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Salma Rana, Queen’s University, Canada
One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to see the artwork home to that place. Other than museums, something that have I loved about my travels was the beautiful street art embedded within the cities. These told me unique stories about the culture and history of the cities they were created in. Below I give you some of my favorite pieces and recommendations of neighborhoods you should visit if you get the chance.
A friend and I ended up in St-Laurent by accident. After climbing up Mount Royal, we thought we would take a different route back, to get more of a feel of the city, and ended up there, a boulevard home to some of the most incredible art, music, fashion and food festivals. There are murals painted on all corners of St-Laurent, and we were so captivated that we ended up walking through the whole boulevard until we arrived back to our hotel on the other side of the city.
As I observed the beauty painted on boards above parking lots, on the sideways of shops, and even on the road below my feet, I remembered the words of Rainbow Rowell, “Art wasn’t supposed to look nice, it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Toronto is bustling with gorgeous murals throughout the city, with many neighborhoods and alleyways dedicated to creativity. I absolutely love Kensington Market in particular, because as well as amazing artwork, the choice of food is abundant – from halal burger places (Burgernator and Top Gun!) to ice cream shops, bakeries and cafes.
Kensington Market photos shot by Basmah Rahman
When my friends and I arrived in Mexico City, in the early hours of the morning, the first thing I noticed on the drive to the hotel was how there was vibrancy everywhere. Even in the dark I could see that all the shop shutters were painted in a rainbow of colors. We stayed in Centro Histórico, and I definitely would recommend taking a stroll before stores open (9/10 am) because the store shutters are genuinely so beautiful.
By Imogen Henry-Campbell, Case Western Reserve University, USA
As the end of the semester approaches, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would reflect on the incredible experiences I have gained from studying abroad.
It is easy to forget why you chose to study abroad when you doing the third round of midterms and have spent endless evenings in the library. I was feeling slightly lost, terribly homesick and unmotivated until I realized how lucky I am to have experienced new things and to have travelled around the world.
Over the last month alone I have managed to travel to Toronto, see Niagara Falls, experience a traditional American Thanksgiving and walk around downtown Chicago. I will try to share some of the incredible things I have done and encourage people to make the most of studying abroad:
By Emily Privett, Queen’s University, Canada, Geography.
So on top of academics and Queen’s Bands excursions, what have I been doing? One of the many reasons as to why I chose Queen’s as my exchange University was because of its great location for travelling. To this day I’ve managed to visit NYC, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Mont Tremblant and Bruce Peninsula which has just made me realise how lucky I am to be in this part of the world right now!
Harry at McGill in Montréal
To recall correctly the last blog was pretty bleak as it covered the academic side of exchange. So as a bit of an indulgence this installment will be dedicated to fun things that happened over the fabled ‘holiday period’ after finals. It was a long time coming.
By Nicole Rankine (University of Toronto, Canada)
So, yes, my time in Toronto is sadly over, but as my next post will focus on, my journey is not yet over as I am about to begin an internship here in San Francisco. First of all, however, I want to properly say goodbye to Toronto by listing five of the many things I loved about living there, and recommend that other people do to enjoy their time abroad.
Going to Niagara Falls had been a must on my ‘to do’ list in Toronto from the very beginning. Not only is it one of America’s great natural wonders, but it is also conveniently only an hour and a half away from downtown Toronto, and thus many tours offering to take you there from the city are available. On first seeing Niagara Falls I felt a mix of emotions; whilst the Falls themselves were spectacular, the town was a little disappointing as it had been heavily commercialised and plagued with casinos. This I thought had reduced some of my overall amazement with the beauty of the Falls. Saying this, however, the town did not have an impact on the fun I had during my visit. First of all the nearby town, Niagara on the Lake, gave me the beauty and charm I was expecting to find on my visit, and secondly, the ‘Maid of the Mist’ tour, a boat which takes you right up to the Falls, was an absolutely unforgettable experience.
4. EXPLORE THE MANY NEIGHBOURHOODS OF TORONTO
Toronto is the perfect city for taking a peaceful stroll, with the city offering many interesting neighbourhoods worth taking a look at. I think my favourite places to walk through in the city were Bloor Street, Yorkville, Yonge Street, and down by the Habourfront. To me, each of these areas offered something different. For instance, to me, Bloor Street represented Toronto at its most glamorous, with massive skyscrapers and pricey shops, such as Prada and Gucci, surrounding you. Just across from Bloor Street was Yorkville, which gave you a completely different scenery, one more old-fashioned, as if you had just stepped back into the 70s. Yonge Street always offered an unpredictable and interesting walk, whether you were just strolling past the bizarre shops there, or perhaps a fake plane crash (in this case the film-set for the upcoming ‘Suicide Squad’).
It is first worth mentioning that you should do this when it is warm: trust me, you will find it hard to relax here if you visit in January or February, but in the spring it is the perfect place to grab a book, have some ‘me time’, and escape from the liveliness of the city. Unlike the rest of downtown Toronto, and many cities in general, this island offers you a large area completely car free and packed with trees; in fact my tour guide told me that the islands were a ‘tree museum’. In addition, there are many nice sand beaches to visit here (but just a little FYI, a few are nudist). Apart from the tranquility of the island, however, the reason why going to the islands is a must in my book, is because this is where you get your postcard picture of the Toronto skyline, and it is genuinely a breathtaking sight, especially at sunset.
