By Jing-Jing Hu (University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada)
My first two weeks in Kelowna passed by very quickly. I moved into Purcell, a hall of residence on campus, and soon got to know my roommate (we have two separate rooms, but our rooms are connected through a common bathroom). Because afternoon classes and the international student orientation were cancelled due to a snowstorm on my first day of class, my roommate gave me a little tour around the campus and told me everything I needed to know to survive the first week of uni. Despite the cold weather, the Canadians I have met so far seem to be very warm people. They are generally very friendly and helpful.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at UBCO were the beautiful snow-covered mountains and trees in the background. They seem so close, but are yet so far. I was told that even students from other parts of Canada are amazed by the scenery here when they first arrive. Many students here are from Vancouver and even though you can see the mountains there as well, they are not as close as they are in Kelowna.
During my first two days here, it snowed non-stop for 48-hours, it broke a 78 year record for the amount of snow fallen within that period. That was a lot of snow. By the next day, the snow reached up to my knees. I have never seen that much snow in my life, but I liked it very much. It wasn’t as cold as I expected and there was enough snow for one massive snowman and many, many snowball fights. On my second day my roommate, some of her friends that I got to know that day and myself drove to an open field full of snow to have a little snowball fight. Shortly afterwards when we were driving further, the car drove off the road and got stuck in the snow. It was an interesting and funny experience because that has never happened to me before, but then again, we are in Canada (where in the UK could you get stuck in snow?). It was a really fun day and I enjoyed the snow very much.
It is still snowing here on some days, but on others it is sunny. The sun can be deceiving though, because it felt colder today, on a sunny day, than it did when I first arrived. Some people told me that it sometimes snows up until March, but I really hope it doesn’t. I went to downtown Kelowna with other international students the other day and they told me that the park there is much more beautiful when the lake is not frozen and the trees are green. I met other international students during a welcome back dinner for international students during the beginning of the second week. As you would expect, they are from all around the world, from Mexico, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and many other places. Some are here for a whole year, some, like me, only for this term.
Kelowna has a big mall not far from the Uni, and Walmart is only two bus stops away. That is where I got the things I needed from when I first arrived. You can get a bus pass called U-Pass from the Students’ Union so that bus rides within Kelowna are free for students. Because I am living in Purcell, I am on a mandatory meal plan (not all halls of residence have a mandatory meal plan, but you can purchase one voluntarily as well) so that I don’t have to go grocery shopping a lot. The food on campus is quite healthy, you have several cafeterias with food ranging from rice to noodles to sushi to salad and fresh fruits. They even have a smoothie bar on campus with different “boosters”, such as protein powder or calcium powder, as well as several cafés, such as Starbucks and Tim Hortons which is quite popular amongst the students here. On most days there is a long queue in front of Tim Hortons, but there is a camera around that area so that you can check online how long the queue is.
Due to the fact that the term started so early and I still had alternative assessment to do until the beginning of the second week, I haven’t changed my room much until recently. This weekend I finally found time to print out pictures of family and friends and to put them on the wall to make my room feel homely. It literally took me the whole day, but the result made me very happy. The room didn’t really feel like my room without any signs of the people I love around me. Now that my wall is full of pictures of family and friends, it also feels more like home. It says “Little things make big days”. I think that is very true. It only takes something little to make a big change, because, in the end, every big change starts with a little step. For me, one of them was the decision to go abroad, to leave Germany for Manchester and Manchester for Kelowna. I have learned so much in recent years and am very grateful for that. Studying and living abroad really has changed me. Each of the countries I have lived in has left an impression on me that I cannot fully describe. Were I given the same choice again, I would definitely choose to go abroad again. Beautiful memories, invaluable experiences and a lot of challenges that make you grow – that is how I would describe it.
Because the people around me are all very open and nice, I already feel at home here; but there is still a lot to explore. By now I have made a list of things I still want to do here. Some of the top things on my list include visiting other Canadian cities, such as Vancouver and Banff (the national park there is supposed to be stunning), to go skiing and snowboarding, to watch a ice hockey game (most Canadians are huge ice hockey fans) and to visit the kangaroo farm (yes, that’s right, they have a kangaroo farm! My roommate told me about it and showed me pictures, but unfortunately, the kangaroo farm is currently closed and doesn’t open until the spring break). I’ll keep you guys updated about my time here at UBCO, watch out for kangaroo pictures in one of my next posts!