Christmas time….mistletoe and wine…..

Hello,

here’s a short catch up

Post Thanksgiving we had Halloween, a massive even over here with a full week of parties costumes, ghosts and ghouls . i was minnie mouse, not so original but  was short of time as my midterms finished the day the festivities bagan.

After that however it was very much nose to the grind. The library and myself got very well acquainted and i was not alone in this fate, 8 essays and 8 weeks later i had exams…booooo. Finals over here come in all shapes and sizes, some are take home exams, others mere quizzes worth 25% and some are 50% soul destroying beasts – nothing like a bit of variety. If you come here i recommend the law lib, it’s by far the quietest one around. However, be warned, UBC have yet to discover heating in libraries and therefore thermals are a must.

However, it wasn’t all fun sapping revision. In between i managed to take a trip to Tofino (on Vancouver island) with the surf club. Although it rained it was an amazing weekend. I also booked my flight to Hawaii (15o quid return – yaye)…..and i fitted in a few days skiing up at whistler…mmm snow.

I also tried my first sushi – its really cheap over here. However, i was far from sold…i may steer clear in future.

I also set to christmas shopping as  form of stress relief, scotland better like maples syrup is all i have to say. There are loads of cute wee shops around Vancouver to get unique gifts in and Granville Island market is an amazing source of prezzies. It was the Pogues all the way (my canadian flatmates had never heard of them…shame) to aid this process and get me in the festive spirit.

One downside to christmas is that all the one term exchange students are heading home, it’s horrible saying goodbye to the friends you’ve made and i know i’m going to hate it when i have to go next year. If you have the choice a full year is definitely the best plan.

Finally, a few of you have been emailing me for advice and i’m totally happy to help. Any questions you might have just fire them my way.

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from orientation to midterms with pop quizzes in between

hey!

i just realised i saved this as a draft but didn’t actually post it….doh!! (and i am completely computer illiterate so i hope the pics work)

So,

in terms of uni work i’m not going to lie, it’s pretty hard core. Five courses (required by Glasgow) per term is more than what your average Canadian student takes so the workload is intense, thinking caps are required at all times. Also the assessment is continuous in most classes which is totally different from my classes back home, here it’s pop quizzes and midterms galore. I have a solution though – caffeine. Suddenly i understood why there is a Starbucks on every corner (even on campus). That being said, the courses are interesting and i’m finding the different styles of learning a real eye opener, moreover i’ll be going back to glasgow with a work ethic i never knew i was capable of having – can’t be bad.

As for the non work side of Campus life. . . . There is loads to do in Vancouver and even on campus itself. It’s very preppy participation esk over here. Lots of chanting and pep rallies which i have to admitt i find strangely amusing. If you join the ‘blue crew’ (basically a fan club for ubc sports clubs – the big blue bird in the pic is their mascot, the thunderbird) then you get free entry to all the intervarsity sports events which is pretty interesting, lots of facepainting and shouting. Also, there are loads of sports we don’t really get (or don’t actively promote as much) in Glasgow like American Football, Ice hockey and basketball.

I also got involved in the annual longboat race, which is made up of multiple 10 man/woman teams all rowing their hearts out to win nothing but pride. Each team gets dolled up in imaginative fancy dress and undergoes a weekend of training before race day. i would thoroughly encourage you to get involved but i would strongly advise not going to a 8 am race start having not been to bed…..cheering and hangover is not a good combination. that being said we did come 3rd – whoop – perhaps alcohol is benificial to sport.

There is also a beach on campus, perfect for a cheeky wee sunbathe between class (it was warm enough to do this till about mid oct). It is however a nudist beach so bring a sturdy stomach as unfortunately elderly rotund ladies and gents are not a rare sight.

There is also a cinema on campus and a few pubs (expensive though, no curlers pound a pint here). The pool is also really good to get some exercise in.

There are also loads of clubs in UBC, from arts and crafts, to free food club to sports. So far i’m in the Surf and the Mountaineering club and both are great fun. The surf club host beer gardens, themed nights and trips around canada – all of which are really good fun, there is even talk of Hawaii trip next year….STOKED!!!  – as they would say.

There also loads to do off campus in Vancouver. Stanley Park is beautiful, perfect for a picnic, a bike ride or even a concert (they hold open air gigs with international artists – soo good). There is also the grouse grind, a mammoth walk up grouse mountain with a killer view at the top. I’ve also been Kayaking in a place called deep cove – stunning views.

