Today marks the end of the first week of my second semester at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. It also marks the end of the coldest week of my life as temperatures dropped to a high of NEGATIVE twenty-six degrees Fahrenheit, with wind chills making it feel like negative thirty. These temperatures made it difficult to leave the comforts of the dorms, unless it was through the use of the tunnels that run underground to certain classrooms on campus. However, the show must go on and like everyone else I went to school and braved the harsh weather. Since most of the classes this past week were on the syllabus or course outlines, there was very little homework so I got to spend some time relaxing and painting. I find that taking time for yourself to do things you love, even for just thirty minutes a week, can really help with the stress of school and being completely on your own in a different country. I think it particularly can help if you do these things in a spot you feel comfortable in or find beautiful. My first semester here was filled with homesickness and trying to adjust my relationships back home to my new life here, and while I used to paint a lot back in California I found it more calming than ever before. So I would advise anyone else on exchange to find something they love to do on their own to help, because new friends may be there for you but adjusting to being alone can be the hardest part.
Speaking of friends, to celebrate surviving the first week of school and the weather, a close group of us exchange students had a “family dinner”. Since most of my group is from Spain, we had a dinner that included tortilla, paella, and croquettes. It was nice to spend some quality time with friends from all different backgrounds, especially after three weeks of being apart. We shared stories about our winter breaks, reminisced about the previous semester, and made new memories over the most delicious food. While not all of our friends could attend the dinner, since some of them had to go home after only one semester abroad, we were able to facetime a few of them as we ate. This helped us feel like we were all together again, and we discussed plans to all meet up in Calgary later down the road. I never thought the friends I would make here would be some of the closest friends I have, but they have become one of my biggest support systems while away. Not to mention since everyone is in the same position, being far from home in another country, it made it easy to find things we all wanted to do or experience while here, which helped us bond.
While the week ahead includes warmer weather, thank goodness, it also includes the start of real school work and readjusting to living in the city. I am hoping that I will be able to take pictures outside this week of my lovely campus and Calgary itself, since my phone won’t die from the negative temperatures. Many people may hate the cold and think living here would be an arctic hell, it is a beautiful place to spend the school year, and you honestly get used to the cold. Plus, with the Canadian Rockies only an hour drive away and the big city full of art while still maintaining a slower pace than any big city in the states, Calgary offers something for everyone. Also, as my spring break, or “reading break” approaches in February I will be giving advice on planning trips on a budget and with small or large groups of people. I have learned one of the hardest parts of planning trips, no matter how long or short, is trying to get everyone on the same page. Everyone has a different budget or idea of what is the best way to spend the holiday break, but if you ever hope to plan a trip you have to learn to compromise. This may seem simple, but compromising with a language barrier and different backgrounds can be different than doing it with your friends back home. While I may not be a master at traveling after just one semester abroad, I want to share what I’ve learned and share new tricks and tips along the way!
Submitted by Caleigh Nordan