Before I embarked on my travel to Canada for McMaster University’s Winter term I was warned by many about how cold the weather could get. Nothing could have prepared me for the first few minutes out in the fresh Canadian air or the view of frozen lakes and snow during my travel to Hamilton, Ontario. After quickly purchasing proper boots, a coat and mittens I could fully appreciate what was around me.
The first few days at my new university were daunting but those feelings were quickly diminished when the International orientation came about. Being introduced to the McMaster International and Exchange club (MIX) and meeting other international and exchange students who had been there for either years or the semester before helped immensely. The club provided many social activities and a great opportunity to make life-long friends from all around the world as well as Canada. These people would soon become my support for both study and feelings of homesickness and are undoubtedly who made my time in Canada as amazing as it was. Overall the culture shock namely came from the weather reaching -40 degrees rather than the people and environment.
Studying Psychology in Canada was unquestionably an experience, I had a great variety of subjects and the lecturers were all very passionate. Adjusting to the life of mid-terms and no assignments was definitely a challenge and learning a new studying style was a necessity. Luckily for me I was able to make friends in my Psychology courses, three girls from Ireland, that helped the study appear more enjoyable.
Exchange was definitely more than studying. The MIX group ensured a true Canadian experience with an astounding amount of beer, hockey games and some interesting combinations of poutine (a Canadian meal consisting of chips, gravy and cheese curds). During one of the coldest times in winter the university organised two buses to take students to Niagara Falls for a night viewing. It was an essential tourist moment but it left me wondering if I had managed to get frostbite whilst standing without gloves trying to take photos of the falls lit up by a multitude of colours.
All of my time was not secluded to the Hamilton area; a few day trips were made to Toronto where even more tourist adventures occurred. Travelling up to the top of the CN tower gave an amazing view of the city as well as confirmed that Lake Ontario does in fact look like an ocean, no matter the angle.
The opportunity to travel and study in another country is definitely something I would recommend to anyone. No matter your confidence levels it is a great push outside of your comfort zone and allows you to further develop your independence and make friends that you can later travel to see in the future. Not only have I been able to explore an amazing country but also this exchange has reinforced my future goals and passion for study.