And So It Begins

So it’s finally the end of our first week here. In less than 6 hours it’ll have been 1 week exactly since we landed (for that fiasco please read the first entry). From now on we’ll both write segments for this, with them clearly signposted (in case the writing isn’t evidence enough).

Rory: Honestly, I’ve got three things I wanna talk about with this, and I imagine the second is going to be the one my fellow students hear about the most.

My first thing is Douglas College as a whole. My god it’s big. 6 floors of classrooms and offices…they even have their 5 page map. Really threw me, but then I realised that those who go to big metropolitan unis in Britain have this too. It’s just Lampeter which has spoiled me! And it’s lovely, there’s always so many people about it feels alive and vibrant, which I admit that Lampeter certainly doesn’t sometimes – but I certainly do feel that I would get lost, as a student, amongst the huge numbers. One of the perks of going to a small uni! For those who don’t know, Douglas College (where we’re studying) is a community college – an alternative for those who haven’t got into a big university initially (I get the impression they’re maybe like old Polytechnics). It’s weird, there are people here who are in their first, second, third or fourth years of college – not divided by year. Certainly leads to interesting debates! 🙂

My second thing is the modules (courses). Lots of exams. Of my 4 modules, all have final exams, 3 have mid-terms, and all have least 2 essays or equivalent. The work is certainly intimidating me, and we’re only at a ‘small’ community college! I mean, there are differences in structure and assessment/exams (one of Eurgain’s is multiple choice, not an essay), and I think (she seems to agree) we are a little ahead of some of those taking our courses in terms of academic experience – with referencing, using sources, etc (I suppose this is bound to happen with mixed years). All this to say that I think this is going to make transferring our efforts to a Canadian style easier – but we’ve both got new referencing systems to learn to use! Yuck!

And my last thing to mention is a small milestone for me. My first beer drunk outside of Europe. Our orientation was on Friday (we met the other European exchange students, including two from Swansea) and along with the free buffet, which as a Brit we made full use of, we had to go to a two hour session for all international students (those who’ve globally come to do their whole degrees). Of course, this mostly didn’t apply to us and so was perhaps not the most constructive use of our time – afterwards a beer was most needed. So I (Eurgain had retired due to exhaustion) went with the 2 other Welsh students to ‘Hops’ (a bar not more than a stone’s throw from the college!) and, along with bonding with the other two, enjoyed what they called an Extra Strong Bitter. A lovely beverage, I must admit, but I challenge them to come to anywhere in Britain and present it as ‘extra strong’! Still, a lovely drink – and in pounds about £3.60, which is perfectly reasonable, I think! My question for any readers: are there any alcoholic beverages (native to Canada, of course!) that you would recommend? Also, have you ever had an alcoholic drink abroad that you know would be branded differently in the UK/your home country?

Eurgain: Well, we’ve survived our first week in Canada! We’ve had a really busy week at Douglas in regards to having our first lectures, getting to know our fellow exchange students and classmates, getting told what our assessments are, and exploring the Vancouver area. Like Rory, I’ve chosen three highlights from this week, here they are!

Cruising to Coquitlam – Douglas College has two campuses – the older, bigger campus of New Westminster, and the David Lam campus in Coquitlam. Out of the four modules that I take (Introducion to Physical Anthropology, Introduction to Archaeology, International Studies, and Ecology & Culture), two of them are situated in Coquitlam – 30 to 40 minutes away by SkyTrain. I bet you’re thinking..what’s the SkyTrain and is it as awesome as it sounds? Yes, it is. Basically, it’s an outdoor version of the London Underground that can travel at 50mph (thanks Wikipedia) through the city. As well as getting from one place to another, it’s genuinely a great way to see the city as you pass skyscrapers, soar over roads and highways, fly past shops and garages, it’s a great way of seeing Vancouver from a different perspective. Rory and I used the SkyTrain to travel from the airport to our new home, but since we’d just lost our baggage we weren’t as excited as planned on that first journey. On Thursday, I got the chance to use the SkyTrain again, by myself. I felt nervous, since I couldn’t blame Rory if we got lost or went in the wrong direction, it was all on me to figure it out and to get to my lecture on time. Thanks to the power of Google, I managed to find the route I needed (Canadians pronounce route as ‘R-OUT’ by the way, whilst we pronounce it as ‘RUTE’, which tickles me). Since my lecture was at 6.30pm, the carriages were full with people commuting home from work, but I was happy to stand as long as I was going in the right direction. In the end, I managed to get to Coquitlam with 30 minutes to spare! I celebrated with a hot chocolate at Tim Horton’s, of course. It’s safe to say that we’ll be using the SkyTrain a LOT over the duration of our stay here, since it’s reasonably cheap, fast and easy to use. We’ll be calling ourselves ‘Veterans of the SkyTrain’ before we know it.

I See Kevin McCloud Everywhere – For those who know me well, they know that I love watching Grand Designs and its presenter – silver fox, Kevin McCloud. One of my biggest dreams in life is to build my own house, and Vancouver is certainly a place to draw inspiration in regards to architecture. When we walk around New Westminster, whether it’s to/from the college or to local attractions, I gasp and point regularly at some of the houses here. Most of them share a similar style – porches, patio, wooden panels, spacious, a little garden in front, lots of windows, and beautiful doors. I might have turned to Rory a couple of times and exclaimed, “Can we move here, please?!” I’ve always thought I’d want to live a little out of the way when I buy/build my first property, but the houses here have certainly opened my mind to Canadian suburbia.

The Pigeon Man – Lastly, Rory and I spent Saturday down at the waterfront, exploring the River Market and walking around the River Fraser Discovery Centre. After, we decided to walk some ways towards the Pattullo Bridge and take photographs. That’s when I noticed a man standing near a bench, a swarm of pigeons surrounding him on the ground and a few even standing on his shoulders and arms! We approached and noticed that in his open bag and in his hands were pieces of bread. People passed, curious and staring, I didn’t want to seem rude so I walked up to the man and asked if I could take a photo. “Yeah, sure!” He replied, smiling. After chatting a bit, I remarked that the pigeons were so friendly, which is when he offered me a piece of bread and gestured at me to open my hand. Immediately, a bird flew into my hand and started feeding! It was the nicest, most random encounter and it really made me smile. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we’ll have a lovely, spontaneous moment like this.


Thank you all for reading, I’m sure we’ll have many more stories to tell next week!


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