I officially finished my exchange to Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, nearly 8 weeks ago, and have been home for 2 weeks..
After exams finished in Halifax there were a few days of celebration before the goodbyes kicked off. For the first few departures it was more of a ‘see you soon’, as we had travel plans over the next month which coincided in various cities in Canada and the USA, but for others it was a ‘goodbye’ with an indefinite period of time stretching between that moment and the next meeting. Tears were common and sadness hung in the air as the numbers dwindled to just 5 in Fenwick Tower.
On April 27, myself and the three kiwi girls flew out to Toronto for a week’s exploration. After a week’s rain in Halifax we were hoping for a break in the weather, but got no such luck! Undeterred, we went out to Niagra Falls with a friend we met in Halifax who lived in Guelph, just outside Toronto. The falls were great to see, but not as big as I had expected. We stayed with Alannah at her parent’s house in Guelph for the weekend and enjoyed a few walks through the Ontario countryside, which was really enjoyable.
The rest of our trip to Toronto was spent shopping and trying to avoid the rain. I went to the Supreme Court one morning and watched a witness being questioned in a murder trial (what a law nerd!), which I really enjoyed!
After a week in Ontario, we headed back east to Montreal, where after a day of rain we were blessed with 6 days of beautiful sunshine (FINALLY!).
Montreal is STUNNING, such an old city with incredible architecture and history (and a raging nightlife to boot!). After 4 months of Halifax pubs and live music we were stoked to experience a real night club again! We hired bikes and rode through the whole city with another kiwi boy we met at the hostel and his German friend. We also enjoyed a Sunday afternoon in the sun on Mont Royal in the park at the base, where we listened to the Tam Tam (drum) players, watched and participated in a medieval mock battle and saw people doing numerous circus tricks. Such an awesome afternoon!
After one of the best weeks of the year (possibly due to the awesome weather!), Niki (a kiwi girl I lived with in Halifax) and I caught the train to New York City! It was an 11 hour journey, involving an hour or two of sitting in the same spot while a US Customs Officer boarded the train and questioned all the passengers one by one.. not the funnest day, but the scenery was beautiful and we were rewarded in the end with the most amazing gift that is NEW YORK CITY.
New York is honestly indescribable. It is everything you expect, everything you have seen on the countless TV shows and movies and more. There is ALWAYS something to do and always someone to do it with!
Niki and I had booked into a hostel on the upper west side, but returned home on night 3 to find that the state of New York had closed the hostel down and that we had to vacate by 10am the next morning. After a lot of stress (nearly everything was sold out in anywhere remotely near our price range) we found a night at the HI hostel just a few blocks away. Each night we had to check out of the HI and hope something came up, but as the days progressed we were able to book in for the rest of our stay. If anyone is ever in NYC I highly recommend staying at the HI. Even though it is quite far uptown, it is so close to the subway and the facilities and staff are amazing, not to mention the awesome people staying there!
New York was another rainy adventure, but being New York, there was still a million and one things to do (although I do regret not spending more time in Central Park (although given the weather it just wasn’t pleasant!)).
After New York I flew back to Vancouver and met up with Sam (an Aussie guy I lived with in Halifax) and we were picked up by my family friend Megan, who had kindly offered to let us crash her and her friend’s annual May Long Weekend camping trip.
We drove out to Morris Lake (about 2 hours from Vancouver) and set up camp on possibly the most picturesque piece of land I have ever seen. It was green as green could be, on a huuuuuge placid lake and framed by snow capped Rocky Mountains.
Sam and I had so much fun with Megan and her friends that we ended up staying at Megan’s house in Abbotsford for another 5 days instead of returning to Vancouver!
We caught the greyhound back to Vancouver on Thursday of my last week, and met up with Jayne and Niki (2 kiwi’s we lived with in Halifax). We had a day of exploring in Van, but were again treated to some rain (it was following me around North America I’m sure of it!) so it wasn’t the best day.
Finally the time came to go to Vancouver International Airport, where my adventure began 5 months earlier. Tears were shed and promises made to be back before the year was out. I then went through security and the dream was over.
After my 38 hour trek home (loooooong stopovers are not recommended!), I was thrilled to see my family and friends. The first week was exciting and it was so nice to be home, but after the thrill wore off and reality set in, my parents went to work and my friends put their noses to the grindstone in SWOTVAC, the boredom and depression set in!
Not actual depression, but a definite longing to be back in the land of the maple leaf with the people who made the first half of 2011 the best 5 months of my life..
It was in this state that I wandered back into my travel agent’s chair and put down a deposit for tickets back to Canada in December!! I just couldn’t wait any longer to return!
Long story short, exchange was the BEST experience of my life, and anyone even considering one should 150% definitely GO!