Enough from me, who else is loving their year abroad?

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16179437_1328911833798104_4017035432068824843_oWhy hello there you fabulous readers! Only one more month to go until I’m back in England. Honestly, can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, it’s insane how quickly the past few months have gone! Everyone is slowly realising that this awesome year is coming to an end and there are a lot of mixed emotions about it. I’m sure you’re all aware of how much I’ve loved this year abroad experience, so I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to a few of my fellow year abroaders living with me over here in Canada. Continue reading

Joining a Sorority

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Hi guys!

So as I was thinking through what a great next blog post could be, I realised my joining of a sorority would be perfect. If you do not know, a sorority is an organisation on campus which consists of around 100 girls from each sorority (800 in total at UBC) who come together to undertake philanthropy, hold leadership roles and have lots of fun. There is a male equivalent called a fraternity (“frat”) which is broadly similar, although they regularly hold parties both only with the sororities and in general on campus.

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A (Belated) 春节 Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

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Loyal readers (so, probably only my mother) I owe you an apology. Why? Because I have failed, quite comprehensively, to do anything out of the ordinary this Chinese New Year (春节 – Chūn Jié), much to my chagrin. I’ve been a boring Hong Kong tourist.

It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Promise. Continue reading

Reading Week Myanmar Trip: Part II

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N.B. This post is the follow-up to Part I, covering the second half of our week in Myanmar. 

Nearly 5 million people visited Myanmar last year, compared with just 800,000 in 2010. The rise of tourism here has been rapid here and the people are clearly still transitioning to new ways of life. American dollars (which must be crisp, unfolded and unmarked bills if they’re to be accepted!) are flooding the economy – probably for the worst. One of the positive effects of so much foreign money though is the potential for the restoration and preservation of the beautiful sites and sights of Myanmar. ‘Entry fees’ charged at the boundaries to archaeological areas, such as the 12,500 kyat we paid to enter Lake Inle (Inlay) and the surrounding land are one such way this money is being put to good use by the government. Continue reading

How a Year Abroad can make you Happy – Derren Brown and Stoicism

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If you’re not a philosopher, then Derren Brown’s new book, Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine, may be a pleasant surprise. It’s an accessible foray into stoicism, an ancient greek philosophy that’s gaining momentum in the modern day amongst philosophers and non-philosophers alike. Returning to Hong Kong this week, one element of stoicism that he touched on seemed particularly poignant in the context of a year abroad: appreciating those things in our lives that we take for granted. I want to explore, briefly, how a year abroad can facilitate such reflexive activity. Continue reading

Christmas in Canada

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Well hello again you fabulous readers! It’s been quite a while since my last post so there’s a lot to fill you all in on.

Let’s start with Christmas Day.

Christmas Day in Calgary!

Now admittedly, I and most of us lonely international students that didn’t fly home for Christmas, were rather sceptical about how we’d be able to have a smashingly festive day, but we did!

With a bunch of Australians staying in our flat for the holiday, Christmas morning was an absolute delight. We had the classic cheesy Christmas tunes blasting out, everyone quickly skyped their families and then we dug into a spectacular breakfast and didn’t stop eating for the rest of the day.

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Christmas dinner was a very special affair. Much like our Thanksgiving dinner, we collected a whole bunch of tables and chairs and somehow squished 15 people into our little flat (with two Christmas trees might I add). Everyone brought food and was dressed as Christmassy as possible.

The Canadian weather couldn’t have been better. It had snowed non-stop for two days previously but Christmas day was beautifully sunny (and -20).

img_7454For many of us, it was our first white Christmas so we decided to prance around in the snow for a solid ten minutes until we started to freeze and had to run back inside to drink more Baileys.

The rest of the day was spent playing games, eating food, watching movies and eating more food. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day with such perfect company. Overall, definitely one of my favourite Christmas Days yet.

Next, my travels!! This trip lasted 10 days and we tried to see as much of the east of Canada as possible. First stop, Toronto!

TORONTO

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Having been before many years ago, I was excited to see how much of it I’d remember- turns out I didn’t remember a thing. I felt just as touristy and lost as my travelling companions as we walked through the vast streets of Toronto. A truly great city that I could happily live in, but I must say there wasn’t a lot of culture to explore. The CN Tower was definitely the highlight so if you’re ever passing by I would definitely recommend it. But here are a few things I wish I knew beforehand.

Tips if you ever go to the CN Tower.

  • Get there super early. The first time we went they told us it would be a four hour wait…no thanks.
  • If you’re scared of heights, avoid the glass floor section, I still feel queasy just thinking about it.
  • If you want a drink at the top of the CN Tower, prepare to empty out your bank account.
  • Bring an awesome camera because the views are worth treasuring. 

MONTREAL

img_8279-1 Wow, were we still in Canada? Montreal felt like a whole new world! The snow was significantly thicker than Toronto, everywhere was within walking distance and, oh yeah, obviously everyone spoke French!

There were still very Canadian elements, (such as poutine still being everywhere and maple syrup being served as a side for a spinach and cheese pancake- are they insane?) but overall it did not feel like the spacious Calgary and Toronto we had just left behind.

We spent New Years Eve in Montreal and it was an absolute blast. We made a few friends in our hostel and then headed out to the big outdoor New Years Eve party for the countdown and fireworks. Around 80,000 people danced in the snow at -20, it was a pretty perfect way to start the year.

Tips for Montreal

  • Go to Schwartz! We were trying to find a bar but ended up here…classic me always finding food. They had the best smoked meat sandwich I’ve ever had in my life.
  • Walking up Mount Royal was easy, coming down was tricky- watch out for the ice! We had a few nice wipe-outs.
  • Make sure you’re on the right side of town when the train comes by- we were stuck for literally 20 minutes waiting for the longest train in history to go past.

QUEBEC CITY

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Everyone told us “oh you’ll love Quebec City, it’s just like a little city in Europe”. I must say they were right. Old Quebec had lovely little streets (I wish I could say they were cobbled but I have no idea as they were covered in snow) and the streets and shops were all so Christmassy and cute. With loads of cafes and chocolate shops dotted around it was also a treat to go to a new place for breakfast every day. We spent our time here walking around the city and exploring some culture, finally! Founded in 1608, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America which is quite a contrast considering that Canada is only 150 years old this year!

Tips for Quebec City

  • Wear appropriate shoes! The whole city is covered in a crazy amount of snow that turns into obstacles of slush. Although very amusing when trying to cross the road, our shoes will never be the same again.
  • Don’t order a large poutine. Or even a medium for that matter. Even for me, it was quite a marathon trying to finish it.
  • If you see a large area of snow without footprints, don’t think it’s a park and decide to walk through it. We ended up getting stuck in snow up to our waists!

So there you have it! My fabulous Christmas and New Years that I will never forget.

Also, if you want to see my video of last semester here is a link. Was tricky fitting 4 months into 4 minutes but I just about managed it!

Hope everyone back home had an awesome Christmas and New Years too! Let’s make 2017 another smashing year!

Till next time,

Sonia xx