Salma Rana, Queen’s University
During my year at Queen’s, there was a huge variety of ways to get involved with both the University community and the larger Kingston community.
I am very much involved with the Muslim community at University of Manchester (shout to Manchester ISOC!). However, I quickly realized that Muslims are a true minority in Kingston, Ontario. Even more than any place I have been to in England. There is only one mosque. Nevertheless, I quickly realized something else: the love in this community is one of a kind. The transport links to the mosque aren’t too good, so it can be difficult to get there, but QUMSA (Queen’s Muslim Student Association) do a lot to make sure students are truly catered for. From hosting congregation prayers, regular lectures, socials and charity events.
When Muslim leaders came to campus to give talks and lectures, it wasn’t just catered to Queen’s students. The wider community always got involved, and throughout the year I got to know local families. In the first semester I volunteered at the different events and met so many amazing people, and in the second semester, I joined the committee as ‘charity and fundraising officer’, where I learned so much. There is too much to say about my time with QUMSA, but I can say that memories I created with them are some of the warmest of my exchange experience, and I will always look back at them with the most fondness.
HEALTHY COOKING CLUB
My two years of living out at Manchester didn’t really do anything for my culinary skills, so the Queen’s Healthy Cooking club was something I was incredibly excited for. Every week a healthy, but delicious 3-course menu was released. The first 10 people to come to the club’s stall and sign up got to meet together the following Wednesday, to cook whatever was on the menu and eat together. The fee per week was $10, which covered your portion of the ingredients cost. The club was really good in terms of dietary requirements and made sure everyone was catered for. From my time with the club, my two favorite creations were Mexican hot chocolate and Green coconut curry!
Being an exchange student can mean that you might end up only spending time with other exchange students. An exchange alumni said that something he regretted was not getting to know the Canadian home students. Joining this club meant that I got to meet and eat dinner with a range of different people, especially home Canadian students. We exchanged travel stories and tips.
All Queen’s students get a free pass to the university gym! It is genuinely one of the best gyms I have been to and I miss it dearly. There is an exclusive women’s-only area upstairs which I spent a lot of time at. I guess in England gyms I am used to a very small ladies section, with minimal equipment, but the one at Queen’s was so spacious with a great variety of equipment.
I also joined the Queen’s yoga club ($30 for one semester), and it was literally the best decision! You get to go to two classes per week, and there are so many slots of choose from during the week, to make sure you can fit the two classes within your timetable. The classes take place both on campus and off campus (downtown) and there is a variety of practices to choose from (such as Hot Yoga, Hatha, Ashtanga). The trainers are very professional and fully trained so definitely worth the price.
In my opinion, Cataraqui Mall, which is the main shopping centre in Kingston isn’t too good.
Maybe because I am used to the likes of the Bullring, Arndale and Trafford centre. However, downtown Kingston makes up for this. It is literally only a 10-minute walk from Stauffer library, and it is bustling with cute coffee shops, dessert places and private boutiques. Side note: the actual shopping isn’t very good in Kingston so when I did need to buy clothes, I usually ordered online (Forever 21 in Canada/US is so much better than the UK version) or whenever I went down to Toronto.
During the year, it is fair to say that my friends and I pretty much ate our way downtown. Looking back, in terms of dessert, Cakao 70 stands out for its chocolate fondue (albeit on the pricey side) and Crave for its vibe and cheesecake. However, my all-time favourite type of food to eat downtown was chicken shawarma poutine! That is chips layered in gravy, cheese and chicken. We usually went to House of Donair for this, due to the amazing gravy, its huge portion sizes, and clean sit-down area. However, at the end of the year I finally tried out the more popular Mr. Donair which is next door to House of Donair, and although it doesn’t have a sit-down area, the actual poutine might be better thanks to the huge variety of toppings.
At Queen’s there is always a game to go to, whether it’s ice-hockey, basketball, American football or soccer. For students, the tickets are always free. This aspect of Queen’s made me really feel like I was living the American/Canadian university life. The school spirit is present at the games especially, with different sets of cheerleaders – each with their unique style, loud chants and alumni from decades ago coming in with their old sports attire. There are school buses covered in the Queen’s Gaels logos, and school colours and chants splattered throughout campus. The whole campus comes together for these games, especially for the Homecoming game. Wearing my own Queen’s sweatshirt, chanting the anthem along with my friends, I really felt my place in the Queen’s community.
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