Deja Vu- Almost

Deja Vu – Almost

Returning to Glasgow is harder than I expected it to be, I must admit.  Having become used to home again over the summer (Nairn, in the Highlands), moving to Glasgow – although I love it – is still another upheaval, with a new set of things I have to get used to.  As I said before, at home, things are usually much the same.  But when you go back to Uni it’s more obvious that while you were away gallivanting across the world with your new friends, your old friends have spent time here without you, bonding, having fun and enjoying different experiences that you weren’t part of.  It’s a bittersweet feeling; having done so much, but also missed out on things here.  It’s also funny, as some of my friends feel like they’ve missed out by not going abroad, while I think there’s an unavoidable feeling you’ve got to expect yourself when you come back – that you’ve missed out.

Getting used to the academic style is also a challenge.  Sometimes I get confused between what I’ve learned at Glasgow and what I’ve learned at Queen’s, even how many courses I’m supposed to take and how often I have to submit assignments.  So I suppose you can feel a bit weird and out of place sometimes.  On the other hand, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by finding that some things I’ve done or learned in Canada are similar to what my classmates learned in 3rd year here.  It’s a pattern of weaving in and out of feeling alien to things and like I’ve always been part of things here, which I guess will take time to smooth out.

I suppose this is part of the whole Reverse Culture-Shock.  I sometimes picture where I’m going to find a computer in the library, get to it and realise I’m imagining the wrong library.  It’s like that weird thing when you wake up thinking you’re somewhere else, and it takes you a few seconds to remember where you are.  It seems silly to have to adjust into something you’ve been used to for 20 odd years, and I didn’t expect it, but it comes down to small things like the fashion, the hairstyles, the lifestyle, the humour, the names of painkillers, the number of courses you take per semester, the style of the lectures and tutorials, the shops, the character of the city which can throw you.  And although I miss things from Canada, it’s the little things I’m so grateful for here; like calling my course ‘Joint Honours’ instead of a ‘Medial’, having ‘New Look’ and, most importantly, BOOTS THE CHEMIST!!

Overall it’s like a double-edged sword.  It’s tough to settle-in, but you’ve just got to consider one question:

Was it worth it?

For me, there is no question:  Returning to Glasgow I can get used to.  But studying abroad was irreplaceable.


Highlights of the Semester

After Boston, I never really spoke about what I got up to in New York, but it was definitely a highlight of the semester. Travelling with my Dutch friend, Margot, we took the $15 megabus to NYC. We decided to go couchsurfing, which you’ve probably heard of, but never had the balls to do. I was the same, but Margot persuaded me and I’m so glad I did. Our host, Tak, a product designer from Brooklyn. And what a host he was- I can’t recommend couchsurfing any more, Tak was extremely generous and gave us so many tips. One of my personal favourites was the High Lines, an urban redevelopment. He also took us to some awesome restaurants, and his Uncle took us for some proper dim sum in Brooklyn Chinatown-we were literally the only Caucasians there, that’s when you know it’s the real deal.

We did all the touristy things too (but you’re just going to have see it for yourself one day): Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Museum of Modern Art, Grand Central….etc, etc…. All in all, a great experience!

Another highlight was Science Carnival, a weekend full of fun & alcohol debauchery. Teams of around 20 all compete to be prized the ultimate carnival team. Points are given for tasks, such as drinking games and scavenger hunts all around Montreal. Be warned it isn’t for the faint hearted, but if you’re up for it, you’ll love it.I’ve said it before, but join the McGill Snowboard Club! If it’s the only thing you do at McGill, this is it!

Being a rugby fan, I had to find somewhere to watch the 6 nations games, so when England played Scotland, I headed to the pub to watch the ensuing action. The game was actually quite boring, but I did meet the coach of the Montreal Irish, a local rugby club. So, Istarted playing rugby again, and when they found out I was only 19, they signed me up to play for the Quebec U20 team. We ended up at the Atlantic Championships in New Brunswick, where we played and beat Novia Scotia convincingly. Then, 2 days later we had the epic task of playing the reigning champs Newfoundland. A bunch of tanks basically, with lots of players pushing for u20 Canada selection. Anyway, we lost by 11 points, but not without letting everyone know that Quebec rugby has some talent. We were down by 4 points up until the dying seconds, when we went all out for victory. It was a great experience and genuinely felt honored to represent. I was lucky enough to be spotted by one of the u20 scouts, but alas I’m not Canadian….or so I thought! My dad had always said that my grandmother had lived in Canada when she was younger, but he didn’t know much about her history. After searching the 1911 census, we found that she was living in Hamilton, Ontario, aged 2. Pretty astonishing really! So this made me ponder the question, was she born in Canada? And if so, am I therefore Canadian in some way?… After my parents searching the house, they eventually found her birth certificate and the excitement was over. She was born in Dundee!