The clubs in town are also good. A good mix of your usual with a few gay bars, seedy dens and the amazing Blarney Stone (a club that plays scottish/irish tunes – reminds me of home). But….one complaint, there are no chippies, they just don’t have chips on the way home! (and no french fries soooo do not count as chips) it’s all pizza over here – very odd. Another odd thing is the bus system, due to your U-pass (annual bus card) not only do you catch a bus in, you also catch it home at 3 in the morning – makes nights out way cheaper.

As for off campus and away from Vancouver, the options are limitless. I’ve already taken trips to Vancouver island Whistler and others have gone to places like Seattle and the Rockies. Vancouver island is stunning, i got really excited about the pumpkin fields – a very foreign sight. I’m excited about snow from my wee expedition to Whistler too, through UBC you can get a season pass (the season being november to april over here) for 400 dollars when they cost the average mr Joe Blogs a whopping $1700 – definitely a must – especially if you can wing it so you’ve got a mate doing a season over here so you can get free digs.

Also along the way i’ve experienced my first Thanksgiving and i have to admit i’m sold – christmas dinner twice a year, who can argue with that?!

argh!! i’ve just seen my word count. I think that gives you a rough idea of the limitless things to do and the unfortunate limits on time.

i’ll keep you posted

November

I’ve been really busy lately and didn’t have a chance to post anything on my blog. Luckily I have a lot of free time now. So let’s go back… to November.  First half was just usual stuff… studying, homework, hanging out with mates, homework, and homework again. It might not sound too exciting, but it was … that ‘hanging out’ part at least, thanks to some amazing people I met here!  During the second half I finally had some chance to travel. It’s the second time I got out of Champaign (My first trip was to Chicago). I spend almost 10 days in New York. So many exchange students from UIUC fly there so there is no problem with finding the company.  Just remember to book tickets much in advance. I booked mine in early October and paid about 200 dolars, and some friends who waited a bit too long paid almos twice as much.  I stayed at my aunts’ place, my dad came too. It was really good to see my family (well, part of it) as I don’t plan on visiting my parents and home until May/June. I love the city! And there a lot of things happening around Thanksgiving. Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Black Friday (opening of the Christmas shopping season)…  Ok, the parade wasn’t so great. It’s acually better to stay home and watch it on  TV. The city is so crowded that once you go downtown Manhattan you can’t see a thing. The same during Balck Friday, but you know… all the sales and everything… well, a piece of advice: if you want to save some money don’t leave a hotel during that day:) Anyway, a week in NYC is enough to see all the main spots, althought not enought to enter many of the museums. Actually, I didn’t visit any of them…  I believe that they are amazing and everything but you have to devote the whole for one if you want to see everything, and honestly, after Chicago (where I’ve been to the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry)I was to tired to do it .

I’ll post some photos from New York soon and write more about it (yeah, I ended up in here again.. this time for nearly a month). As I said before : I NY!

♥NY

Christmas!!! :)

Well it took a while to decide what to do for Christmas, quite a few people have family around so are going to visit them, some are going home, and some are travelling.  I considered going home for the holidays but I felt like, since I’m now used to life here, it would be too much of a disruption going back to my home comforts and having to re-adjust again when I come back, so I thought it best to travel or stay in Kingston.  A lot of those who have gone home said before they left that although they missed their families and were looking forward to seeing them, they kind of wished they were staying because of the same reasons.  I thought about a number of things like travelling, and staying in Kingston, but decided against staying there because it would be sad without all my friends there.  Luckily though, some of my friends have also been lovely enough to invite me to their homes in Canada or America, and now….I’M IN TENNESSEE!!!

I’ve been here for a day now, with Claire (who’s also from Glasgow), and Kyle, her flatmate, with Kyle’s entire family.  It’s a big household filled with lots of fun and games and I’m having a great time so far!

It was a really tough few weeks recently when exams finished.  Although it was a relief to have finished, I also had to say goodbye to a lot of my friends who were only here for one semester.  That was really hard.   Most of them found that they really wished they weren’t going home at this point and wanted to stay the full year.  It was such a shame because they felt like they’d only just settled properly into the life here.  And, since term-time is busy with work, they felt that they didn’t have enough time to travel and socialise.  It was really nice though because one of my friends from New Zealand was supposed to only be here for a semester but asked Uni if she could stay for longer, so, now, she’s staying for the full year!!  Yeeey!  At least we’ve had an amazing time together this semester though.  More importantly, we’ve all got places to stay all over the world and are already planning trips to France, Columbia, Australia and New Zealand!

