Montreal Madness

This past month has been hectic, not because I’ve been busy off travelling around the States and Canada, but because of midterms. I only had 3 because Anatomy is 100% final and French is continuous assessment, however I found 3 tough enough. We didn’t have any study break because you’re supposed to be revising throughout the year, but who does that? So the past month has involved me cramming late nights in the library trying to squeeze as much information into my weenie little brain with not much luck! I now have my results in and luckily the work paid off, 3 comfortable passes, which may not be great in comparison to the people in my class, but Science students here are mainly wannabe Doctors, so they are ultra competitive and smart. The opposite to me then! So when the class average is an A-, I’m fairly content with my B.

So what have I been up to? Other than studying…

Well Halloween was great fun. I knew North America liked to celebrate it big, but not this big! Everyone puts in the effort to make a costume, and some hardcore Halloweeners will even wear a different costume for each night out. I, on the other hand, thought I should come up with one killer costume to impress all. So being 6’5”, the logical choice was to go as an old-school Oompah Loompah from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know what I mean, the dwarf like workers that Willy Wonka employs to make his chocolate. Well, it was a huge hit!!! Most people got the irony, except for a few… And everyone appreciated the effort that some guy from across the pond had put in. I spent a while planning it, and going round thrift shops finding the final pieces to the puzzle, but I eventually got there.

The McGill International Student Network (MISN) arranges socials (pub crawls, weekend trips, movie nights etc) so there’s always plenty of things to do and people to meet, but getting stuck in the international clique is not why I came to Canada. I came here to meet some actual McGill students, rather than fellow Brits. No disrespect to them, I love my exchange friends, we’re all a very similar bunch of people, looking to travel the world and have an amazing time, but it’s very “same same”. You constantly have the same encounters with new faces at Pubs or Clubs and have the same small talk, like “Where are you from? What are you studying? Are you here 1 or 2 semesters?…” Ok, I might be exaggerating a tad, most of my friends are exchange students, but I’m trying my best to break the mould. I still hang out with my Frosh leaders, and I told you that I was in an Ultimate Frisbee Team. Well we’re all good mates and hopefully we’re going to set up a Basketball team next semester. That’s another thing, a lot of exchange students are only here 1 semester, which is kind of depressing because that’s only 3-4 months, whereas my McGill friends will all still be here next year. Phew!

Another thing McGill is great at is looking after its International students. International Student Services (ISS), the people you go to for important info like Visas, Study Permits etc, also organise free/highly discounted Montreal tourist trips e.g. Montreal Bus Tour, Free Museum Passes and just this week, Free Ice Skating. This would be my first attempt at hitting the ice, literally…. I fell over a ridiculous number of times, but it didn’t dent my confidence and I kept getting back up, then falling, again and again. At times I resembled a speed skater, zig-zagging my way between others, but mostly, I resembled a wounded animal after being hit by a moving vehicle. The song “I get knocked down, but I get up again” was a very apt summary of my night. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be a pro, but don’t count on it.

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‘O’ is for October…and midterms, halloween and snow!

So well and truly into my stay now at Boston College and its been great fun so far…although admittedly a hell of a lot of work! October brought with it the first snow of the year, which I felt was a bit ridiculous and fortunately since that frightfully chilly day the temperature has picked up again and has been between 12-17 degrees on average this past month which isn’t all too bad when its mostly sunny all the time and the nice autumn colours come out. So apart from my obvious fascination with the autumn weather, what else has been going on in October in Boston?

Midterms! I don’t exactly know how long ‘midterm’ actually is but it seems to span a long time. I have been having midterm exams for a number of weeks now, which generally consist of 1 and a half hour exams for 20-35% of your total grade for the course. BC is a competitive school but my department (Carroll School of Management) is particularly demanding. All that means is be aware of when your midterms are and make sure you are keeping up with the work because you don’t have the luxury of that 2 or 3 week exam leave that you get at Glasgow…you learn to miss it!

