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.
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
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
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).
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.