Going Home for Christmas!

What an amazing first term in Toronto. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by! I am loving Toronto as a city more and more every day. There are so any events happening all the time in the city that are all so different. Recently, Kensington market had a winter solstice parade and for Christmas, Nathan Phillips square opened up a massive ice rink in front of the lit up TORONTO letters. My friend from Manchester is at Queen’s University which is 2 hours further along Lake Ontario from where I live and so one weekend she was visiting, we went to the square to watch the Christmas lights be switched on (we missed the fireworks but managed to see them from the cab!). The museum also opens on a Friday night and has lots of food and drinks bars right in the middle of all the exhibits as well as a dance floor in the main hall. It was one of my favorite nights in Toronto!

My house mates keep telling me that I’ve been very lucky as it’s been the mildest fall/winter they can remember so far. I’ve really enjoyed the weather so far – it’s cold but sunny most days and hardly ever rains which is a massive difference from Manchester!!!!

 

Quebec City

 

My boyfriend came to visit for a week and I saw it as a perfect excuse to explore Canada a bit more so we took a short flight to Quebec City. It was so strange as it felt so different to Ontario. Quebec City is in the French province and I felt transported straight back to Europe! The city itself was quite small and totally beautiful. Definitely the oldest buildings I’d seen in Canada and it certainly was a lot colder than Toronto! Poutine, aka cheese curds, chips and gravy, was supposedly invented in Quebec and we visited the shop which claims to have invented it. In my opinion Kebab King has nothing to worry about!

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When we got back, we visited Toronto Zoo and I saw a panda and a polar bear for the first time which was really exciting. One of the pandas was not on display as she’d just given birth to twins the day before!!

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Montreal

 

We were very kindly given a reading weekend by the university where we had Monday and Tuesday free. My exchange friends and I decided to visit Montreal for a long weekend! I had a lot of fun – the old town was almost as beautiful as the old town in Quebec City. We got free entry to the Botanical Gardens because they were out of season and it was almost creepy going around what were such beautiful gardens but filled with dying plants! We saw the Olympic stadium as well and had a lot of fun going round bustling streets and going to cafes (including a cat café!). My favourite part was climbing Mont Royale. The view of Montreal was exceptional and the walk up with trees going red was stunning. In fact, we loved it so much my friend and I decided to go for a run up it the next day too!

 

The Cabin

 

I’ve joined the outdoors society at UofT. In the 70s, some of the members built a cabin about 2 hours outside of Toronto and the club takes a few cars up for weekend trips. I thought it was like an enormous tree house. It has no electricity or running water and is kept warm by a fire. We had to brush our teeth in the stream! The lofts are higher up and have loads of fold out mattresses for people to sleep on. Some people camp outside (there were over 50 people visiting the cabin!). We went on long hikes and caving. Everyone was in a group and each group was in charge of making one meal for everyone so the kitchen was always hectic but I actually had some amazing food. My favourite was seeded jalapeño peppers filled with cream cheese and baked wrapped in streaky maple bacon. Totally delicious! Just below the cabin, there was a bonfire pit and we went down to roast marshmallows in the evenings. I’m really looking forward to my next trip!

End of Term

 

The end of term was very stressful. I had 5 deadlines on the last day of classes then 5 days to study before three, three hour exams in three days. For those two weeks, I don’t think I saw much daylight!!! It was so odd – in Manchester we have 3-4 weeks to revise and get prepared for exams and now we were faced with less than a week! However, because of the continual assessment we’d had throughout the year with midterms and assignments, I felt that my understanding of the courses was much much better than I usually feel when lectures end. The exams were no more than 50% of my final grade as well as our midterms made up a large chunk of each course. We also got our results back a few days after each exam!! I couldn’t believe how quick it was! There was no results day but when your professor has marked your paper, they upload your result to blackboard. I think overall I performed better and think the continual assessment style suited my learning. The tense last weeks were definitely worth not having to revise over Christmas. I feel so refreshed having a break and not feeling guilty that I’m not working. I definitely prefer the assessment system and being able to have a break.

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The Christmas holidays are only 2 weeks and I decided before I flew to Canada that I wanted to come home for Christmas. The majority of my exchange friends also flew home or had their family fly out to meet them. It’s quite surreal being at home – it almost feels like I never left although I actually miss Toronto quite a lot! I’m very excited about going back. My friend from school is flying out with me to visit and we’re going out a bit early so we can fly to New York and spend a few days exploring! I am so excited to go to New York for the first time I can’t stop googling and planning everything I want to cram in and see. I expect a second visit will be needed! We are then getting an 11 hour coach straight in time to get to my first lecture of the term…!

 

Overall I’m a little bit gutted that I’m already half way through my exchange. It has been the most incredible term and I feel like there is still so much to see and do. Bring it on NYC!!!!

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