100 Days Down

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It’s the last week of term, Christmas decorations are everywhere and finals are looming, so I thought I’d reflect on my time so far – which has flown by. I can’t really believe that I’ve almost finished my first term (‘semester’) which means that I’m almost halfway through my year abroad. As I write this I’ve been away for exactly 100 days and I can’t really believe that either. There have definitely been days when I just want to sit in my room and not talk to anyone, but at the same time I’ve made fab memories and had amazing opportunities that I wouldn’t have had back home in Durham, which outweigh the bad times.

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Making fun memories (in typical British weather) in the summer

Hardest Moments

1. Saying goodbye to everyone/making new friends

For me this was in two parts, where I left my dad and stepmum (and everyone else) in the UK but had 10 days with my mum out here in Canada. Before I left we made sure I had good memories to leave with, which made it a bit easier. I really loved having my mum with me, because it meant that I could get used to money, terms, looking the wrong way when crossing the road etc. with someone before being thrown in to uni work. What this did mean though was it was pretty hard to let her

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Making New Friends

get on a plane and abandon me in this new country. I also had a bit of a rough time in the first couple of months when I’d go somewhere and remember being there with my mum and homesickness would hit me out of the blue. But each day gets easier and after a while you get used to only seeing everyone through a computer screen – and Facebook messenger filters make things extremely entertaining. And once you’ve got over saying goodbye you’re immediately thrown into a new environment where you’re also trying to make new friends – which for me has been ridiculously hard and it took me quite a long time before I felt comfortable, but again in time things get better and now I’m feeling happy and settled.

2. Getting used to a new school system

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Flat study session in the library (because we do actually work as well)

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ve both enjoyed and hated experiencing a new system. Here I only have 4 modules each semester (instead of 6 at Durham), but I have more hours and generally the workload is a bit more. I had to completely change my working style (which was not easy for me), and getting used to different referencing and essay styles was difficult, but again once you’ve settled into a routine and worked out how to make it work everything gets easier

3. Language barriers

This is clearly a bit of a joke, seeing as Calgary speaks English, but its complicated to hear a term or word and have no idea what it is to only be explained that its something completely different in the UK. And then comes the inevitable debate about which term or word makes more sense. This also happens within the internationals (Aussies I’m looking at you), and at times even with the other exchanges from the UK. I’m torn between being stubborn and sticking to what I normally say and changing to Canadian terms so that people don’t always ask what I’m on about when I’m talking to them (e.g. when I say I like someone’s jumper and they have no idea what I mean because a UK jumper is a sweater in Canada).

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Combing Canadian Thanksgiving with Australian Delicacies…

4. Adapting to Canadian style food

Obviously the worst part for me was when I ran out of Yorkshire tea and had to buy Orange Pekoe tea from the supermarket (this seems to be the Canadian equivalent of ‘English Breakfast’). The bread also tastes weird because it has sugar in it and there’s no brown pasta or Wensleydale cheese, which if you know me is a literal disaster. I’m a fussy eater so the first few weeks were pretty hit and miss. Especially

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Emergency Food Parcels

trying to find something to try and replace Wensleydale (which could never happen). Most food is more expensive here than in the UK, so in the first few weeks I had to change my eating habits and what I usually buy regularly. But it’s also strange because some things are much cheaper – just a small tip, don’t get the cheapest fish possible purely because it’s cheap – it probably won’t be very nice…

Best/Most Satisfying Moments

1. The First time you find you way to all your lectures on time without getting lost

This has been easier for me seeing as my Mondays, Wednesdays + Fridays and Tuesdays + Thursdays are exactly the same, but the feeling when you realise you know your way around campus (including short cuts, best ways to stay out of the cold etc.) is really satisfying, and for me was one of the first moments when I realised I was settled in and ready to stay for a year.

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After standing on 3 frozen lakes we needed to come up with interesting poses for our photos…

2. Going on trips with friends

A good thing about a year abroad is that, in a way, you can concentrate on the fun things and (slightly) less on the academic side (don’t completely ignore your classes…). This has meant that over the last 100 days I’ve gone on numerous weekends away and day trips to a wide range of places, some utterly ridiculous (e.g. back country camping halfway up a mountain in the snow) but all so much fun. I’ve walked on frozen lakes, seen elk up close (because we nearly ran over it…), climbed mountains, gone snowshoeing and gone skiing, along with other trips.

