October 01, 2014

Apple Picking

The incredible weather here in Halifax continued over the weekend which was lucky for me as I went on a beautifully quaint little apple picking trip with the other international students. We were picked up by a classic yellow school bus and drove for about an hour before arriving at Elderkin's Bakery and Farm Market.

First we decided which size bag we wanted to go for, 10lb or 20lb, before heading out to the many rows of apple trees. I can't remember which varieties we ended up going for, we kind of went for the "that looks like a nice apple" approach and slowly filled up our bags while chomping on a cheeky extra one while we worked. Hey, it was hard work in the heat. That's my excuse anyway.

After we paid for our freshly picked apples, we sat down for a picnic in the sun. We ended up sitting and chatting for the next few hours as there wasn't a whole lot to do once you'd done the actual apple picking. The organisers of the trip had anticipated us being able to go on a wagon ride but it turns out that they were only for primary school children. Yet more reasons why bring old sucks!

Somewhat annoyingly, we were told about a corn maze that was a short walk down the road. Annoying because they told us only 20 minutes before we had to leave so we didn't have time to actually complete the maze. I did get to meet some hay-bail minions though so swings and roundabouts!

Despite waking up the next day with a rather tomato-ed nose, it was a really fun day. I especially enjoyed getting out of Halifax and being able to see some of the surrounding area as well as all the trees that are now slowly turning all autumnal. Unfortunately, the weather seems to have now decided to turn cold but at least I managed to enjoy the sun while it was here! 

September 29, 2014

Fun in the Sun

The weather over the past few days has been absolutely amazing here in Halifax, literally not a single could in the sky. My weather app has been saying that it's been about 24 degrees Celcius but I don't believe it. It feels much hotter! I thought I was going to die because of the cold not the heat, turns out I was wrong.

To make the most of the sun, Carolin and I went for a wander to the waterfront where we sat for a while before making our way further down to meet up with Liam and Lisa and eventually, Jack. We concluded our little dander by the sea with some ice-cream from Cow's, supposedly the best ice-cream in Canada. I mean, it's nice but it's not that nice.

As promised I have started to take some more pictures while I'm out and about so here are some from Friday. Enjoy!

September 19, 2014

Still United!

As I'm sure anyone who has not spent the last few weeks and months in a hole will know, yesterday was an extremely important day in British history. Yesterday, the people of Scotland came together to decide whether or not they should go it alone and leave the United Kingdom. This morning I was pleased to wake up to the news that, in the end, they had decided against it.

Image credit: www.europeworld.com
In all honesty, it felt a bit anti-climatic. Even though I wanted the Union to remain intact it still felt a little strange to have had these long campaigns and constant talk about 300 years of history coming to an end and then, it didn't. And surprisingly, the margin was bigger than I expected. Most of the polls up to the vote had as little as 1% between the Yes and No voters but in the end the No vote won by a margin of 10%. Still not huge, but more substantial that I'd predicted.

Of course, even though the Scots have decided to remain with us, at least for the foreseeable future, it does not mean things aren't going to change. English politicians made many promises during the run-up to the vote in a bid to sway the votes and if they don't keep those promises you can basically guarantee that the Scots will vote for independence next time. And I'm almost certain there will be a next time. Yes, 60% said no, but that means 40% of the country want to go their own way. There will always be the threat of Scotland wanting independence and the same can be said for Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Whether that happens in 10 years time or 100 years time though, will depend heavily on how the government responds over the coming weeks and years.

I don't pretend to know everything about politics, in fact, I know very little but this has been an interesting road and has been made even more interesting by the fact that I'm currently studying about the original Union between our two countries over three centuries ago. It's also been very strange being in Canada while all of this has been going on. Being English, I feel very involved with the debate yet my current location has placed me outside of it although I'm sure it's even stranger for some of the Scottish students that are over here as well.

Either way, the vote has been cast, and Scotland are sticking with us so there's no worrying about border control or changing flags or more importantly whether Scotland would still have access to the Bake Off. It would be naive however to say that things will return to normal and everyone can go back to what they were doing. The United Kingdom is going to change and I for one am intrigued to see what happens next.

September 17, 2014

What's With All The Homework?

This is the first of a new style of post I want to incorporate into my blog. I want to look at some specific differences between life in Canada and that back in the UK. Don't worry, I'm still going to keep you up to date with the exciting goings on here, or at least I'll try to but the cultural differences fascinate me and so I wanted to write down my thoughts.

The first major difference I'm going to talk about, as I'm sure you can tell by the title is homework. The fact that I'm even saying that word is weird because homework is not something I have had to worry about since my days in Upper Sixth over 4 years ago (!) I even have a homework diary again! The system here is a weird mix between school and University and feels for me like taking a step back in terms of my academic independence. In Bangor, if I didn't do my required reading or my assignments, it was all on me and it would be my grade that suffered. While you're not about to get detention if you don't hand in homework here, there's still professors checking in and there's someone you have to explain yourself to. It's definitely been an adjustment.

