50 Days Across the Pond

I’ve made it to day 50! So what have I been up to…

Well, studying abroad is definitely a bit of a roller-coaster that’s for sure, the last 50 days have been full of travelling to some of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to, ‘studying’ a bit I guess and yes a bit of crying too…

I’ve been into the Rockies twice, been rafting on the river that runs through Calgary, gone Ice skating and I’ve experienced my first thanksgiving (all while trying to stay on top of my work 🙁 )

One of the first trips I went on was to Lake Louise which was just as beautiful as I had been told. It was the first time I had seen snow here too which was a bit surreal seeing as it was still September!!

I went to lake Louise with the centre for international students, it was stunning and snowed for most of the day.

The Rocky mountains may be one of the most incredible places that I’ve ever been to, but the city itself and the University have lots to do too. The Olympic Oval (used for the 1988 games) is less than 100m from my building and all the facilities here are free to use too, so I’ve been going skating lots and even to the gym and bouldering (I never normally do exercise at home!!). I also went rafting down the Bow river that runs through town with some of my Canadian friends and we got to walk over the peace bridge to downtown. There is also a really cool area in the city called Kensington, which has loads of restaurants and is a really cool place to walk around, due to it being the ‘hippy’ area of the city. The most recent event that I’ve been to in the city was illuminations at the zoo (just like being in Blackpool, a bit prettier though!!)

Lights at Calgary zoo, Ice skating at the Olympic oval

The peace bridge and rafting with my Canadian friends Ruth and Morgan.

I definitely made the right choice picking Cascade halls; most people living here are international (mainly Aussies!!) so we have all formed a big friendship group to travel with and do activities with in Calgary. The accommodation itself is really nice too; the only downside is that they like doing practice fire drills at 6am :(.

My friends from Cascade (minus a few!!)

I also have been to my very first Canadian house party. It was just like in the movies; a beautiful house (basically a mansion) with a massive basement that had been turned into a games room. It had a table tennis table, an air hockey machine, a cinema screen and even a traffic light for lighting!!! We played beer pong with the famous ‘red cups’ and then all went in a limo to the club!

The cool traffic light

I got to experience my first thanksgiving with a Canadian family and it was so lovely. We had a traditional roast with homemade apple sauce and then pumpkin cheesecake (so much better than pumpkin pie!!).

Thanksgiving dinner with this bunch!

The second thanksgiving dinner I had (I know you are only meant to have one a year!) was at a hostel when I went on a weekend away to Banff with my friends from the halls. I got to try pumpkin pie here which was surprisingly nice (doesn’t beat the cheesecake though). The weekend was lots of fun but very tiring (I was getting up at 7am and hiking 20km a day and then going out at night til 3!!). The views from the top of the mountains I hiked up were the most incredible views I’ve seen in my life and there was so much snow (it was so slippery when we walked down though). Luckily (I think) we didn’t see any bears, but we had our bear spray ready and played music from our speakers to scare them off!

Banff and the hostel (I’d never stayed at one before, it was alright but weird staying in a room with strangers)

View from tunnel mountain                                     At the top of sulphur mountain.

What else did I learn from the weekend….
1. Poutine is so good and beaver tails are amazing (especially maple syrup ones!!)
2. Greyhounds are full of some interesting characters to say the least
3. Sticky Fingers (an Aussie band) are really good
4. It’s so much fun going in hot springs when its -2 and snowing (though its weird being outside in a bikini in the snow!!)

The hot springs in Banff with my friends from Cascade, the pool was 40 degrees but it was -2 and snowing!!

So I bet you are thinking she is having an amazing time and it doesn’t sound like she’s doing much work. Well… I have to admit the ups are incredible but like any ‘roller-coaster’ (which is what I feel like I’m on being here) there are downs too and they can randomly come out of nowhere. I had never been homesick before, (I never even normally cry) but it turns out that, despite me thinking being 4,000 miles from home is the same as being 70 miles from home (being away from home is the same however far right?) it turns out I was very wrong.

Some days I just can’t stop crying for no reason and often skyping people at home (especially when your friends are at a social for your Lancaster society, BIG MISTAKE) only makes things worse. For some reason, sometimes you just feel like you are missing out and in that moment all you want is for everything to go back to the way it was before (don’t worry you’ll get over this).

When you miss home there’s always the Great British Bake Off and a full English to fall back on.

I am also doing some work; there are so many assignments here, but luckily the grading is more lenient than at home. The other difference from at Lancaster is that there are no clubs to go to on weekday nights :(, which I miss because as long as I can remember I have been part of a club. I wanted to try and join a netball team at the start but it turns out no one knows what netball is here!! I am managing to go to the gym, skating and bouldering though so its not all bad!!

To conclude I have had the craziest 50 days of my life, full of ups and downs, but I promise you its worth it!! (even if sometimes you wish you were back home).
Here’s to the next 50 days in this beautiful place 🙂

10 things I’ve learnt in orientation week

1. Jet lag, Jet lag, Jet lag
It took me a lot longer to adjust to the new time zone (7 hours behind UK time) than I thought it would. The day after I landed I woke up at 5 and had unpacked, and decorated my room with photos all before 10am!

2. How to survive without kitchenware and food
When I arrived all that was in the kitchen were a few glasses, a travel bowl and some plastic cutlery. The first few days were so busy that we had no time to go shopping, so we just had to collect plastic cutlery, paper plates and survive off as much free food as we could to get by! On the first day the only thing I had to eat was some microwaveable popcorn!


