So skipping forward a bit we’ll pick up just after my first class, the morning after going to a Western-run EDM rave full of seventeen year olds (Canadians actually start university at seventeen). The modules I’m enrolled in over here, which they call courses, are way cooler than any back home: Research in Behavioural Neuroscience, Behavioural Pharmacology, and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. ‘But Joe, don’t you study psychology?’ ‘That’s right guys, PSYCHOLOGY IS A SCIENCE DEGREE’. As well as these, I’m also currently writing a literature review on human subcortical visual processing. What I’m enrolled in and what I am actually doing are two very different things, however, and it still feels like I’m on one big holiday. A holiday in which I dissect sheep brains and experiment with small rodents.
Next to tick off the list was all fraternity-related activities. It turns out that joining a frat is no mean feat, costing a whopping $600 and comprising a six-month long initiation (as told to me by some fratboy whose surname is ‘Darkroast’ on Facebook). However, even if you don’t join you’re still more than welcome to attend their parties. You can see where this is going.
So off we went to an ‘Anything But Clothes’ frat party, hosted in a very nice frat house. The party itself was like a Project X come to life, with beer pong, numerous dance floors and girls dressed in bin bags.
HOMECOMING. To celebrate Western’s homecoming (HOCO) football game (which no one actually goes to watch), everyone adorns Western purple clothes and hits Broughdale street at 9:00AM, for a day of sun, beer pong and open houses. My favourite day so far, Brough was filled with a sea of purple flowing into and out of random houses and gardens/back yards. Wandering into some led to games of two-level beer pong, flip cup that is preceded by chanting and many, many wasps.
My friends and I took a break from around four where we went back to Rez and found Will asleep. Here we restocked our stomachs and hydrated with water, and then we returned to Brough. This was only to find, however, a post-apocalyptic street devoid of any life (everyone was gone and the wasps had all died, and I put both of these down to the fact that they’d gotten alcohol poisoning from the beer). In England we go harder than Canadia.
After buying new lacrosse kit it was time to find a new set of lax bros. As you may have heard, lacrosse is a national sport in Canada (although no one actually plays it) so I was pretty excited to see how good they’d all be. After getting into contact with the Western Lacrosse coach, he brought me along to train with one of his other teams – the ‘Stangs. Although I was pretty rubbish in comparison to those who’d been playing since they were four years old, training was great fun and there were some really cool characters. Some of the guys were highly impressed that I hailed from that faraway land of England, and whenever I had the ball there’d be cheers of ‘Go English!!’ Unfortunately the season is now over and there’s no more practice, so until I return to Southampton my lacrosse time will be spent either having a casual throw around with a friend or throwing the ball against a wall (sad for Joe).
As well as this, I’ve also joined the Purple Spur dodgeball team (it’s a funny sport) and we’re now into the playoffs.
One of my classmates, Sean Gilmore, invited me to come along to a rap concert with him and his friends and, although I’m not a massive fan of rap, I was pretty excited to go. We arrived at his apartment downtown and predrank there for a bit with his musician friends. As expected, the conversations often took a more musical route. Not being much of a music man myself, I decided that anything said confidently enough is believed and I had the vocabulary to play along.
Not being sure what one conversation between Alyssa and Abbie was about, I interjected with a ‘I find the lyrics just create so much emotional imagery’. This was well met, with enthusiastic nods of approval and a suspicious look from one of my friends. It turned out that they were talking about Lana Del Ray. But hey, who am I to argue.
Soon after we went to the venue and found it to be pretty empty. Various rappers took it in turns to rap their say on stage, and each one would glorify the upcoming ‘Apos’ by shouting about him being ‘in the house’. When Apos finally did get up on stage to rap about society’s downfalls, imagine my surprise when he called Sean up on stage. Everyone’s cheering for Sean the hero as he starts rapping into this guy’s face like POW POW POW dude is going down and Sean won the rap battle. That’s right guys, I’m with that guy.
To top off the night I met a nice lady who’d just come out of a coma and told me that, whilst some people wake up from comas with the ability to speak different languages, she has the same thing except it’s actually a passion for accents. This meant that every time I spoke she’d start screaming and hitting herself, but it made her pretty happy.
For thanksgiving everyone had left London to go home and spend time with their families, and so myself and three Australian friends (Katie, Sid and Frankie) took a day trip to the nearby Fanshawe Conservation Area for a day of canoeing and hiking. Although initially I was worried that it would be a bit underwhelming in comparison to the other places that you can visit, I was definitely wrong – all of Canada is truly beautiful, and canoeing has become a new favourite activity. After hiking around the scenery and eating Vegemite sandwiches (the Australian version of Marmite) we hired some canoes and boated off into the distance. It took us a while to get the hang of how to actually move in a straight line, but once we had the technique it was pretty awesome to just freely move up the river in the sun. And then WE FOUND A WILD TURTLE. After dropping it a couple of times I was no longer allowed to hold him (we christened him ‘Canoe’) but he was so cute and he actually walked off of hands pretty quickly (I didn’t drop him, he walked off my hand).
We ended thanksgiving weekend with a cheeky skinny dip in the dirty River Thames off campus, and the pleasantly surprised woman who came across our frolicking was happy to take photos for us!
For Future Exchange-Goers
As one of the reasons for writing these blogs is supposed to be to instil confidence in those thinking about studying abroad and also providing advice, one thing I’d recommend looking into is how your grades will be converted. As much fun as I am having, I recently found out that 15% is subtracted from every coursework/exam grade I obtain over here. Whilst 10% subtraction makes sense to me due to the 10% difference in grade boundaries between Western and Southampton, the extra 5% is less so, and often means I end up dropping from a first to a 2:1. It’s been very difficult to actually get information on this from those involved, but if I find out any clarifications I’ll be sure to post them in the next blog – until then I recommend looking into this before your exchanges as it will vary from university to university.