By Emily Privett, Queen’s University, Canada
Today marks the 43rd day of my being in Canada(!) and although I’ve only had two weeks of classes, so much has been going on. First, I would like to apologise for my blog being so late. I thought that the first week of classes would be a perfect time to catch up on my blogging as there wouldn’t be too much work. Safe to say, I was wrong about the ‘not much work’, but that’s a topic for another blog!
So what has been going? So much! To stop this blog from being an un-structured mind-dump of everything that’s been happening since I arrived, I’m going to split it into sections of ‘firsts’; First Impressions, First Friends and First Week of Class.
Having flown for 8 hours to Toronto, waited 4 hours for our bus to take us to Kingston and travelling for another 4 hours to get into Kingston, the only activity on my mind was sleep. As we walked from the university campus to our motel at 11:30pm, I can’t say that first impressions were great and I was very sceptical about my study abroad decision. Thankfully, my first impressions couldn’t have been more wrong, and let’s be honest, nothing looks too exciting in the dark after 16 hours of travelling. We explored Kingston the day after we arrived and to my relief, I loved it and am loving it more and more every day. It is very different to Manchester in the way that it is much smaller, most of the shops are small independent ones but it is a refreshing change. My favourite part is that there is a lake just 10 minutes from campus, of which the grass and pier overlooking it became a favourite spot for me and my friends during the very warm days before classes started. Although being a geographer should really mean that I have some concept of the climate in different areas of the world, I was shocked about how warm it was and how many days we could spend by the river. I have been told by many Canadians, though, to make the most of it because winter will be coming!
Before I came to Canada, I didn’t have a house sorted, but thankfully, this wasn’t much of an issue and by five days into my stay, I had signed a lease. Moving in with four complete strangers was slightly daunting, but I did it in first year so why couldn’t I do it again? So far it has worked out incredibly well and hopefully will continue to work well. On top of meeting my housemates and becoming friends with them, Queen’s University put on a NEWTS week. This stands for New, Exchange, Worldwide and Transfer Students and is basically a ‘fresher’s week’ for anyone new to Queen’s University but not in first year. As part of NEWTS week, we were split into groups of around 10 and had two upper year leaders called ‘geckos’ (because we’re ‘newts’…witty, huh?). These were the groups we did all the activities throughout the week with and thankfully, there were three other geographers in my group! Highlights of that week included the tamming ceremony and the paint fight (for obvious reasons). The tamming ceremony is a Queen’s tradition. A tam is a Scottish looking hat with a coloured pom-pom on the top and every incoming student gets one when they start their course. However, you are not just given one and that’s it, oh no! We had the Queen’s Bands (basically a massive marching band complete with highland dancers, drum corps and pipe band) play to us and even a town crier came to lead us in our tam oath! It is definitely an experience I will never forget, and the tam is definitely coming back to Manchester with me.
First Week of Class:
In my next blog, I will talk about the academic experience in a much more detailed way but I’ll sum it up with one word; busy. It is exciting however because the courses I am doing this semester are all really interesting and hopefully that will continue throughout! Sadly, I have a group presentation and an essay proposal due in on Monday, along with two in-class tests next week and so I should probably stop procrastinating and get on with some studying. If you need me, I’ll have made my home in the library!