Post by Simon Barton, year 2, BA Geography
In September 2017, I embarked on a semester abroad program for four months at the University of Calgary in the beautiful province of Alberta, Canada. After saying my goodbyes to friends and family, I departed from Manchester Airport at 9am on 4th September 2017 on a flight bound for Toronto, before catching a flight from Toronto to Calgary. After 13 hours of travelling, I reached my destination, the Hotel Alma situated on the university campus, this was my temporary base until I collected the keys for my accommodation.
I collected my keys the next day, entering an apartment of four people. I met my flatmates, which included two international students from China and Japan respectively and a Canadian from Edmonton, a city situated further north than Calgary, which is the capital of Alberta. I familiarised myself with my home for the next four months, before catching the Calgary transit (the public transport system) to explore the city centre. During my orientation week, I took part in activities which included ice skating on the famous Olympic Oval, situated on the university campus, which hosted speed skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary and watching the annual Canadian football kick off match for the Dinos, the team which represents the university in various sports.
The rest of September saw me settle into university life by getting to grips with a different academic system and establishing relationships with Canadian students who were from Calgary and other Canadian provinces. A highlight of this month was a day visit to the popular tourist destination of Banff, situated within the Canadian Rockies. The trip was organised by the Global Friendship Group at the University, which aimed to help International Students immerse themselves in all Canada has to offer! The trip involved the unforgettable experience of taking the Banff Gondola (cable car) to the top of Sulphur Mountain to observe the stunning scenery of the area. I met many exchange students from all over the world during the trip, and became good friends during my semester abroad.
October brought snow! I woke up on the second day of the month to find the university blanketed with a white sheet. I couldn’t contain my excitement, I immediately proceeded to take pictures when walking to class, to the bemusement of onlookers. However, this month also meant midterms. Midterms, being an entirely new concept to me, these are exams taken in October of the first semester, assessing everything you have learned since the start of September. Despite being ill in October, catching flu which seemed to be sweeping its way through my halls of residence and led to my hospitalization on two occasions, I managed to get through the month with the help of the lecturers and Study Abroad Teams in Calgary and Liverpool. October and November certainly seemed to be the months with the highest workload, with midterms, group projects and individual essays. I didn’t let this stop me managing my academic and social life to allow me to immerse myself in Canadian culture whether it be watching Hockey on TV on a Saturday night or ice skating with exchange students and University of Calgary students.
December brought the end of the semester with final exams held just before the Christmas break. Along with my roommate Mike and friends Tom and Jasper, I watched a live ice hockey match! Taking the transit to Stampede Park, home to the world-famous rodeo and festival known as the Calgary Stampede held every July, we walked to the Saddledome, the home of the Calgary Flames who are one of seven Canadian teams to compete in the National Hockey League (NHL). Kitted out in my Calgary Flames jersey, a gift from my new friends Tom and Jasper, I cheered on the team in what was a derby match against the Vancouver Canucks. Despite conceding an early goal, the Flames won the match 4-2 to the roar of the crowd. Having had a great time in Banff in September, my friends and I decided to visit the area once again. We drove along the Trans-Canadian highway to the town we had become so familiar with. After a rest from our long journey, we grabbed a bite to eat and explored the town. We then proceeded to Lake Louise, the famous lake named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter. The lake was busy with tourists taking pictures, skating and having fun. It was a fantastic end to a day I will never forget.
I certainly wouldn’t hesitate twice to apply for a study abroad program. I was very fortunate to have an amazing time in Canada. The experience allowed me to gain an insight into a different academic system, building up new ways of working and learning about issues facing people living in Calgary and Canada.I made friends for life, meeting Canadian students from different backgrounds and exchange students from all over the world. Although it can at first appear daunting and I was certainly nervous before I went, it is an unmissable experience. Coming home, you can look back on an incredible past few months! Grab every opportunity, go on apply for a Semester Abroad, Summer Abroad, Year in China or a Year 2 at XJTLU.
Simon Barton is a current second year BA Geography student, he spent his first semester of year 2 at the University of Calgary, Canada. Simon applied for a semester abroad via the University of Liverpool Study Abroad Team after attending the Study Abroad Fair held on November 2016.
More information on study abroad:
Further details regarding international opportunities available to students can be found online: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/goabroad/. Use the online Study Abroad search tool to find out the international opportunities available to your programme. Deadline: 19th February 2018 for Semester Abroad, Year 2 @ XJLTU and Year in China Applications and the 15th March for the Summer programmes