Vancouver on a budget

I didn’t anticipate just how expensive Vancouver and BC would be. I could write all about how I wished I’d saved up more money during the summer prior to departure, but an equally strong case could be made for my spending it- which ensured I had a memorable farewell summer with friends who I wouldn’t see for a while. Given the current circumstances- with summer 2020 being CANCELLED and everything- the no-raaagrets approach is even stronger. I like to avoid doing the whole ‘shoulda coulda woulda ‘ thing (Serves 0 purpose), but before I get on to my ‘Vancouver on the cheap’ tips, I will completely contradict that in the interests of prospective exchange students.

SHOULDA COULDA WOULDA

Get your work permit sorted BEFORE you get there

This first one might not apply to you savvy savers out there, but for those of you who do plan to work AND play, I would recommend looking into this sooner rather than later. A couple of days in, I discovered the extortionately priced phone plans in Vancouver (expect to pay at least double UK prices), a bigger tipping-culture (tip everyone, and don’t insult them with a mere 10% ) and RIDICULOUSLY expensive cheese (which is also pretty gross so I would advise binging on this to the MAX before leaving the UK).

It also became pretty apparent that my study commitments weren’t too time-consuming, and with a couple of weekdays off during the week (if you choose SFU over UBC), I defo had time to be earning a lil moolah on the side. So, I had this realisation that I might need some more money to live out my Vancouverite dreams, but I kept giving myself excuses to the delay the work permit process (e.g “I’m still settling in to the city” or “I don’t have a Canadian bank account yet” or “maybe I can fill out LOADS of surveys online and earn p that way”…). When I did finally get round to arranging a meeting with a study abroad advisor, I’d been notified that i’d need to send off my study permit to be amended, which would take 2 MONTHS. Once I had received my study permit and SIN number (Basically like a national insurance number) I had to complete a BC ‘Serving it Right’ course to enable me to serve booze.

I finally found a job that seemed perfect for me with a hospitality and temporary staffing agency, which would allow me all the freedom to earn money according to my own schedule. I did actually manage to get a few shifts accepted for April, but apart from those, none of the employers accepted my shift requests, as I had no stars or reviews to get me going – I was essentially the equivalent to an uber driver with 0 stars :(( If that wasn’t sparse enough, the 2 shifts I did have planned were cancelled due to COVID19 anyway. I think this was a sign from the universe that I wouldn’t be needing this money for the California-Mexico trip that was coming up. Though a bit of extra money would’ve helped me travel around more, I still had enough to go on weekends away in BC, and managed to secure a Whistler season pass, which allowed for plenty of fun in the mountains.

Anyway, the moral of the ramble is… Get that work permit sorted before leaving the UK and you’ll be good to go!

Find your Lidl/Aldi equivalents pronto

The SFU campus is on a mountain, 40minsish away from the more reasonably-priced food shops, which understandably pushes you towards the Nesters Market on campus. However, If you choose to shop at Nesters every week, you could be paying up to double for your food shop. I know its a bit of a trek away, but a 40 minute bus journey to either ‘No Frills’ (can assure you’ll be thrilled with those cost savings) or Walmart (Asda vibes) will help you to save money aside for the more exciting parts of your study abroad experience. Sometimes I had classes at the SFU downtown campus, so I’d try to coordinate my weekly shop with this- Or I’d make a trip out of it, using the food shop as an excuse to get me off the mountain and out into beautiful VanCity.

Soak up that late-summer sun as soon as you arrive

I arrived in Vancouver a couple of weeks prior to the beginning of my exchange, in Mid-august. The beaches (such as Sunset, English Bay and many more around the Stanley park sea wall) are gorgeous. The ability of Vancouver to shape-shift and evolve throughout the seasons is one of my favourite things about the city. When I first arrived, it had a Venice-beach vibe, with people playing beach volleyball and roller skating along the seafront paths. The city then descends into a rainy Fall season, before pulling through with snow outside the city to accommodate for winter sports. Though all the seasons bring with them new opportunities, I would advise making the most of that late summer sun when you first arrive!!

