“Thats such a cool accent. Where are you from?”
“Ah thats so cool. I’ve always wanted to go there. But, why are you here, in the freezing cold?”
That is a conversation I have had countless times. Whether I am asking directions at uni, in a shop, or waiting in a bar line, this conversation comes up more often than not. It actually raises a very good point, why did I leave lovely Sydney during summer, to come over here and freeze in Waterloo, where the temperature can get as low as -40!
Its a question I have actually asked myself a few times over here. I may get a photo from my friends back home of them on the beach on a beautiful day, then I’ll look out the window at the knee-deep snow I’ll have to trudge through to get to class. But, now that I am near the end of my exchange, I am able to confidently answer that question of why.
The last 3 months have easily been the most exciting and most different of my life. As someone who had seen snow exactly 4 times before coming over here (and had never actually seen it snowing), I never grew tired of the snowfall, or snow on the ground. This led to opportunity I don’t have back in Australia, such as going skiing, getting a ‘snow day’ and, of course, snow fights.
Waterloo itself is a uni town, located a touch over an hour away from the big city, Toronto. The town is populated by students from the University of Waterloo, Wilfred Laurier University and Conestogo College. The combination of the three institutes leads to young people being absolutely everywhere! This has probably been the best thing about exchange over here, as there are so many chances to meet so many different people.
Waterloo is not the most exciting place, scenically speaking, but there is lots to do. If you want to focus on your studies, there are many subjects to choose from that are not offered at UTS. If you want to get involved, there are countless groups and sporting teams to join, and events on almost every night. If you want to let your hair down, being a town full of young people, there are more than enough chances to enjoy a lager on any day of the week.
I joined a dodgeball team whilst over here, which I would strongly recommend doing. It is a great way to make friends, whilst being active, and acts as a good breakup to the study routine.
Another benefit of Waterloo and Canada is travel. Everything is so close, meaning travel by bus is quick and relatively cheap. Since being here, I have been able to; travel to New York, Ottawa, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto (several times), as well as skiing in the USA and Canada. I’ve been able to do these on reasonable budgets, and there are so many other exchange students who are keen to tag along.
The last thing to sell you on Canada and Waterloo is reading week. The Canadian equivalent to spring break, it is a week off during the middle of the semester. I would strongly recommend traveling during this week. I was fortunate enough to head down to Cuba for the week, where I was able to defrost, and indulge in a week full of excitement. The best thing was, it was all expenses paid! Definitely a highlight of my trip.
So, without taking anymore time, Canada and Waterloo have been awesome. I would strongly recommend them to anyone!
– Hamish Lees