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Seeking Discomfort in the Canadian Rockies – LeedsUniAbroad
- December 6, 2020
- Posted by: Aradhana Pandey
- Category: Education
The idea of studying abroad had always enticed me and the thought of living in a completely new country seemed the stuff of movies. But come the beginning of 2nd year when the deadline for applying was fast approaching, I started to question my decision. I knew I wanted to go and study out in Canada but something was holding me back.
I made a list of pros and cons to study abroad and, of course, the pros list was considerably longer. But on the cons lists I had written, bolded and underlined, the word ‘scary’! I was apprehensive of whether I could do it. But I decided to ‘Seek Discomfort’ – the idea of continuously pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone as this is where we grow and learn and develop as people. And with a bit of convincing from myself, friends and family I decided to take the plunge, say yes to seeking discomfort, and fly out to Canada for a year abroad.
Given that I was flying to Canada, I was pleasantly surprised to find the weather hitting 30oC and enjoyed the sun when we landed. Though little did I realise it would soon be 30o below freezing instead! The first few weeks were fraught with a lot of new faces, a new city, new education system and new culture. There were certainly nights where it was all very overwhelming and the ‘what on Earth am I doing’ question popped into my head a few times. Having said that, I had maintained my mind set of putting myself out there and managed to make some wonderful friends.
We planned our first trip out hiking in the mountains – a visit to Banff National Park. I had never seen water such a deep turquoise blue in my life! We (thankfully) didn’t run into any bears but did enjoy stunning panoramas as well as an afternoon canoeing down the Bow River. I was finally seeing the views I had spent the summer seeing on Instagram in real life.
Summer faded very quickly and Fall barely lasted a week with the first snowfall coming late September. I distinctively remember it being -10oC and snowing on Halloween! Canada in winter is a completely different place. Walking to class with snow on the ground and temperature well below freezing for months on end seems brutal. There are tunnels that connect the Uni accommodation to main campus so if I wasn’t feeling brave I could would to class without going outside – a blessing when there is a blizzard outside and you’ve got class at 8:30am.
Thankfully I love the snow and cold and so I was in my element while everyone else complained – and by everyone else I mean all the international students. The Canadians meanwhile continued wearing shorts and sandals even when it was down to -40oC for a week in January. They’re made of something else.
Second semester felt very different to the first. I had settled much more and felt like I was actually living in Canada for the first time rather than on some extended 8 month holiday.
The weekdays were filled with classes, evenings out and spending time downtown while the weekends were always kept for getting out to the mountains. I conquered my very first summit in February climbing to the top of the 8,000ft Lady Mac in Canmore. We visited huge waterfalls that were completely frozen over while the lakes we canoed in 6 months ago were now frozen on and we could make snow angels on them. I also dipped my feet into the world of snowshoeing – shoes that aren’t quite like tennis racquets but allow you to run across the deepest snow with *slightly* more ease.
Though Canada was a dream, we did venture south of the border during our reading breaks to visit Seattle and San Francisco. Safe to say I fell head over heels for San Francisco – right by the coast, beautiful beaches, amazing food, stunning houses etc. Most surprisingly after 6 months of not seeing any green grass or flowers in a snow covered Canada I collapsed with joy upon getting off the bus on our first day in San Fran to see parks filled with green grass and colourful flowers. It’s the little things.
Despite having to come home early due to Covid-19, I still keep my friendships with both Canadians across the Atlantic and other British international friends who I have since met up with to live some new adventures. It’s hard to imagine not experiencing everything I have in the past year. The adventures, new friends, new relationships, a new found love for travelling and a new perspective that I can achieve and make the most out of what I set my mind to. And it all started with a simple “YES”!
So if you’re unsure about a year abroad, worried that it is too scary or haven’t even considered it yet, take the time to indulge and let your mind run wild about what could be a year to change your life if you just seek discomfort and step outside of your comfort zone.
By Stephen Watcham – University of Calgary, Canada
*Entry to the 2019/20 Study Abroad Blog Competition*