Taking a year abroad can be a scary experience but incredibly exciting. After my final exam in June I knew that all my exams had went pretty well and that I was 99% sure that I would be going on my year abroad, I just remember walking out of that exam hall thinking all the late nights and early mornings in the library were well worth it, I was just full of excitement and was struggling to contain it. As you can gather I indeed passed all my exams and started to prepare for my year abroad. For Canada the Study permit was incredibly straightforward, just make sure you summit all the necessary documents at once, I did this and it only took them five working days to approve my permit. I would definitely recommend trying to get a job over the summer for both money but also to give you something to do, a few of my friends decided not to get a job and they kept telling me that their summer dragged in waiting for the date until they set off, whereas for me I was occupied by a job so my summer flew in and I also got additional money. I would recommend doing your research on phone plans and bank accounts before you fly out, phone plans in Canada are a lot more expensive than those in the UK, data is expensive so if you are like me and love to be constantly on my phone be prepared to pay $45 plus for phone plans with only 500mb of data. My journey to Ottawa was going to take me roughly 14 hours, which included a stop over in Newfoundland. My flight from Dublin to Newfoundland was departing around 9am, and from where I live the airport is around an hour and a half away, so the night before due to both excitement and the fear of sleeping in and missing my flight I got no sleep that night. When I finally arrived at my student house the excitement had taken over control and I was no longer tired despite being awake for over a day.
I was living with 5 other exchange students and a Canadian guy. For our first breakfast we had drenched everything in maple syrup and I can see why Canadians love it so much.
The Carleton University campus itself is just amazing, it has so many outdoor areas, which in the summer and warm fall months is just beautiful, you can just relax and hang out with friends.
The city of Ottawa itself is just as spectacular when it comes to the layout, it’s full of all historic buildings with a mix of nature throughout the downtown area, the canal runs through the entire city spreading out over a 7km distance, in the winter it freezes over making it the largest Skating canal in the world.
Below is the House of Parliament for Canada, in which you can take tours around it and walk around the grounds, you can also visit the peace tower which has spectacular views of the entire city. And second is a picture of downtown, it’s a nice sized city, by which I mean it isn’t too big but it isn’t too small, there is a nice mixture of tall modern building and old more historical buildings, giving it a friendly city feel.
The majority of my first month was spent exploring the city and campus which in the late summer is beautiful, with lots of wildlife everywhere to be seen which is a slight difference from back home. I met people from all over the world from Australia to Chile. We went to the Ravens ice hockey game which was incredibly fun, and I discovered a love for hockey, it is a really fun sport to both watch and play.
One of the highlights of my year abroad so far has been meeting my Canadian housemate Mark, people often say I’m the Irish version of him/he’s the Canadian version of me. Being around him I can feel myself becoming more and more Canadian like everyday which is pretty funny when I FaceTime my parents back home and Canadian sayings start creeping into my sentences. I have definitely made a friend for life.
Just as Swansea and Cardiff have their varsity rivalry, Carleton have their own rivalry with their city rivals, University of Ottawa, every year there is a CFL, Canadian Football game, held at TD place, the stadium in Ottawa. It’s called the Panda Game, and it was like being back in Swansea for varsity day, with each sets of students coming out in numbers for school rivalry. This year it was both a record attendance of 17,500 and a record number of points scored of 93 in total, with Carleton winning 48-45 in overtime.
Last but not least, I’ve been a fan of basketball for a few years or so now, so when I saw that the Toronto Raptors would be playing a preseason game in Ottawa it was a must for me. So me, my housemate and a few other exchange students went to see the game, and it was a pretty fun day out despite missing two buses and arriving just in time for the start of the game.