Fun things to do on the cheap

Yoga by donation

My favourite yoga studio is the Karma Teachers centre (45 W Hastings street) – a place you can indulge in all kinds of yoga/meditation at a price you decide. The studio is volunteer-run and is so beautiful- all round good vibes and a great way to mingle with locals (smiling through your legs in downward-dog) from every corner of the city.

Cycle around Stanley Park

You could walk if you wanna save the cash- which would take like 3 hours- but I defo recommend renting a bike (From Spokes or any of the other shops close to the entrance of Stanley park) for around $7 an hour- a small price to pay to cycle round the sea wall and feel that fresh sea breeze in your face. If you begin the cycle from Spokes rental shop, the first section of the seawall cycle path treats you to gorgeous views of the harbour, Vancouver rowing club, the aquarium and totem poles. Around the next corner, you are hit with views of the ocean and snow-capped mountains facing you, before passing under the infamous Lions Gate bride and finishing through a long stretch of beaches. You get to see so much of the city from the Stanley park peninsula along the sea wall, but if you have some extra time, I recommend checking out the interior of the park- which is actually a temperate rainforest (great for a gentle forest bathe).

Go to Deep Cove- buy a doughnut, and do the Quarry Rock hike

I did this little trip so many times- it’s a proper-gem, only a couple of buses away (which you can use your compass card for) and fulfills the quintessential Canadian coastal village vibe that lacks from Metro Vancouver. First, be sure to cop yourself a doughnut from Honey’s Doughnut’s and let that digest (I promise it’ll be one of the tastiest things you ever consume) before proceeding to the Quarry Rock trail head. This trail constitutes a section of the larger Baden Powell trail- which takes you all the way to horseshoe bay if you fancy a day-long hike. The Quarry Rock section is a 1.5hour journey through densely-green areas with giant Douglas Fir trees surrounding you. The trail leads you through higher and lower terrain, before arriving at the rock viewpoint, where you can indulge in insane views of the Indian arm and mountains around Belcarra. You can actually spot the SFU campus across the water at the top of Burnaby mountain.

Stay tuned for charity ride nights at the local mountains

I never actually attended one of these- as they were all cancelled due to weather conditions and Corona- but the charity ride nights (often advertised through SFU ski & board club) offer cheap lift-pass rates (normally around $15 to ski from 5-9pm) and a chance to experience breathtaking night-time views of Vancouver (if you’re blessed with clear skies). You can rent all the ski gear from the Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress mountain resorts for around $40 if you don’t have your own, but if you’re an avid skiier/boarder I recommend purchasing some second-hand (More on this in the following section).

Iceskating in Robson Square

This is a free winter attraction in Downtown Vancouver, though you do have to rent skates for $5 if you don’t happen to have a pair of your own kicking around! Though it might not mimic the Canadian ideal of frozen lake skating (found in the neighbouring Alberta province) , it is a great inner-city attraction to enjoy on the cheap. I think there’s a similar set-up across in North Vancouver in the Shipyard area which is pretty cool.

Sunset at Burnaby mountain park

If you’re at SFU, you might find that this view point will become an important part of your daily routine- the views across the city at sunset are sure to pull you out of any bad-mood, relieving stress and reminding you yet again why you chose Canada. You can see the lights of downtown melting into the peninsula of Stanley park and densley packed forest, and are surrounded by mountains at every angle. You can also peep the ski-resorts at the top of Grouse, Cypress and Seymour mountains, lit for night-skiing.

Go to Lynn Canyon rather than Capilano suspension bridge

Any list of ‘things to do in Vancouver’ will encourage you to go and see the Capilano suspension bridge in North Vancouver. But those views come with a $50 price tag and crowds of tourists trying to get that insta-perfect shot of Capilano Canyon. The cliffwalk section is pretty cool and is bound to supply you with great views, but a free-alternative and less touristy option is Lynn Canyon, which has a similar suspension bridge overlooking the Canyon and waterfalls. There are also swimming holes with ice-cold glacial water which will defo perk you up if you’re feeling bold.

