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

British University vs Canadian ‘School’

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14324411_10210698710769059_8881947420531825965_oWhy hello again you fabulous readers! So, I’ve almost been in Canada for 8 weeks now, and miraculously I’m surviving just fine, actually, I’m still having the best time ever! A lot has happened in the past few weeks; had a great weekend in Banff (read my other blog about it here), a spectacular Thanksgiving meal, and everyone is getting super excited about the upcoming four day Halloween weekend, they take it very seriously over here! Continue reading

Lost in Translation

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“I can confirm that I didn’t find a new version of myself huddling beneath a snow drift, or have a kind, humble yeti carry me to his hut, spoon feed me cocoa, and beguile me with tales of old.”

Articulating how it feels to have left Calgary is a feat of magnitude. My attempts to explain to family and friends about the life I left behind have felt lack-lustre, and as I furrow my brow and nod my head assuredly at earnest questions such as, ‘was it as amazing as it looked?’, I feel unable to translate my genuine sentiment on the matter unto those who weren’t along for the ride.

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Travels: Calgary

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Our last night in Hamilton consisted of removing unnecessary clothing from my pre-packed bags with the help of Rhiannon. This was the first step towards achieving the goal of leaving most of my clothes in Canada, which is the only way I am going to fit all my luggage into the long-haul allowance. We delivered an IKEA bag full of clothes to our friend who conveniently was working in a nearby bar, where we stayed for a drink with our Australian friend Elly, who we would have to say goodbye to that night for a good few years. We helped Brandon clear his fridge of random food items and then set to sleep for a few hours. Continue reading