Thursday, September 15, 2016

First Weeks and Counting!

Hi all! First off, my apologies for taking so long with this post! The last two weeks have just been a whirlwind of activity and getting acclimated to a new country and meeting new people.

Let me rewind to my first day in Canada before catching up on more recent events:

I awoke in day-old clothes after a night spent on hotel-like linens that did little for the few hours of rest I'd managed to squeeze in before my 8:00 AM alarm. I stumbled out of bed, brushed my hair, tried to straighten out my slept on shirt, and got ready to leave my dorm room for the first time. Only to realize I had no idea where I was going. I hastily looked at a campus map, vaguely figured out my position, and hoped I'd see some other confused-but-less-directionally challenged international students wandering around and whom I could covertly follow to my destination.

A view of two of the campus dorms from behind, the rest of the college
 sprawls out beyond these buildings. My dorm is the one on the right.

About 10 minutes later (and after a vague shadowing of some fellow wanderers) I found the building where the international student orientation was taking place, checked in, and was ushered over to the cafeteria for some breakfast. I got some reliable cinnamon toast crunch (no need to be adventurous with my food yet) and looked around for a place to sit. I saw a group of three girls sitting together and asked if I could join, they said yes and I pulled out a chair. We all made our introductions, one of the girls was from South Korea, one from Japan, and one from India, though she'd lived in Japan for the past several years. We chatted for a bit when another girl arrived and asked to sit. We welcomed her to the table and she introduced herself and said she was from the island nation of Malta in Europe. It was really cool sitting with such a diverse group of people and I was only mildly jealous of them and all their bilingual, and even trilingual, glory (*le sigh* US education system).

I also decided to stop lamenting about my struggles with air travel since, unlike a lot of others, my flight didn't take 15 hours or come with a huge time change (I only had a 2 hour difference, not bad at all). Although, hearing about all their free European colleges and cheap-by-comparison Canadian colleges made me want to rant about something else... (*hides eyes from student loans*)

After breakfast, we attended a presentation that explained some of the basics of UPEI and Charlottetown. Whenever the presenters wanted to make sure some important points were getting across, they had volunteers translate what had been said into Mandarin and Arabic, since those two languages are some of the most commonly spoken among the international students. Both languages were spoken so fast, it was crazy impressive. I also learned that Charlottetown's city bus system is free to students, which makes exploring much easier.

Next, we broke up into groups based on majors and I met even more interesting people including a fellow American from Connecticut who will be attending UPEI for his entire college career. I also talked with a guy from Sweden and we exchanged some cultural rants about temperature (why won't America just change to Celsius already), the metric system (ditto), driving on the wrong side of the road (at least America got that one right), and politics (apparently Sweden recently experienced their own crappy election and he sympathizes with our prospects).

The day ended with a trip to an old-timey village set around the 1880's that shows Canada's pioneer-like past. The village, whose last resident only moved out a few years ago, has many authentic buildings including a church (spooky old graveyard included), schoolhouse, blacksmith's forge, and farmhouse. Since our group of a couple hundred packed the place, they were offering carriage rides, blacksmithing demonstrations, and a tour of the schoolhouse. It was an interesting stop and reminded me a lot of similar places we have in Missouri. I'd never really considered Canadian "pioneers" and thought it was pretty cool that people so far apart would have been leading such similar lives.

The roads are red just as LM Montgomery described them in her Anne books!

As we prepared to board the bus back to campus, my phone rang, I answered the unknown number to hear a most welcome voice on the other end, "Hello, this is Air Canada calling, your baggage should arrive to your listed address by 5 this evening." I was never so happy to hear an automatic voice! When we arrived back at UPEI, I promptly picked up my bags, lugged them upstairs (with the help of a kind stranger who saw me struggling up the stairs with two giant bags) and unzipped them! Fresh clothes! My pillow! Grandma's afghan! All the comforts a girl could ask for.

I was very happy to see my bags again

The next few days were full of more get-to-know-each-other excitement, meeting my roommate (she's from the Island), and exploring the campus and its immediate surroundings. I ventured into the grocery store on my second day and though its full of pretty much the same things I could find in America, some brands aren't present (Hunts Ketchup and Peter Pan peanut butter, how I miss you so) and its a tad more expensive. Of course, the pricing differences aren't as bad as they seem, since you also have to mentally convert all the dollar signs to USD, but the taxes are really high. Though I suppose if you want to live in a country with a high rate of health, high levels of safety, and the beaver as the national animal (that's right, its not the moose), its a sacrifice most are willing to make. 

I can't really get over the monopoly-like money though. I mean, its all different colors and is LITERALLY SEE THROUGH IN PARTS. That's just bananas. And also, why is the Queen on all their money (or at least the coins) still? I need to look up some Canadian history because its bugging me to no end. 

Look closely and you can see my fingers through the money!

I'll post about my first week of classes in the next couple of days and talk about some cultural differences I've observed (the accents are real and I love it, I even heard an "eh?" added to the end of a sentence and only then felt like I was officially in Canada). 

Bye 'til then!

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