Anyway, nobody wants to read about work and exams so I will move on. I managed to get down to New York with a group of friends a couple of weeks ago for a long weekend. Nice to be able to say you are just jaunting down to NYC for the weekend but its honestly as easy as that. A return bus costs about $40 (£30ish) and takes just under 4 hours one way. We stayed in a hotel about 5 mins walk away from Times Square, probably not the cheapest option but was a great location! I would definitely suggest making time to go down to anyone who comes here. It’s a whole different world, and you could easily spend a week there doing only the touristy things. That’s basically what we did for the 3 days…Empire state (go at sunset), ground zero, Soho, Central Park (ridiculously humongous), Times Square (awesome at night), Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Broadway (including broadway show) and a whole bunch of shopping! Was great to get away for a few days after the stress of midterms and just relax. A well earned break I’d say!

Shortly after that my parents came to visit for a week. They did a bit of travel and visited all the main tourist spots in Boston. It was great to see them having been here for 2 months and good to see some recognised faces! I wouldn’t say I have ever been  really homesick, and the only thing I have had issues adjusting to is the quantity of work all the time (and maybe the fact that I am now sharing a room for the first time in my life) but it was still good to see the parents.

Since then the most major thing happening has of course been Halloween! What to be, what to wear??? In the end some friends and I decided to go as Zoolander characters – I was Hansel (pictures on Facebook if you must look). Halloween is taken fairly seriously over here, it was basically 3 or 4 nights of organised parties where people seemed to go in different costumes each night…I couldn’t be bothered with that much effort. Great fun though an kind of puts all the GUU Halloween party goers to shame on their outfit creativity.

This month the big event is of course thanksgiving. This gives me a chance to go down to New York again to my friends house who is generously hosting a small group of us internationals to show us a traditional thanksgiving! I look forward to that and maybe a trip to Montreal before the Christmas break if I can squeeze it in around studying for finals and in December.

Again if anyone has any questions then please feel free to ask!

I hope all you other ambassadors and all the Glasgow Uni international exchange kids are having a great time at all your different places.

Speak soon

Craig

Midterms, trips and Halloween!

Well hello again everyone! Thought I’d check in and update you guys/gals on stuff that’s happened in October.

Believe it or not, just 2 days ago I was celebrating having finished a whole month of stay in California!!! By celebrating, I mean eating frozen yoghurt, which despite my better judgement, was peanut butter flavour that made the whole thing quite unpalatable! I am quite a ice-cream/frozen yoghurt connoisseur, so you’ll have to bear with my obsessive description of ice-cream 😉

Anyway, so what have I been up to this month with the obvious exception of taking on the calories?? Well… it’s been a month full of work, work, work but hey I went to LA!! So instead of boring you with the gory details of work, (which you can pretend to be interested in!) I’ll just skip to LA.

Los Angeles, the city of angels, the place with Hollywood, Warner Brothers and MGM (roaring lion)!!! I mean could you have ever imagined having all 3 in one, it’s like when Ben & Jerry’s added Oatmeal to their classic mixture of Cookie Dough!!! If you haven’t tasted that flavour of Ben & Jerry’s, you don’t know what you’re missing out on! And yes, most of you who are reading this probably won’t get to taste that flavour so nana!! Anyway, so the trip to LA was organized by the ISA (International Students Association) and they had basically taken $70 for transportation and a ticket for Universal Studios. I thought it was quite a bargain, as getting to LA via bus or train is $30 minimum and then a ticket for Universal is another $60. A lot of people who came to the trip actually stayed over for the weekend, but sadly I had a midterm for Biopsychology (my achilles heel in psychology), which meant I had to come back! As for Universal Studios, the studio tour ride really is the highlight. It really is quite amazing to see how escapism is created! We got to see everything from how Jaws was filmed to more recent stuff like the set of Desperate Housewives (puke!!)! For those who’ve been to Universal Studios, Orlando, the rides are almost the same with the exception of The Simpson ride. We went on that one 2x and I can guarantee that you’d be a fool to miss it! For those who like the wet rides, Jurassic Park and Waterworld are the ones which’ll get you soaked! Waterworld (boring movie!) was actually a show they had done based on the movie, and despite some cheesy aspects it was good fun and getting soaked in 30 degrees was very much appreciated by my hypothalamus! The single most “scary” ride I guess was the Mummy ride, but it’s no way near as scary as Air (Alton Towers). It was actually kinda disappointing as I was looking forward to some loop the loops, but Universal Studios isn’t really about rides. It’s more about seeing the shows and really getting to grips with the genius behind some of the best movies ever made. I think what also made Universal studios an amazing day out, was the fact that I was with a great bunch of friends!! Ooo, one more thing, during the afternoon, to cool down we all bought these ice-cream balls which was basically ice-cream in tiny little balls!!! Just imagine eating the millions candy (tiny pink ball sweetie), but iced!!!

