Country music and ice hockey in beautiful Calgary

University of Calgary

Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Why here?: Close to mountains, beautiful and safe city, great vibe, hockey, country music!

U of C is the second best young university in the world! They are renowned for their high quality research and for playing host to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics (Jamaica we have a bob sled team/Eddie the Eagle…). The main campus, easily accessible by train or bus, includes a world class ice rink, gym, and three main residential buildings for exchange students. Cascade Hall is where most exchange students reside, but Aurora and Yamnuska are also great options for immersing yourself in the U of C culture with Canadian students (I chose Yam).

QUT student Emma enjoying the snow

Speaking from experience, the application process for accommodation and subject selection is quite easy and straight-forward, and the staff are incredibly helpful if you have trouble. Best of all, most other activities and services (such as bus and train fares, and the gym) are included in your application process! This means you will know exactly how much spending money you can put towards travel, food and night life.

Getting into the spirit of things!

With local hockey (go Flames!) and football teams (go Stamps!) and with the U of C Dinos teams, Calgary offers plenty of opportunities to experience the sports Canadians love. Calgary is also the home to the famous Stampede, so expect two-stepping and line dancing at midnight in the country bars around town.

Close to the mountains, an easy trip to go skiing

Thinking About Going on Exchange? Do it.

My final exams are over, Bishop’s is closing for the holidays and by now the majority of my wardrobe is purple, so I guess that means my time here as a student is up!

Applying to go on exchange and choosing Bishop’s has been the best decision I’ve ever made. So I want to take a moment to say to anyone who might be considering going on an exchange (or even if you’re not), do it! There are so many amazing places out there, choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go or somewhere that looks cool to you and just go for it. Get that second job and start saving, work hard for a scholarship that can get you there, plan a budget that works for you, boost your grades and take the time to put together a great application – whatever it is you can do to make it happen, if you can do it, I guarantee it’ll be worth it.

My advice once you get there? Immerse yourself in the university life, embrace the foreign culture, stay in contact with family and friends back home, study (not too much! but enough to pass), make new friends, party, travel and just have fun with it – it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

What I love about the student exchange program is that it’s more than just travelling and more than just studying. I got the chance to live in another country for the first time, have the ‘college experience’, be the ‘foreign exchange student’, and meet people and learn things I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll have the time your life.

I also just want to take a second to mention, it’s ‘pass or fail’. Okay, I’ll leave it at that.

So after all this, if you’re wondering why I’m not an absolute mess right now about having to leave, because I’m so in love with this place and the people in it, I’ll be returning for a visit to Bishop’s in January to say my goodbyes before I fly back home to Australia. Until then – I might not be an exchange student anymore but that doesn’t mean the adventure is over yet! I came all this way, so now it’s time to travel!

Saying Goodbye to Queen’s

What an adventure my time on exchange has been! Currently in my last week of classes and with only 2 weeks until I leave Kingston to set off on my own travels, it’s time to reminisce on my time here in Canada. Since my last post in October, I’ve done and seen some pretty cool things!thumb_img_7490_1024

Let’s start with my birthday. I was lucky enough to spend my 20th birthday here in Canada with my new friends and amazing housemates… who even bought me ice-cream cake! (Who knew Canada had the best ice-cream cake ever?!)

This then brings us to Halloween… which is just like the movies. Everyone goes all out, not just for 1 night either – 3 nights in a row! I was somewhat sensible and stayed in for 1 night, but made the most of it at house parties with my housemates and English/Australian exchange friends.

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The weekend following Halloween, a group of us went on a road trip into New York State to stay at a house in the mthumb_img_7594_1024ountains for the weekend. With one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen, the massive two story house was incredible – set with a spa and outdoor fire.thumb_img_7653_1024

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What a great weekend it was – cooking meals with that view, relaxing in the spa and hiking through the mountains!

My most recent adventure took me to Toronto for a weekend. Only 2 1/2 hours away by train, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some time in another amazing city. My friends and I went to a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey game, went up the CN Tower, did some shopping, went to the Christmas Markets and of course the Santa Clause Parade!