Anyway, the plan so far is to stay here with Kyle’s family until the 28th, then go to New York for New Year – AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!  I’m SO excited as I’ve never seen New York, and a lot of our friends are meeting us there amongst their travels!  I can’t wait to see everyone and be a right good tourist…(I’ll probably be one of those people walking around with a Statue of Liberty hat on)…

So, the boys have now stopped playing their computer games and Claire is almost finished decorating her stocking with glitter and it’s now time for AMAZING home made cooking J

Merry Christmas to all!!  xx

Pants, Trousers & Sallapettes…The Culture Shock that Shocked me…

Well, ok, I figured that since I was going to an English-speaking country and it was Canada that it wouldn’t be THAT different and I doubted I’d experience culture shock in any particularly significant level.  I was wrong.

My other exchange friends and I were talking about the weird ‘hostility stage’ you experience when being away.  Your initial journey sort of goes from the exciting ‘Honeymoon period’, to the ‘Getting Used to Everything Period’, and then it gets to the stage where your trip has definitely been longer than a holiday.  It’s at this point, when you’re just beginning to settle in, that the ‘Hostility Stage’ creeps up on you.  This is when the strangeness of all the wee cultural differences you discover build up.  It’s most noticeable when you’re reminiscing about home or describing your favourite foods and no one has a clue what you’re talking about!  My friends came up with the concept of the ‘Hostility Stage’ to describe this period because sometimes they got frustrated when no one knew what ‘Tim Tam’s’ were (an Australian biscuit of awesomeness by the way) and when people kept assuming Britain was simply ‘England’, and when people refused to believe that Canberra is the capital of Australia!  (Erm, I might be slightly guilty there)…but we all got over it.

One of the best things I’ve found about being abroad is what you discover about your own country.  I didn’t realise I use so many Scottish colloquialisms that no one has ever heard of.  I discovered this when on seeing the confused looks my class was giving me during my drama presentation when I used the words ‘scaffy’, ‘numpty’ and ‘NED’…  Ok, I can give them that, writing them down they do seem like silly words.  But still, the point was that they’re part of my everyday speech so it got confusing when I had to stop and attempt to explain words three sentences in a row!

It’s also funny finding out people’s perceptions of different countries.  Like, everyone here thinks the London accent is the ‘British’ accent, which to us from Scotland sounds strange as there are thousands of accents in Britain, but then, similarly, most of the exchange students find it impossible to distinguish between Canadian accents :/.  A lot of people also confuse Australia with New Zealand which doesn’t always go down well with them… so it’s a cultural and geographical education for all, and usually we end up with a good collection of funny stories to tell!

Most of these moments are funny, sometimes a little embarrassing.  In class for example, I was highly confused when one of my Canadian friends asked me if I was wearing her ‘pants’, and after much assurance on my part that I was, in fact, wearing my own pants, I remembered that ‘pants’ here means ‘trousers’, and she was talking about the pair of jeans she gave me!  This I probably should’ve remembered from the movies but it caught me off guard this time, providing much hilarity for all.  I got another education when I was telling another Canadian friend what ski stuff I bought from America.  I was trying to explain the concept of ‘Sallapettes’ which apparently they call ‘Snow Pants’ here, and they call our Thermals, ‘Long Johns’.  It’s surprisingly difficult to describe words you use casually to people!

Anyway, as I said, most of these instances are pretty funny and form part of the whole studying abroad experience.  Even though little things annoyed us sometimes, you learn so much about so many cultures.  There’s a general consensus that the ‘hostility stage’ lasts for only about 2 weeks, about 6 or 7 weeks in and it’s over pretty quickly.  And even thought the Culture Shock can be a little irritating sometimes, I honestly think it’s also one of the best bits about being here – you just need to stick it out and I think when it’s over is when you really settle in.

P.S.  Oh, and for future reference – Beavertails are not actually beaver tails.  They are the most delicious Canadian food ever – deep fried dough with whatever topping on top, I reccommend Nutella….hmmmmmmmmm…. 🙂

The first 6 months – Part 1.

Wow, well it’s been a long time but it’s passed really quickly!

So, what can I tell you about my first 6 months in Dunedin as an International Student at the University of Otago?

Firstly – if you don’t have a driving license, it is SO cheap to get it here unlike in the UK so I’ve undertaken that task here and expect to have a full driver’s license by the time I get back home at a fraction of the cost!