Montreal has so much going on over the summer that I desperately wanted to stay, but without getting a job I wouldn’t be able to. However, McGill has a career planning service (CaPS) with a job search, so I managed to get an amazing job. I worked as a Lab Researcher, in the WOW Lab. Basically, we developed fun experiments to get children interested in Science. Remember all the cool experiments you did in school, the rockets, the volcanoes, the chemical reactions? We brainstorm ideas like those and develop them, so that teachers can use our blueprints in order to teach their students. One of the most popular projects being the Maglev Train , but we also have simpler ones such as a really cool digestion model using an elbow length vet glove (representing the oesphagus), cookies with baking soda, and a large balloon (representing the stomach) filled with vinegar.

So even though the semester has finished I still have the whole summer (it was a long time ago since I wrote this) to look forward to. I’m heading back to the UK at the end of August just in time for the start of next year.

sad to be back……..:(

So i’m back in Glasgow and into my second week of my final year – scary stuff.

They say you get reverse culture shock but i was always a sceptic, it’s just coming home i though. I was however most definitely wrong. It’s weird, very weird. It’s not that everything changes, you still have your friends, your clubs, your classes, but the little things adjust. Like Sommerfield to Waitrose, Antipasti to i think it’s Sophie (i could very well be mistaken), just little things but they seem really odd. I knew things would change but it’s still a little weird that they have.

The biggest change for me is the work load. In Canada i have 5 classes a term, with about 4 hours contact time for each of them a week and millions of readings. I’m now down to a few hours a week and although i know things will heat up it’s a drastic change from other last year.

Having said all this though, it is lovely to be back. I have my friends, my family, the hills (up at home), cheaper booze and sad but true – the petite section in topshop. I have also brought a lot back with me, not only in terms of physical objects like clothes and presents but also in terms of my personality. I am far more adept at being myself in a room full of strangers and i have a great deal more of what my mum calls ‘get up and go’, the drive to actually do things during my uni career as opposed to just coasting along. The heavy workload and constant stream of social events has improved my time management immensely and basically i think i’m far more adept at dealing with the big bad world I’m going to be thrown into in about 8 or 9 months time.

I am also incredibly jealous of all those who have just jetted off to UBC and are currently enjoying Longboat day, club open house and all the other start of the year fun.

Also on a more practical note to everyone thinking of going, feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions about going out there from the perspective of someone who is back. I’m more than happy to help if i can.

hope to hear from you at some point


The Rockies!!

The rockies!!!!

Right well there are several options on how you could go about this but all I’ll say is make sure you do.

Cat (the girl I went with) and I decided to rent a car. Not the cheapest option but certainly the easiest for getting around and it allows you the freedom to stop wherever you want, see the things the greyhound can’t take you to and avoid the god forsaken tourist busses that are the only other option for opening up the wonders of the Rockies.

Getting out of Vancouver, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, was terrifying!! Truly terrifying. However, over a week on and I am in love….with hybrid cars and automatic gear systems. Mmmmmm

Back to what we’ve done and seen. On the first day we headed up through the Okanagan past Kelowna and the Okanagan lake to a H.I hostel on the edge of Shuswap  Lake. It’s amazing… an abandoned train transformed into a hostel complete with pancake breakfast and free use of a canoe to explore the nearby beavers. The views on the way were amazing and the hostel transformed us back into kids. Ooh btw, I recommend taking the west route along the Okanagan Lake, it’s windy but the views are amazing.

From there we headed took a day heading up to Banff. First we stopped in at one of the many wineries on the way. Free tastings, yum yum. Next we stopped in at the Dutch Dairy for one of their well recommended ice-creams, they are huge!!! In an attempt to feel less like a dairy cow and more like humans again we went for a walk along the Blue lake in Revelstoke with fantastic scenery.

After traveling through the beautiful national parks of Glacier and Yoho we hit the Banff national park – amazing mountains throughout AND … our second bear encounter. Cute but obviously powerful. The last hour of driving was painful though, over an hour on a hideously large highway considering the surroundings. There was one selling point tho – the animal walkways over the highway – grass covered bridge like structured for the bears, moose and many other amazing critters who call Banff home.

In Banff we hiked up Sulphur Mountain – about a 2 hour grind but the view was well worth the snowy stomp. 360 degrees of mountain wonderland. What’s more, you can sneak onto the gondola for an easy ride down : )

Our next stop was a hostel at Lake Louise which was honestly amazing – one of the best I’ve ever been to. On the way over there we saw a moose in a river – a definite yaye we’re in Canada moment. From that hostel we went to see Lake Louise (amazing and well worth a hike round), Moraine  Lake (even more stunning but not as famous, we saw two skiers coming down the face – amazing!), and Johnston Canyon (really pretty, esp if you’re into waterfalls).

