Campus vs City life

After spending two years in the bustling city of Manchester and having university buildings spread all along Oxford road, it has been nice to experience life on a university campus. I have listed below a few topics of comparison which have been both positive or negative during my experience abroad.

Campus Halls Vs Fallowfield housing:

After spending my first year in university halls and upgrading (or some would say downgrading!) into private housing in Manchester, I got a good flavour of what living in a city was like. It was an opportunity to live with people you had gotten on well with and be in a house independently without the bother of parents. The freedom of this is great and is the first time your home really feels like home rather than living under the supervision of someone else.

Moving to Calgary was almost a throwback to first year as I decided to move back into university halls on campus. This was a great opportunity for me to meet likeminded exchange students who were in a similar position. My flat consisted of four rooms which were split by a shared kitchen and lounge area in the middle. My halls were quite big with around 25 flats on each floor and 4 floors in the building, presenting the perfect chance to interact with other students and get to know people you were living with. Being close to everyone gave a similar feel to Manchester halls, although the main difference was each hall was a mix of a certain year group rather than purely freshers. My hall was predominantly exchange and international students, which was the perfect chance for me to meet people who wanted to do similar activities. This made it more difficult to meet the local Canadians as most of them lived at home, but I don’t think this was too big of an issue as I met a lot of them through societies such as the bouldering society. I would definitely recommend living in university halls while abroad on a campus, as it gives you the chance to meet people from all over the world who are looking to travel and explore the new city, as opposed to locals who have lived there for their whole life.

Food choices around uni:

As most of the university buildings are along Oxford road, there is a large and diverse range of dining options when around uni. This is great for grabbing a quick coffee or lunch, with a range of different cuisines and styles of restaurants available. The same cannot be said for the food options available on Calgary’s campus. If you don’t have a pre-paid meal plan, the main place for food on campus is in a place called Mac Hall. This consists of quite a few fast food restaurants of different cuisines. Unfortunately, most of these are quite unhealthy and the range of food is not that great. The food here also tends to be quite expensive which I think is something they could look into changing, as they know the only customers are students and staff. A lot of the time I find it easier and cheaper to pop home to make lunch myself, but sometimes this is not possible if I have little time between lectures. Personally, I prefer the larger choice and price range of restaurants around Manchester as it accommodates for a larger audience and can be more economical for money conscious students.

Distance to lectures:

This is a big difference between being on a campus rather than at a city university. In Manchester, I have to travel on a busy bus from Fallowfield to northern campus (where most of my engineering lectures are) most mornings, which takes around half an hour. This can be quite a struggle especially if you have a lot of early 9am lectures. Coming back from uni is also a challenge, as the magic buses can fill up very quickly and you can be waiting to get on a packed bus for long periods of time.

The University of Calgary campus in the fall of 2019.

This hassle is eliminated by living on a campus, as every building is within walking distance from my accommodation. This is great for people who want that extra time in bed in the mornings and means you don’t have to travel far to make those dreaded 9ams. Like I mentioned before, it is also easier to quickly route back to your flat if you have forgotten something or want to prepare some food during the day. I like this aspect of the campus when contrasted to a city but sometimes it can be very tempting to take a quick afternoon nap instead of that extra hour at the library!

Mountains, lakes and more mountains!

After living in Calgary for two months now, I have had the opportunity to experience not just what the city has to offer but the surrounding areas as well. One of the key attractions of Alberta is the Rocky Mountains, which contain some of the world’s most amazing landscapes. Within a short driving distance, you can be immersed into beautiful national parks with truly breath-taking views.

Canoeing on Lake Louise

The first park I visited was Banff, and more specifically Lake Louise. This is a famous lake that is surrounded by a vast mountain range allowing stunning views. We took the opportunity, while it was still warm, to canoe on the lake before it freezes over. This gave a whole different perspective of the lake as instead of looking at it from the edge, you were within touching distance with the emerald green water. The contrast of the warm sunny weather with the snow capped mountains in the distance was a truly increadible sight. There was also a short hike up to a viewpoint allowing you to see the lake from above. On the way was a small teahouse, which was a great lunch spot after a tiring walk!

After seeing Lake Louise, we went to see Lake Moraine which was easily accessible by bus. We were very keen to see this particular lake as it closes for the winter months. The lake was a more azure blue shade which I personally prefered, which looked great with the sun shining. There were more great views although we didn’t have the opportunity to see it from above as the trail was closed. After seeing these lakes we headed back to Banff town, which had a small ski resort type feel. It was full of buzzing restaurants and shops, with plenty of places to buy clothes or souvenirs. It also ran a regular shuttle bus back to Calgary, which came in very useful after an action packed weekend!

