Guelph; why you should come here, even though you’ve likely never heard of it.

When I found out I was coming to Guelph I was a little underwhelmed. Here are some of the reasons you should consider a town whose name sounds like a cough.

The eco-friendly vibe

I have got a free reusable mug, free metal straws, and a free menstrual cup within the first month being here. The farmers market is one of my favourite places, and if you get food on campus you can either get a plate, or get food in a reusable container which is then returned and washed.

Small size

Small is boring right? Wrong! In a big university you can feel a bit like a small fish in a huge lake. Being in smaller classes makes it much easier & much friendlier to get involved in different projects & initiatives. This also means I have the option of talking to professors about assignments and lectures, and a lot of support. I know all the physics students in my year,

The location

I went to New York for spring break. I never thought I’d go to New York; it’s expensive, and it’s far away. Now it’s only one of those things.

I’d say that, in general, the whole of the US and Canada is quite awful for travelling in; everything is so big, and far away; even crossing the street sometimes seems a bit daunting, but Guelph is in a pretty good spot; Montreal, Ottowa, New York, Detroit and Chicago are all either few hours or a night-bus away.

The price

It’s hard to comment on the places I didn’t go, but I’d guess Guelph in on the cheaper side. For me, living expenses have been comparable to Manchester (but a little more expensive). In some of the more northern parts of Canada, groceries can be very expensive, and rent here is more accessible than the more famous cities like Toronto.

The climate also means I didn’t have to buy any of the new clothes I budgeted for; I’ve survived all year in my doc-martens and coat from superdry. I wear two pairs of socks, a bobble hat, scarf and gloves, and I’m happy and snug and warm.

The weather

The autumn leaves are a beautiful, surprising shade of red and gold. I love the snow. Snow is amazing; it’s soft and clean and its so satisfying to walk through a pristine layer. Icicles fascinate me; they’re so sharp and glassy.

Canada is a beautiful place, and a big part of that is the weather. Don’t be too scared of the cold however; the southern-most point of Ontario is further south than the northern-most point of California. Guelph is pretty temperate; this winter we’ve had mornings of -15 to -23 degrees, but the cold doesn’t bother me as much as -1 in Manchester, because the air is drier.

In short, I love Guelph. It’s a wonderfully friendly, supportive university, whose small size makes it really easy to explore. I’ve had a great time, there is so much discover in the locations around the town, including Toronto and Algonquin Park, and I’d highly recommend Guelph to anyone who wants to go on study abroad in Canada.

Life After Toronto: Where Next?

By Paul Alex Treadaway, University of Toronto

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I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing or why this photo was taken in Guanajuato, Mexico

By May last year not only was the Toronto cold beginning to lose its bite as the snow melted into a optimistic Spring, I was all done and dusted studying at U of T. Home time? Well no, not quite yet. The explorer inside me, (Insert a hilarious Dora the Explorer joke here) had some unfinished business to attend to.

Continue reading “Life After Toronto: Where Next?”

Homesickness and a Botanical Garden

Winona Newman, Concordia University, Montreal

I wanted to share a small trip I went on before Christmas. I had been feeling a bit lost and confused. Sitting exams in another country was stressful and I was simultaneously feeling both proud that I’d got through almost half my time away and scared that it was slipping through my fingers. The threat of snow was also looming ominously so I needed to enjoy autumn while I could. I decided to visit Montreal’s Botanical gardens which are almost an hour away from where I live and are recommended as one of the best places to visit here.

Like everything else in Montreal they were beautifully extravagant but also surprisingly peaceful. It was an intensely Autumnal day and there was something about that that made me feel really nostalgic, it reminded me of walking through paths of fallen leaves back home and the crisp sunny air which has always been my favourite weather. You can never really predict what’s going to make you feel homesick and I didn’t think I’d find it here, amongst these cute statues and carefully curated landscape. But it makes sense, autumn here mirrors autumn back home both the in climate and aesthetics. It was fine that the homesickness hit me here, where it was peaceful and I could walk on my own, I could ground myself, just focus on taking these photos. It gave me some quiet space.

I think this could be said of this first semester in general. I’ve had a space away from much that was familiar, both the bad and the good, and I’ve had a chance to work out what I am without it. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to sort my mental health a bit and really focus on doing and thinking things I had no time for before. I’ve realised that even the best things in your life can act as day-to-day distractions and while that’s not a bad thing it’s strange to find what you are without them, what suddenly takes priority when there’s none of the usual expectations of you.

I think this is a pretty cool aspect of a year abroad because it’s one you can control, it’s not place or people dependent and most importantly it can help to counter that encroaching feeling of homesickness. Just find your own strange botanical garden away from it all.

On the importance (and unimportance) of grades (for me) (in hindsight)

So, I tend to overthink things. A lot. Before coming to Canada, I was worried about how study abroad fit into my university career. Would I be behind when I got to Canada? Would I be behind when I got back? What if I dropped marks? I have the whole of the rest of my life to travel, so maybe I should wait?