This one’s for fellow foodies. Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world, with 50% of its residents originating from somewhere else other than Canada. For this reason, the city supplies you with an unbelievably massive variety of cuisine. After I finished my hall meal plan, I was able to make the most of this, and I can’t stress enough how much I loved going out every night searching for a new place to have dinner. Whether it was a sushi buffet, a Canadian restaurant, or a Norwegian café, I found that I got to experience foods that I had previously never heard of, nevermind considered trying.
The number one thing I would recommend doing whilst studying, not only at Toronto but at any university in the world, is to make the most of your new location and explore the surrounding areas and cities, or further if you want, as much as possible. After my stay here I feel like I have now experienced a good variety of the cultures and landscapes that Canada’s east coast has to offer; whether it was visiting Quebec, seeing it’s European-like architecture and trying to remember my GSCE level French skills, or seeing the beautiful scenery of Algonquin National Park (where I finally saw a moose).
By Nicole Rankine (University of Toronto, Canada)
Studying here at the University of Toronto has not only enabled me to experience a different style of education, but it has also allowed me the chance to explore many other cities, which I previously would have never considered ever visiting. This is one of the many reasons which makes me so thankful that I decided to study abroad, and that I chose Toronto as my destination.
It was during reading week that I and a friend (who is on exchange from Japan) decided that we wanted to make the most of our lecture-free schedule to go and discover more of Canada, and so we ended up booking a four-day tour that took us to Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec. A tour seemed like the best method of travel as it came complete with a guide who filled us in on the history of each destination, along with ideas on where to get good food and sight-see; perfect, considering that neither I nor my friend had ever visited the east coast of Canada before.
So, our first destination was Ottawa, but first we had to make it to the tour bus. This in itself was a massive challenge. The bus was due to leave at 6:30am, so I, in recognition of the fact that I would probably sleep in, no matter how many alarms I set up, decided to pull an all-nighter just to be on the safe side. We had left our residence at 6am, as we had found that the bus was parked only a few stops away on the underground. As it turns out, however, there were construction works blocking our passage, and after an intense 30 minutes of sprinting through Toronto with our suitcases, we made it with one minute to spare. Memo to self: Leave at least an hour before your mode of travel is due to depart.
Ottawa itself was pretty great to see, although, despite being the capital city of Canada, I couldn’t imagine spending more than a day there. Here, we spent most of our time in the market place, in which I bought myself a ‘Beaver Tail’. I should emphasise that this isn’t at all what it sounds like, but rather it is a load of carb and sugary goodness, and a tick on the checklist of ‘all things Canadian’ to do. Although we spent most of our time in the market, we did find the strength to go outside and explore the city a little, seeing sites, such as Parliament Hill. Yet, considering the temperature was -40 degrees (yes, really!) this was more of a ‘seen it, done it’ type of situation, and so we didn’t spend as much time outside as we would of wanted to had the temperature been 60 degrees warmer.
The next destination was Montreal. I had heard so much hype about this city, in that it was considered to much more comparable to Europe than to North America. So, I have to admit that I was pretty intrigued to see if the comparisons were true. I can say that whilst Montreal did feel a lot like a trip to France, I found it more similar to Calais than to Paris, and so ended up feeling a little underwhelmed. For instance, the Notre-Dame Basilica, although beautiful, was like a much smaller and overall less impressive version of the Notre-Dame in Paris. In spite of this, Montreal did have its own qualities that made it a wonderful visit. For example, one thing especially worth doing was going to Mount Royal Park, which provided us a fantastic view of the city.
Our final destination was Quebec City, and never has the saying ‘saving the best for last’ been more true. Whereas Montreal had reminded me a lot of Europe, I felt that it lacked charm. Quebec City on the other hand had tonnes of it, and felt even more European than any European city I have visited so far; in fact, I had heard that 97% of its residents spoke French. The city was founded over 400 years ago and had maintained all of its old architecture, with not a single sky-scraper or cement building in sight – even the Starbucks was quaint. Plus, here we found the one benefit of doing this tour in winter; we got to go to Quebec’s Winter Festival. This was one of my most enjoyable experiences so far in Canada, as we went tobogganing, explored ice castles, and ate frozen maple syrup. Unfortunately, as this was a tour, our time here was limited, with only two and a half hours to spend, and so we were unable to do the other activities available, which included outdoor hot tubs and tube bumper cars on ice (don’t really know how else to explain it). We were given far too little time to enjoy the festival and explore the attractions of the city, but fortunately for me, my non-stop praising of the city has paid off, and so I will be visiting again in May with my family.
By Nicole Rankine (University of Toronto, Canada)
I realise that it’s been a very long time since I last posted about my time here in Canada, and honestly I just completely forgot. However, since my last blog I have had a busy, busy month, and plan to make up for that lost time by detailing everything about Torontonian life, as well as my travels outside of the city. Today, however, I want to focus on the academic side of things, particularly looking at the exams here, and how they differ from exams back in Manchester.