Get the seabus to North Van – Polygon gallery

I wish I’d done this more, as it gives you a great perspective of downtown Vancouver from afar and has a quirky but peaceful vibe in the Shipyards area. The Polygon gallery is architecturally stunning, and offers by-donation exhibitions whilst boasting views across the water. Pay what ya can!

More expensive things that are worth your money

Paradise night club (Chinatown)

So Vancouver isn’t exactly renowned for having great nightlife- with the Granville street strip of quite mainstream clubs (top-40 vibes)- being the main destination for partygoers. However, the more alternative scene for Techno and electronic music is existent and is mainly publicized through Resident Advisor. The city – once notorious for having a pretty dead music scene- has experienced a boom in recent years in techno and house events , so if this is your cup of tea, its defo out there! Along with Open Studios, Dolly, the Waldorf and Gorg-o-Mish, Paradise (my personal favourite) will satisfy that itch for a proper dance. It’s located in a China town basement, and isn’t easily identified from the street- with no flashy lights or signage. Once you manage to find it though, the descent into the basement is reminiscent of a house-party, with a pop up bar and an intimate dance-floor setting. Paradise is also one of the only clubs open til late.

The Cambie bar and grill

The Cambie has a lil place in my heart. This place is the closest you’ll get to a British style student pub, as its attached to a hostel (meaning lots of young people) and requires you to queue up at the bar to buy drinks- Most bars in Canada pursue a more formal table service, which doesn’t allow for as much mingling or candid conversations with people. The Cambie gets pretty lively at the weekends, and transforms into a cheesy club night which can be quite fun. Cheap drinks too!!

Guilt & Co – Jazz bar in Gastown

If you want a more fancy evening out, Guilt&Co is such a cool spot for live jazz music and some cocktails. It’s very dark in there with candlelit tables and a mildly sensual vibe…

Buy skis from Sports Junkies

Like I mentioned earlier, avid skiiers/boarders may wish to purchase their own gear for the season and I couldn’t recommend Sports Junkies more. I managed to buy a decent pair of skis, poles and boots for around £250- this’ll save money on rentals in the long-run. They also guarantee a buy-back service at the end of the season, so you can easily return your skiis and get some cash for them if you don’t wanna fly them home.

Go thrift shopping in Mount Pleasant

This area, just outside of downtown Vancouver is full of trendy shops and cafes, boasting some great thrift shops if you wanna cop a bargain!

The premature ending of my Canadian adventure: COVID-19

I’ve been holding off from writing this blog post for a few weeks now, as I knew it would be a little painful to look back on my final days in Vancouver and think about this dystopian film we’ve all been sprung into. As I sit here writing this, it doesn’t even feel real to think my year abroad ended so prematurely, and so abruptly. However, I find some solace in the fact that my final months at SFU were stolen from a global pandemic- one which has disrupted everyone’s lives, in a situation from which no one is exempt. Though I regret not travelling outside of British Columbia (saving money for a California-Mexico trip at the very END of my year) I feel like entertaining such regret is futile. The best way to make peace with this situation is to reflect on all the amazing experiences I did get to have- and the ways which study abroad has changed my life for the long-haul. Firstly, I’m going to document my final days spent in Vancouver- both those during which I was blissfully ignorant to the encroachment of a pandemic, and the ones where I was aware. Then, maybe I’ll talk about the ways study abroad has impacted me more broadly. This all has a very dramatic tone, it’s meant to be nice and reflective lol.

Following on from my previous blog post

A month ago I had written a blog post about the first half of semester 2, including the event I organised for Ban the Bottle and the things I was really looking forward to- most notably, my family coming out to visit (saving the expensive activities I couldn’t afford for this week), and a trip travelling through California and Mexico with some friends at the end.