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While I’ve certainly been busying exploring, I’ve also had a heap of uni work to do. With mostly group projects, the work here has been quite different to home, but having the pass/fail system definitely takes the pressure off and has allowed to go to all these amazing places!

My time in Kingston is coming to an end, and saying goodbye to all my new friends is definitely going to be hard. But my adventure isn’t over yet. In 2 weeks I fly to the UK to spend Christmas with my best friend at her new home in Wales, before flying back to Canada to backpack the West Coast of Canada and the US with some of my new Australian friends. I then meet up with my dad and sister in San Francisco to finish off my journey! As this chapter of my adventure ends, the new one is just beginning – so stay tuned for my next update… wherever I may be!

 

 

10 things I love about SUNY Oswego

SUNY Oswego has really stolen my heart, to the point where I have now extended my exchange for another semester! I never expected to fall in love with a town in the middle of upstate New York but somehow I am the happiest I have ever been. I am so beyond thankful for the experiences I have had so far and look forward to the memories to come. Here I share the top 10 things I love about my school!

1. The lake: SUNY Oswego sits right on Lake Ontario which separates the United States from Canada. Here you will find some of the most breathtaking sunsets you will have ever experienced. During the beginning of the fall semester (August) I would bring my homework to the lake and soak in the sun for hours after my classes were done for the day. It’s a great place to hang out with friends, take a dip in the water and just simply relax!

2. Food: If you read my last blog post, you’ll understand how much I love the dining halls here at SUNY Oswego. My personal favourites are the unlimited ice cream parlours, made-to-order pizza and chocolate milk on tap. You’ll never be disappointed with what’s on offer amongst the five dining halls across campus. If that’s not enough to satisfy you there’s also a variety of cafes you can choose from and use your ‘dining dollars’. If you’re eating off campus I highly recommend trying Sub shop, Wonzone’s Calzones and Dino’s!

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3. Snow: November 21, 2016 marked the very first day I saw snow! Coming from the sunny Gold Coast, snow is not a common sighting so this day was super special! The fact I had never seen snow really excited and shockedsome of my friends.  I made a snowman, snow angel and even had a snowball fight. Another great thing about snow is snow days! We were blessed with a snow day due to the wild wind and snow covered roads.

4. The social aspect: There is literally always something to do. Unlike QUT, SUNY Oswego prides itself on student involvement and always has something fun on. Whether it be hockey games, bonfires or concerts there’s always an opportunity to socialize! During the first few weeks of the semester there is almost something on every single day; you’ll find free fairy floss, pretzels, snow cones, therapy dogs and fun activities like photo booths, build-a-bear and even bull riding!

5. Location: I know what you’re thinking.. How can Oswego be a great location? You’d be surprised! Although Oswego is approximately five hours from New York City, we are so close to little treasures unable to be found anywhere else in the world. We’re just a short drive from some beautiful national parks, Niagra Falls and the Canadian border for those interested in venturing up north! Close by there is Ontario Orchards, the Bluffs and Bevs Ice Cream just to name a few. Oswego town and Syracuse also offers some cute stores and eateries.

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6. My dorm room: I originally lived in Scales Hall, one of the older buildings on campus but transferred to Onondaga Hall due to my decision to stay an additional semester (and Scales was closing for renovations in the spring). I now live in a suite on the tenth floor (a suite generally has three bedrooms with six people living in the room). The six suite mates share a lounge room and bathroom, which I much prefer over my original accommodation. My room also has a stunning view of the lake, and my new room mate is one of my very best friends! Another great thing about Onondaga (commonly referred to as Daga) is that there is a gym, dining hall and computer lab located in the basement.

7. Classes: I’m not going to lie, classes here are far easier than those at home. I’m a straight A student here at Oswego, and I can assure you I am far from that at home. Although classes are compulsory and participation is included within your final grade I really enjoy the teaching style here.