3. New Experiences

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Smiling at the top of our first proper run because we didn’t realise what a massive mistake we were making

There are so many things I can do out here that I’ve not been able to do back home. The obvious example is to do with snow, like snowshoeing, and skiing, which is something I’ve always wanted to do but never been able to, and I’ve now managed to struggle my way down a green run (which I’m very proud of), I can get on and off a chair lift without falling off (mostly), and now I want to ski as much as possible. There are smaller opportunities as well – UofC is very sport orientated, Kinesiology is pretty big and everyday there’s some kind of sport to get involved with. Elite athletes also train at the Olympic Oval and the Speed Skating World Cup was held there over the weekend, so walking to and from class and passing athletes in national team kit is pretty exciting.

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Autumnal Viewpoint over the City

4. Exploring a New Country

I have loved (and sometimes not liked so much) living in a completely new country. Seeing different landscapes, architecture, lifestyles, culture etc. has been fabulous, and made me appreciate the things I love most about home, but also I see bits that I prefer over here. The landscape is so different from what I’m used to in Yorkshire, it’s so flat and all the roads are completely straight while I’m used to rolling green hills and ridiculously wiggly roads. I loved seeing the Hoodoos which were completely different to anything I’ve ever seen, I noticed the trees turning orange in Autumn (for a brief period before the snow) which I take for granted

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The Frozen Waterfalls were Amazing

back home, and the views from the top of Sulphur Mountain and at Lake Louise were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Seeing Elk and Wild Sheep (which are completely different to our sheep) and the threat of being attacked by bears is exciting, and seeing a city full of modern office blocks and buildings threw me first, being used to old brick buildings everywhere. Snow staying on the ground for two weeks or more, and everyone continuing about their day as usual, which is something that would just not happen in the UK. There have been many similarities, but more differences, and I’ve loved living in a completely new culture.

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One of numerous Dinos games I’ve been to

 

5. Living on Campus

Compared to Durham, living on campus at UofC has been completely different, but something I’ve loved, which is also strange because when I was choosing universities when I was 18 I was adamant that I didn’t want a campus uni. It makes going to 9ams pretty easy (although I still dread them anyway, as I am doing with my three 8am exams next week) and it means everything is within reaching distance. UofC has a tunnel system connecting most buildings, so when the snow hits I can make my

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Skiing next to the Olympic Ski Jump

way to classes and be outside for as minimal amount of time as possible. As a kines student and a sport lover it’s great to be able to walk 5 minutes to watch Dinos matches in volleyball, basketball, ice hockey etc. and the same distance to amazing sport facilities (which are also mostly free to use). The fact that everyday I walk through buildings left over from the 1988 Winter Olympics is incredible – I’ve skated on the ‘fastest ice in the world’ at the Olympic Oval, skied next to the ski jump that made Eddie the Eagle famous, walked and skated in the Olympic Plaza where the Olympic medals were handed out and been in the stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held.

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One Month In

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So the title is a bit of a lie because I’ve been in Canada almost 7 weeks

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Campus covered in snow
on the 1st October!)

now, but 1.5 months in didn’t sound as good… but there are still situations that take my breath away. A couple of weeks ago we woke up to a covering of snow, and walking to my 9am was actually enjoyable, wrapped up in loads of layers with fresh white snow on the ground but the trees were still autumnal, bright orange with some green.

The International Centre have put on a couple of trips and events, and the Greyhound Buses are pretty good for exploring by yourself. We’ve visited Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise in the Rocky Mountains, which as an area is just amazing. The scenery, lakes surrounded by huge mountains with the tops covered in snow with forests all around is incredible – and having the opportunity to explore this place is awesome.

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise

We planned this trip ourselves to go out and explore the Rockies a bit – it involved waking up stupidly early to get a taxi to the Greyhound bus station, where we were all pretty blurry eyed (understandably). The bus journey was about 2.5 hours, stopping in a couple of places along the way. This was my first look at an area of Canada outside a city and it was pretty cool! We basically drove in a straight line for an hour or so, and once we got out of the city we were in the ‘plains’, where it’s almost

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Waterfall at the top of Lake Louise

completely flat and on either side it just goes on until the horizon. Once we got a bit further out of town you could start to see snow capped mountains in the distance, which was an amazing view.

