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.

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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.