8. Extra curricular activities: There is seriously something for everyone on campus! I urge all new students to go to student involvement fair and sign up for anything that interests you! It’s a great way to put yourself out there and make a bunch of new friends outside of classes. I initially was apart of the dance club and soccer team before joining my sorority.

9. People: Everyone I come in contact with on campus is always friendly and goes out of their way to either hold the door open or greet me with a smile. Not once have I felt homesick during my time here, everyone goes out of their way to make me feel right at home.

10. Sigma Delta Tau: My home away from home. Sigma Delta Tau is one of four national sororities on campus. I was lucky enough to join this sisterhood during the fall 16 semester, and can honestly say it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I now have 45 beautiful new best friends and memories to last a lifetime. These girls continue to shower with me with love and support and I could not be more grateful for them taking me in and making me always feel so at home.

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The Beta Theta’s of Sigma Delta Tau!

Please email me (bellajackson@hotmail.com.au) If you have any questions at all about SUNY Oswego or studying abroad in general. I’m more than happy to help! You can also follow me on Instagram (@bellajackson) to keep up with my adventures.

7 American Holiday Traditions

The luckiest part about arriving in the United States for a semester at the end of their summer is being able to experience almost all of their seasons. With the seasons, of course, come the celebration of holidays and the traditions that go along with it. As such, I have made a list of 7 very American holiday traditions that I have noticed during my time at Michigan State University.

1. Fall Decorations
In Brisbane, we don’t see many leaves “fall” at all. In Michigan, it is a whole different story – when I arrived, the trees were a beautiful green. Within a few months, they began to change to beautiful shades of orange, yellow and red. With this comes the celebration of the fall season – including fall wreaths on doors as early as August, many pumpkins and also Halloween decorations.

2. Fall Food
With the fall decorations, there are also an array of food offered in stores and cafeterias alike. In fact, it may as well be retitled “Apples vs Pumpkins” as you will not turn right without seeing an apple pie or a pumpkin spiced latte.

3. Halloween
If you think you have seen any sort of Halloween celebration growing up in Australia, you need to think again. With Halloween falling on a Monday this year, celebrations began the Thursday before, with some sort of party/celebration occurring each night until 31 October. This also taught me that it is possible to creatively whip up 5 different costumes at very short notice!

4. Thanksgiving
My first real thanksgiving is yet to occur in the following few days. From what I can tell, American families are beautiful and welcoming, especially to young international students they are newly friends with. Stay tuned for an update on the dinner!

5. Door Decorations
From Halloween, to Thanksgiving, and coming up to Christmas, the students in the dorm LOVE to get around celebrating the seasons on their dorm room doors. Halloween saw an array of spider webs, spiders, pumpkins and even baskets of ‘candy’ to share with fellow students. As Thanksgiving approaches, I have seen some Fall/Thanksgiving decorations with many happy wishes on the students’ exterior whiteboards. As we are also getting closer to Christmas there have been Christmas decorations slowly appearing on the doors (my own included – see below).

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6. Ugly Christmas Sweaters
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xperiencing seasons on the other side of the world means that Christmas is of course in winter. With winter comes jumpers, and naturally, with Christmas means ugly Christmas jumpers. Again, see above myself getting into this traditional seasonal trend.

7. Christmas Lights
Another one of the many incredible things of living on a huge campus is watching it light up at night with snow flakes, stars, Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Both externally on top of campus buildings and internally in the dorm rooms and homes there have been an abundance of lights put up recently and it looks absolutely beautiful.

I look forward to seeing what my final months bring and if there are anymore surprising/extravagant holiday traditions to come. Until next time!

 

Canada – some tips on how to fit in

Moving to a different country obviously means having to adjust to the different culture. Even similar countries like Canada and Australia vary quite considerably. Things we say or do, or our tastes, in general, are strange to them (as many Canadians have pointed out), and vice versa.