Let me take a moment to walk you through a few reasons why I shouldn’t have been too caught up in how study abroad would affect my academics, and why you might not need to worry too much either:

Unsurprisingly, like a good number of other students, I have anxiety and I normally have difficulty giving myself time off. The first advantage of study abroad is that it gives me an excuse (an excuse to myself that is) to take time out to explore. Changing my environment so drastically also gave me an opportunity to change my habits; there were fewer expectations and routines attached to my new space, so I have been able to construct healthier and more productive study habits, based on what I’ve learnt about my learning style in my first two years of university.

Surprisingly, the difference in structure has also been a big help. I was worried before coming to Canada about the heavier workloads and the more frequent assessments, but far from being a problem this has actually been very beneficial; going from 100% exams in Manchester to grades split between finals, midterms, assignments and quizzes has had an amazing effect on my anxiety. I’m much happier, and my grades reflect this. Over this first semester I’ve engaged more deeply with the lectures and understood more as a consequence. I’m still a little nervous that I will struggle when I get back, but I’m hoping I’m putting down a firm foundation to work from when I return for my final year.

Another reason not to worry too much is that grades aren’t everything. In the longer term, study abroad can improve resilience, independence, and the ability to work with diverse groups of people, as well as other skills that employers look for. It also lets you explore the diversity of cultures within your field; if you want to stay in academia, you can use this experience to explore what atmosphere you want to be in. In physics for example, Guelph and Manchester are worlds apart; I’ve gone from a class of 250 to classes of 12-20. I know everyone, and everyone knows me, including the lecturers. I’m much happier asking questions, and when there are four deadlines on the same day and it’s just not going to happen, it can be resolved with a simple conversation.

So far, this experience has had an amazing effect on my anxiety, which has in turn had a positive effect on my grades. Study abroad is an enriching opportunity, and I’m happy I was able to look past my academic worries. Every story is different, but I think there is always a lot you can learn from challenging yourself, even if it’s just that being away from home for so long isn’t your thing. If you have the grades & skills to succeed, and if it feel right, just go for it!

Best Thrift Stores in Montreal

Winona Newman, Concordia University

Montreal’s a pretty expensive city when it comes to bread, butter and beer but you can really start saving money by thrifting. What with the social and environmental implications of fast fashion it can be a really great way of supporting local organisations too. I’m a massive thrift store fan so I was delighted to find thrift stores on a whole different level to those you find in the UK, even in Manchester. Montreal’s thrift stores are massive, almost department stores, carefully organised, well stocked and extremely well priced.

When you’re first moving to a city you’ll probably need some bigger ticket items, especially moving into Canada’s harsh winters. It can be tempting to freak, get ahead of yourself and order things online or buy from well established stores. But if you can bear to hold out slightly longer you’ll find thrift stores starting to fill up with all your winter essentials. I bought myself a massive winter jacket (it feels like wearing a duvet) for £14 and I’ve seen many a pair of snow boot for less than £20 which, when bought from a ‘proper’ store can set you back 100s. Just check the quality of everything you buy, google the makes and check for rips and broken zippers.

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite thrift spots here, most of which I’ve bought jumpers, tops, shirts and trousers from all for about £3-4 so they’re definitely worth checking out, whatever you’re looking for.

Fripe-Prix Renaissance

Several locations

A massive charity shop located in the Plateau. They sell loads of clothes as well as books and home-ware.

L’Armée du Salut

1620 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H3J 1M1

This Salvation Army thrift store has almost everything you could want, a great place to grab kitchen utensils and furnishings as well.

Eva B.

2015 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2X 2T3

Eva B is more of a vintage shop, they sell really interesting clothes and they have a cool cafe with amazing vegan cake. Definitely pop by, it’s an experience in itself.

La Maison du Chainon

4375 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Z8

This is a really nice little shop selling a range of interesting clothes for really good prices, including snow coats and boots.

Have fun, shop sustainably and save money:)

10 Things I miss about living in Toronto and studying at U of T

By  Paul Alex Treadaway, University of Toronto

After six months away from the University of Toronto and the city itself, here are just some of the many things I miss about the city and my time studying there!

1. Tim Hortons

tim hortonsTims is an institution – its hard to explain why. It’s simply always there for you when you need it, morning, noon and most of the night. Coffee, TimBits, surprisingly addictive Chilli where you’re not entirely sure what all the ingredients are but somehow that doesn’t matter, it has almost everything you could want in the vicinity of fast food. Continue reading “10 Things I miss about living in Toronto and studying at U of T”

Montreal: Market’s, Metro and More

Winona Newman at Concordia University, Montreal

After spending the last few days in sweatpants revising and writing essays I was craving a change of scenery. So I finally submitted my essay late last night so I’d have today free to explore. This morning I consulted my list of places I really should visit and headed to Petite Italie – Montreal’s Little Italy, home to a number of independent cafes, second hand shops, art work spaces and one of the largest open-air markets in North America; Marche Jean Talon. The trip also allowed me to test my metro knowledge as it was the longest journey I’d done so far.

