In my experience, study abroad can sometimes feel like living in a different world, (especially at SFU, which is so different to UoM), in which you feel like everything back home has paused, and you’re sprung into this new life- one which you never would have encountered without the study abroad programme at Manchester. In that sense, it’s easy to keep breezing along and riding the wave, but I wanna make sure I’m savouring every experience- even the seemingly mundane moments- I encounter here. I’m over half way through my 2nd semester at SFU, and in light of the limited time I have left here in Vancouver, I wanted to look back at the spring term and all the special moments that have made a lasting impression on me.
Returning to snowy Vancouver
It was weird going back home for Christmas for 3 weeks- there were things I started to appreciate about England that I hadn’t ever really noticed. My hometown looked like an idyllic toy-town with tiny winding roads (compared to the contrast of Vancouver’s wide, airy grid-system) and it felt great to be able to order a casual pint of beer at the bar (They’re all about table service and formality over here…) and hear Brits chatting spiel in the background- the bar culture in Vancouver isn’t as lively, but I would say the beer is better (They love a weird craft beer out here).
Anyway, I was feeling a bit nervous about returning to Canada- I think because I knew that this would be the last time I’d be coming back, and we’d no longer be able to use the excuse of ‘it’s calm we’ve got another semester’. I didn’t know what the spring term was gonna bring- especially having lost some great friends (Aussies, Kiwis, Germans etc) who returned to their home universities at Christmas. Thankfully, I can say that this semester has been amazing- with the frequent skiing as the main factor in that. I had been itching to get on the slopes throughout semester 1, so you can imagine how good it felt to start using our season passes and own [very battered] skis.
Within the first few days of being back at SFU, Vancouver lived up to its reputation of being a cold, snowy, Canadian city- though one that defo doesn’t know how to function with snow. So for a couple of days, Vancouver kinda shut down and travelling around was slow (got stuck in the cold a few times). But this didn’t stop me and my bestie from home (she flew all the way from Brighton!!!) getting out (see pics below).
Trips to Whistler
One of the major reasons why I chose Vancouver as my study abroad destination was because of its great outdoors and access to world-class skiing. Within Vancouver itself, there are 3 mountain ski resorts (Grouse, Seymour and Cypress) which are small, family-oriented resorts that offer day and night skiing. So far I’ve only been to one of these; Mt Seymour, for an evening of night skiing. Unfortunately, it was super foggy and the vis was bad (which was worsened by my dark, reflective goggles- look good but so impractical haha), but I’ve heard that on clear days you can see over the whole city. I intend on doing a ‘ride night’ with the ski club here, since they offer discounted evening passes to these resorts.
Though Vancouver itself boasts lots of options for skiing, Whistler (2 hour coach drive away) was the real-deal, and the £450 student season pass made this so worth it, baring in mind a day-pass costs upwards of £100. During the first few weeks of the semester- when uni commitments were low- we tried to get up to Whistler once a week, using Whistler Rides and Skylynx coaches to do day trips. Though this was tiring- having to wake up at 5am to catch the coach from downtown and returning to campus around 9pm- days spent in Whistler always fill me with gratitude, and offer a mental reset, a good cure for home sickness/stress etc.
My highlights of Whistler so far are spending the reading week there with 3 other exchange friends, staying in the H.I hostel and being able to apres and party without rushing for a coach back to the city (Whistler is known for having decent nightlife, where only Friday and Saturday nights are dead??). There’s no shortage of Aussies in Whistler either, which can only be a good thing right? All 4 days spent skiing over the reading break treated us to blue skies and sunshine (though very icy), and we were lucky enough to go inside an Ice cave near the top of Whistler mountain. See pics below for my highlights so far.
Midterms & what’s next…
Coming back to reality after reading break in Whistler was weird. As much as I love the city-life aspect of Vancouver, I sometimes find the SFU campus (located 40 min bus ride from downtown) a little isolating and boring. However, sometimes all it takes is a little reminder of the beauty surrounding me, and I head over to the mountain park view point (I’ve taken endless pics of the views from up here- it’s defo my favourite spot) or drag myself off campus to go to a yoga class at KarmaTeachers (a beautiful studio that offers free or by-donation yoga). After all, the stereotypical Vancouverite lives n breathes yoga, hiking and Lululemon- so I might as well try and milk that before heading back to Manchester.
I had a couple of midterm exams after reading break, which I tried not to stress too much about… hopefully that’s all good. Last semester I joined student-led activist club ‘Ban the Bottle’ as their new events coordinator, and I’m so excited to have organized my first event for them last week. The main goal of our club is to literally, ban the [plastic] bottles on campus, urging people to utilise the water refill stations located all around campus. After lots of back-and-forth communication, we successfully hosted an event screening of the beautiful documentary ‘The Heart of the Fraser’, which deals with the issue of environmental degradation the Fraser river, a declining salmon population and the associated issues with operating industry and agriculture on the river’s floodplains. The screening was followed by a Q&A panel discussion with the film’s director, professor Ken Ashely (who was very involved with the project and film) and the Pacific Water Research Centre’s (PWRC) executive director Zafar Adeel. We also gave out free ‘Ban the Bottle’ reusable bottles to everyone in the audience, as well as popcorn and logo stickers for promotion.
We’re super happy to have confirmed with the SFU facilities team that plastic bottles will be removed from all shops and vending machines on campus in Summer. The next event to plan will be a celebratory social/party at the end of semester, hopefully with the announcement of an exact date. See pics from the screening event below (credit to Ryan De Jong).
Right now my focus is on making the most of every last day in this beautiful city, as well as saving money for travelling- hopefully through California and Mexico- at the end of the semester!