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 see 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 Saturday 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 of 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 and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to respond.