The short video hopefully gives a feel for the area, which I’d definitely recommend visiting for anyone studying in or visiting Montreal. As with many places here the aesthetics of the of ‘Little Italy’ sit on that slightly strange line between European and American archiceture and urban landscape, making it an interesting place to visit in itself. However, the real selling point is the market – packed with fresh fruit, veg and flowers. Apart from PA (the best and cheapest supermarket I’ve found) this is definitely the best place to grab your greens, especially if you live slightly outside of downtown or have a metro pass (which are really good value, especially if you’re riding everyday for uni). It’s also a really fun experience and there’s a great atmosphere. I’m excited to go back and see what it’s like when the snow comes!

Four things I wasn’t expecting about Canada

I have been in Canada for two weeks now, in a small university town called Guelph. (Pronounced Gwelf: It sounds a bit like the feeling of making mud pies as a kid.)
I’d like to think that I’m a pretty organized person. I spent hours upon hours researching when I first got accepted onto the study abroad program. Perhaps part of the fun however, and certainly the things you learn the most from, are the surprises you can’t predict.
That’s why I’ve decided to discuss some of the not-so-obvious shocks I’ve had since arriving.

Flying over Labrador (… I think)

Immigration
The crowd control barriers are endless at Toronto airport, and there was a confusing moment where I had to pick up a ticket and then turn around and go backwards before proceeding.
I’m a pretty anxious person, and in my mind, I imagined being ushered into a small grey room with a desk, and then grilled about my return flights, my funds, the few countries I’ve visited in my life and my political swing.
In reality, the process was much less scary, but took way longer.
It’s worth reading up on the restrictions on what you can bring into the country before travelling. This way you can avoid panicking about being deported for bringing in an egg sandwich, like I did (Spoiler alert: they didn’t care about the sandwich).

Jet-lag
The day I traveled to Canada, I woke up at 8 in the morning. My seven-hour flight left at 12.30. Immigration took ages, and then I had to wait four hours in the airport for one of the university organized buses. By the time I got out of the terminal it was dark, and by the time I got to bed that night I’d spent over 20 hours awake.
It doesn’t sound that bad right?
It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Until I woke up at three the next morning and couldn’t get back to sleep.
And I’ve been told it’s worse travelling in the other direction. Ugh!

Sunburn
I’m pretty pale, but I still didn’t expect to burn in my first week in Canada.
While I haven’t needed my big fluffy coat yet, I’ve been surprised how many different temperatures I’ve had to deal with in the past week.
The temperature the first few days was around 25 degrees outside. A decent British summer day, but nothing to get too excited about. You might be surprised to learn however, that Guelph is just slightly further south than Toulouse in the south of France, meaning that it receives the same amount of sun. It just doesn’t get as hot because of winds coming down from the arctic. This means the sun is much stronger you expect it to be. Locals even warned me that you can get burned from the sun reflecting off the snow in winter!

Toilets
Why is the seat so low down?!?
Why is there a gap between the door and the cubicle frame?!?
Why is there a foot of space between the bottom of the cubicle and the floor?!?
Why do they flush unexpectedly while you’re sitting on them?!?

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.

Returning home and thoughts for my final year

It’s taken a few months to readjust to life since returning home, partly due to the time difference but mainly due to the lack of independence since moving back with my parents. Although the grass is always greener on the other side, with home cooked meals and a clean house being two things that are greatly missed as a student, I’ve always greatly enjoyed the freedoms of student life particularly after living 5000 miles from home.

London life is so vastly different from Vancouver’s slow-paced and outdoorsy lifestyle which I found suited me well. It’s taken a while to remember the things I love about suburban life in West London and not wince at the cost of transport every time I hop on a train. However, after catching up with close friends and heading up to Manchester to hear all the stories I’d missed while away, I’ve noticed how the year abroad has benefitted me in terms of my motivation and positive outlook on life. After living somewhere where mountaineering sports and coastal walks were a regular part of my free time, I’ve found myself prioritising daytime activities over nights out (potentially a sign of old-age) which has helped me to cope better with work-related stress and anxiety.

As the summer flies by I’m having mixed emotions about returning to uni. While the prospect of the final year work-load is daunting, I can’t wait to be properly reunited with my uni family and also with those Manchester students I’ve become close with in Vancouver. Given the regular assessment at UBC, I feel I’ve developed a stronger work ethic and an ability to manage multiple deadlines which has equipped me well for fourth year. Furthermore, the ethos at UBC to become an active member of the community has inspired me to get involved with student volunteering groups and, in turn, utilise student resources to build my CV and career prospects.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year abroad and can safely say it has benefitted me in ways I cannot begin to list. I’ve found writing these blogs a helpful way to summarise the highlights of the year and am sure I’ll take pleasure reading back on them in years to come. I hope that after speaking to UBC students about UoM more positions become available to go on exchange to Vancouver as it’s such an inspiring city that provides an ideal environment for student life.

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Life in the Six

By  Paul Alex Treadaway, University of Toronto6F8F764F-D5F3-42AE-BE96-9708AD9B6251

Living in Toronto has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Its a diverse city with an abundance of culture, food, nightlife, attractions and hidden treasures, but it has also been a second home to me. Because of this, I want to not only talk about what makes life in the Six fantastic for anyone, but also what made Toronto special for me during my time there. Continue reading “Life in the Six”