Keep an ear to the ground for annual festivals. The food festival, the Cadbury chocolate festival and the Victorian heritage festival in Oamaru are worth checking out (the latter especially – but it’s only truly fun if you get into the spirit of the day by hiring a Victorian costume from the Victorian Wardrobe). Oamaru is a lovely little town about 1 hour’s drive North of Dunedin, and very proud of it’s Victorian heritage. It’s not unusual to see people riding Penny Farthing’s or wearing Victorian clothes, even when it’s not the Victorian festival, but the festival just allows the town and it’s visitors to go overboard and have a jolly old good time celebrating this bygone era. Just a few highlights: Punch & Judy. Penny Farthing races. Pipe-smoking competitions. Steam trains. Puppets on strings. Horses & carts. Little girls with ringlets in their hair. Street circus and entertainment. Public heckling.  Gurning contests. World stone sawing championships. Cane-carrying, hat-tipping gentlemen. Curtysing, corseted ladies with parasols, reticules & bustles! So many fabulous tastes, sights & sounds! the dress I hired happened to be the only crinoline dress available and it felt amazing to be wearing such a costume. Ladies – don’t be seen outside without your hand gloves on! The day really brings out good fashioned manners in everyone. This is a really memorable day that will give you a warm fuzzy feeling!

Me in Victorian costume!

The semester was crazy busy and it’s clear why Dunedin depends on students so much. Thursday is student night in the bars but the rest of the weekend is also fairly busy.

This was the last year of Undie-500. The object of the event is for students in Christchurch to buy and decorate a car for under $500, attempt to drive it (if it goes – always a chance it doesn’t at under $500) down to Dunedin, and then party with all the Dunedin students. It started very small with only a few students, but it grew and grew. Now, lots of students + lots of alcohol = destruction and fire in Dunedin. There is a strange tradition of burning things in Dunedin, especially couches. Apparently it’s fun. I think it comes from when you used to be allowed to take your own couch along to watch a game of rugby, and rather than take it home, spectators would set them alight so there was no couch required to be taken back. Officials stepped and and said no more Undie-500 events because they didn’t like the trouble that came with it.

Burning couch on street corner outside my house

Mid semester break is a good opportunity to make a road trip. I hitch-hiked my way around most of the South Island. I’d never done it before but never had any problems, I was with a friend so I wasn’t alone. I think the fact that we were girls worked in our favour too (sad but true). The South Island has so much to offer and is an island of extreme contrasting landscapes. Kaikoura was on of my favourite places to visit – just so picturesque. You didn’t even have to turn your head to see beach/ocean next to pine forest, in front of rolling green hills in the distance with a backdrop of dramatically rugged blue snow-capped mountains. Just breathtaking. So much so that my friend left her bag with $400, her ID and my camera inside. We carried on with the trip regardless, me paying, her taking photos. When we got back to Dunedin, we recieved word that some nice anonymous person had handed it into the police! Kaikoura, by the way, is THE place to eat freshly caught crayfish (more commonly known as lobster in the UK – but don’t worry, it’s very affordable here and not just for the rich and famous!).

If you make it up to Blenheim, do a cycle tour in Renwick – one of New Zealand’s best and most important wine-producing areas (heart of Marlborough wine production), there are so many wineries and vineyards to choose from but I highly recommend Framingham’s, it was the unanimous hands-down winner for my friend and I (their Noble Reesling is to die for – it’s like drinking liquid gold), and what’s more – it’s FREE! There are several other’s that offer free wine tastings so it doesn’t have to cost very much at all. And if you happen to couchsurf with a family that allow you to borrow their bicycles to do it, it doesn’t have to cost you anything! Just be careful cycling! Don’t forget a helmet (it’s illegal to cycle in New Zealand without one, and it’s a law that is strictly enforced – I often see non helmet-wearing cyclists get stopped by unmarked police cars and issued with a ticket outside my house).

In Picton you can go diving or kayaking in the Marlborough  Sounds, watch out for the weather though. It’s very changeable and just because it’s sunny in the morning doesn’t mean there won’t be a storm in the afternoon. I find the weather in Dunedin is more extreme and changeable than the weather in Scotland.

Going westward along the top of the South Island is Nelson, a bit of a hub in the North of the South Island (if it can be called that). It’s striking how few people actually live in New Zealand. You’ll discover that New Zealand’s version of a city is possibly your version of a small town.