Lake Moraine

A few weeks later we decided to do our first challenging hike in a place called Kananaskis, which was one of the closest ranges from our campus. We drove to a fairly desolate location and ventured through a small gap in the trees to start our hike. We were further excited by the chance of seeing the famous Canadian wildlife such as a moose or if we were lucky a bear. Sadly we didn’t see either but this was compensated by seeing the spectacular view at the summit of the mountain. It gave great views of the surrounding ranges and vegetation that could survive the harsh conditions at the top. It was not a popular route with lots of tourists so it was very peaceful at the summit and gave a real sense of harmony.

The third place we visited was Jasper national park which is one of the better known parks in the Rockies. Like Banff, there was a small town full of shops and restaurants which gave us a chance to have some great food in the evenings. It wasn’t just the views in Jasper that were amazing but the 5 hour drive from Calgary provided some stunning scenery. Whilst driving we stopped at  a few locations along the way including Bow lake and .. Icefield. It was incredible to see some of the most beautiful mountains that Canada has to offer from the window of a car. This also gave us the perfect excuse to stop the car regularly and absorb the view from the side of the road. Once in Jasper, we attempted the most difficult hike to date. It was relatively short at 8.6km but had an elevation of 1300m over this distance. As this was in late October, the weather was getting colder and as we approached the summit, we encountered some very steep and slippery terrain. At some points the snow was also knee high and made for a challenging but enjoyable day. Sadly the day was slightly overcast, so the further we ascended the more the visibility diminished. After a very tiring day it was nice to relax and enjoy some downtime in the hostel and have a nice meal out with friends.  

Bienvenue au Canada

Phil Tugnait, Univesity of Calgary, Canada

Before embarking on my year away in Canada, I was met by a flurry of excitement, a touch of nervousness and an echo of the same question from family and friends, “Do you know it gets very cold out there?”. This led me to looking forward to my departure date even more as I would finally hear this familiar phrase for the final time.

Leaving the comfort of Oxford Road and jetting off to a faraway land, coated with mountains and maple syrup made me glad that I had elected to leave the bustling city of Manchester for a year and experience something completely new and different.

I arrived a couple of days before move-in day which meant I had plenty of time to sort things out before campus started to get busy. I am living in residence on campus in a flat of 4 and I have already found a great group of global friends ranging from Australia to Switzerland. One of the great perks of being on exchange is the variety of different people you can meet and connect with, which was made easier by living on campus.

My first week in Calgary started with an orientation day spearheaded by a ‘pep rally’. This ceremony pits all the faculties against each other by making as much noise as possible with their own chants. Being in the engineering faculty, which is one of the biggest, made it more fun and already made me feel like I was part of a community at the university. There was also a very heavy focus on how important the indigenous communities were in Canada, especially in Calgary as they were the first people to inhabit the city. This was an interesting side to the culture that I had not experienced before and it was very interesting to see the respect and care that the university held for these communities.

Orientation ‘pep rally’

The next day I had my first skate session on the Olympic oval hosting some of the fastest ice in the world. Having never skated before, it made the experience more enjoyable for my friends who were in stitches of laughter watching me slip and slide around the ice. This was followed by a hike to the Bow river which runs all the way through Calgary, providing some lovely scenery. It is amazing to have clear water flowing such a short walk from campus and is surrounded by the peaceful Edworthy Park. After walking through the park, the setting and wildlife made me feel like I had truly arrived in Canada.

Olympic Oval

The opening week also presented an event called Kick Off, which is the first varsity football game for the uni. This is a large event where everyone gathered to support the Dinos, which is the name of the university team and was a great opportunity to raid the bookstore for some supporting merchandise. The stadium was a short walk from campus and has a capacity of around 35,000 which makes it the fifth largest in Canada. The game had a great atmosphere and presented a great spectacle as the Dinos won the game 24-10.

After orientation was finished, we decided to head off campus into downtown. It takes around 25 minutes on the C-train which is a tram style train that takes you straight into central Calgary and is free for students. The first thing to notice was the huge skyscrapers that towered over the streets in the centre. The roads were also in a block style structure which makes them easy to navigate and leads to an absence of roundabouts. We headed towards Chinatown where we had a tasty dinner followed by a lesson in how to tip in Canada. A common tip would be around 15-20% of the bill as if no tip is given the staff will be paying this portion out of their own pocket. This was an important to learn as it seems to be taken as a given rather than a choice in the UK.

Edworthy Park

The weather was a surprising aspect of my opening week as I was unprepared for a warm wave of temperatures in the high 20’s. This was time to appreciate the city without a blanket of snow before the cold temperatures arrive.