Ooo arty photo of homework sitting at a jaunty angle on my desk with pen "casually" thrown on top ;)
There are, of course, advantages to the system, not that having someone to answer to is inherently a bad thing. Due to homework, class participation, mid-terms, assignments and finals, you're graded a little and often. This means that if you completely screw up your final, you have a load of other work to fall back on where as at home everything was resting on two or three assignments/exams. In fact, one of my modules in second year was entirely waited on a single exam. The system both increases and decreases the pressure. Lucky for me all of this is pretty irrelevant as I don't actually have to pass but I certainly do not envy the students here for having this kind of work load for four years.

I've only had two weeks of classes but already I'm having to organise my time far more carefully than I ever did in Bangor. It's easy with all the little homeworks to forget about the larger assignments and then of course there's the 40 pages of required reading for every class not to mention when you're supposed fit in life stuff like laundry, meals and socialising. How they have any time for extra curricular's I do not know. Granted I probably had a bit too much time to spare in Bangor, as my friends like to frequently remind me about, but surely there's a middle ground somewhere? I mean, is it too much to ask to be able to binge watch Orange is the New Black without permanently feeling guilty that I should be doing some homework or other?

September 04, 2014

Freshers Week 2.0

Tomorrow is the day that lectures begin and with that Orientation Week is officially over and what a week it's been. I've already met an amazing group of people and have been able to finally have the Fresher's Week I never had three years ago. From some cheeky cocktails at The Split Crow, to an obligatory round of Ring of Fire to intellectual discussions in Your Father's Moustache. Seriously, the bars here have the weirdest names! It's been a pretty awesome week.

The daytime has been somewhat more tame with me mainly focusing on sorting out bank accounts, registering for classes and of course, catching up on The Great British Bake-off. It's definitely been a little weird being surrounded by all the Freshmen. They are, of course, away from home for the first time, at the very beginning of their University adventure whereas I am three years in and am nearing the end. While I'm excited to be here in Canada, it's a very different excitement to what the Freshmen are experiencing. Besides, even if it was the same, there is no way I would be able to retain the levels of energy, excitement and enthusiasm that the Canadians can without at least a few shots before hand.

I also feel like I've learnt so much already. Most, if not all, of the friends I have made so far are from Europe and for the first time in my entire life I actually feel European. Us Brits have far more in common with the mainland than we think we do. I feel like the shared language with North America helps to disguise what are some fairly significant differences in culture while the language barriers across Europe disguise our similarities. When I found out about all the insanely strict rules about alcohol consumption here, it was my fellow Europeans who empathised. It's also made me want to really try harder at learning German because everyone's English is so impressive even if they themselves try to say it isn't. Hopefully, my Advanced German class should point me in the right direction and maybe not before too long I'll be brave enough to speak German with two of my fellow exchangers, Carolin and Daniel.

As I've already mentioned, tomorrow I start lectures and I shall have to be up bright and early at the crack of 9am. Got to get back into the swing of things for the first time since about May but in actual fact I can't wait to get started. Knowing me, I'll probably end up doing more this year than I did the entire three years in Bangor but either way it doesn't really matter. After a year focussed on my dissertation, the pressure's off. I can just relax and enjoy learning something purely for the sake of learning.

By the way, I will put my hands up and admit that I am really bad for forgetting to take photos but I do promise to try and improve in the future. For my own sake as much as for this blog. For now though, here are a few pictures from my favourite night from the past week.

August 29, 2014

Exploring Halifax

My first week in Halifax has come to an end as I have now officially moved into my halls of residence at Dalhousie. It's been a long week that has involved a lot of walking but I'm very glad I had the opportunity to explore the city with some moral support from Hannah before being left to fend for myself. I'm now able to navigate the main areas of the city without a map so I don't have to wander aimlessly down various streets looking like a lost puppy.

So far my main impression of Canada is that it lives up to it's stereotype of bring polite. I am yet to meet a rude Canadian in fact many will go above and beyond to help you out. Brits are also meant to be polite but ours is just reflex, we say sorry before we've even realised where as here it seems so much more genuine.

Halifax itself seems to, so far, be a really lovely city, particularly the boardwalk along which I was able to experience my very first snowcone! It was also the best place to get some obligatory Canadian tat. While it's definitely not the most exciting city in the world, it's a city that I think will suit me well. It's not massively overwhelming in terms of it's size which I'm thankful for having spent the past 3 years in Bangor which let's be honest is more of a town than a city.

