I made it.
The long wait and drastic build up is over and I am finally in Canada!
First impression: Cold. Oh boy the temperature change took quite some adjustment, that and being able to walk like a normal person in snow boots. When I arrived at halls I was pleasantly surprised, I’m in a flat with another girl called Rebecca who I immediately got along with. We share a kitchen and lounge which is very different to halls in Southampton and I kinda like it! Immediately the culture difference was quite significant and surprising- you would never expect two English-speaking countries to have quite so different versions of English. It’s the silly things that take you by surprise in conversation! Here’s only a few we came up with in the first week or so that has taken pride upon our fridge:
The first few weeks here were tough, I’m not going to lie. Students at Southampton University, and most other UK universities, sit their Semester 1 exams in January… Canadians don’t. They start Semester Two instead. So that was hard- juggling revision of some very challenging, high-content exams from England, with attending lectures, completing assignments and doing quizzes from Canada simultaneously really put me to the test. And I think that is something prospective exchange students need to consider if they want to head for Western University (or the other challenges that arise for other exchange destinations). Another point while I’m on the, albeit brief, negatives I’ve discovered so far, that my grades here for Semester Two will be deducted by 15% per module based on the averaging system. I understand why and it makes sense but it doesn’t make it any less annoying! Deep breath.. and move on.
Nonetheless, I’ve been really enjoying myself here so far! I’ve made some very good friends already and we’ve done some very fun things. I’ve enjoyed FroYo- yes I know we have that in England but I figured everything else is frozen around me here I may as well embrace it. I’ve been to the Grand Theatre in downtown London to watch a show, which is such an underrated activity! And of course I headed to my first ice hockey match watching the Western Team vs. the Toronto Varsity Blues- we won too which made it even better!! I’ve discovered that I really like Ice Hockey, it’s a fast sport, pretty violent and always interesting. Looks like they’ve gained a fan!
One of my favourite experiences so far seems so minor but it made me realize just how different it is here. And that was going to the mall and grocery store. As a lover of shopping I was in my element, everything seems so much cheaper than England… I think I’ll be lucky if I can get my suitcases packed, let alone home. The thing that got me the most was the SIZE of everything, especially in the grocery store. I can think of “superstores” back home and could probably fit them all into the single grocery store I visited the other week. And I mean it makes sense, all of their products seem to be at least 3x the size of ours so they need all the room to fit them in!
On a more educational note, I LOVE the modules I have taken. Two of which are very specific to Canada and Ontario/ The Great Lakes Region and I am finding them fascinating. To learn so much about the place I’m in has made adjusting much easier and all the more enjoyable. Plus I never realized just how may place names from England they have stolen. (I’m in London, by the Thames River- across from Windsor, Cambridge and Oxford… sound familiar?) My other modules are great too so I’m excited to tackle this coming semester. I’ve never used maps and colouring pencils so much before in my geography degree so far and it’s safe to say I’m in my element! Also, as an exchange student with a British accent you immediately attract attention which is always funny. Being on campus is always a pleasant experience, I mean it is just so beautiful!
So Canada, you seem to have treated me well so far and I hope that continues. I’m sure it will- I haven’t even had pancakes and maple syrup yet… the best is yet to come!