Focus: Year Abroad
My name is Susannah and I am currently on my year abroad at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton NB, Canada.
Fredericton, whilst being the provincial capital, is still a relatively small town, and the biggest adjustment was going from living in London and studying in Birmingham, the two biggest cities in the UK, to a very small university - the student enrolment is less than half of UoB’s, at only 11,000. Whilst I miss the abundance of museums and coffee shops at home, it’s very beautiful and peaceful here, and there are still things to do if you have a bit of a search. In our small corner of the world you can visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery plus some great bars and breweries and a lot of live music. Plus, the benefits of a small university are small classes, so all your professors get to know you and are more than happy to help you out. Speaking of classes, I have been able to take some of the most interesting classes of my university career here, including ‘Shakespeare Now’, which looks at Shakespeare plays from a modern perspective, and ‘Gender and Power in Ancient Greece and Rome’.
However, small-town life can get a little isolated, so last semester some friends and I did a lot of travelling to get our fill of the city. Our first trip was to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. It’s considerably bigger than Fredericton, but still pretty small as cities go, but very cool all the same. Back then it was warm enough to even have a drink outside, an unthinkable concept now.
For Thanksgiving, we were invited to a real Canadian thanksgiving in Prince Edward Island, which is one of my best memories in Canada. The island is a popular summer destination and is famous for being the home of the literary character Anne of Green Gables. We stayed in Charlottetown, which has some great coffee shops, restaurants and independent boutiques. The homecooked Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings was the highlight of the weekend though, especially after the university food. There is no way to sugar coat how bad it is. Any care packages are greatly appreciated.
Our biggest trip was the one we took in reading week, where we went to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. It was very hectic but so worth it.
We were only in Toronto briefly, but it’s an amazing place which I have visited a few times subsequently. We stayed in Kensington Market, which is my favourite part of the city, with vintage shops, food from all over the world and cool bars.
We took the boat trip at Niagara Falls, which I would highly recommend. It wasn’t too expensive and seeing the falls up close was a big bucket list for us. It was breath-taking but very wet – bring spare clothes!
Seeing the Parliament buildings in Ottawa was very impressive, but I personally loved The National Gallery of Canada, which is maybe one of the best galleries I’ve ever been to. Canadian art is pretty neglected abroad, and the country isn’t known for its culture. However, there are some amazing artists and group I had never heard of such as the Beaver Hall Group and The Group of Seven, which was a great surprise. There was plenty of well-known artists too, however, with a clear favourite being the iconic sculpture by Louis Bourgeois, ‘Maman’.
Then it was onto Montreal which may be one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s the perfect mix of European and North American culture, and I can’t wait to hopefully go back!
Finally, Quebec City was our final stop. When we arrived, we thought it may have been a mistake as we were so tired, but in the end, we had a great time. It’s very European and pretty much entirely French-speaking, which we hadn’t fully realised before going, so we had to brush up on our very basic GCSE language skills. We went at the beginning of November, so some of the Christmas decorations were up, which made us feel like we were in a Christmas film with all the cobbled streets and frosted windows.
So far being in Canada has had its low moments, and being in such a small, cold place can be difficult. Overall it’s been so rewarding, and I have loved being able to see this part of the world, experience a completely different way of life and meet some great people along the way.