30 days pals till I’m sitting on a plane with a one-way ticket.
I downloaded a handy countdown app on my phone and 50 days felt impressive, but ‘less than a month’ is even more so. Especially seeing as I’m not coming home at all during the year it’s so strange to think that these next 30 days isn’t just about preparing to move to Canada; I’m also saying goodbye to all the familiarities and home comforts of the UK until next summer.
Bearing in mind I’ve been pretty much thinking about the whole year abroad thing on the daily ever since I found out in February you’d think it would’ve sunk in at this point but!! No. I’m still swinging between terrified out of my mind and thrilled beyond belief on a weekly basis.
But first, some updates. My accommodation is now officially, officially confirmed (i.e. the deposit is paid) for a room in 2-bed flat with a friendly Canadian on the far side of the student-central neighbourhood Sandy Hill in central Ottawa. I’ll be a 15 minute walk from campus and about 25 minutes out from the centre of town and I think it’s going to suit me very nicely indeed. My fellow Exe students also studying in Ottawa are starting to get their confirmations back for the on-campus accommodation they’ve applied for – so it’s good to be all in the same boat. It’ll be interesting to see how our experiences on and off campus compare (I received a super comforting email ‘strongly recommending’ incoming exchange students to stay in on-campus accommodation – thanks for the vote of confidence uOttawa) but I genuinely do think my set up will be great.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m booked to fly from Heathrow to Toronto for cost reasons, but as it turns out it also works quite nicely as a decent opportunity to explore Toronto itself (it’s a 5 hour trek from Ottawa so meh, I’m saving myself the bus trip later in the term.) Plus Niagara Falls! So a fellow Exeter exchange student and I are going to be meeting up with my Canadian friend who also studies at uOttawa for 4 days touristing. Already ticking things off the bucket list and term hasn’t even started folks. I’m booked to stay in a hostel that honestly looks incredible – rooftop garden overlooking the city’s skyline, um yes please – and I’ll definitely be writing a full blog post of what I get up to.
Now, onto the real purpose of this post. In my previous blogging pursuits over on Exeter’s Student Blogs the one thing I made very clear from the beginning was that I wanted to be brutally honest about my university experience. Cheery yes, but also willing to talk about less fun things. My attitude to this blog will be the same. I’m hoping to have a mostly enjoyable time in Canada, but I know it won’t all be sunshine and fun weekends away. So, here’s a heads up. Some of the posts on here might be a bit doom and gloom if doom and gloom is how I’m feeling and this I suppose could be the first of those. If I’m being honest though in this case it’s mostly a therapeutic exercise to just get down my main worries about the Big Move on paper.
Things That Are Worrying Tess
- That Whole Making Friends Thing. I feel like in some ways I’m relapsing to 11-year-old Tess in chronic fear of going up to big school, but this is honestly such a worry of mine. I’m alright chatting to new people but the prospect of ingratiating myself into already established groups of friends in the long-term is mildly terrifying. Plus, I’m a huge fan of the old Deep Meaningful Chats. If I could get along happily for the year with small-talk and some study buddies that’d be great, but I honestly thrive on the odd heart-to-heart and really honest conversations.
- Being Dirt Poor Because Of Bloody Fear-Monguering Farage. This has been a real sticking point for me, but one I’m gradually getting around. Post-Brexit the pound absolutely dived in comparison to the Canadian dollar, and a week later I gingerly Googled how much my accommodation would now be with the new exchange. And folks, it had gone up by more than £40 a week. It was a horrible shock and I had a proper meltdown on Mum about it. Now, fortunately, I’m very lucky in that I’m from a middle-class family who can support me, and the question of me being able to afford to survive is not a question at all; even with the now-hideous exchange I’m definitely going to be able to buy food and pay my bills. What’s less certain now though are my potential opportunities for travel/fun things while I’m out in Canada. The funds for that are coming from my personal life-time savings, all the birthday and Christmas money I’ve ever been given from relatives, all the money I’ve ever earned from jobs – and that money is now going to stretch significantly less far than it would have 2 months ago. And that honestly breaks my heart a little bit. But hey. The exchange is fluctuating all the time and at the time of writing is considerably better than it was 2 weeks ago. So here’s hoping for the best – because never has a worry of mine been more out of my hands.
- The Canadian Winter. This is dumb but my family are not the type to go winter breaks – I have never been skiing and I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been physically colder than about maybe -5 degrees i.e. a really chilly British winter. There is no way I can mentally prepare myself for how cold it’s going to be; I have no other point of comparison.
- Catastrophizing Health Issues. Okay so this is even MORE dumb but I’m honestly having a recurring dream at the moment that in my third week into term I get hit by a lorry and lose a leg? I kid you not. It’s ridiculous. And then dream-me goes through the angst of being in a Canadian hospital with no relatives to come and weep by my bedside and then the faff of getting a snow-mobile style wheelchair to get to class in the winter (I have very vivid and extensive dreams). Aside from the very real fact my parents will only be able to take time off and come visit if I really am horribly ill (I think an amputated leg might qualify) the prospect of being sick or injured without family support is freaking me out a bit. Maybe I’m just paranoid after spraining my second ankle in 3 months. The fear of picking up another basketball injury is a whole angst on it’s own now. I managed just fine in Exeter, but then again a 4 hour drive is a whole lot closer than an 8 hour flight.
- My Mental Health. Okay kids – real talk, and I promise it’s less ridiculous than the amputated leg. To cut a long and very unremarkable story short, in my first year at university I went through a nasty spell of depression – my first and only Proper Experience of a mental health issue. Counselling sessions at the university’s Wellbeing Centre and a trial-and-error approach to antidepressants followed, and fortunately both worked as by the time second year swung round I was infinitely better. However, I can’t help but keep thinking about the thing that really threw me off about the whole experience, and in part what delayed the diagnosis for so long. That is, that for all intents and purposes on paper, I was very happy in my first year. I’d got into my dream uni, I was enjoying the course, loving the city, making friends, not in the slightest bit homesick– and yet I still felt desperately sad. Canada has been a long-standing dream of mine, and all these fears aside I’m honestly so excited as this has been something I’ve been looking forward to and hoping for since I was about 15. But, just as my first year experience proved, being happy on paper sometimes doesn’t mean squat if your brain decides to start telling you life isn’t worth living. I have a feeling said-brain isn’t going to discriminate whether I’m in Canada on a year abroad or otherwise. Knowing that I could potentially relapse back into that mental state – particularly when faced with the stress of adapting to a new country – is definitely a worry of mine. I am however, far better positioned to deal with depression this time, as I already know the techniques and tactics that work for me to get around it, so I am feeling fairly optimistic.
So there we have it. I hope you enjoyed this mildly angst-ridden pity party. In the words of my Mum – ‘I’m sure it’ll all be fine’, but hey, worrying and over-planning for the worst is a great hobby of mine, it wouldn’t do to give it up now. Plus, if you’ve already considered the worst, then everything better than that is a pleasant surprise – win win right?
I promise my next post will be more cheery and include precisely no mentions of amputated limbs.