From here we drove up to Jasper – 3 hours of breathtaking scenery. The icefields were really impressive and a brief encounter with a baby black bear made my day – so cute!! The town of Jasper itself is definitely what I would call sleepy but the drive up here definitely made it worth a stop.

From there we made our way home past Mt Robson and stayed a night in Valemount before one more stop in Shuswap and a long drive back to Vancouver…..

phew!!!! quite the week. One of the things that stands out most is that Canada has a tremendously diverse landscape. Well that and the fact that it’s stunning, completely stunning.

i miss the rockies already!!

however i do not miss our serious lack of car tunage. Definately bring CD’s or buy an i trip!

bye  ; )

Visit from the parentals

It had to be done….at some point i think every parent has been out here, a constant flow of exchange parents??????

So 14,000 words of rushed essay hell, frantic tidying and ‘grocery shopping’ later and the preparation was done, i was ready for relaxing week with mum. One problem however….she was stuck in Montreal. urgh!

Never fear though, a day late and she turns up. What’s more, it turns out that having visitors is definitely a good idea. I had a blast. Despite the fact that we had the worst week of weather i’ve had so far, it was still amazingly fun. We had wine, coffee and cake galore and between lectures managed to explore the city thoroughly. We went up to Squamish to see the Chief and toured the northshore to Horsehoe bay and beyond. We devoured food from the Naam and collected supplies from Granville Market – yum yum homemade salmon burgers. mmm…

Anyway, it’s just a wee note this time to say it’s lovely to have visitors, definitely a must do : )

So….. i forgot to post this. oops, better late than never


Every baby in Canada is born with a hockey stick in hand. That’s how intense the passion for Hockey is here. None more so than the city of Montreal! If you’re unaware of what hockey is and who the “Habs” are, you will soon learn. Les Habitants, the nickname for the Montreal Canadiens Hockey team, are the city’s pride and glory.

The NHL comprises of 30 teams from the States and Canada, all competing for the highly coveted Stanley Cup. Teams play over 80 games a season, so it’s a pretty big deal…

Anyways, this year, Montreal got through to the Playoffs, finishing in the top 8 in the Eastern Championship. They beat one of the top teams, Washington Capitals. I was lucky enough to be at a friend’s place who has a balcony overlooking the main shopping street, St. Catherines. 5 minutes after the final whistle, the streets were packed. Chants of “Go Habs Go!” echoed around downtown. The next challenge would be the reigning champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the Canadian Olympic Hero, Sidney Crosby, fronting the opposition. Again, Montreal shocked everybody to seal victory. This time, Montreal went even crazier; Pittsburgh jerseys set alight, shoulder to should crowds, even riot police!!!

I wasn’t expecting to be converted, but I can truly say that I’m a hockey fan now.


Home again, home again…and highly jet lagged!

Strange, very strange – but not in a bad way.  It’s just the contradiction that’s strange.  It feels weird being where you were before your year abroad, with people who didn’t share your experiences physically with you.  Then again, it also feels so wonderfully normal, familiar and comfortable.  It is like everyone says, you do seem to fall back into things, but you do so being the person who learned so much from your exchange year.

I haven’t even been home for 2 whole days yet but in a strange way it feels like I’ve never left.  In fact, as soon as I saw my parents and a friend of mine at the airport it already felt lovely and normal.  I do, however, have jet lag – which sucks a bit.  LA has an 8 hours time difference so I kind of feel like I’m in a dream, it’ll take a while to readjust I think.  Anyway, now I’m trying to keep up with contacting people I’ve left and I find myself wanting a bit of peace and quiet now that I’m back for a while.  I also, while feeling too exhausted at the moment, am really looking forward to seeing everyone here, but think it will take a few days before I have the energy.

A few things I’m enjoying about being back are having proper bacon, ‘normal’-tasting bread and milk, being in a familiar house and climate, seeing people I’ve missed, rediscovering my old clothes (you forget half of what you had, trust me!), having familiar plug sockets, discovering a few new things around the house and being completely surrounded by Scottish accents J

A few things I’m missing are my friends, the Canadian lifestyle, my bedroom in Kingston, hearing the Canadian accents (and American accents) everywhere, TRAVELLING, being faced with new things all the time…and the sun (it’s Scotland!)

Overall, it’s just another part of the journey of being abroad, and one of the great parts.  I love seeing my family and it’s nice to take a breather after travelling to random places and sleeping in random beds.  And I love getting to know everyone and everything again from a different perspective.