‘It’s awesome, man’.’ I kid you not, a phrase I have heard so often in the past 2 months. Canadians do actually utter phrases like they are out of a sitcom. So, I hear you ask, ‘How is it going at Queen’s?’ ‘Well, without doubt . . . it’s AWESOME man!’
And to anyone thinking of going on exchange to Queen’s or to Canada in general my advice is GO, GO, GO!
Where to begin with this epic adventure?! Well, I made it on the aeroplane and across the Atlantic. I cried, I worried, I felt excited, I felt bewildered but most of all I felt in a dream state. All the months of planning and I was suddenly off on my travels and saying bye to my family at the airport. I felt like I was going for a day trip and I’d be back at the end of the day in time for dinner. The flight felt long but still unreal and when I told the couple who sat next to me that I was going on exchange for the year, they ‘ooo-ed’ and ‘aahhed’ , commenting what an amazing and brave experience I was undertaking.
Off the plane and onto Canadian soil, I went through customs, then Immigration. The official was super friendly and I got my first passport stamp and visa! yay! After navigating my way after a few miles walk back and forth trying to figure where to go I took the connecting tram to another terminal ready for my flight to Kingston. I bought some water and it was my first realisation that the price you see advertised for a product is not the price you pay at the till; as tax is added. I still haven’t got used to that yet and it varies between shops and products. Anyhow, the connecting flight to Kingston was a journey I will never forget. I travelled on a very small 40 seater plane, which was half full, with one hostess and the pilot. The little plane lurched, dipped and roared her way through the Canadian night sky and even through my earplugs it sounded and felt like I was standing on a pneumatic jackhammer. The air hostess came around, the trolley and its contents swaying all over the place, to offer a complimentary drink. Upon my reply of ‘water, please’, she chuckled and looked at me quizzically and asked me to repeat my request. She laughed again, claiming she understood me the second time and asked me to repeat my sentence for the other passengers to hear (basically, English vowels are pronounced very differently to Canadian). She commented that they were ‘going to love me in Kingston’. The flight went super quick and we dropped out of the sky like the Oblivion ride at Alton Towers. I was no sooner off the plane, ears still ringing, and ushered into a very small arrivals, with a luggage belt a metre long. Standing outside the airport I met 2 returning Queen’s students who let me share the taxi they were taking. Driving through Kingston at night was a little disorientating and only getting glimpses of the place I would call home for the next 8 months. I collected my keys for my house and the taxi driver drove me to Garrett Street – my new abode! Standing on the front porch in the dark, fumbling with the key I couldn’t believe I had arrived, over 3000 miles, 24 hours and I was in Kingston, madness.
I realise that this blog has told you very little about my experience – so next time I promise to give the essentials of my 2 months in Canada so far. And just to add, I can’t reiterate enough how friendly and welcome I have felt here.