Welcome to the travel blog extraordinaire!
Hi guys, my name is Bonnie and I am currently doing my year abroad in Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. I do English Literature with Creative Writing; however, my spelling and grammar is shameful so feel free to call me out on it if I make any heinous mistakes. I obviously study at Swansea Uni but I am actually from Northern Ireland, so I’m pretty used to studying away from home. Having said that, it’s still a big jump (all the way across the pond no less) so I’ll try and be as informative about my experiences as possible. If you are thinking of going on your own year abroad I will do my best to convince you, and if you are just here for a nosey I will endeavor to conjure up the Canadian spirit without the aid of a double double* and copious amounts of team chanting in the distance.
Being late to the blog, as well as virtually every aspect of my life, I am already settled in Canada at the time of writing so am unable to subject my dear readers, first hand, to the full brunt my (unfounded) pre-departure panic. However, I imagine the majority of you, who come trawling through pages and pages of exchange student blogs do so with the hopes of easing worries about the organisation of your own respective journeys to the far reaches of the globe, so I’ll give a brief summery that might put you at ease. I mean, I’m pretty much a scatterbrained as they come but somehow a year on from signing up I find myself strolling through uptown Waterloo with eating sushi and drinking coffee as if was born there, so I don’t doubt you’ll make it.
The Go Global team have everything pretty well planned out so as much as I would like to credit myself with exceptional organisational skills just sticking to their timetable meant it all worked out pretty smoothly. The biggest step is booking those all-important flights, no one can do it for you and once it is done there is no turning back. It’s so exciting and it only takes about fifteen minutes. Something which cannot said about submitting study permit documents, not because it is in itself difficult, but because it seems to take about thirty tries to get logged on, however this could just be a me problem. After all that one thing leads to another and before you know it you’re off. Then you are quickly turning around because you left your bank card on the kitchen table when you booked that hotel, then you are saying goodbye to your dog for a second time and there are a few tears and then it is back to the car you are off again. This time for real.
Packing, for me, was the probably the trickiest aspect of organisation; do you take everything with you an elephant style train of suitcases or do you favour the ‘nothing but the clothes on your back’ ‘preparation be damned’ style approach? In the end I opted for one huge rucksack and one cabin baggage approved suitcase, mainly for the sense of adventure the backpack gives me, but also for ease of transport as I knew I had a bit of a walk to my hotel through Toronto once I arrived. Currently it seems to be working out okay, although we shall just have to wait and see how I fare through those harsh Canadian winters which I have been assured are coming despite the current heatwave. Just make sure you have your documents and your laptop, and you’ll be grand. No honestly, they will have plates where you are going so put them back in the cupboard, grab your passport and roll with it.
The First Night
In regard to accommodation, I chose to spend a night in Toronto, to save my journey becoming unbearably long and disgusting, and for me it was a great decision. As well as being able to meet my new flat mates somewhat fresh faced and rested, I also got a crazy jet lagged Friday night impression of Toronto. There is something magical about checking into a hotel, dropping heavy luggage and venturing off into a big city with no directions and a great dumb grin plastered on your face. I was there for a ridiculously short time, but my aimless wander took me right from the rougher areas, where speech was slurred, and soup was handed out from a huge church on the corner, all the way to the glamorous hub where anything under two hundred dollars just wasn’t worth having. The noise, the lights, the food, and the cocktail all left me overflowing with enthusiasm for my whole year ahead, it cemented my independence and really enriched the first step of my trip.
Just keep your eyes open, your shoes comfy and don’t forget to tip your waitress.