But yea, the best part of the LA trip was actually on the way back! I know that sounds odd but just hear me out! Transportation was divided into vans and buses. While going to LA I came by bus, so just to be different I thought I’d try the vans. Luckily the van I was in, was being driven by the president of ISA (Sam) and when we got on the road I just asked him out of curiosity how far the hollywood sign was. Just on that question, he took it upon himself to drive everyone in the van to see the hollywood sign!! It was so unexpected that it really made my day!! It made me wonder, perhaps altruism does exit? He took us on top of this hill and with amateur student improvised photography we got some amazing shots! We even managed to get a shot where everyone in van made letters saying EAP on the backdrop of LA!! I think that moment will certainly be one that I won’t forget, cause everyone was trying to stand quite still while I was playing with the settings on the camera (without tripod!) in a desperate attempt to capture a still photograph with time value mode. For those who know anything about photography, using Tv mode is almost impossible if a tripod is not at hand!! Still with the use of a wallet and a purse, I was managing to keep it still and get the perfect black shadow and orange light effect!! Student creativity continually surprises me!! So after seeing the hollywood sign, Sam decided to give us a tour of Beverley Hills!! I was in sheer awe when I saw the size of the houses and the number of cars parked in the driveway! What a lot of money can do is just unquantifiable!

So that was our trip to LA!!! I think a lot of gratitude goes to Sam for being so enthusiastic and showing us “aliens” what LA is all about!!!

Little did I know, that the end of that saturday trip would be the beginnings of all my stresses for mid-term exams! I guess I can actually talk about them, now that their over, but all I can say when talking about the academic system here is “I miss Glasgow!!!”. As much as continuous assessment is good, exams every 3 weeks require me to keep up with the stuff. It’s not that I didn’t manage it, but being used to essays and project work and then worrying about exams in summer was a routine that I had gotten used to. Suddenly being told that no project work and just very specific multiple choice exams was quite a shock and I guess I’ve learned that from now on, I have to make it a point to keep up with the readings!!! Having spoken to my lecturers about the system in Glasgow, they were kind enough to re-assure me that it would take some time to adjust, but with work from my end, it wouldn’t be impossible. So having completed 3 exams, let’s hope the results are Cs or above!!! The fact that this year actually counts for my honours banding certainly is a good motivator!!

So, enough of the blurb on exam stress, you’re probably pondering on the issue of Halloween!! Well having finished exams just in time, I got to enjoy the madness of Halloween here! I don’t think there’s any way to write about it, except for saying it’s like celebrating New Year’s in London! Every street in packed with representations of the underworld! It’s taken very seriously with most people having as many as 3 outfits for parties over the weekend. Girls seem to dress down which is great for guys 😉 and guys have the perfect excuse to cause as much havoc as possible. The amount of police patrols and the sheer volume of safety advice that’s given prior to Halloween really tells you something about the nuttiness of 31st October. I was sadly quite un-original this year and decided to dress up as Scream. Simply walking down DP (party street) was enough for me to be absolutely mesmerised by the site of all the chaos. It was the first night, where I was comfortable going in and out of other people’s houses despite reservations as everyone else seemed to be doing the same thing. I have to confess that prior to coming to uni, I had never bothered with Halloween even as a kid! I never got the idea of asking for chocolate, but since coming to uni, I look at it as the one night you can pretend to be someone you’re not and again it’s a form of fantastic escapism! Escapism this year was definitely at an all time high and it was great fun socializing with various “reincarnations” from the underworld!! I think the pictures that are on the flickr site will explain the madness, as I really can’t capture a simile 😦

So, overall, do forgive me for the late posting but with exam stress and various other to-dos I was a bit behind on the blog but hopefully this post has given you an idea of some of the adjustments necessary as well as the wonders that await you in LA!! Again, sorry about the intermittent ice cream mentions – I swear I’m not making you salivate on purpose 😉

Do wish me luck for the results and more updates to follow soon enough!!