Postcard from Abroad – University of Victoria Canada

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Natalie is a proud Northerner studying Classical Civilisation. In August she began her year abroad, confusing Canadians with English slang, 4617 miles away from home at the University of Victoria. Natalie cherishes her Yorkshire tea, happily covers the majority of her food with lashings of gravy and has never travelled alone before. She enjoys music, sitting by a fire, being outdoors and, above all, a good brew. During her year abroad Natalie intends to do everything she would never usually do because, if you’re going to test yourself, where better to do so than the on the other side of the world?

Hello,

I’m Natalie, and I have been in Victoria now for just over three months. I am really looking forward to writing these postcards in which I want to talk about the truths of studying abroad. By this I mean the “this is the best thing I’ve done in my entire life” moments, the highs, the lows, the funny and the downright sh**ty. I may as well get it out of the way and admit that, yes, I am one of those people who think that this is the best decision I have ever made. However I think the most interesting part about studying abroad is that you can have so many expectations about what it’ll be like, what you’ll do and how you’ll act and I can almost guarantee it will be nothing like you imagined. In this first post I want to introduce you to the people who will feature regularly in my blog, stereotypes and a few of my experiences so far.

The harbour of Victoria at night
The harbour of Victoria at night

During my Canadian exchange experience I want to do as many things that are out of my comfort zone as I can so I have gone out of my way to speak to as many people from different countries as possible. It’s not that it’s something I didn’t want to do, but it would have been much easier to simply stick with all the British people because it is comfortable and familiar. I can, however, say that many of my closest friends are now from all over the world. I have just come home from a road trip through America and in one car I had two Germans, a Dutch, a Chinese, a Pakistani and a Brazilian. It’s one of the best things about being on exchange, as well as the added bonus of now having a place to stay in a variety of countries around the world – I think I sense a bit of travelling coming on…

I am a home bird. I love my home comforts, I am really close with my family and I am absolutely dreadful at making decisions that involve any type of change. With all this in mind, upping sticks and moving to Canada has been a bit of a shock to the system. To add fuel to the fire, keeping to my commitment of wanting to test myself I moved into a house with three Canadian guys that I had only met once. Now this would probably be a daunting situation regardless but I went to an all-girls high school and sixth form and had only ever lived with girls. I can, however, quite happily say that it has probably been the best decision I have made since arriving in Canada. Despite the occasional pelting with a Nerf gun and laughing at my “funny British accent,” the guys I live with are great. I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up being their new roommate but nevertheless I’m happy.

Overall the people of Victoria really do conform to every lovely Canadian stereotype you have heard of. All are an amazing mix of friendliness, Tim Hortons, generosity and the occasional ‘eh’. But Victoria definitely doesn’t conform to all expectations. When I first landed, armed with an inordinate amount of Yorkshire tea bags in my suitcase and an epic dose of jetlag after a twenty two hour journey, I stepped off the plane into three weeks of glorious twenty five-plus degrees heat. Every day was just sun, swimming in lakes, blue skies, and high temperatures – I couldn’t believe it. I had imagined stepping straight off the plane and into some kind of thermal one-piece that I would only remove when I returned to England or positioned myself in front of a very warm fireplace. I fumbled through a suitcase of jumpers, woolly hats and hoodies ecstatic to find that I had packed one hopeful pair of shorts. Thank goodness for that innate BBQ-in-the-rain British summertime optimism.

The best 21st birthday ever, spent in 28 degree heat on this beach, surfing. You can’t make this stuff up.
The best 21st birthday ever, spent in 28 degree heat on this beach, surfing. You can’t make this stuff up.

I’ve found that the stereotypes the Canadians have of the British are definitely a hot topic and most of them are pretty spot on. We drink a lot of tea, swear a lot and get very “angsy” about queues or lack thereof. A Chinese friend of mine, Yujin, made a joke about English people, saying:

“English people spend half of the day drinking tea and the other half forgetting to”

I think I speak on behalf of a large proportion of England when I say that this could not be closer to the truth and that’s probably why I was still giggling about it half an hour later.

Until next time,

Natalie Conde

Images courtesy of Natalie Conde

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