The Able Tasman National Park is worth hiking. There are huts that you can stay in overnight for a small fee, and you can also pay to pitch a tent up. We met a cool British dude who is a doctor in the army and he joined us for the journey. My friend and I didn’t realise that you had to pay to put a tent up before we’d set out for the trip, and with her money gone and me paying for the 2 of us, we thought we’d try and find a remote spot away from the designated overnight huts and camping grounds. Two rangers we met along the way asked to see our papers and reciepts to confirm that we had paid to stay in the park. By this time we were deep inside the park, but it was almost 4pm, and of course, we didn’t have papers because we didn’t pay. Our British friend luckily bailed us and said we were with him. Phew! And if you can’t be bothered doing the whole track with enough tins of food on your back for 5 days in the bush – no worries, you can catch a water taxi back to Motueka.

MID-TERM-TIME

Gees, it’s been so hectic here I’ve barely had a chance to write everything up!  I have luckily managed to keep a wee diary of what’s going on so I don’t forget anything.  I won’t bore you with everything but here’s a wee bit of what happened in November…

16th November 09

Yep, it’s mid-term time and things are fairly frantic here!  In between galavanting to My Canadian friends all feel the same though and apparently Queen’s I thought it might just be me who feels like they’re doing the doggy-paddle trying to keep up with everything, but all my Canadian friends say they feel the same way.  I’ve been told that Queen’s is notorious for working you hard.  It’s not too bad, it’s not the difficulty of the work, just the workload.  And the good thing there is that the assignments are actually enjoyable since my classes are so interesting.  It’s still really cool to be taking different classes to back home!  Something about being on exchange makes it more fun J lol.  And the other thing is, I’m cramming my work in during the weeks so I can go away in the weekends every now and again, so I kinda get a reward at the end of it all!  It all sort of builds up at this point, but once I’ve got the script for the play me and a partner wrote written and handed in by Thursday, I’ll get a wee rest before exams and final assignments!  Yeeey.

I managed to get to Montreal a few weeks ago which was sooooo beautiful, it was mid-Autumn (or ‘fall’ as they call it here), and we went through ‘Parc de Mont Royale’.  We didn’t have a map so just trailed through the woods for ages amongst the beautiful multicoloured trees and leaves, we had SO much fun!  There’s a lovely lake there, too.  Montreal also has an old town area filled with georgeous wee shops and restaurants, it’s quite like a historical village in the south of France, I’d definitely recommend it.

Weather-wise, it was absolutely BALTIC about 5 weeks ago when I was really, really unprepared, because of course I’d only brought summer clothes with me in my little suitcase and didn’t expect it to get cold so quickly!  It warmed up again after that though and I’ve been going around in jeans and a sweater.  Oh, and I went to one of my Canadian friend’s the week before Halloween (which, by the way, is a MASSIVE deal here, it’s like every house and shop exploded with Halloween).  We went to Wonderland for ‘Fear Fest’ which is a Halloween festival at this theme park which has the biggest rollercoaster in Canada!  That was a really cool experience, and since it was late at night it was also very spooky!  AND I CROSSED INTO AMERICA!!  Ok, it was very exciting for me, we crossed the border when my Canadian friend’s family took another French exchange student and I passed Niagra Falls into New York state for the morning.  We went shopping in Marshalls (which is like the US equivalent of TKMaxx) and I got all kitted out for winter after the little freezing spell!  Won’t be caught out like that with all the gear I got, I’m decked out in a ski jacket, sallapettes (‘ski pants’ here), a kind of mountie-hat and a pair of ski-goggles for when I get to take advantage of the mountains when it snows.  I may look like a giant puff-ball, but I’ll be warm!

Haloween weekend was great fun too, basically the night before Halloween is as big as the night itself, and the NEWTS (exchange and transfer students group I spent freshers week with) guys had a party so we could have a massive reunion, so that was great fun.

I have to say actually, that a major reason for me managing to have a balance between work and fun is joining the Outdoors Club.  They offer a huge variety of outdoors activities and opportunities.  They sometimes even do multiple trips in the weekends to cater for everyone’s interests so they’ve offered kayaking trips to Wolfe Island, Thousand Islands, ice-breaking canoeing, a hiking and camping trip, a wine trip to Prince Edward County (which also included going to a cheese factory which sold maple cheese – sounds gross but was soooo good!) and I’ve just come back from a Wilderness and Remote First Aid trip run by the red cross where I received a first aid certificate!

Ah well, that’s enough info for now, I’m just off with some friends to see a Queen’s football game – woo hoo!  Hopefully I’ll catch a spare minute to update sometime soon J