Let’s BeReal About The Workload

Work smart, Not hard.

by Olivia Bucherer-Ezer, University of Toronto, Canada

In the flurry of signing onto an exchange year, sorting out accommodation and figuring out how to fit 30kg of stuff you probably don’t need into a 23kg suitcase I almost forgot that I was moving across the pond to attend university, learn and do work. 

Once the novelty of new lecturers, peers, new libraries to explore and campus to navigate wore off a little, the reality of attending Canada’s most prestigious university set in. 

my tongue seems to make a stronger feature in this blog than my work ethic...
my tongue seems to make a stronger feature in this blog than my work ethic…

As someone who is prone to becoming stressed from work, I was surprised that I wasn’t losing my mind over the amount being dished-out. Reminiscing over the glorious panic attacks I used to have at the beginning of first year, merely because I couldn’t workout how to login to my university email or find the link of a reading I really didn’t need to do, actually taught me more than I could have imagined at the time. 

Learning to emotionally detach from work when it is a pass/fail year is the best way to get assignments ticked off the list without it impeding on your social life. Not to say, you shouldn’t try, but rather do what needs to be done, and take extra care over the things you enjoy. 

giddy in the libby
giddy in the libby

As such, the work at the university or Toronto has taught me heaps beyond just what the content consists of. How to manage my time, balance university with socialising and detach from work not worth stressing over have been key to both mental and academic success! 

helps that the libraries have a good ol' view
helps that the libraries have a good ol’ view

The takeaway of this blog post is not to discard university life, after all that’s the big reason for doing an exchange; to experience a new style of learning. Instead, engaging in work – especially the parts you most enjoy – while understanding your limits ensures you have the energy to enjoy the rest of what a year abroad has to offer.

As someone wise once said, work smart not hard. 

MITACS Chapter 4: Saying goodbye + some reflections

By: Eva Kristinova (University of Regina, Canada, Mitacs Research Internship Scheme 21-22)

So there it goes. Just like that it’s time to say goodbye to another wonderful experience, in a wonderful place, having met some wonderful people. Although three months might not seem like such a long time, the sheer immersion of both the every-day and the extraordinary events is enough to produce a tear or two. This is especially the case when, one after the other, all your Mitacs acquaintances, turned good friends, who’s project started before yours, start saying their goodbyes. As I waved to the parting cars and taxis, it all started feeling a bit surreal. In a few days, that will be me in that car.

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MITACS Chapter 3: Remembering to have fun

By: Eva Kristinova (University of Regina, Canada, Mitacs Research Internship Scheme 21-22)

This is the post I have been looking forward to the most! Because whether it seems like it or not, there is a lot to do in the largest city of Saskatchewan (and beyond), even if it is comparatively small by European standards. The best thing about spending the summer in Regina is that there are plenty of festivals and events to attend, and even Canadian national holidays to celebrate. Here are a few of my favourites!

Queen City Ex festival and fair
Continue reading “MITACS Chapter 3: Remembering to have fun”

MITACS Chapter 2: Research as work

By: Eva Kristinova (University of Regina, Canada, Mitacs Research Internship Scheme 21-22)

Imagine. You’ve arrived at your destination in Canada, you’ve run all the tedious errands in the first days, got yourself familiar with the area, and met a few nice people. What do you do now? That’s right – work.

Not that that is a shocker; after all, it is the whole purpose of the three-month trip. But it can be a bit challenging finding your pace again, especially if you’ve had a few weeks between the start of your internship and the end of the academic year. It’s summer, beautiful weather (although slightly colder in Canada, of course) and your body and brain naturally enter into vacation mode. That’s normal. In addition, it’s not just any kind of work you’re doing. It’s research. It requires you to really think about everything you do, question your assumptions on the way, and question some more. Thankfully, at least you stay in an academic setting. So, let’s talk about what it feels like to do the actual work on a research internship.

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MITACS Chapter 1: Arrival and settling in

By: Eva Kristinova (University of Regina, Canada, Mitacs Research Internship Scheme 21-22)

For those of you who have been following my study abroad journey in France, it might be a little confusing to start reading about yet another trip without a proper closing. Two quick things on that: 1. saying goodbye is always difficult, and so I have been kind of avoiding it, even having left Toulouse behind; 2. who says it’s over?! Oh no, I am not done with France yet!

So yes, I hope that inadequate explanation provided at least some closure. Moving on…

University of Regina (south-west entrance)
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Canadian Transportation Tips

First thing to say is that Canada is massive. Any distance between things you would actually want to see is likely to be the equivalent of going from London to Newcastle – and that’s just within Ontario. Therefore, I would advise against getting the bus between big cities as it just takes too long, and you end up spending half your time away sitting next to fat men on stuffy coaches.

