It sounds so cliche but if someone told me 9 months ago I would be solo travelling in Canada I actually would’ve laughed in their face! At the start of the year, I really struggled with my mental health, to the point where I couldn’t even leave my uni room. It got so bad, to the point where I was considering not even doing my year abroad. So for me to be sitting here writing about this trip is such an achievement and an example to others that it will eventually get better!
This trip to Montréal was definitely spontaneous! I saw that one of my favourite UK djs (Yung Singh) was coming to Montréal for an event and I basically planned my weekend trip around that.
The easiest and most affordable way to get to Montréal from Ottawa was by train. The train was only a 2 hour journey and it was so nice compared to the trains in the UK! I got to Montréal around 8:30pm so it was already dark. I did have a well deserved McDonalds in the train station because I was starving. I was also putting off leaving as I was a bit apprehensive about being alone in a new city in the dark. I was shocked at how lively it was! Ottawa is more of a government city so it was different being in Montréal. Obviously I was weary walking 20 minutes to the hostel but I realised how safe this city was, especially for a female alone!
Staying in a hostel was also completely new to me because the hotels were so expensive. My first impression of the hostel was really good, everyone was so welcoming. I was in an all-female room with 9 other people. It was strange at first but I got used to it pretty fast. I decided to just have a chill Friday night in the hostel because I was super tired from travelling and uni.
On Saturday morning I had breakfast in the hostel and then decided to go explore around the city! The weather was also beautiful, which made the trip even better. I went to the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal and I was honestly speechless at how beautiful it was! I had seen pics online but nothing prepared me for seeing it in person. I stayed in there for a good hour just taking it all in and walking around. I lit a candle too for good vibes and I felt so at peace. Afterwards, I walked around the Old Town and it was so cute! Everyone was out and about walking, which was fun. I then went around the Old Port of Montréal and it was so fun seeing La Grande Roue de Montréal! I definitely would’ve gone on it but I am scared of heights. All the trees around the ferris wheel were turning brown, meaning fall wasn’t far away. I then stopped for lunch at this cute cafe and had a grilled cheese sandwich, not knowing it had pickles! By the late afternoon I was feeling pretty tired so went back to the hostel and had a quick nap.
I found a group for people staying in hostels in Montréal and decided to see if anyone else was going to see Yung Singh on Saturday night too. Luckily two girls from Germany were going so we planned to meet up for dinner beforehand. I was so nervous to meet up with strangers, as this was something I had never done before! Thankfully, they were both so lovely and we spent the full dinner and night chatting away. Yung Singh was absolutely amazing! I had so much fun being there! I also met some other girls who were also doing an exchange year in Canada which was so nice – I missed hearing a British accent so much!
After having a super late night, I decided it would be nice to have a bit of a lie-in. On Sunday I decided to go thrift shopping – I heard the shops in Canada were a lot better than the UK. After a lot of walking, I finally got to the main street for thrift shopping and literally spent hours there. The thrift shops are definitely better! Later on in the evening I wanted to go watch the sunset from Kondiaronk Belvedere. No one warned me how many stairs there would be – I actually thought I was going to throw up at one point lol! When I reached the top I was speechless. The view was so beautiful. I felt really overwhelmed and emotional when I got to the top. I just felt so proud of myself and I was just coming to terms with how far I have came these past few years. I Facetimed my friend to show her the view and it was such a lovely moment. After walking down hundreds of steps later, I was so ready for bed.
I had an early morning too because I had to catch the train back to Ottawa and make it back for class!
This trip was honestly the best thing I could’ve done for myself. Even though it was short, I felt like I learned so much about myself. It’s given me so much confidence and pushed me out of my comfort zone in such a good way. I want to travel around Canada even more now! I’ve already got a trip planned to Vancouver, Calgary and Banff in reading week which I can’t wait for!
After completing O-week (orientation week), it was time to brace for Queens University academically and my timetable was pretty intense compared to my friends’. I had to get used to the complete change in assessment methods, where there are assignments, midterms, and finals. Coming from UoM Chemistry, where most of my modules were 100% exams based, it did take a lot to get used to. I see the benefits to both having regular assignments vs having 100% exams. Being in the labs felt different compared to the ones in Manchester.
Honestly at first I struggled with the workload, mostly because I wasn’t used to the sheer amount assignments that we were getting. Plus the unfamiliarity of grading and a whole bunch of stuff. I did ‘badly’ on an assignment and I went to the IPO and they were really great with me and kind of just reassured me that everything was fine. My visit to the IPO was amazing, one professor in particular (shout out to Dr Margaret from the IPO) was extremely reassuring and we just had a long talk in her office. If you’re ever going through anything just go to the IPO and ask for help! Plus, Queen’s has free counselling for students.
Of course, we all know what Canada’s weather is famous for being, and the stories are true. I can now say that I’ve experienced -30°C weather and survived. THE COLD IS NOT A JOKE. My nose hairs literally froze but I made it through.
By Olivia Bucherer-Ezer, University of Toronto, Canada
Time to plan where to stay in Toronto? Let’s break some options down.
Just a cheeky disclaimer before we get into the nitty gritty’s of Toronto’s accommodation options… this is all based on mine or my friends experiences, which are obviously subjective so don’t be completely put off if you already something in mind. This is more of a guidance in case you have absolutely no clue where to start… just as I did this time last year.
By Christevie Ngoma, University of Toronto, Canada
In January, me and my best friend (Danielle) from London (who did an exchange at McGill in Montreal) decided we needed one more holiday after New York to celebrate the end of our exchange! So we picked California, I have a close uncle in San Diego and my best friend has a close Aunt in Los Angeles. This meant we had free accommodation so we were saving over £1,000 not paying for a hotel.
My flight from Toronto to San Diego with a return from LAX costs £374 with Air Canada, me and Danielle planned to meet in Chicago during a stop over! We didn’t have to pay for a ESTA since we got one in December for when we went to New York so that was sorted! All we had to do was plan our trip!