After my last blog post, a couple of weeks of normal life followed. We were aware that the Coronavirus situation was worsening, but still felt untouched by its reach. The weather in Vancouver was amazing, so naturally we fled the SFU campus and headed downtown. Me and Maddie explored the neighbourhood of Kitsilano – one of the first places I went to last August, when the outdoor pool was open and the bikini-weather flowing. After this, we headed towards the yoga studio in downtown, but were sidetracked by a massive thrift shop and jumped off the bus to have a lil browse. We tried on summery clothes, imagining ourselves on the beaches of Mexico, ice-cold corona in hand. Instead, we were dealt a very different kind of corona, as the situation worsened over the following few days. We hadn’t been skiing in Whistler since reading break, so planned a day trip that weekend- not expecting it to be our last :((

Skiing that day was perhaps my favourite ever. I kept saying ‘lets just assume this is our last time, since this corona thing is escalating’- but everyone brushed it off, already making plans to ski again the following week. The ‘last-time’ mentality helped though, and the day was filled with a combination of off-piste, trees and jumps, with bluebird conditions. We found out that the resort would be closing the following day for the remainder of the season. At this point I began to realise the magnitude of the situation, and started to grapple with the reality that we might be flying home very soon. Everyday, me and my other exchange friends would gauge the feeling of the group- deciding whether we’d risk staying in Canada and potentially getting stuck, or if we should just fly home and admit defeat. Another idea we toyed with for a couple of days was to escape to Mexico for a few weeks, after which we would more willingly return to the UK. Each day, our plans would change drastically, and it was stressful not knowing how much time we had left in Canada. Reluctantly, we all booked flights for the end of the week, with the intention of having a proper send-off- visiting our favourite spots for the final time.

The final days

The final days- I mean the ‘flight booked’ actual final days- were weirdly similar to my first days spent in the city. Me and friends went to see our fav views for the final time, and I went off freely exploring the city on my own just as I did last August. I drank boujee coffee, took way too many photos, and chatted to friendly Canadians. I opened my eyes more, and noticed little things about Vancouver that I had taken for granted (helped by the teasing sunshine).

On our final day together, we walked down the mountain to Barnet Marine park for a chill day and a casual spot of crabbing (??). Another gorgeous day:

So that concludes my time in Canada, how strange. Being home for the last couple of weeks has been weird, almost as if Canada was all a dream. It’s been nice to just focus on my wellbeing and getting fit again (The super-fit, healthy Vancouverite lifestyle doesn’t stretch to exchange students, oh noooo), but this isn’t the return I had anticipated, and its hard not being able to wrap my arms around friends and family who I haven’t seen for ages. However, I haven’t felt the need to wallow in self-pity about what could have been – after all, everyones lives have been impacted by this, and I know I’m incredibly lucky to be in safe position back home. This definitely is not the end of Canada’s influence on me though- it has only given me greater wanderlust to keep on exploring new places. I hope to return someday, but for now, I’m staying home xoxo

Final Farewells & Back in Blighty

I can’t believe I’m back in England writing this final blog post, and that the whole year is over! Now I’m that I’m home and settled back into life in England, I keep feeling – did it really happen? The eight months I spent in Canada were undoubtedly some of the best times of my life, and I would encourage anyone reading this blog and hesitating whether or not to apply to DO IT, DO IT, DO It! You won’t look back! There will certainly be odd times on your year abroad when it feels very challenging or you feel homesick, but for me those moments were always fleeting, and whenever there was a particularly hard time, there was always an incredible new experience just around the corner. Having completed the year, I feel I have come out of it more confident in new environments, and self-assured of my ability to adapt to different situations. I now feel that I could happily move abroad for a job in the future, with the skills needed to fit into a new country and culture.

