Lola Bianchi, University of Guelph, Canada
Before coming home, I decided I really wanted to make the most of my time abroad and properly travel the country as I had previously not really had the opportunity or financial comfort to go on lots of travelling trips around Canada due to how high the cost of living is. Despite this, I had savings left towards the end of March and decided that it was time to spend them.
I, luckily, only had one actual exam, which was on the 30th of March, with the rest of my assignments for that term being coursework-based stuff all pretty evenly spaced out in the first 2 weeks of April. I thought I would challenge myself to complete all of my assignments before April as I already had booked my flight home for the 30th of that month. So I thought I should really go and see the rest of the country whilst I had the opportunity.
I first went to the west coast and did Banff and Vancouver, two absolutely amazing places which I would definitely recommend going to if you go out there! Vancouver is a really cool city and has a surprisingly large amount of still very accessible nature spots, hikes and beaches !
Personally, one of the things that had bothered me about Guelph was that there isn’t that many great nature spots around the town. There’s a nice few walks through forests and the odd park but I had kept seeing all of these amazing mountain ranges and huge canyons and crystal blue lakes throughout Canada so was a bit underwhelmed by the options in and around Guelph.
Banff is one of the oldest national parks in the world and has rightly so stood as one of the tourist destination for many decades. It is in the Rockies and at the time that I went we still had snow- even though it wasn’t too cold compared to the winter temperatures! They had temperatures of -30 to -45*C every day!
I then went skiing in Whistler which was also so nice as I met one of my friends from Guelph’s friend who was out there on a season! It was very handy to have met her, and her friends as the majority of them worked on the mountain and given how it was almost the end of the season, a lot of my equipment/passes were either free or half price because they still had discount vouchers leftover! Without them it would have been a crazy price and probably would not have been able to afford it. They were all super nice and welcoming and we had such a nice time.
Even though I met a lot of new people and enjoyed the company of all of the people I met everyday at the hostels in Banff and Vancouver, it did become a bit mentally exhausting constantly having introductions and speaking to so many different types of people so it was quite refreshing to just be in a group of similar age and minded people.
I then left the west coast to do Ottawa, Quebec City and Montreal as I had not gotten to go to the French part yet. As a politics student, I also felt I kind of had to go as it is where the parliament is. Despite the fact that Ottawa is the capital of the country, it was actually my least favourite area that I travelled to. There’s not a lot to do there besides the museums and the days I was there was so sunny and warm I didn’t want to waste it inside. The city is also rather small and very brown so I found it a bit dull compared to others, however I was only there for 2 full days and I went to the beach on one of them so that was nice!
Travelling in east coast is far more accessible than around the west as the cities are a lot closer than in west! There is also more trains and the VIArail is pretty reliable, unlike the majority of other public transport systems. Quebec city is very cute and quaint and has amazing architecture however is one of the most expensive places I went to so most of my time was spent window shopping! Montreal however takes the top spot as my favourite place there. It reminds me a lot of Manchester despite being very different and has sooo much going on it’s impossible to do it all in a few days. Everyone was super friendly and I also thought it was the most accessible economically which is obviously a high priority when you are travelling on a student budget.
I would say travelling around Canada also really changed my mind about the country as before I was a bit disappointed with what Guelph had provided however after meeting some really cool and genuinely nice people, as well as eating some proper good food and seeing sights beyond belief, I left Canada with the desire to go back and stay longer instead of wanting to come home. Next time however I would definitely come over summer as its far more beautiful when it is actually sunny and hot instead of sunny and semi-cold!