Some tips:

  • A flat white coffee comes in one size. Order a latte instead. Canadian coffee sucks.
  • Hot chips are “fries” (duh).
  • Bread and milk taste weird.
  • Main meals are called “Entrees” and entrees are called “Appetizers” on menus.
  • Tax (GST and Provincial Sales Tax) are added on top of the listed price. So if a price tag says it is $10, that means $10 + tax.
  • Although they officially use the metric system, most Canadians use pounds for a measurement of weight. You may want to learn the conversion rate so you don’t scare yourself looking at the scales.
  • Be prepared to explain how Netball, AFL and Union or League work. They have no idea.
  • If you say “ice hockey” they will most likely correct you to just “hockey,” as if there is only one variation of the sport.
  • They celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving. Depending on who you’re with, they go hard out with the dress up and the decor.

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    Thanksgiving

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Halloween

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Their GPA scale is 0-4. If you say “4s open doors” they will think you’re more studious than you are.

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

    I argue this is okay because I am half Canadian

  • Canadian students (at least at the University of Calgary) are VERY studious. Find the fun ones.
  • If you drive, you can turn right on a red light after stopping in most provinces.
  • If you don’t hold the door open for a person within 5 metres of you, then you are an asshole. To be safe hold it for anyone within 7 metres.
  • Guys may get patted down walking into clubs.
  • Recycle everything or you will feel like a bad person.
  • They call a maple leaf the “Canadian leaf” or the “Canadian flag leaf”, because they are so proud. I get this whenever I show a Canadian my tattoo.
  • As Canada is bilingual, most things, including road signs and packaging, are written in both English and French. If you go to Quebec (the French-speaking province), the people tend to live up to French stereotypes, not Canadian.

 

They live up to their stereotypes –

Broken down in the Tim's car park

Broken down in the Tim’s car park

  • They are polite and helpful, and they do say “eh” and “aboot” (but they don’t always think they do).
  • Poutine (hot chips, gravy and cheese) is delicious if done correctly. Generally, you should avoid poutine in fast food restaurants.
  • Maple syrup is a staple.
  • Tim Horton’s (coffee shops) are everywhere and sacred. On a road trip, our van broke down in a Tim’s car park. Four nice Canadian men wearing flannelette shirts came over and helped fix our van. Our Canadian friend brought them Tim’s gift cards as a thank you. As the photo suggests, this was, and still is, my most Canadian experience.
  • Ice hockey is big with most Canadians. It is also awesome. Go to a game or two.

 

 

 

 

Things most Canadians won’t understand:

  • Words like “bottle-o,” “fortnight,” or just general slang.
  • “Thongs” are flip-flops here (duh), but enjoy watching people’s faces when you tell them you’re wearing thongs. Especially old people.
  • Why you like Vegemite (if you do) – which by the way, you can find at London Drugs (in Calgary anyway).
  • That magpies are crazy, blood-thirsty, dangerous animals. Apparently they don’t swoop here but I haven’t been around in the Spring to verify this. If you flinch walking past a magpie there is a good chance they will laugh at you.
  • Some occasions when you’re being sarcastic or insulting, especially if you use the word “mate” in there. They get the obvious stuff, just not the subtler ones.

Hope this helps.

As always, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca is you have specific questions.

Emma

Friends for Life at San Jose State University

Charlie: San Jose State University, California, USA – Semester 1, 2016

Hi! I’m Charlie Shaw-Feather and I am studying a Bachelor of Engineering, majoring in Computer and Software Systems. I studied at San Jose State University (SJSU) for the spring semester, 2016.

As I am writing this I am on my way back to San Jose for a holiday to catch up with the friends that I made and the relationships I hope to last a lifetime.

Whilst on exchange I stayed at SJSU’s International house. This was a college owned house situated just off campus for international students, welcoming students from all countries. This formed an integral foundation for the time that I spent in San Jose. They hosted a plethora of different activities and events to engage students allowing them to get out of their comfort zone. When I stayed there was a little over 60 residents, about 12 of which were from the US.

I set out on exchange to experience as much of American college culture as I could and what better way than to join a fraternity. The colleges orientation week coincides with ‘rush week’ which is the time that fraternities and sororities seek new members. ‘Friends for life’; is one of the mottos that is prevalent throughout the Greek (fraternity/sorority) community and it is most certainly true.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

The left picture is Tower Hall, an event building on SJSU’s campus. On the right, is Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada.