Continue reading “Final Farewells & Back in Blighty”

A Trip to Texas

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

The start of semester two went so fast, and very quickly the reading week was upon us and my friends and I were wondering what fun (and affordable) travel opportunities we could make the most of during that week. Obviously there was some uni work that needed to get done during this time, but I did not want to miss out on opportunity to do some more travelling – how often do you find yourself in Canada? My flatmate, Millie, had friends studying in Austin in Texas who were also on their year abroad, so considering that visiting a place where you know people is always a good start, we packed our bags and headed off to Austin for a few days hoping to find some sun!

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Christmas in Whistler & End of Semester 1 Reflections

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada.

The end of December/ beginning of Jan has been crazy busy with exams, moving house, going skiing in Whistler, saying goodbye to various friends leaving Canada, and starting the new semester. But I’ve finally got a bit of a lull and thought I’d update everyone on my news, as well as offer some reflections on the end of the first semester and how the last four months in Vancouver have gone.

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Update: Mid-terms & Stanley Park 10k

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada

 

Stanley Park 10K

 

On Saturday 21st October Millie, Carrie, Lottie and I completed the 47th James Cunningham Sea Wall Race around Stanley Park. Being a spontaneous decision to sign up to the race 3 weeks before the event, none of us really did much training for it, and so when race morning came around we didn’t really know what to expect. Sheff was an absolute babe and drove us to the start line which saved us the dreaded journey downtown on the 95 bus (curse of living on a mountain). On the way down we listened to a mix of Beyonce power ballads and jump-up to get us pumped up for the run. Despite the weather being against us (it was pretty rainy and cold) and not being dressed in the right gear (all the Vancouverites had donned their fancy lululemon rain coats whilst we were shivering in t-shirts), we were all excited to start the race! The run was a loop of the sea wall all around the edge of the park, so we were really spoilt with beautiful views out to sea during the entire time – I even saw a seal bobbing along in the Harbour which was a real highlight. The trees were beautiful colours of red and orange as they began to shed their autumn leaves and at several points during the run I forgot about my aching legs and was just taken aback by the beauty of the park and felt such gratitude to be able to be where I was, doing what I was doing. Designated a national historic site of Canada, Stanley Park is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape of Vancouver – a must-do for any trip to the city. Twenty-seven kilometres of trails meander through evergreen forests filled with a rich diversity of lush plant life. You can walk, run, cycle, skate or rollerblade through it.

Continue reading “Update: Mid-terms & Stanley Park 10k”

Eating My Way Around Vancouver

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada

I am definitely a big foodie, so when travelling or visiting new places I am always excited about hunting down new eateries and trying out local specialities. The only quintessentially Canadian food I could find was ‘poutine’: French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. It originated in Quebec, and it’s so internationally loved here the Canadians even have whole festivals dedicated to it, and they serve it everywhere from fancier restaurants to the likes of Burger King. I can’t say I’m a massive fan as it’s very rich and heavy, but every once in a while it hits the spot. Here are a few other memorable food experiences I’ve had out here so far… to make your mouth water!

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First Impressions & Settling in

By Uschi, Canada, Simon Fraser University

Wow, a whole month here has completely flown by! So much has happened during this time, but I feel like it has definitely taken me up until the one month mark to start feeling properly settled here. Let me try and synthesise the main points of the first few weeks:

Firstly, be prepared to be completely exhausted, disorientated and at times completely overwhelmed during the first week. The first few days were so intense and a whirlwind of new faces, places, and endless orientation activities. After the third day I think I lost track of the amount of different welcome talks, speeches, and orientation activities I had been to. At this point no one has any clue what’s going on, and everyone is trying to desperately cling on to the few friends they have made. If you’re reading this having just arrived and feeling a bit lost/ confused/ doubting why the hell you’ve decided to move halfway across the world then I can assure you those feelings are normal and will definitely pass! A month in, I’m having the best time and all those initial ‘rabbit in the headlight’ feelings are long gone. Now that classes have started and I’m in the habit of studying again, going to lectures, going to the gym, and having a routine everything feels a lot more normal.

