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.

    Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving

Halloween

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

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.

 

University of Calgary – O Week

It’s Sunday around 11pm and I’ve just completed O Week at the University of Calgary for Fall 2016. It’s been a great week! I know many exchange students decide to blog towards the end of their time abroad, however, I thought a running recollection of my time in Canada could be more beneficial, and honest.

I still don’t know a whole lot about Calgary as a city, or U of C as a uni, for that matter, but what I do know is that I am already in love with this place and the people. I live in Yamnuska Hall, the largest on-campus residential building at U of C. Yam houses mostly second year students from all over the place. My roommates are both from Hong Kong, I’ve met a Sri Lankan, Georgian (the country, not the state as he so often reminds people), Germans, Scots, South Africans and Dutch girls, oh, and Canadians. The rooms in Yam are bigger than I expected, quite new and in my case, quite messy. There is plenty of space and storage (you can’t seYam Hall roome in the photo but there is a wardrobe to the right of the photo). There is a great deal of support for students who are moving into residence for the first time including student volunteers that help you move all of your belongings to your room.

 

There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and fit into the Res life during O Week. I have great Student Representatives (SRs) who are responsible for organising events so that we have a great time. There is a meet and greet on the first night with other members on your floor, and perhaps more excitingly, the bar/club on campus, The Den, has a massive Move In party for Res students. (The Den is also renowned for it’s ‘Thursden’ nights but get there really early or really late so you don’t have to wait in line for 2+ hours.) On the SaturdayRez Rodeo the SRs host an event called Rez Rodeo which is essentially a competition between buildings and floors. Each floor has a theme (ours was Monsters University), you dress up as much as you want and participate in games to win for your floor. It’s a bit silly but it is again another great way to meet people and have a bit of fun.

 

The next few days are filled with Orientation and events where you get a lot Rexof free stuff! I did not attend any formal orientation events because a lot of the content was directed at first year uni students who are clueless about uni life! There is one event specifically for Exchange and International students which aims to ease your transition into Calgary. This event (I was told) was very informative and contained a lot of practical information about getting around the city. If you don’t attend for the information, you can meet some great people in your faculty, or get a photo with Rex the mascot for the U of C Dinos!

 

The biggest and most exciting element, in my opinion, are the sporting events during O Week! My second day in the city I attended a Calgary Stampeders (Canadian Football) game against their big rival Edmonton. This was unbelievable! The atmosphere was great and it is easy to make friends at the game because you have to ask a million questions to understand what is going on. There are fireworks, cheerleaders, JETS!, a lady riding on a horse and all the other stereotypical football things you can imagine. The stadium is walking distance so I just followed the crowd. I would recommend beer, merch and a jacket because it can get cold if the sun isn’t out. Oh did I mention merch? It’s big out here. Just buy some andKickoff go with the flow. I haven’t come to regret it yet.

The other big sporting event is the Kickoff game for the U of C Dinos against one of the bigger rivals, University of British Columbia. Before the game there is a tailgate party for U of C students (mostly) which has free t-shirts, food and face painting. There are also free fun activities, however I didn’t get the chance to participate because the lines for everything are MASSIVE! Seriously crazy. Entrance to the game is free for students but make sure you have your ID. Afterwards bars in the city tend to go off which is good and bad, I guess. If you’re up for clubbing then Commonwealth downtown is a good option but be prepared to pay cover and tips.

 

Generally, so far, so good. It’s quite easy to get around in Calgary with the bus stop and train station walking distance from Yam. There are only two train lines in Calgary so even I can’t get lost and ‘Plan Your Trip’ (like Journey Planner) for the buses. There are shops quite close to campus, although a bus or train is probably preferable over walking and lots of locations for food. There is a Dominos below me which will mean that I will probably be super fat by my return, however it is more expensive than back home. Also, coffee here sucks. Don’t be afraid to approach people and make friends – Canadians live up to their friendly stereotypes.

I’m also happy to answer specific questions (if I can) that you may have about U of C, Calgary or Canada (I traveled parts of the country before exchange). Please email me at emma.blatz@ucalgary.ca and I will do my best to respond.

 

 

Adventures in Alberta

Location

I was located in Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Calgary is about an hour drive from the Rocky Mountains. Canada is an excellent country to do exchange as Canadians are extremely lovely people! Canada and Australia are very similar in many aspect of everyday life. The dollar is relatively the same and a lot of everyday tasks reminded me of home.  The scenery in Canada no matter where you go is incredible.

University of Calgary is a great place to go on exchange as they have an excellent exchange program. There are heaps of exchange students and the exchange office helps you out with whatever you need. There is on campus living which is great and helps you to get to know locals and exchange events which help you to get to know exchange students!

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Accommodation

I stayed in university on campus accommodations and I would recommend doing the same if you go on exchange to the University of Calgary. There are a few places to stay and I found my accommodation on the exchange student’s website and after receiving an email from the university.

In on campus living there are many options you can choose from. While I lived in the 2nd year building (Yamnuska Hall) I would recommend staying in either Cascade or Aroura Hall for a few reasons. Even though on the website it says all building are exchange student buildings most exchange students stay in these two buildings. Also these buildings both have full kitchens whereas Yamnuska Hall only has a kitchenette (no oven).

Academics

I did four subjects while on exchange. This was one thing that I found was very different to back home. The way university conduct classes and what they expect of you is very different from QUT.  Firstly, nothing at this institution is recorded i.e. no classes are recorded. Also attendance was marked in most of my classes including lectures. Secondly they have very strict rules about the use of phones and laptops for off topic things and some of my lecturers even called people out in a 300-person lecture hall who were on their phones. I found the structure a lot like high school.  Thirdly I found in assessment they told you how to write something rather than what to write about which is different to how QUT does it. All in all though the tutor and lectures are very personable and you can see them during their office hours and they will assist you if you are struggling.

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Strengths

I think the University of Calgary has many strengths and anyone going on exchange should seriously consider choosing this institution. It is in a great location if you are looking to explore Canada with many great places and things to do spitting distance from the university. There are also a lot of clubs to join with one for every interest. As well as this public transport is included in the university’s fees as well as gym access. The university is known for its engineering program although I believe all programs are worth going for.

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Finances

I budgeted $12,000 for my exchange and found that I used every bit of it. Quite a bit of that budget was spent on travel as I did many trips around Canada and the US before, during and after my exchange.

I found that the cost of living in Calgary compared with the cost of living in Brisbane is relatively the same with most things like a night out, groceries, fast food, clothes costing around the same as they would at home.

For the time I spent in Canada I just used my travel card and Australian credit card. I found this was easy and had no issues and was much simpler that going through the hassle of opening a Canadian account for the amount of time I was there.

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Tips

My only travel tip is make sure you are organised. Have an idea of what you want to do, where you want to go and if this will work in with your actual uni work! But make sure you do as much as you can!

One item I couldn’t live without is my travel card.

Challenges

I found it a very easy transition into Canadian life and did not experience much culture shock at all.  I found Canada to be a very safe country and at no point during my exchange did I worry at all. The only challenged I faced while overseas was homesickness. I was only for a little bit now and then but I have been away for about 4 months when I started feeling it the most. Although it passed when I got out and explored Canada some more.  Another thing that might be a little different is the cold. While I really enjoyed the cold weather the right winter jacket is essential.

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Benefits

I feel like going on exchange is something every university student should experience. It has helped me grow immensely as a person. It also helped to appreciate QUT and the way it conducts it assessment.