By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada
So the end of August has come round sooooo quickly, and here I find myself on a sunny day in downtown Vancouver writing this blog post before I head to Simon Fraser University tomorrow for the start of the semester! Thinking about this moment has dominated my thoughts for over a year now, and so I can’t believe it’s finally here! I am feeling excited and nervous in equal measures, and while I have the odd brain worms giving me a bit of anxiety, I can’t wait to get moved in, meet my housemates, and start seeing what life at SFU has to offer.
Packing for me is always a cause of much stress, and packing before this trip was no different. As in most other aspects of my life, I am a last minute person, so undoubtedly it got to the day before I was set to head off and I was staring at the chaos of my bedroom floor and feeling at a loss for what to take. If you are coming to Canada, I would definitely say essentials are a good winter coat and boots (unless you factor in enough money to buy these out there). In the end I shoved it all into two suitcases (definitely worth paying for the extra baggage) and it was only once I had packed and got all the stressful logistical bits sorted that I actually sat back and thought, wow this is actually happening…
I set off my journey from home at the beginning of August, and spent three weeks travelling through the West Coast of America. This was undoubtedly one of the best trips I’ve ever been on; we managed to see and do so much in those three weeks it was unbelievable! This trip was something my oldest best friend , Lily , and I had been talking about for years, and so actually making it happen was amazing! There were four of us and we rented a car and shared the driving (managed to clock up 3000+ miles during the course of the trip)! Highlights were definitely seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise, driving through Monument Valley in Arizona, camping in Yosemite National Park, and of course a big blow out in Vegas! I would highly recommend fitting in a road trip in America if you’re coming to Canada for your year abroad! A lot of previous exchange students I had spoken to did road trips at the end of their studies, but doing some travelling before I started at the uni was a nice way to ease me into life in North America having never been to this part of the world before.
After an emotional farewell to my mates in LA as they flew back to England, I boarded a plane to Vancouver where I was met by my mum and sister. My family had wanted to visit me at some point during my year here, but in the end the temptation of a sunny holiday over a winter skiing trip was the favourable decision. We stayed in Kitsilano which is a really nice laid-back, residential area with loads of trendy boutiques and shops, and loads of delicious vegetarian and vegan restaurants (which was ideal for us as all my family are veggie). We spent the last week eating our way around the neighbourhood, chilling on the beach (which is only 5 minutes walk away our house), and exploring downtown together. I’ve had just over a week in total with my family and it’s been so nice having them here to help me settle in, and for them to get a feel for the city I will be living in for the next year. If you’re reading this and thinking about planning your trip to Vancouver (or anywhere else in fact) I would definitely recommend arriving a few days before your start date at the university. Even if you have got your accommodation sorted (which I had) and don’t need to look for a shared house, it is still sooooo invaluable to have that extra time to yourself to get over the jet lag, rest, have an explore, and start adjusting to life in a new country. I know some people in previous years who stayed at ‘Same Sun Backpackers’ on Granville Street in downtown and really recommended it; they met loads of other exchange students (both from SFU and UBC) and ended up making friends for the year.
So tomorrow I will be heading off up the mountain (Simon Fraser University is literally on top of Burnaby mountain) to start my adventure. I will try and regularly post my thoughts and feelings throughout the year; focusing on giving tips, advice and imparting whatever wisdom I gain about life on an exchange to anyone who finds themselves reading this and thinking – SFU might just be somewhere they could imagine studying for a year.