Now, the first thing to mention about University of Toronto exams is that revision almost seems constant, with mid-terms appearing around the corner every month or so (although this might just be for my course). However, I think it is worth highlighting that this isn’t necessarily bad at all. In fact, I find that after having several mid-terms throughout the semester so far, I have been forced to keep up with my work, which has thus prepared me for my upcoming final exams. This has, therefore, saved me from enduring the end-of-year stress that would usually arise after slacking off on studying throughout the rest of the semester.
Another point worth making about academic life here is in regards to the exam format, which, in my opinion, is far easier than the exams back in Manchester. For instance, rather than writing a massive essay on a topic, here you are given a paper with a series of multiple choice and short answer questions. This format is particularly helpful when it comes to completing the exam on time, whilst also giving you a greater understanding of how well you did after finishing. For me, this takes out a lot of the suspense that comes around when getting your papers back.
Despite the increased work-load here, I have found that it hasn’t prevented me from having a life outside of my studies. In fact, with the temptations of nearby shops, a gym (free for University students) with an Olympic size swimming pool, and all the other attractions that this city offers, I hardly ever seem to spend a whole day stuck in my room with only textbooks for company. My time here is flying by so fast, and I will definitely be sad to say good-bye.
My next blog, which I will try to post later this week, will focus on my travels to Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City.
By Nicole Rankine (University of Toronto, Canada)
I’ve now been in Toronto for about three weeks and so far I am loving every minute of being here… well almost.
One of my favourite things about studying here in Toronto is my new halls of residence, Annesley Hall. The building resembles something of a palace, and my room is not only massive but also contains a view of the CN Tower and the Royal Ontario Museum, in addition to ghosts, as the building is apparently haunted. On top of this, the residence is located just off of Bloor Street aka the ‘Oxford Street of Toronto’. Although, I must admit that this has not been good news for my bank account. Perhaps the absolute best part of staying here, however, is the fact that it has allowed me make many Canadian friends, who, yes, do seem to love the English accent, particularly my pronunciation of the word ‘butter’.
The excitement of moving to a new city has, however, made me forget that I am supposed to be studying during my time here. While I am mostly enjoying my courses at Toronto, I have found them to be rather more intensive than the courses at Manchester. For instance, one of my courses this week asked that I read the whole of The Iliad. To those not very familiar with the epic, this is an entire 443 pages.
The fact that my first mid-term exam is taking place next Wednesday has left little time for procrastination. Despite this, I have managed to find room for it in my life. For example, last Saturday saw me take a trip to a varsity ice hockey game, with the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues playing against the Western Ontario Mustangs. Whilst I had doubts over whether I would enjoy ice hockey, I have to admit that the game was actually very entertaining. Still, I found the result of the game, 4-3 in favour of Western’s Mustangs, to be a little disappointing.
In addition to fast-paced academia, the weather in Toronto has provided me another struggle, with temperatures last week reaching lows of around -25 degrees. I found this change in temperature quite difficult during my first week here, especially after losing my gloves on arrival. However, I have found that the cold weather is now something that I am adjusting to. Also, the fact that it is far sunnier here than in Manchester is one change that I am enjoying very much.
Well, I guess I should now get back to reading the next 300 pages of The Iliad. I will, however, be uploading another post following my mid-terms, and this will largely focus on the differences between Manchester exams and those of Toronto.
By Lisa Scott (Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada).
Four days ago I completed my final exam of the fall semester at Queen’s University and now it is time for me to embrace on a four week vacation in North America, which I am extremely looking forward to. As the semester is over and a lot of my new friends are leaving (they were only on exchange for a semester). I decided now would be a perfect time for me to reflect on my favourite and most memorable moments of the semester.
So here is my top ten (not in any particular order);
1 – Celebrating my 21st Birthday in one of Canada’s largest Cities – Toronto
2 – Visiting Niagara Falls – one of the natural wonders of the world
3 – Frosh week – A whole new meaning to the first week of university and a great way to make friends
4 – Halloween – Including some crazy fancy dress parties and a trip to a pumpkin field
5 – Wine tour and Sand dunes – Going on a wine tour and stopping for lunch to enjoy the beautiful sand dunes in the same area
6 – Visiting Montreal – My whole flat from residence decided to go on a group trip to Montreal
7 – Homecoming – This is a Queen’s tradition and occurred over two weekends and everyone dressed up in Queen’s clothing. It gives alumni the opportunity to return to campus and celebrate their success. The Alumni were really great to talk to and some of them even joined us when we were partying.
8 – The lead up to Christmas – Everyone in my flat starting wearing their Christmas jumpers, we went to visit Santa (turns out your never too old) and we had a big Christmas dinner
9 – Meeting people from all over the globe, e.g. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Malaysia, Germany, and Spain to name a few
10 – Jumping in Lake Ontario on glorious sunny days
I have had an excellent semester at Queen’s University and I am thoroughly excited to see what the winter semester will bring.