Lake Louise itself is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and forests and other smaller lakes. We took the regular tourist photos at Lake Louise before hiking up to Lake Agnes. This was our first experience of going up and we’re at altitude here so it was pretty tough going, but eating our lunch by the side of a lake looking out over the valley with chipmunks (potentially) was running around next to us made it worth it!

Banff

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Flat 209 at Sulphur Mountain

This was a trip put on by the International Student Service. Banff is about two hours outside Calgary in the Rockies, most buildings are wood and the aesthetics are cool. We walked down to some pretty cool rapids before taking the (extremely wobbly) Cable Car (confusingly called a Gondola) up Sulphur Mountain. The views from the top were absolutely incredible and the Aussies got very excited by the snow at the top which was fun to watch, especially when

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Aussies + Bea intrigued by Snow

you encourage them to hold the snow with no gloves for a photo. We decided it would be good to walk down instead of taking the cable car, which led to an extremely precarious though hilarious couple of hours – we’d seen the snow on the paths on the way up but didn’t register that by 2pm a lot of people would have walked on it, meaning it was very packed down and practically ice, on a very steep and tall mountain, and only one of us was wearing appropriate shoes. Overall it was on one of my highlights so far!

Canmore

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Lunch with a View

This was another outing that a couple of us arranged ourselves (ie we booked a Greyhound bus). Another ridiculously early morning was rewarded again with the views over the Plains and the rockies – we drove past the 1988 Olympic Park and seeing the ski jump (think Eddie the Eagle) was pretty cool!

When we arrived we spent a while trying to work out where to go (Canmore is like Banff but ‘less touristy’ – meaning the tourist office is a 40 minute walk outside the centre of town, which we weren’t that keen on… we eventually found

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our bearing and got a bus to the start of a hike up to Grassi Lakes, which was my favourite walk I’ve done so far. We walked through the forest (amid bear warnings) and every so often got a view through the trees over the valley and Canmore town, and as we got higher the view got better each time. We were following a waterfall the whole way up and the lakes at the top were incredible – the colour was pretty unbelieavable, and sitting on a rock with mates looking over the best view I’ve had so far was a definite highlight of my 6 weeks here. What made it great as well was almost constant snow flurries throughout the day – it’s like drizzle back home, just constantly there but not bothering your day – but snow drizzle is much more fun than rain drizzle, and again it got the Aussies excited!

Drumheller

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View from the World’s Largest Dinosaur

This was another ISS planned trip, and it was pretty cool, but not really what we expected. First stop was the dinosaur museum, which had certain fun bits (e.g. the interactive children’s activities) but wasn’t really what we’d signed up for and it was a really sunny day outside so it felt a bit annoying to be stuck inside. We walked a little bit through the hoodoos outside the museum before we all got take back into town to climb the World’s Largest Dinosaur which was again cool but a little weird. Walking round town was strange as well – apparently it was a typical Albertan town, and it was pretty small and quiet – though there were 22+ dinosaur statues dotted around the town (including a batman one). We then got

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Hoodoos

taken to a suspension bridge above an old mine before going to the main Hoodoo area, which were my favourite bit. These are some kind of tall rock, and basically we were let loose on them and climbed/ scrambled up to the top which showed Hoodoos stretching on for pretty long way! Coming down was pretty exciting… it was basically lose dirt, meaning we pretty much just slid down the entire thing. The bus journey back was basically the Brits trying to wind up the Aussies as much as possible and arguing about whether British or Australian things were better (e.g. vegetate vs marmite, weetabix vs weetbix etc.) which I think made every single other person on the bus hate us.

Obviously I’ve been working as well – I’ve been able to do subjects that I wouldn’t be able to do at Durham, so I’m studying some history modules as well some Kinesiology subjects that can link in to my degree which is a real benefit to being on a year abroad, since you can explore things you can’t necessarily learn at Durham to expand your degree programme, but you can also do some electives (though it obviously depends on your faculty)! I’ve also done a couple of little things, like ice skating, incredibly tense bingo games and watched Canadian Football, Ice Hockey and Field Hockey matches. I’ve seen the weather turn from 25 degrees and sunny to -6 in 3 days, and I’ve eaten way too much pizza. It definitely hasn’t been plain sailing for the last 7 months, but it has been pretty awesome.