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Pre-departure Thoughts

By Uschi, Simon Fraser University, Canada

So the end of August has come round sooooo quickly, and here I find myself on a sunny day in downtown Vancouver writing this blog post before I head to Simon Fraser University tomorrow for the start of the semester! Thinking about this moment has dominated my thoughts for over a year now, and so I can’t believe it’s finally here! I am feeling excited and nervous in equal measures, and while I have the odd brain worms giving me a bit of anxiety, I can’t wait to get moved in, meet my housemates, and start seeing what life at SFU has to offer.

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My Vancouver Top 10

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

Now I’m finished at SFU I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ve got up to this year – time has gone so quickly! I thought I’d make a list of my top 10 favourite things to see/do/eat in Vancouver for those coming to SFU or UBC in the future, or anyone just visiting. So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Stanley Park

    Seawall
    Seawall

This is an obvious one, but walking or cycling the seawall is lovely when the weather’s nice with views over the ocean and mountains. The park also contains aquarium, which is good value, and trails through the forests and beaches. At Christmas they also put on ‘Bright Nights’, which is just loads of Christmas lights and displays – it’s cheesy but amazing.

  1. Grouse Grind

    Grouse Grind
    Grouse Grind

Grouse Grind is a very steep 2.9km trial up Grouse Mountain with over 2000 steps and takes about an hour and a half. Although it is very tough, it is worth it – at the top there are amazing views, a bear enclosure, a free lumberjack show and a BeaverTails pastry shop.

  1. Earnest Ice Cream

    Earnest Ice Cream
    Earnest Ice Cream

This ice cream shop is really nice and the ice cream is so good. They do interesting flavours and it is perfect for a sunny day.

  1. Commercial Drive

This street has a lot of character and contains a nice mix and range of independent shops and restaurants. Cannibal Café is really good value and has great burgers. On the surrounding streets are lots of heritage houses which are nice to walk down as most of Vancouver is quite modern.

  1. Sophie’s Cosmic Café

    Sophie's Cosmic Cafe
    Sophie’s Cosmic Café

This is a retro and eccentric style diner, full of random and fun decorations. I’ve heard the breakfast is great, but I went for burgers which were really yummy and a good price too. It’s in Kitsilano, which is a nice neighbourhood to visit too, sunset at Kitsilano beach is so beautiful!

  1. Gastown

This is the old neighbourhood in Vancouver. Although it’s very small, it’s good to visit as it has a lot of character and charm and shows Vancouver’s history. It has tourist shops but also has become a bit hipster with its restaurants and bars. It’s nice to visit at night when the fairy lights and street lamps are lit up and the Steam Clock is on.

  1. Giants Hockey Game

    Giant's Game
    Giant’s Game

Ice hockey is a big thing in Canada, so you have to go to one while you’re here. Canucks are the big team, however the tickets are expensive. Instead, I’d recommend going to a Giants game, they’re cheaper and there’s a lot more atmosphere than at a Canucks game. The fans really support the team so you really get into it, whereas the Canucks game was a lot quieter and therefore not as exciting.

8.   Yolk’s

Yolk's
Yolk’s

Perfect place for brunch, the chicken and waffles are amazing!

  1. Granville Island

Granville Island used to be an industrial area but now is a big public market and marina. There’s lots of nice food and shops. I’d recommend Lee’s Donuts! I also visited a Comedy Club improv night which was different and a fun experience. Taking the aquabus there is fun too.

  1. Purebread

This is a nice café near the Downtown Eastside. They do lots of cakes and baked goods. There’s so much choice and everything is really good.

The End of SFU

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, Canada)

I leave to go travelling to the east of Canada in two days so I have been busy packing up my stuff, finishing exams and saying bye to my friends. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone, especially the second semester. I am glad I chose to study abroad as it has enabled me to learn and explore so much. I definitely feel so much more confident in myself and I can’t believe how far I have come. I struggled a bit in first semester and it took me a long time to settle in, but once I felt more comfortable with how things work over here and became closer to my friends things got a lot better. You just have to persevere, keep positive and be proactive.

