Today is Monday and I have two weeks left of classes this semester. Two weeks left of classes this year.
Two weeks left of Canadian education.
(Well, after that we have exams, but technically all my exams are take-home essays so I’m slightly in denial about the whole thing counting as ‘term time’.)
Obviously Me Being Me and the End Being Nigh I’ve gotten hopelessly introspective about this whole year. Inevitably, I started on a post-it on my desktop with a list of all the things I could think of that I’m going to miss leaving behind. Right at the start of this year I published a post about culture shock detailing some of the most striking differences between Canada and the UK. I remember asking my Mum what she thought of it, and she laughed and said, “it’s a bit negative isn’t it Tess?”
And looking back on it, although I was exaggerating a bit to add humour, it is a bit negative. It sort of reads like a list of complaints actually, and I don’t think in that post I made clear that those differences, no matter how bizarre or inconvenient, were my motivation for taking on a year abroad. I wanted to be in a new culture, one that made me think about things differently, that challenged my expectations, that made me appreciate my home and education back in the UK. And this year has definitely done that.
Things I Probably Won’t Miss
- The little girl I share a wall with in my apartment building crying at 2am. Thank god for earplugs.
- The fact the tipping option appears on the card machine whenever you try to pay at a restaurant and you’re left awkwardly navigating around avoiding giving a 25% tip. (I’m sorry but the GDP/dollar exchange rate is just not the one.)
- Canada isn’t very cash-heavy as a nation which is fortunate because all the small change is basically indistinguishable silver. Why are the 5s bigger than the 10s, Canada? And why are the 25s about the same size as the 5s? I’ve been here 9 months and I still can’t tell the difference.
- Cheese costing $12.99. And not even good cheese.
- The sassy ladies at the bakery in the Social Sciences building who refuse to speak English to you (it’s a biliNGUAL UNIVERSITY LADIES WE DON’T ALL SPEAK FRENCH.)
- Thursday AM basketball practice; my alarm going off at 5:25am, and making the trek to Montpetit sports hall through the silent and frigid pitch black of a January morning.
- The 6-month-long-winter I have endured. Never again.
- Lonely Sunday afternoons killing time, missing my UK housemates like hell, and watching Star Trek before the week starts again.
- uOttawa’s never-ending concrete complex of a campus. I’m sorry, but you’re kinda fugly.
- Glitchy Skype calls home awkwardly in the middle of the afternoon because Time Difference Woes.
- Seeing my dog on Skype and not being able to pet my dog 😦
- Relying on Facebook messenger to keep in touch with the majority of my friends, and the pressure of the ‘Read’ notification and ‘Last Active’ feature (it’s better than nothing but lord it’s just not the same as catching up in person.)
- Weather notifications cheerily informing me it’s going to feel like -27 today. (Bearing in mind I got one of those notifications last week. In March.)
- Prescription costs, and that faff of reimbursing healthcare on insurance (I miss you NHS and I’ll never take you for granted again.)
Things I Definitely Will Miss
- The little girl I share a wall with in my apartment building giggling with her mum and dad on a Sunday morning.
- My 10 minute walk crunching through a snowy Sandy Hill everyday to get to my classes.
- My team. Gosh I’m going to miss them and their talent and dedication. I’ll miss the road-trips to away games, the locker room banter, the Tuesday evening cinema trips, Ari falling over at least once a practice, Kellie’s cheese-cakes, Amé and Nicole continually sassing each other, Gen making her 3s and looking like an absolute pro doing so, dinner at Melina’s parents – just all of it. I’ve been so blessed to have a chance to be a part of such a wonderful group of people who are all going to go so far in life, whatever they end up doing.
- Having to explain to said-team the distinction between ‘pants’ and ‘underpants’, how ‘tea’ can sometimes just mean a light dinner and the British definition of ‘pudding’ – all to limited success and much confusion.
- Our coaches, and their unwavering patience, kindness and support in helping me with every new skill I try to develop. What I wouldn’t give to stay another year and learn so much more from you guys. They owed me absolutely nothing bearing in mind the little I was able to contribute, but have given me so much. Also appreciated has been their willingness to take the piss out of me and the rest of the team on the odd occasion too.
- The fact team-kit laundry is done (most of the time) by some Magical Force that takes away our sweat-soaked jerseys and brings them back shiny and clean. I’m going to have to invest in a whole lot of kit next year.
- Tabaret Hall (aka the one attractive building on campus) and people lying out with their books in the grass or slack-lining between trees on sunny days.
- Potluck dinner parties with our international friends; the entire table hitting the roof when we realised the American hadn’t heard of Robbie Williams, the Swiss girl complaining about hiking at home (“all we have are hills. And they’re BIG hills”). Then, after failing to wash up, cosying up under the fairy lights with Céline’s Dutch apple pie and watching a movie.
- Céline’s Dutch apple pie deserves its own point to be honest.