One negative we did come across this week? Phone plans. They make no sense! It just seemed alien to us that we would have to pay to receive calls and also that emergency calls are standard but instead must be included in your contract. The one thing that truly boggled my mind is what was classified as long distance here which is basically any calls made to phones outside of Halifax, not even Nova Scotia! I don't think my mind can honestly comprehend the size of this country.

Overall it's been a fun week but I'll be glad once I've started lectures and have some sort of routine. However, before that happens there's Orientation Week. Hopefully I'll meet lots of cool people and will start to feel at home a little more.

July 13, 2014

This Just Got Real!

I'm back! Have you missed me? I really am going to try my hardest to get back into the whole blogging thing this time but the primary focus is going to shift. I'm going to be using my blog to document my year abroad which is fast approaching. In fact, I have just booked my flight! That's right, on the 20th August I shall be on my way to Halifax, Nova Scotia!

The thought is absolutely terrifying. Now, the flight itself doesn't really bother me, primarily because I'm lucky enough to not have to go it completely alone. My sister, Hannah, will be flying out with me and then we'll basically go explore Halifax and have a bit of a holiday before I move into my halls of residence just before she goes home. What is terrifying is that this all sort of cements everything. Not that I thought I would, or even could back out but now I feel like it's a done deal. I'm going to Canada. For a year. Am I crazy?

I am, of course, excited as well. I've never been to Canada before and I can't wait to explore Halifax and get to that point where it feels like home. I'm sure I'm going to meet lots of amazing people from all over the world and will get to experience things that I didn't even know where a thing. I never really made the most of opportunities while at University here so I'm determined to learn from my mistakes and get as stuck in as I can.

Although my flight is booked, there's still a huge amount to get sorted before I leave, not to mention the behemoth task that is condensing my wardrobe into one suitcase. I've also got a very busy few weeks ahead especially in August with various birthday shindigs including my own.

I'm not looking forward to saying all my goodbyes, especially my friends. I was bad enough saying bye to them at the end of Uni. Many tears were shed by yours truly. I dread to think what I'll be like knowing that I won't be seeing them until December at the earliest. I can already tell that Skype and social media will be my best friend while I'm out there, especially when the homesickness hits. For now though, I'm not thinking about that. I'm going to enjoy the rest of my Summer and try and spend as much time with everyone as possible and not try to overthink and panic too much. I can't make any promises though!

February 16, 2014

I'm Going To CANADA!

It's been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened since then including moving house which I probably shouldn't glaze over quite so nonchalantly but that's not why I'm here. No, instead I want to talk about some recent and very exciting albeit equally terrifying news and if you have yet to work it out from the title of this post, I'm going to CANADA!

Some of you may remember my post at the end last year where I talked about applying to do a year abroad. Well, just over a week ago I had my interview and then on Tuesday, on my way to a Taylor Swift concert, I got the email I'd been waiting for; I'd been accepted and I was going abroad. Only, I wasn't going quite where I was expecting. I'd originally applied to do a year in America with Oregon being my top preference so it was a bit of a shock to find that I would instead be going to Canada, Dalhousie University to be exact.

At the time, I didn't exactly jump for joy, it was all a bit of a shock and somewhat confusing and add in the factor that I'd forgotten my tickets for the aforementioned Taylor Swift concert, my emotions were all a bit up in the air. But the next day, once I'd had a chance to check out the Uni's website and actually have a think about it all, my excitement grew pretty quickly. I'm now at the point where I'm not really sure why I hadn't considered Canada in the first place because, like my Mum says, it may well be the ideal country for me. It's the perfect blend of the States and the UK with a little unique Canadian flare added in. They get all the things that attracted me to America without all the things that didn't. I won't have to worry about health insurance and I'll be able to understand the weather forecasts! Seriously, is 55 degrees Farenheit hot or cold cause to me it sounds toasty!

Going to Canada also means going to somewhere completely new and as terrifying as that is, it's also exciting. I've never really heard anything bad about Canada except the on running joke that they're overly polite but I'm british, Sorry is my middle name so I should get along just fine! My sister got the chance to got to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec about ten years ago and she absolutely loved it and we tend to like the same things so I'm sure it'll be the same with this.

The only thing I'm not overly looking forward to is the snow. I don't do cold very well but I think that also stems from us Brits refusing to really give in to Winter and therefore dress appropriately. A decent coat and some hefty snow boots are definitely at the top of my shopping list. Plus, the whole snow situation was going to be an issue pretty much no matter where I went so either way I'm just going to have to lump. Although at least it's guaranteed that once the snow disappears, summer will come. There is no such guarantee here in the UK.

I've got an exciting 22nd year ahead of me but until then I have a degree to finish so until then I'm going to have to attempt to push Canada to the back of my mind for the time being. Having said that, I have all the thrilling tasks of applying for visas and all that jazz but for now I need to keep my head here in Bangor and not get distracted. No mean feat I tell ya!