 

The whole community is very accepting and it is an extremely rewarding experience. One of the great parts about being in a fraternity is the philanthropic events. For example, Kappa Sigma, the fraternity that I am a member of hosts a series of events each semester to support military veterans.

When planning my finances for my travels I had to not only account for my student exchange but I also had to plan for my short term program before hand as well; I was overseas for 8 months in total. QUT has plenty of different support systems for students including OS-HELP loans and bursaries. Without QUT’s support I would not have been able to experience as much of American culture as I did.

When paying for living expenses one of the reasons that I chose to stay at I-House was that they offered a meal plan. This meal plan was for 7 days a week with extra dining credits to spend on campus restaurants outside of the dining hall. It should be noted that the food was nothing to call home about, other than to complain…

To find out more about QUT Student Exchange Programs, click here!

Fall Celebrations at Bishop’s University

fall coloursI’ve been loving Fall here in Canada. The colours are amazing, let me tell you. But another thing I’ve been enjoying are the Fall celebrations! Here’s the lowdown on the three main events I’ve had fun with this season…..

  1. Homecoming! The most purple-filled weekend of the year.

coulter fieldThis weekend involved sports games attended by the whole school, a tailgate, keggers, alumni visiting and an insane amount of school spirit.

  1. Thanksgiving! My first ever. (People kept asking me what the Australian version of Thanksgiving is but there really isn’t one!)

thanksgiving dinnerI got a very kind invite to spend the weekend with my friend Anna and her family at their home in Toronto. So after a carpool to Montréal, bus to Ottawa and another bus to Toronto, 12 hours later we arrived at Anna’s house. Most of the weekend was spent meeting Anna’s friends and family, exploring downtown Toronto, shopping, drinking pumpkin spice lattes, watching baseball and football games, walking along Lake Ontario and sightseeing over the Toronto skyline. Oh and there was Thanksgiving Dinner of course (so much good Canadian food!)

  1. Halloweekend! The three-day event celebrating Halloween.

halloweekend night 2From my first week at Bishop’s, I’d heard people talking about this weekend which involved students wearing a different costume each night. Luckily it lived up to the hype. There were a lot of things going on over the weekend but the main events looked like this:

  • Thursday: Happy Hour at the campus bar
  • Friday: Party at Animal House, a backyard party where students typically dressed in animal onesies
  • Saturday: Gait Night where the campus bar was turned into a club for the lucky 900 across the whole school who scored tickets (thankfully I was one of them)

mont orfordAll in all, this Fall has not disappointed! Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of these colours before Winter rolls in!

 

 

My First Month at Queen’s

I’ve reached Week 6, and although I’m swamped with all sorts of assessment and preparation for classes, the fun hasn’t died down! At the end of September, a few other exchange students and myself hired some cars and drove 3 hours north to the beautiful Algonquin Provincial Park. The weather was amazing, but a little chilly, so perfect for walking to a viewing points and having lunch near one of the picturesque lakes. It was a long day but definitely worth it and an amazing sight to see with the trees starting to change colours! 

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Come October 7, Thanksgiving weekend started. My housemate Julia was kind enough to invite me and our other housemate on exchange to head to London, Ontario to spend Thanksgiving with her family! It was so nice to go to a family home and experience a true Canadian Thanksgiving. The whole family were so kind and hospitable and really made us feel at home. They took us to an ice hockey game, apple and pumpkin picking, involved us in cooking dinner and finished the weekend with a trip to the cinema.

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Of course this then leads us to the most recent event… Homecoming! What a crazy, crazy weekend. All Queen’s students fill the streets from early in the morning to start their partying, which continues right on into the night. Queen’s alumni come back to Kingston to celebrate their time at Queen’s and join in on the partying! Everyone is dressed in Queen’s colours – blue, red and yellow if you couldn’t tell from the photos – and Queen’s merchandise! So much fun!