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year

Canada Place
Canada Place

I found the academic side of things at SFU and Canada easy to transition into. Trying different subjects and topics both within and outside of Geography was really enjoyable. I will probably miss having midterms as they are easier than one big final, as well as just less pressure to do well as it is only a pass/fail year for me. My dissertation research was a big stress, but I managed to do it in time and I hope I got enough and to a good standard.

View from Burnaby Mountain Park
View from Burnaby Mountain Park

View from Burnaby Mountain Park
View from Burnaby Mountain Park

I have had so much fun being a tourist and going on adventures. My highlights are Hawaii, Seattle and Victoria, but also smaller daytrips nearby such as Deep Cove and Grouse Grind. I have loved meeting people from all over the world, and experiencing different cultures. I have made some lovely friends and look forward to seeing them again in the future. If anything, study abroad has only given me greater wanderlust and I can’t wait to go travelling around the world again soon.

Science World
Science World

Deep Cove
Deep Cove

Deep Cove Hike - SFU on the mountain on the left!
Deep Cove Hike – SFU on the mountain on the left!

I am now finishing my year abroad by going travelling in eastern Canada to Toronto, Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Niagara Falls and Chicago among a few other places. However, I am looking forward to returning home and seeing all my friends and family as I have missed them a lot. I have an exciting summer planned and then back to Manchester in September!

Bye SFU!
Bye SFU!

Semester 2 so far…

By Katie Lewin (Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada)

After a lovely Christmas break at home, I returned to SFU feeling refreshed and excited for the second semester. So far I have enjoyed this semester more than the first as I just feel so much more settled and in the swing of things. I took the opportunity to do two courses from Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, as well as two from Geography. I have found these really interesting and definitely recommend other exchange students to do courses outside of their normal subject as it’s a nice change and a chance to learn about other things that interest you. I have also been trying to sort my dissertation out as I was undecided for a long time, but now have an idea so will hopefully be starting my research as soon as possible as I only have just over two months left at SFU! Time really does go quickly, so if you can have things like your dissertation sorted before you arrive for your exchange and start the work early then you won’t need to stress as much as I have, and have more time to enjoy yourself.

Apart from doing small stuff in Vancouver, my main travel and exciting experience of this semester so far has been going to Hawaii for reading break. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and when I heard previous Vancouver exchange students had gone I knew this was my chance to go. Luckily, one of my closest friends here also wanted to go so I didn’t need to worry about going alone. A direct flight from Vancouver to Honolulu is about six hours, which is quite far, but this is the closest I am going to get and for the cheapest. The trip was worth it just for the sunny and warm weather alone, which was a nice break from rainy and foggy cold Vancouver. Our trip included exploring Honolulu and Waikiki, visiting Pearl Harbour, hiking, visiting different beaches such as Lanikai and Kailua, snorkelling at Hanauma Bay and going into the mountains to Manoa Falls where they filmed some of Lost! I had such a great time, Hawaiians are so friendly and helpful and the island has such a nice feel. I would definitely recommend it, although now I have definitely seen enough retired Americans in Hawaiian shirts to last a lifetime!

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View from Lanikai Pillbox Hike

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Sunset on Waikiki Beach

I am so glad I took the opportunity to go to Hawaii, an example of the amazing opportunities and experiences available to you when you choose to study abroad! I have managed to do a lot of the things I planned to, which I am proud of as it shows I am making the most of my time abroad and that I will have little to regret. However still left on my study abroad bucket list are visiting Victoria in Vancouver Island, and exploring east Canada after I am finished at SFU. So fingers crossed, I will have seen and done everything I wanted to by the end of my time in Canada!

Manoa Falls Hike
Manoa Falls Hike

Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay
Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay

Manchester Beanie from the top of Diamond Head
Manchester Beanie from the top of Diamond Head