So, I arrive in Canada excited and nervous for my year abroad, and the weather isn’t exactly what I’ve been told to prepare for, it’s about 30 degrees with sunshine constantly. I started off the year in shorts, being very hot, and now in the middle of winter, it’s a question of how many layers can I fit underneath my very thick winter coat and into my snow boots and whether I can make it to class without falling over on the ice.
There are a few things that I have discovered in Canada, that as soon as anyone notices that you are not Canadian they love to know why you are here and it’s a great way of connecting with different people. My top tip for study abroad is that you should not be afraid to get involved, the more you get involved the more people you are going to meet, and the more people you are going to meet, the funnier stories you must tell. One of my favourites is trying to explain what a ‘bin’ is to my water polo team, I have never experienced trying to explain what a ‘bin’ is and then the following questions being why an earth do you call it a bin? I had no idea! I do make them laugh though with the constant experience of something new to me, which to them is just normal. One of my greatest memories from this year is when we got the first proper snowfall and my Canadian friend despite them not wanting to go out as she lives in Calgary where it goes down to about -40ish, coming and having a snowball fight and making snow angels with them. I did not realise that if you climb a snow bank you can sink quiet deep into it!
I almost feel Canadian right now, as the other day I said sidewalk and I know only ever ask for the washroom. The most Canadian I ever felt was when Mia (one of the water polo girls) invited me to go to thanksgiving with her family! I have never felt more Canadian, as we went to stay with her Grandparents in what they effectively call cottage country, where we paddled across as lake in a canoe to pick cranberries for her Grandmother to make cranberry sauce for when we met up with the rest of the family. The views were absolutely amazing and I got to see a part of Canada that was postcard worthy. We even went into the lake to get the jetty out to stop it becoming damaged by the ice! I can assure you that’s it’s one of the coldest things I’ve ever done! It was a great experience and something I will never forget!
Home coming was another experience I will never forget, someone asked me whether I was volunteering at Home Coming and as I tried to say yes to everything I ended up volunteering. I discovered again it was another way to meet new people, and talk to the alumni which was interesting! Volunteering was definitely an experience as I basically spent the day face painting Gaels (Queens University students) the tri colour (our flag) onto their faces and then directing Alumni! This was a great experience as it was something I would never get to do in Edinburgh and it was like the movies.
So, as I near the end of my year abroad, I’m so sad to leave Queens and the Canadian life behind me. It has been quite an experience and I would really recommend a year abroad to anyone who wants to really push themselves and discover more about who they are as a person. This year has ended with me doing stuff I thought I would never have the confidence to do, now knowing the Canadian national anthem, knowing oil thigh, completely mad about ice hockey and now understanding that the snow we have in the UK isn’t ‘proper snow’ but overall it ends with me having friends from all over the world; Kenya, all over Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia, and these friends I will definitely stay in touch with. My last and final piece of advice would be that if you are considering doing a year abroad then I encourage you to get involved in as much as possible and do everything, this year I promised to try and say YES to everything, and honestly that has created so many memories that even though it sounds cliché I really will treasure for the rest of my life, and I couldn’t have asked for a better year abroad. I will really miss Queens and Canada!