In Ontario, Go Trains would be the ‘go to’ solution (although they are stupidly slow in North America) but travelling inter-province would require VIA Rail. However, whilst the rail-route between Vancouver and Halifax (the whole breadth of Canada) has a global reputation for beautiful scenery and a full Canadian experience, it does take 14 days and costs more than an entire student loan instalment. Whilst it may not be the most environmentally friendly, the only realistic option for longer trips is plane travel.

Planes can be expensive in North America (you won’t find the equivalent of a £20 flight from Manchester to Lisbon), so I’d recommend downloading the ‘Hopper’ app. It lets you track your specific flight and predicts prices so you can get the best deal possible.

(The Hopper App Logo)

You have probably also heard about North American road trips gaining something of cult status in the US, and it’s no different in Canada. Some of the best times I’ve had is whacking on some tunes and driving for hours in the Canadian wilderness. It may be more expensive than other transport, but it gives much more freedom to explore exactly how you want. It also makes COVID-related entry requirements into the US much easier.

Key Take Aways:

  • Don’t bother with buses
  • Download the Hopper app for cheap flights
  • Road trips are unbeatable

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Studying and Living in Calgary

A brief, yet concise list of things to look out for when studying at the University of Calgary. From tourist checklists to insurance considerations.

By George Davies – University of Calgary, Canada


Since reflecting on my time in Calgary, I have accumulated a list of things I wish I understood before boarding my plane at Gatwick. From knowing the best spots to explore in town to accommodating for a truly Canadian way of life. Hence, the list below should aid Albertan-, and hopefully some Canadian-, bound students. Continue reading “5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Studying and Living in Calgary”

Home (but the journey continues)

I thought that going abroad was going to be the biggest change in my life this year. But since returning, things are still continuing to change. I have started an internship with the University of Manchester over summer, and in turn, my first full time, professional job. I have lived completely alone for the first time – including setting up all the heating, internet and meters in the house!! And finally, (here comes the biggie) my parents made the decision to move to New Zealand.

I feel as if this year hasn’t just been a monumental shift within myself, but my family too. And without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the things that I have listed anywhere near as well as I have. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been easy, but I have coped and thrived and grown up rapidly in the space of a few months.

I used to be so afraid of change – making the decision to go abroad was not one I took lightly, and I’m not sure I ever truly believed I was going until I stepped off the plane in Toronto. But now, I can feel myself embracing it; my parents are moving to the other side of the world and I could not be more excited for them (and for myself too!)

By studying abroad I  proved my ability for independence to myself and to my parents, and I don’t know if they would be moving if I hadn’t gone. The decision to live abroad affects not just you but everyone you know, and if it affects you positively, chances are it will affect them positively too.

I am working with the international office on my internship, and I cannot express how rewarding it has been to be involved with the process of encouraging students to study abroad, and being able to pass on my experience and passion to them. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in this internship, and met the amazing people I have, and gained the life experience that I have, if it wasn’t for studying abroad.

If you haven’t already got the message – go! Study abroad! You will gain a lifetime of memories, experiences and knowledge and grow so much as a person – and this doesn’t stop on your return. And hey, who knows – your family might move to the other side of the world and give you a new place to explore.

(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)

Breaking out of the comfort zone: A reflection

Salma Rana, Queen’s University

I want to start off by thanking God for all the opportunities I have had. I am incredibly grateful for everything that has come my way, through His will.

*

When I was leaving Manchester last year, although I was excited about my upcoming journey, I was equally hesitant. I wondered if I was making the right choice, if it was worth finishing university a year later than everyone else, and missing out on so much time with my friends and family at home. I had so many “what if’s?” in my head, to the point where I was thinking of backing out in the last few weeks before I left. But now looking back, those worries are nothing compared to all the beautiful memories, lessons and friendships I gained. If I could go back, I would tell myself to stop worrying because the most important year of my life so far was to begin.

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Fitting In

Salma Rana, Queen’s University

During my year at Queen’s, there was a huge variety of ways to get involved with both the University community and the larger Kingston community.

THE MSA

I am very much involved with the Muslim community at University of Manchester (shout to Manchester ISOC!). However, I quickly realized that Muslims are a true minority in Kingston, Ontario. Even more than any place I have been to in England. There is only one mosque. Nevertheless, I quickly realized something else: the love in this community is one of a kind. The transport links to the mosque aren’t too good, so it can be difficult to get there, but QUMSA (Queen’s Muslim Student Association) do a lot to make sure students are truly catered for. From hosting congregation prayers, regular lectures, socials and charity events. Continue reading “Fitting In”

Expect the Unexpected

Ailsa Jones ♦ Queen’s University, Canada

Since my exchange has finished and I’ve come home, I’ve been attempting to answer my family and friends’ inevitable and well-intentioned questions about my semester abroad. Even though my generic response is something as brief as ‘amazing, thanks,’ I don’t think it does justice to both the best and difficult aspects of my exchange. As much of a cliché as it is, my semester abroad was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done, but I think it’s also important to be honest about the harder parts of studying abroad that are rarely discussed.

Continue reading “Expect the Unexpected”