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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First week in Italy: the Food, the Bad and the Beauty

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Even though I’ve only been out here for just over a week, I feel that I shouldn’t have left it this long to write my first post – so much has happened, so many feelings have come and gone and so many new impressions have hit me that I’ll never be able to do it all justice in one post, nor remember each amazing and frustrating thing about my first week in Bologna to recount later. I’ll give it a go – hopefully as the year goes on I’ll get better at putting this surreal experience into words.

I’ll start with the bad stuff, for two reasons: firstly, it’s very easy for people to travel the world and selectively show their friends and family back at home the exotic and novel, whilst leaving out that which might upset their family or, to be cynical, devalue their investment of time and money in a life-changing gamble in the eyes of their friends. This blog is as much about giving as accurate a representation as possible of starting a life in a scary new country for those considering doing the same as it is about letting those I love know that I’m having an amazing time – after all, it’s the 21st century and I have a phone. Secondly, you’ll know that the great parts have even more value than they would have if my whole experience were an insta-feed of pizza, beaches and parties.

Leaving home was hard – I didn’t feel prepared, though I’m starting to think that perhaps you’re never really fully prepared for bigs steps like this. Safe to say I am lucky to have such a supportive family and a girlfriend who had done the same thing two months previously to help me have some faith in my future.

No – I have a strict weight allowance, you can’t come along ūüė¶

Hard too was the fact that I only had a place to stay for a week when I got out there. I’d read online that it was important to look for permanent accommodation in person so as to avoid paying money to someone I’d never met for a place I’d never seen – but while I reduced the risk of being scammed, I greatly increased my stress levels over the seven days it took me to find somewhere to live, each day getting closer to thinking that I’d have nowhere to stay on Saturday night. Maybe the best solution would’ve been to visit the city earlier in the summer to search then, and if you future exchange students have the money for extra return flights I would definitely advise that – I didn’t really want to spend the money, so in hindsight this was a dilemma that I couldn’t really have been avoided; I’m just glad finally to have a place (and a nice one at that) to call home until July!

So, I won’t deny that there were overtones – sometimes overriding – of homesickness and accommodation stress during my first week away – but then it’s probably a good thing that my first post wasn’t written at that time, or I might not have done justice to the amazing experiences that did occur every day. I am conscious that my negatives were very generalised and could have been written from any city – so, let me show you a selection of my initial highlights of Bologna:

1) The beauty of the city – people talked so much about spaghetti bolognese (or just rag√Ļ, as they call it here) before I came that the stunning porticos, iconic red roofs and (worryingly) leaning towers really were a welcome surprise when I first ventured into the city on Sunday morning.

Porticos – arches that cover most of the pavements in the centro storico. Taxes only used to be paid on the square footage of the ground floor of a building, so the Bolognesi just built over the pavements!

From the top of la torre asinelli

The smaller of ‘le due torri’, la garisenda, leans at 4.3 degrees – more than the leaning tower of Pisa.

2) Food – I’m actually yet to have spaghetti bolognese in Bologna (shock), but that’s because a) I prefer pizza, and b) there exists something called ‘aperitivo’ (or ‘apericena’) – you buy a large drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, for between 5-8‚ā¨ (depending on the place), and then have access to an all-you-can-eat buffet full of meat, pasta, pizza and potatoes (not as many varieties as in Durham, granted) – the perfect and authentic way to line your stomach cheaply for the night to come.

3) Friends – okay, the concept isn’t exactly specific to Bologna, but the individuals certainly are in a sense – even though they come from all over the world. I’m certain that the best decision I’ve made since being out here was to go on an Erasmusland walking tour the day after I arrived; I was very nervous and it would have been very easy to ‘allow’ myself a few days to settle in before beginning to socialise, but on that tour I found some great people who have not only been fun, kind and crazy, but who are also in exactly the same situation as I am: at least the accommodation struggle was a shared one. And that group of friends expands more quickly by the day – the Erasmusland society has been great for organising parties and trips through which you meet so many friendly people. The only negative is the envy I feel at the incredible levels of English – and many other second languages – spoken by every Erasmus student; if there’s one strong opinion that this post is going to give, it’s that we, as a country, are seriously behind in our foreign language proficiency to a point where it’s almost embarrassing, and you wonder what we are actually learning at school if every foreign student has just as much knowledge and intelligence, if not more, as we do in the UK, yet can speak a second, third or fourth language to such a high level. And no, the fact that they speak English doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t bother with other languages – I think that’s something that one half will agree with instantly, and something that the other half will never understand.

Aperitivo after a day on the beach

I think I’ll leave it there for now. Sorry for the length – then again, apologising itself is only making it longer. I just think it’s important not to give a polarised view of what has been such a hectic week, and to do that demands a bit more writing than I intend to do for my next posts. I hope you’ve found it at least informative, if not interesting – so, until next time, arrivederci!

Oh, and sorry for the awful title…

Lessons learned

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Oh my gosh, where did it all go, how is my Erasmus year already over?

I’ve just arrived back to the UK and it is bizarre to be back.

My year at Heidelberg university has been the best year of my life – and I consider myself to have had a rather good life so far!¬† So the fact that it’s suddenly over feels strange.¬† Very strange.¬† I don’t have any regrets, but the realisation that myself and all these wonderful people I’ve met over the last 11 months won’t ever be in the same place again is difficult to process. Continue reading

Water here, water there, water errwhere

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February is a funny month. It just kind of exists in the middle of nowhere.¬† No major events, no major holidays, and no major deadlines. It doesn’t even have 30 days. However, it is therefore the perfect time to do things that you’ve been wanting to do for a long time but haven’t yet gotten round to doing! Here is what I call my coastal crawl. Continue reading

2016 come at me!

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So, Epiphany term has begun, which means I am officially  half way through my time at Trinity. I cannot comprehend where the time has gone. It is true that time flies, cliché, but true. There was so much I wanted to do that I have not yet done, so I now pledge to explore a massive amount more in the upcoming months. Continue reading

Joyeux No√ęl

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This is officially the end of the first semester, and it is really hard to believe that the first half of my year abroad has passed. Uni in France ends almost 10 days later than Durham, so I didn’t have the usual time in Budapest to spend with my friends. On the other hand, I did get an insight into Christmas in Aix, which was probably the first time that the city abandoned its holiday character.

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Christmas lights

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Christmas is a-coming!

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As the festive season approaches , the air is turning crisp and the winds are getting stronger. The passing of two windstorms in the space of two weeks has lead to serious warnings issued to remain indoors, oh and a bridge collapsed somewhere on the outskirts- Irish weather at its finest. On the other hand, Dublin in December is AH-MAZING! Continue reading