- Late Tuesday and Thursday evening trips to discount Loblaws with my flatmate in her beat up little car, the radio blaring.
- Wandering through town, seeing the hills of Gatineau on the horizon and feeling oddly comforted in the knowledge that such a beautiful expanse of nature is only a 10 minute drive away from the city centre.
- The Thai food truck on campus and the really cute lady who works there and always gives me extra peanut toppings on my veggie pad thai.
- Waking up each morning to the view over my park and the river. The fact it takes me less than 2 minutes to be out of the building and walking through said-park and along the river.
- The garbage shoot in the apartment building. It’s still such a novelty? I feel like I’m in Friends? I’m sorry don’t judge me.
- Double-line spacing requirements on essays which make even 8 page essays seem very manageable.
- The gothic majesty that is Parliament, and being able to walk past some of Canada’s most significant buildings on a simple stroll downtown.
- La Botega’s INCRED sandwiches, and the fact they always give me all the cheese when I opt out of the meat.
- The Tea Store, their Toasted Walnut green tea, and the vanilla and blueberry scones, still warm.
- Falls in Ontario. Gosh you were stunning.
- Professor Heather Murray, her immense capacity for enthusiasm, enormously complimentary comments on any marked work and her end of semester-vintage-cookery-book bakes. The other week we had molasses Civil War cookies to help us get through our civil war seminar. (I love you Heather.)
- Skating on the canal, surrounded by mums and dads and kids all going about their daily lives via ice skates. Goddamn I’m going to miss that canal. It’s also ruined me for all skate rinks ever because who on earth wants to go round in circles with 50 other people after you’ve been able to glide along a river without interruption for 8km in one direction?
- To add onto this – experiencing a Proper Winter. It’s gone on a tad long for my tastes, but a fresh snowfall is still beautiful and I will never got over the enormous natural icicles that are everywhere. I have loved being able to skate and ski my way through the season and see more snow then I could have ever imagined.
- Making people pronounce my hometown of ‘Loughborough’ because I’m cruel and sadistic and everyone brutally butchers the pronunciation.
- Chocolate milk. Ahhhh I love thee chocolate milk.
- Speaking of chocolate – the fondues and waffles at Cacao 70 ❤ Oh my goodness what a wonder you have been in my life.
- The joy of opening the mailbox to find handwritten post from home and then carrying the letters around all day in my bag knowing I can open it later.
- Trips out with the International Office; the Sugar Shack, cross-country skiing, Algonquin – it was all amazing. As were the people and their wonderful habit of fulfilling national stereotypes (for more on that see here.)
- Classes I’ve actually really enjoyed and essays I’ve loved writing (looking at you ‘Atheism: A History of Doubt’ and ‘Medicine and Modernity in North America’. Thank you for keeping me sane.)
- Generous Canadian marking (please come home with me for final year I’m going to NEED YOU.)
- Capital city living; being on the doorstep of so many national museums and events constantly happening, especially for Canada 150. I’m especially going to miss The National Gallery, it’s amazing cafe, and the Alex Javier exhibition.
- The Canadian National Anthem playing before home games as the team stand on the court facing the flag, arm in arm. I’ve never felt so patriotic for a country that isn’t mine.
- Vicar and Dibley – aka Trouble 1 and Trouble 2, my dad’s friend Andrew’s two gorgeous labradors. Thank you for being my adopted dogs while I’ve been here ladies.
- My room. The double-bed, my IKEA desk, the immense space, and the enormous windows and shitty curtains that mean I never get a lie-in.
- All the maple flavoured things. Maple taffy? Why not. Maple syrup in your baked beans? Sure, might as well.
- Brunch explorations on Saturday mornings with Emily, and her lovely housemates Theresa and Meghan. Debates on feminism over blueberry pancakes? Sign me up.
- The bins around campus that allow you to sort your rubbish into ‘paper’ ‘plastic’ ‘compost’ ‘liquid’ and ‘landfill.’ It’s so convenient and eco it makes me happy.
- Weekend and Reading Week adventures when Emily and I said “actually, you know what, no” to the deadlines and responsibilities and headed to Québec City, Montréal and the wonder that was a mild Boston in February.
- Tim Hortons’ mochas and their amazing carrot cake muffins with a cream-cheese filling.
- Emily. I know I’ll technically be going back to the UK with her, but there’s been something quite special and unique having her as my best friend here. I’ll miss our date nights, our long meandering chats about family, futures, life and the universe over ‘Yorkshire Tea’, sweet potato curry-making (“Oooh Tess this is a good one”), our collective crises about midterms, our skates hand-in-hand along the canal and walks through town, our intense debates over Instagram captions, our Tea Store adventures, and our passive aggressive Facebook messages in our indigenous class and then trying (and failing) to stifle our laughs at how lame we are.
It’s been the hardest, most challenging, most stupidly-insane year of my life, this year abroad, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
(Looking at these lists, it’s pretty clear I’m going to have a tough time saying goodbye.)