First month down. How the hell has that happened??!!?
In some ways it still feels as though I have LITERALLY just arrived (I may or may not be continuing to use the excuse of jet-lag as the justification for my all-too-frequent afternoon naps) and yet I also already feel surprisingly settled here. It is testimony to the generosity and overall friendless of the people I’ve met so far that I’m now definitely a lot less freaked out than when I first arrived.
Leaving aside the tedious practical arrangements of setting up a bank account and phone contract, (plus the small matter of buying a bed!), my time at Queen’s began with orientation week. This apparently is a big deal at Queen’s and is mainly aimed at first year students or ‘frosh’. However, in a gesture of good will, ‘New Exchange and Worldly Transfer Students’ were also invited to participate in the coloured T-shirt madness, through our own NEWTS week.
The 4-day itinerary of events was, in equal measures, hectic, over-whelming, and hilarious. Many, if not most, of the activities were hugely over-the-top, but I’ve quickly learnt that Canadian enthusiasm is not only endearing, but also extremely contagious. After briefly putting my reserved British nature on the backburner, this general energetic atmosphere was undoubtedly what made NEWTS week so much fun. Somehow, we managed to fit in multiple barbeques; tours of campus and the downtown area; learning of the school chants, song (sung in Gaelic – obviously) and a fully choreographed dance routine which could have been straight out of High School Musical; NEWTS Olympics (which was basically an amped-up Sports Day); a karaoke night (ok, I might have given that a miss); a mystery concert; a day-trip to Toronto Zoo and a huge paint fight which resulted in us all being head-to-toe covered in the Queen’s school colours (red, blue and gold – in case you were wondering). Exhausting: but a fitting introduction to Queen’s’ incredible school spirit and a great way to begin integrating into the school community.
Since then, I’ve been settling into my classes and discovering that analyzing literature isn’t really all that different, even when you’re thousands of miles away. I’ve also been settling into my new apartment, with some help from my new housemates (shout-out to you Shannon & Jaclyn!). Having conducted all housing negotiations via a combination of email and Facebook, I was more than slightly concerned that a) the apartment would not exist or would genuinely be uninhabitable and b) the two girls I had agreed to live with would turn out to be psychopaths. Luckily neither of these fears has come true, so I appear to have lucked out.
Amazingly, we’ve also been blessed with some remarkably nice weather. As most of my friends back home seemed to have decided that a trip to Canada was synonymous to the Arctic, it‘s been incredibly satisfying to send selfies of me swimming in Lake Ontario and wearing shorts to classes just a few days short of October. The only dampener on this joy is the tirade of snow-related scare stories everyone I’ve met has been overly keen to share.
Of course, the past few weeks have also included some rather more amusing and personally embarrassing occurrences too. Most commonly, a lot of ‘trying to act cool whilst simultaneously having no idea what’s going on’, as well as an unfortunate incident when I got spectacularly lost walking home from a ‘kegger’ (house party) and, having turned what could easily have been a 10-minute stroll into an hour+ long expedition, had to turn my data roaming on at 3am in order to find my way home. Thankfully I’m still alive to tell the tale (and to solidify new friendships by recounting stories of my own ridiculousness) so I’ve chalked these things up as ‘part of the experience’.
On the whole though, it’s been a great first month at Queen’s. I’ve been attempting to start ticking off a long list of ‘essential Canadian experiences’ and from the alarming escalation of my addiction to Tim Horton’s’ large iced coffees; I would say progress is going well. Next month should allow me to tick off a good few more, as (in quick succession) I encounter my first North American Thanksgiving, Homecoming and Halloween. Wish me luck.