being a first year (again)

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I guess I’ll open this one by saying I’m finally starting to settle in, at least a little bit! I feel more at home here than I thought I would after only two weeks, so that’s a good thing. (And, before you ask, it’s not just because I love Irn Bru, cheese and onion crisps, and jacket potatoes. Although my love for those things definitely helps the assimilation process.)

Last week was the first week of classes, and wow do I ever feel lost. In first year, I had the advantage of being surrounded by other first years, which was amazing in the sense that none of us knew what we were doing. But here, I’m taking upper year classes hoping that they’ll transfer back at UBC, and everyone else in those classes has been together in a streamlined program for several years. More concisely, it’s disorienting to realize that three years of learning about a university system helps me only a little here.

That’s not to say that I dislike the differences – some of the aspects of studying here make more sense than the way things are at UBC, and others leave me baffled. For instance, it’s perfectly normal for a course to have only one lecture a week, so there are fewer contact hours. On one hand, it’s nice to be able to set my own schedule, but on the other hand, I am a terrible procrastinator, so it’s daunting to have to monitor my own time and do my own readings, etcetera. The other major difference is that here, third year English classes are lectures with 150 people in a lecture theatre – not that this is less beneficial, but for someone like me who doesn’t mind actually speaking up in class, it’s not ideal; I far prefer ‘seminar-style’ classes where one can enter into a discourse with both the lecturer and fellow students.

One amazing thing about studying here is that English Literature is a popular subject with classes that are actually so full I struggled to get into them as a visiting student. It’s different to be in a bigger program – at home, English Honours is not the largest of departments, which is both a blessing and a curse.

Aside from all that, I have managed to fill my not-in-class time with activities: women’s choir, a cappella society, yoga, Outlander and wine nights, and group dinners with my flatmates … but I kind of miss working. It’s nice to have more free time, but not nice to have no income!! I’m also volunteering as a Girl Guide leader over here, but miss being Brown Owl/Hannah Banana back home – although these months will fly by and I’ll be back before I know it 🙂

Upcoming: my first Canadian Thanksgiving away from my family (I am going to try to make tofurkey for my roommates, but it will not be as good as my mum’s. Sorry, Mum!), hopefully some travel, and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) prep! I will be attempting to hit 50,000 words again this November, even though the timing for a university student is less than ideal, and even though my high school friend Liz and I will be meeting for a weekend in Paris in November. Wish me luck.

Two of my flatmates and I hiked Arthur’s Seat last weekend and managed to get back before the rain started – this picture is of the path up (which is actually as steep as it looks, in parts):


And this one is from more or less the summit:


Also, the culture shock has been a fun experience – I’ve started to call my roommates ‘flatmates,’ and everyone here says ‘queue’ rather than ‘line.’ I’m getting the hang of the money, but still feel a bit touristy when I peer into my wallet and can’t figure out which coin is which because they’re all the wrong size compared to at home. Cars can park on either side of the street here, so quite often I’ll see two cars parked nose-to-nose, or rear-to-rear. I’m pretty sure that would get you a ticket most places back home! I miss driving a little bit, but not enough to try and learn to drive a manual on the wrong side of the street!

It must be said, though, that as a Scot (also a Scott) I fit right in when I pronounce ‘tomato’ the way I grew up pronouncing it – toe-mah-toe rather than toe-may-toe.

This got long – once again, merci beaucoup for making it to the end! Expect more ramblings soon!

PS: as a Canadian, I find myself actually missing the broadcast of ice hockey, but not as much as I miss maple syrup! Maybe I’ll have to get into rugby 🙂

PPS: I also miss the absence of pennies. I complained bitterly about it at first, but it sure makes for a lighter wallet! But, alas, I don’t miss the plastic notes. Oh, Canada.