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Surviving Week 1

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I’ve now come to the end of my first week living in ‘Rez’ (Calgary equivalent of halls) and the end of Orientation Week (or O Week), so I thought it was time to update everyone. O Week is basically like Durham’s Freshers Week, but a bit more substantial. There were sessions with your department (or faculty as they call it here), sessions for being on exchange and fun activities throughout the week.

After unpacking on the first day I discovered, again, that I had packed extremely poorly. Due to my desire to have a beautiful holdall (which I seem to be mentioning every blog), instead of a giant suitcase, I couldn’t pack everything I wanted to, meaning my cupboards and walls are quite bare. I’m planning on collecting things throughout the year, but at the minute my rooms pretty empty. I’ve also discovered my new favourite shop of Dollarama (similar to Poundland surprisingly, but with so much stuff and such a variety that it’s incredible, and I’m finding things in there to decorate. I also packed mostly winter clothes, but no one told me that it was actually 25-30 degrees until about September – Tip: bring stuff for your room that reminds IMG_0376you of home – I’ve got some photos, but not enough, bring posters, cushions, bedspread etc., just to help you settle in. This stuff is pretty important so take out that fifth jumper and don’t skimp out on decor.

The first day of O Week started by meeting your faculty and learning chants for the Pep Rally (my first real North American ‘school’ experience). This was an extremely bizarre experience of sitting in a giant gym on bleachers and having a faculty cheer off… basically we all learnt chants about our subject and had to shout them as loudly as possible at all the other faculties. It was pretty strange but also strangely fun (the Kinesiology faculty was obviously the best, with our three part chant). This was followed by speeches by a number of people, including the president of UofC, the

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Pep Rally!

students union, and the keynote speaker of Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player. We also met all the ‘profs’ (not lecturers) – it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the Durham and Calgary departments – I’m starting to think that part of the training to become a physiology lecturer is how to talk extremely fast.

There were lots of activities throughout the week, ending with Kick Off, the

UofC Dino’s first American Football match of the season, with a carnival type build up with face painting, inflatables etc. called Tailgate. With a Canadian near me I

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Had to get a photo with the Dinos mascot!

actually understood some of how it was played and enjoyed it a surprising amount.

Here are some differences I’ve found about Calgary vs Durham as well as some things about Canada in my first week on campus:

#1 A lot of things have different names – aside from Rez, O Week, jumpers and Football/Soccer, lectures are called classes, lecturers called professors (or profs), essays are called papers etc.

#2 Jumpers are not a thing. I’ve confused numerous people by calling jumpers jumpers – here they are called sweaters, which encompasses jumpers, hoodies, wool jumpers etc.

#3 Stash is called swag and there is soooooo much of it. I don’t know whether this is just at UofC or it’s a North American thing but it’s pretty excessive. So far I’ve got a scarf, water bottle, lunchbox, universal plug converter, two t shirts, two pairs of sunglasses and numerous stationary with the UofC crest on. To buy you can get jumpers, hoodys, shirts, t shirts, wool jumpers, bags, cropped jumpers, hats etc. I’m a little overwhelmed, and am having to restrain myself spending my entire student loan on stash.

#4 Kinesiology (Sport Science) is really big here. It has it’s own faculty instead of being put with science or social sciences, there are two giant KNES buildings and everyone knows what it is when you tell them what you’re doing

#5 Canadian money is confusing! There aren’t any 1 or 2 cent coins, so everything gets rounded up or down. The $1 coin is called a loonie and the $2 a toonie. The 5 cent is bigger than the 10 cent coin. Plus the price everything is isn’t actually the full price – you have to add on taxes!

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Almost there…

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It’s now less than one week until I leave for my year abroad in Canada. It’s finally starting to sink in, after a busy summer where I didn’t really have time to think about it. I am now in the middle of a two week period of attempting to make sure I have everything done on time – before I left to do my various summer activities I was pretty sure I was on top of preparations, but now I’m not so sure… Continue reading