of my life. From Malaga to Paris and from Paris to Vancouver plus a more than important time change (9 hours isn’t picnic precisely). So, the answer to the first question came soon: yes, the jet lag was totally real. For some reason I still don’t understand, every single night, be it soon or late when I went to bed, I woke up at 3:34 am! Crazy, right? After that I only got to sleep 2 or 3 more hours, so I always ended up getting up at 6 am or so. But do you know what? I had never before had the feeling of not really minding being awake that many hours every day. It was absolutely worth it.
I was told before leaving to take an umbrella cause I would need it in Vancity. Well, actually whoever told me that was right once again, but I was carrying so many things when I arrived that I would have needed an extra hand to open an umbrella. So there was I, walking in a rainy day around Vancouver looking for my student housing. And suddenly, after walking for a while, I stood in front of a tall building named “Viva Tower”. My first impulse was to keep walking after thinking “Yeah, that can definitely not be my student housing!”. It was incredibly tall and decorated with blue tiles that shined even in rainy days. So after a warm welcome by the receptionist, I could answer to the second question: there aren’t good things enough to say about my student housing and my flat mates. Talking again about probabilities… which was the probability that my roommate was born the same day, month and year as me? I don’t even know it, but it’s simply amazing, and it was actually the trigger of a beautiful friendship.
It was precisely her who accompanied me to VGC my very first day. I was a bit nervous, to be honest, feeling like the typical student who arrives to a new high school where all of the students already have their group of friends. However, it comforted me to see that I wasn’t the only student in that situation, but that there were many others like me. Even with all of that, my first day at VGC also served to answer to another question: it wasn’t only all the opposite of being boring, but it only made you want more and more. And that was only the beginning: the best was yet to come.
What to say about VGC? Starting by its classes and then moving on to its numerous and varied daily activities to enjoy after classes, which by the way were awesome. Again, as well as what happens with my student housing and flat mates, all the good things I could say about VGC, its students and staff are not enough to express how wonderful it is. Before my arrival, I had already read it in some comments of old students from VGC, but still, I reiterate what they said: “VGC is much more than a school; it’s a huge and true family”. And that’s it: there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t woken up wanting to go to class (except for those typical days when you just oversleep, which actually happens to everyone sometimes…), cause more than a school it seemed to be a friend’s reunion where you learnt and practiced English. I’ve only been there for a month and I really feel I’ve improved a lot my English. Of course it isn’t perfect, but I feel I’ve overcome one of my fears related to languages: insecurity. I arrived to VGC saying that I wanted to speak a lot of English cause I felt really insecure when expressing myself in this language. And as I’ve said, thanks to my teachers and friends I’ve overcome it successfully, since you see that people trust you and that they don’t only tell you what you’ve done wrong, but also what you’ve done right, and that helps you to keep improving and excelling yourself. Then, honestly, I couldn’t be more thankful talking about the academic aspect of this experience.
And if I say wonderful things about the academic aspect, I don’t even know how to describe the rest of the aspects that have made of this month one of the best times of my life. Vancouver, famous city for being the filming set of many movies and series. I even had the chance to see Kate Winslet on my first day there! (And let me say that I was so impressed to see her that I didn’t even have the wisecrack, as many friends have told me, of asking her why she didn’t let Jack get on that wood board in Titanic). But that’s not the only cool thing about Vancouver, of course. After a month in this small but at the same time big city, I’ll always remember it for being so different to mine, with all those parks, beaches and skyscrapers that create a symphony of lights by nightfall, its always full of life and wide streets… One of the things I love the most when I travel is exploring new places in every city I step on, and that’s precisely what my first week in Vancouver consisted of, making me feel small in this immense world as well as incredibly lucky, cause it’s truly been a privilege having Hornby St Dock and English Bay just 10 mins from “home”. That allowed me to improvise plans at any time of the day and just go for a walk, be it alone or accompanied, like these ones, which have been some of my favorite moments of this month.
Then, Gastown, which is the most ancient and known district (and very beautiful, by the way) in Vancouver doesn’t lag behind. It only took me a few hours of my first Saturday there to fall in love with that hodgepodge of streets that suddenly let you appreciate a beautiful view to the hundreds of skyscrapers or to the mountains: simply amazing.
Keeping on with the theme of landscaping dream, Manning Park was without a doubt the highlight of my second week, not only because of the landscape, which although amazing I dare say it was the least of it, but thanks to the fact of living together with hundreds of students and making friends. All the teachers and students weren’t wrong at all when recommending me to go, telling me that the trip was absolutely worth it. After all, who wouldn’t want to spend, if possible, a whole weekend with no internet or line on their phones, in a 3-floor-cabin in the mountains with hundreds of students and teachers where we just dance, drink, play and do pranks, go skiing or snowboarding and have the opportunity to talk with people from many different places by the warmth of a bonfire? Sounds great, right?
And these were but my first two weeks in Vancouver, when I hadn’t already realized 100% that I was really there… it felt like a dream. Knowing all this, you can imagine then what I will say about my last two weeks there. If I had to define them with only one word, it would be “intense”. If I try to think back, I can’t actually remember a single day of those 14 in which I slept more than 4 or 5 hours at night. However, as I’ve said before, the fun was such that you not only didn’t notice the tiredness, but you wanted more and more. Not even the rain was an impediment for the many plans we made those two weeks, from activities after class like trying hockey or an Improv Comedy to Conversation Pubs, Beer and Wings, beers and laughs at Malone’s, hours and hours singing and dancing at the Blarney Stone on Saint Patrick’s Day, a visit to the Police Museum, a bike ride round Stanley Park enjoying a sunny and beautiful Vancouver, some parties, never-ending walks and talks till late at night during which time flew, and all that with tons of pizza and food from whichever part of the world.
And that way, little by little and not wanting to realize it, the day of my graduation at VGC arrived: a day that marked not only the end of my time at school, but also of my time in Vancouver.
As I’ve said at the beginning, “home is where your heart is”, and now a big part of my heart has remained on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, divided into VGC, the streets of which I consider now my city too, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Brasil, Italy and Canada. If I had to choose the best thing of this awesome month I’ve spent there, it would be without a doubt the family I’m now part of and without which this experience wouldn’t have been the same at all.
After all this, and although I could keep writing plenty of things about this fantastic month, the last thing I’d like to do is thank ESVAN International and VGC International College for all the kindness, determination and dedication they’ve put to make of this experience something unforgettable, and above all for giving me the chance to live this adventure, something that would have never been possible otherwise.
As you can see, along this month I’ve finally answered to all of the questions I had before leaving as well as achieving what I wrote to win the contest in a way that has really overcome my expectations:
Cultura (culture): ✓
Aprendizaje (learning): ✓
Nuevas experiencias (new experiences): ✓
Amistad (friendship): ✓
Diversión (fun): ✓
Ahora o nunca (now or never): ✓
Six letters, a unique opportunity: I wasn’t wrong at all. Vancouver, this is not a “farewell”, but a “see you soon”, cause (and I repeat for the third time) “home is where your heart is”, and in only 30 days you really deserve a big part of mine.
And one last thing I assure you: if after reading this you don’t feel like coming and living this experience it’s truly because you don’t want to go out and live, cause I promise you that once there, you’ll never want to go back home.
See you soon!
Nerea Hernández. ☺