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My time at Queen’s so far has been nothing short of amazing, thanks to my wonderful housemates and new friends! I still have some exciting trips coming up so stay tuned for my next post!

Calgary – things to do and know

5 weeDowntown Calgaryks into my exchange at the University of Calgary and I have some updates for you back home.

My last post had lots of information about the university and O Week at U of C. This time I would like to focus more so on Calgary and Alberta. Calgary is the perfect city in size, people and activity. Calgary has about 1.1 million people meaning that it has a lot of great services but isn’t too big.

 

 

 

Firstly – transportation

Calgary has two train lines, the Red and the Blue. While staying at U of C you will likely only use the Red line which travels NE to SW. Although the train isn’t all that quick around Calgary, it is convenient and takes to right into the heart of the downtown area. There is a stop at the university (although it is on the other side of the campus), and stops to all major areas including sporting grounds.

Calgary’s buses are decent. I find them comparable to ones in Brisbane, not super fast, but not horrible either. There are a number of routes traveling from the university to close shopping malls or districts, however, unless going somewhere nearby, the trains are generally easier. The best part of public transit here is that you pay $130 at the beginning of the semester to get a UPass sticker for you university ID, which you then show the drivers, and you don’t have any more to pay.

Taxis are not as expensive here as back home (but you will hear Canadians complain about them). You will be expected to tip though, so keep that in mind and maxis aren’t really a thing. There is sadly no Uber 🙁

 

View from Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

Secondly – activities

There is an abundance of fun activities to do in Calgary and the surrounds. Small concerts are held on the university grounds every so often as well as around the city reasonable frequently. Keep your eyes peeled for posters around campus or the city. If not in Calgary, then artists usually perform in Banff which is a rather short bus trip away.

There are incredible hikes or walks close to the city. I recently hiked Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (about 1 hour drive), which was difficult (partly due to my fitness level, but also due to the thinner air) but definitely worth it for the view. It gets quite cold up the top so bring layers!

 

Radium Hot Springs, BC

Radium Hot Springs, BC

10 friends and I also took a road trip to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia (BC). The trip was about 3.5 hours (if the van hadn’t broken down) and absolutely worth every penny! As we drove to Radium, every corner brought new mountains and magnificent views, while the town itself was full of awesome walks and, of course, hot springs!

If you are looking for something closer to Calgary I would recommend ice skating or catching a game of Canadian football or ice hockey. You can ice skate on campus at the Olympic Oval for $5 skate and helmet hire. Entry is free. All U of C Dinos games are free and the football games walking distance from campus (the hockey is just a train ride away).

At a Hitmen game

^^This is Josh^^

Calgary Stampeders (football) games are walking distance (McMahon Stadium) and you can get tickets in the nosebleeds for $25 (if you buy a few days early). The Calgary Flames (ice hockey) games are held at the Scotiabank Saddledome a bit more expensive and worse seats but look for deals on StubHub or for student games.

 

Otherwise the Calgary Hitmen, a team in the WHL (so under 23 ice hockey) also play at the Saddledome and tickets will likely be cheaper.  Or if you’re like me, become friends with someone who gets free tickets (thanks Josh)!

 

 

Of course I should mention all of the bars and clubs around the city. Everyone has different tastes so I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say that The Den (on campus) turns into a conveniently located club on Thursdays, and that Commonwealth is also popular. As far as bars go – Ranchman’s on Saturdays (country), Kilkenny’s (at Brentwood – about 10 minutes on the bus and great for sports) and The Ship & Anchor (17th Ave SW – great for food) are all a bit of fun. It’s a good idea to carry cash out, as some places only take cash at the bar. Ladies also get in cover-free on Wednesdays at Cowboys because it is ladies night. Remember to tip!

Stephen Ave Walk

Stephen Ave Walk

And of course, more known things like the Calgary Tower, Stephen Ave Walk and the path along the river are also great for a free day.

 

 

Finally – weather

Be warned that the weather can change quickly. One day it will be cool, but sunny and the next day will be snowy. Dress in layers!

 

That’s it for now but as usual, if you have specific questions, email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca.