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As soon as one journey ends, another begins. My summer was chaotic to say the least, and I now find myself in Canada, as a student of the University of Western Ontario.

Having arrived two months ago (yes, I’m almost half way!), I’m in a good position to write about my first impressions. I’ve had chance to explore campus, the city of London, and I’ve met a whole host of students; students from all corners of the world and walks of life.

The Pioneers
Photo courtesy of Cyriëlla Hermann.

What a show this has been already: from being locked out of my room on my first morning (without being appropriately clothed), to witnessing the infamous North American university-style welcome through a mighty opening ceremony…

Yes, unfortunately for me, my first day got off to a bad start as I had to be rescued by residence staff following an embarrassing ‘I’m locked out of my room’ scenario. How was I supposed to know the door locked upon closure? Well, I know now that’s for sure! Things got much better in the afternoon as I attended my first induction and began meeting people. Fascinating people. As the days progressed, trying to remember everyone’s name became so difficult that I had to keep track of them using my mobile! I’ve met people from The Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, to Kenya, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, and of course the UK. Naturally, everyone’s been amazing as we’re all in the same boat – we’ve all helped each other transition to ‘Western life’.

Ironically, it took me a long time to meet any Canadians! They typically had later move in dates, and classes seemed to be very tight-knit. I felt like an intruder during my first week of class; I felt as though everyone knew I was an ‘outsider’, someone from that separatist country across the Atlantic. And seeing no familiar faces was disconcerting, especially as I knew (almost) everyone in my lectures back home. On one side, not knowing any Canadians was probably a good thing as it forced me to find my way around without any local knowledge – I often learn the hard way. On the flip side, knowing local people is one of the best bits about studying abroad! Once I settled in and began to gain confidence, getting to know people was easy. I found myself talking to people while waiting in the corridor, sharing a laugh mid-class, exchanging notes, sharing concerns about an impending deadline, exchanging invites to events. You naturally get to know the drill pretty quickly once you’re in a new environment.

As a campus, Western is certainly a sight to behold. It may not be a surprise to some of you reading this, but for me, the campus is far more spread out than I had anticipated. Of course, being a demographer I knew that Canada has vast amounts of land and low population density, but it’s not something you truly appreciate until you’re actually on the ground. It takes roughly 20 minutes to get from my halls of residence to class, despite my halls being on the ‘main campus’ still. In Southampton it would take me around 5 minutes, but here, the scenery compensates massively! Walking to central campus is far more beautiful, perfect for you Instagrammers out there, especially now as the trees change colour, the morning dew glistens, and the river lays still as Canada geese fly overhead. There is no need to weave your way through traffic jams, terraced housing or convoluted roads. No chance of being a recipient of abuse as you accidentally stroll through a particular Portswood road without an invite. Although, as luxurious as it is here, I do get the impression that walking is not a common mode of transport…

Admiring the Thames.
Admiring the Thames.

Just this morning, I went for a walk and reminded myself how fortunate I am to be here. Rows of colourful oak and maple trees; the River Thames (‘Canadian London’ has stolen almost all its road/river names from ‘UK London’, which was confusing at the start!) and its slowly trickling waters; a personal flypast from Canada’s very own geese; Western’s Gothic Hogwarts-style buildings. All of which are sights on my daily commute. Such an idyllic and peaceful location to study. Great weather, great company, and comfortable living. Yes, I could get used to this…

First Impressions of Western

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