I can’t believe I’m back in England writing this final blog post, and that the whole year is over! Now I’m that I’m home and settled back into life in England, I keep feeling – did it really happen? The eight months I spent in Canada were undoubtedly some of the best times of my life, and I would encourage anyone reading this blog and hesitating whether or not to apply to DO IT, DO IT, DO It! You won’t look back! There will certainly be odd times on your year abroad when it feels very challenging or you feel homesick, but for me those moments were always fleeting, and whenever there was a particularly hard time, there was always an incredible new experience just around the corner. Having completed the year, I feel I have come out of it more confident in new environments, and self-assured of my ability to adapt to different situations. I now feel that I could happily move abroad for a job in the future, with the skills needed to fit into a new country and culture.
Looking back over semester 2, the highlights for me were living with my best friends on Commercial Drive in downtown Vancouver, and going skiing in Whistler every weekend. For the first semester I was living in the university accommodation on Burnaby campus which was very convenient for classes, but I was not really close with any of my housemates, and the bus ride to downtown took over 45 minutes which meant spontaneous trips weren’t really an option. However, after moving downtown after Christmas with my friends I felt like I really got to see a different side of Vancouver. I loved the neighbourhood of Commercial Drive where we lived , and if any prospective students are considering moving off campus for the second semester (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do!!!) then look around Commercial Drive or Main Street for affordable rooms in these vibrant neighbourhoods. I would absolutely still recommend living on campus for the first semester though (despite its sometimes isolated location), as it was through living in residence that I made all my great friends!
Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of my whole time in Canada was learning to ski, and then spending as much time as possible up in Whistler. Practically every weekend since Christmas I would rent a car (Modo is a good rental company) and we would all pile in with our kit and drive up to Whistler for the day. It would be a very early start, but so worth it to get a full day’s worth of skiing in! It’s about an hour and a half drive to Whistler from Vancouver so it’s very doable in day. I rented my skis, boots and poles for the season from Sports Junkies (near Main Street) for $200 for the season which is very affordable! My friends and I also bought our ski passes for Whistler and Blackcomb back in October/ early November time whilst they had the student pass special price deal (which I think was about $600), so if you’re a keen skier then it’s definitely worth getting the student pass early, as the full price one is extortionate!
Saying goodbye to my friends was really hard, as we had spent every day together for the last eight months in what was such an intense experience. These people had been there for every high and low of my time there, and so saying goodbye was especially sad. Luckily, most of my friends live in England so visiting each other will be easy, and for my friends in Europe, I now have my next holiday destinations sorted! Since I am not too adverse to clichés I can safely say I have made some friends for life.
For anyone considering doing an exchange at Simon Fraser University or in Vancouver feel free to contact me, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions. I know before you head on an exchange it can feel pretty daunting, so if I can help ease any worries then just let me know! But I’m incredibly jealous of any of you who have this whole experience yet to come! For you it’s all just about to happen…