The Big Wide Scary World

Peter H. Roe - Director of Exchange Programs
Posted on: January 20, 2010

By the time they reach the age of 18, most Canadians have never been outside Canada, except possibly on short trips for shopping or on a holiday with their parents to the United States. A majority has never left their home province, while many urban dwellers have barely been outside their home city. To these people, the rest of the world is a great big unknown, fraught with danger – full of wars, tsunamis, earthquakes, pirates, etc.

However, almost every engineering student at Waterloo is an exception to the above. Not many call Waterloo their home town, so most have at least ventured forth to a new environment, even if it’s just a car trip away. But still, for most engineering students here, coming to Waterloo was the first time they left home for any lengthy period.

So, you’re out in the world, and it’s not that big of a deal. It hasn’t turned out to be tough. It’s great to be independent. Maybe it’s time to think about the big wide scary world out there, where you can’t get the Toronto traffic on your radio or TV.

Is the world really that scary? If you watch the news on CTV or CBC, or even CNN or BBC World, you will have heard of all sorts of disasters and calamities around the world – floods in Australia and a major armed robbery in France for example. That’s just the nature of news reporting. The local news never tells you about the cars that didn’t skid off the road or the highways where there wasn’t a whiteout. Most of the world is full of ordinary, friendly people going about their business on a simple day-to-day basis. There were no floods in Queensland, where UW has exchange programs, even if a small part of New South Wales was under water. Yes, gangsters had a shootout with police and stole about $6 million, near Marseilles, but the rest of France and Europe were pretty peaceful. It’s like this everywhere – when there’s a flood in Winnipeg or a gang confrontation in Montreal, life goes on normally in Waterloo or Toronto. So maybe the world is big and wide, but not so scary after all.

How about getting to know how people in other continents and countries live and learn? As an engineering undergraduate student you have world-wide opportunities to live and study abroad. The Faculty has exchange arrangements with over 60 Engineering schools in about two dozen countries. Why not plan ahead and spend 3A or 3B or both on exchange and become familiar with the big, wide, and not-so-scary world out there? It will broaden your perspective and prepare you better for your post-university career. Visit the Engineering Exchange Opportunities website www.eng.uwaterloo.ca/~exchange for details. The earlier you start the process the better.