One thing I didn’t envisage when hopping on the plane to Canada last August was having to cut the trip short because of a pandemic – to be honest I would have probably thought a run in with bears or a skiing accident would have been more likely! In all seriousness, coping with the coronavirus outbreak was one of the hardest things I have had to do all year. Within a couple of weeks the place I had started to call home began disappearing: university shut and classes went online, residences became empty, and shops and attractions all around me started to close. It was a lot to take in; I wasn’t ready to go home and this was definitely not how I had hoped to say goodbye.
UBC decided to move classes online relatively quickly, meaning I would have no more lectures or discussion groups, and campus, normally home to 60,000 students, soon became a ghost-town. Personally I struggled to keep up with the transition to online learning, because without a structure to my days, and all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, it became really hard to focus on my upcoming deadlines and assignments. I was devastated that I was having to leave so soon – there was so much I still wanted to do and see. After my exams I had planned to celebrate with all my friends, show my parents Vancouver, and then travel across the rest of Canada. There were also the little things I’d miss, like seeing the views of the ocean and mountains from my window or having classes with friends. However, part of me was also very worried about not being able to get home. Travel advice was changing every day and Vancouver was heading in the same direction as the UK, with stricter restrictions being announced every day. All the uncertainty and having to decide what to do was very difficult to deal with, but in the end we realised it would be safer (and cheaper – there’s only so many loo rolls I can afford!) to fly home.
After knowing that I only had a week left in Vancouver before heading back to the UK, my friends and I knew we had to make the most of it. Fortunately, professors at UBC were very kind and understanding of our situation and gave us all flexibility surrounding final assignment deadlines. This meant I had time to say goodbye to UBC and the friends I had made there. It’s almost as though the weather gods knew we were leaving because we had a full week of lovely Vancouver sunshine (which trust me is a rarity!). We enjoyed our last few sunsets on Wreck Beach, had group meals and played games, and walked around campus in a desperate search of raccoons – I still can’t believe I never saw one! We also took a few last road trips to some local Vancouver viewpoints to absorb the incredible scenery one last time.
Despite a few teary moments, I had a pretty great final week in Vancouver, and in a weird way it made me appreciate my time there even more. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on the year – all the friends I made from across the world, who I can’t wait to visit in the future once this craziness is all over, and all the incredible places I managed to visit, from the Rockies to Hawaii. I even FINALLY learnt how to ski at Cypress Mountain a couple of weeks before COVID-19 hit, so I can definitely leave on a high. Going abroad really was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and as this shows, one thing you can count on is it never being dull. And what better way to end an amazing year than with views of the Northern Lights from the plane – never too late to tick something off the bucket list eh!
Until next time Vancouver (and the raccoons!) – we have unfinished business!!