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
Tims 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”→
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!
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.
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?!?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”→
By George Davies – The University of Calgary, Canada
The topic of mental health is commonly discussed in the realm of studying overseas. So whilst I may not be contributing anything new to this topic, I wanted to share my experiences with anxiety during my year away. As well as the coping mechanisms I tried to deploy and useful links available during your time away.
By Ruby Smith, University of British Columbia, Canada
Prior to my arrival in Canada, I had ambitious plans to travel before returning to the UK. However, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances relating to my visa I was unable to get a job and was therefore was left with a very small budget to travel with. Regardless of the troubles I faced trying to get a job, I eventually found some great options that didn’t leave me broke and ended up having a sweet end to my year abroad.
By George Davies – The University of Calgary, Canada
Studying in Calgary should definitely be at the top of your list if you enjoy being outdoors. Home to the fastest ice in the world, as well as the stupendously stunning snow-capped Rocky Mountains, Alberta ticks every box for any alfresco adventurer. After spending almost seven months in this corner of the world, I’ve had my fair share of experiences. From carving down heavenly white powder to scrambling up unrelenting rock faces, I have accumulated a string of thoughts on the best places to visit and investments to avoid as a travelling student. Which I hope may be of some sort of guidance for those new to the Albertan scene. Allowing you to make the most of your time in the province and beyond. Continue reading “Skiing, Hiking and Whatnot in Alberta”→
By George Davies – The University of Calgary, Canada
Before the start of my study abroad experience, I had not planned on returning to the UK until the following summer. I had assumed that my schedule in Calgary would not be able to accommodate for any time to take a trip home. Moreover, it seemed to me that it would have only be a backwards step. Coming all this way across the Atlantic and half of the North American continent, it seemed foolish and a waste of time to venture back to where this story began. Continue reading “Should I Stay or Should I Go? Reflecting on my trip back to the UK”→