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Semester abroad experiences

Canada Experience – Summing it up

Moving abroad (Part 4/4)
Großes rostiges Gerüst in Natur mit sitzender Person darauf
Wassertropfen mit Spiegelbild einer Stadt mit fotografierender Person

Hello! In this final part of the article series 'My Canada Experience', I want to share some final thoughts about my overall journey and serve you with my personal advice if you are seeking something similar. Whether you are planning a semester abroad as a designer or if you want to emigrate to a different country, here are some tips for you.

Be prepared

You can't gloss over that. Leaving your friends and family behind is hard. Especially with 9 hours time difference, where you only have a short time frame for a direct call, it can be challenging to keep good contact. Nevertheless, this fact helped me filter out the people I genuinely care about, and I learned to value and enjoy the time we spend together even more. Now, I literally make time for in-depth conversations with good friends. And sometimes being limited and just being able to talk over video call services and share stories is what makes it so reasonable.

Leaving your friends and family behind is hard

Be present

Keep in touch with home, but don't overdo it. While social media enables you to feel closer to your friends and virtually meet other people, it can also keep you from your physical environment. If you move somewhere else, you depend on the locals, and people generally love to help people. Without meeting others face-to-face, you could easily get lost, allowing you to shut yourself down and ending up wasting your efforts if you think you can manage everything by yourself. Don't be embarrassed to ask stupid questions. Explain where you're coming from and what you are used to. The exchange of cultural differences is what they will enjoy. So do yourself a favor and practice digital fasting for a while, cut yourself off from social media and search for real human interactions – offline. Make new friends, and adapt your language to the local slang. People will recognize and appreciate it.

cut yourself off from social media

Remain open

Especially at the beginning, you tend to compare your two 'homes'. I often caught myself complaining about things that I was so used to in my home country that appeared so seamlessly in my life that I didn't even recognize them. You might start to miss things and reject the new because you compare both environments too much. That's very natural. And once you started, it is easy to go down that rabbit hole and let the negative take over and get frustrated about all nitty-gritty things. Almost everyone I met, including me, showed this kind of reaction at some point. So do your best to stay open-minded and embrace the things you don't have at home. Be vigilant and pay attention to things that have changed for the better.

stay open-minded

Be patient

...especially with yourself. It took me a good year to settle, find my places and new routines. So, be patient and give yourself time to work out your new way of living and doing things. Adopt a growth mindset and stay curious about your journey. Don't lay out your path from the beginning, stay flexible, don't reject and say 'yes' to many things, and explore so that you can make as many new different experiences as possible.

stay flexible

Do your research

Different countries have different visa regulations. In some, you may be able to stay only six months in total with processing times of more than a year. Others, you may enter effortlessly as a tourist and be able to extend your stay multiple times. Search online for the steps you have to follow to get a valid work permit. Sometimes there are numerous options. You can choose a more risky journey, do it my way - move without a job and try your luck on-site, or directly apply for an open position from home. Bigger organizations sometimes help you with sponsorships so that you can get a visa faster. You can ask them in advance or just mention that in your application. Besides work permits, it is also helpful to get to know the industry. In your research, look for various sectors, job openings, and read through the about page of agencies or organizations. Furthermore, you can look for social events to find out about the design community or connect with local designers on design platforms.

Know yourself as a designer

Something I have never thought it's that significant is to know your design philosophy and approach. Communicate it so that people - especially non-designers - understand what you do and how you do it. Don't expect what is your common understanding in Europe to be widely spread amongst the places you choose to go to. There are so many types of designers out there. It is essential to get more sensitive to differences to position yourself and point out your needs and unique qualities. Researching design philosophies in your guest country can help as a starting point.

HfG graduates tend to be more design generalists than specialists. They generally have numerous different qualities and a broader understanding of design. Unfortunately, having too many options can be as restricting as having few choices, making it harder to choose a direction. And on the other hand, many employers also don't know how to utilize design generalists. Rather than dabbling in many roles at once, I suggest testing things out separately first. Talk to other designers before deciding to commit to something so that you know whether or not an option suits your background, personality, and lifestyle. Just be very open about it, and don't be afraid to initially restrict yourself. Choosing one professional specialization doesn't mean you're forever stuck in that niche and that you can't do anything else.

having too many options can be as restricting as having few choices

Conclusion

I was able to learn a lot, not only in terms of my career, but also simply about living outside of Germany: About the people and culture of Canada, the indescribably beautiful landscapes, what it really means to emigrate – how hard it can be, and how incredibly worth it all is. There have been highs and lows and some plateaus. It is enriching to let other cultures and people in your life and seeing yourself grow and master challenges completely independent.

Emigrating helped me pay more attention to myself, my wants and needs, and honestly determine what matters to me. Besides, it also helped me position myself as a designer, find my place in the industry, and get a better sense of my value – not only nationally but globally. Having that insight, I feel that I grew so much and gained a whole lot more confidence in what I am doing. I am very excited for what's ahead.

how hard it can be, and how incredibly worth it all is

Ich bin Lea Schwegler

Lea Schwegler

Name: Lea Schwegler

Alter: 28

Wohnort: Vancouver BC

Beruf: Design & Strategy Consultant, Freelance Art Director

Hauptcharakterzug: neugierig

Lieblingsschrift: Neue Haas Grotesk

Lieblingsfarbe: orange

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