My survival methods; Be inventive with the limited kitchenware you have and eat everything out of your welcome pack even if it is popcorn for breakfast!!

3.’College’ is very different the University
For a start university is called college and you don’t attend lectures you go to class. My classes so far are more like being back in high school; they are in classrooms and there are only about 60 people in a class as opposed to the 200 in a lecture at Lancaster. The lecturers (*profs) are very down to earth and really friendly and seem to try and make as many jokes as they can per class!! Also, students here study a range of classes, much like high school, but just have a major that they hope to graduate with instead of following a strict degree program like we do in the UK.

My first experience of how Canadian universities differ from those in the UK was a PEP rally that I attended with my orientation week group. Each faculty had its own chant and everyone was getting involved, it was so much fun! (If you asked people at home to do that they would look at you like you were stupid!)

“Who are we?” Science S.C.I.E.N.C.E
“Who are we?” Science, we are the best faculty
“Who are we?” Science, we are who you want to be,
Science, Science, Science, Science

Once the chanting was over the deans from each faculty and a few special quests paraded down the middle aisle, preceded by a man playing bagpipes. The ceremony was really interesting; everyone stood to sing the national anthem (which I need to learn!), an aboriginal elder (wearing full headdress) blessed everyone with a tribal prayer and then each dean stepped forward and their faculty went crazy (It doesn’t take much to get a crowd going here!!). We then heard talks from the chancellor of the University (who is an astronaut!) and a Stanford University professor on stress management, which was so interesting.

4. They love the Wild West here
From the moment I stepped off the plane and saw locals wearing cowboy hats I realised that they like their wild west culture here. The first club that I visited was called Knoxville’s and as soon as I walked through the door I realised it was a country club; there was a tractor by the door, a rodeo bull, a giant glittery cowboy hat and some classic country music playing. After also visiting Cowboy’s (another club in town) I have realised they love their line dancing here (I’m rubbish but it’s so much fun!)

The Rodeo bull in Knoxville’s, I was amazing (really wasn’t, I’m too weak!!)

5. The weather in Calgary is very bizarre
The saying here is;

“If you don’t like the weather in Calgary, give it 5 minutes”

I agree completely with this statement; I’ve never been somewhere before where one minute it’s 20 degrees C and the next it’s 4. The other day it was really sunny and warm and the next minute there was a huge hailstorm and the loudest thunderstorm I have ever experienced!

Earlier the same day it was 24 degrees and sunny and then suddenly there was a massive hailstorm which left the ground looking quite white!

6. Apparently I have a strong British accent
In one of my first classes we had to say our names and why we were studying Environmental science: I must have said 20 words and the lecturer said ‘You’re from England?’. All the Canadians in my orientation group keep commenting on my accent and how I call things by ‘weird’ names;
‘Lift’ not ‘Elevator’
‘Crisps’ not ‘Chips’
‘Bin’ not ‘Trash can’
‘Maths’ not ‘Math’

7. Thrift shops
After failing to acquire anything for the flat at a free giveaway (they opened an hour early 🙁 ) we were left with no kitchenware. Luckily we found thrift shops, which are just charity shops but they are much bigger than you find at home and they have so much kitchenware (and everything is so cheap).

8. American football matches are exactly like you see in films
I’ve never really been a massive sports fan but I have always thought American football matches look like lots of fun. The match was exactly as you see in films; a massive stadium, cheerleaders, cheering and a huge screen to watch highlights of the match (apparently matches are a lot bigger in the states though). The only thing was the match wasn’t that exciting, it kept stopping every 10 seconds (not sure I’m going to be a massive fan anytime soon!).

McMahon stadium is massive, holding 46,020 people! No surprise that the stadium wasn’t even half full for the Dino game!

9.Bubble soccer is so much fun
Now this is a sport I could get into; rolling around a field, flipping upside down, so much fun (although my team lost).

  10. Shopping here is so confusing
You are probably thinking what is she on about! Everything about shopping here is different from at home. To start with, the currency is different and it took me until the end of the week to find out that $1 does not equal 50p; it’s not that easy 🙁 . Then they don’t advertise things with tax so I got a shock at the checkout for the first few times when they charged me more than the advertised price.

And so the adventure begins

After only a few hours sleep, I was too excited to sleep (and very nervous), I set off to the airport with my headphones round my neck, my body warmer over my arm and my snow boots in my backpack (I had over packed, nothing new!) My suitcase weighed 33.0kg exactly so luckily I didn’t have to take anything out!! Before I knew it I was on a plane about to travel thousands of miles away from home to live in Canada!


The plane and the prosecco, headphones and travel kit that I was given!

I had never been on a plane like this before; it was 9 seats wide, had three sections and each seat had its own TV! I have always hated flying so the thought of being on a plane alone for 9 hours had been scaring me for a while. The flight wasn’t as bad as I thought though; I could choose from a selection of movies and TV shows, got loads of free things (prosecco, a blanket, a pillow, headphones and lots of food and drink) and got to see amazing views of volcanoes in Iceland, glaciers in Greenland and large mountain ranges.

I landed in Calgary at 4pm local time (11pm in the UK). The first locals I saw as I walked through the airport were wearing cowboy hats (I loved the place already!)! After being allowed to enter the country I collected my bags and headed off to find the University. I was very lucky to have a local contact and so Sally drove me to the University and had even picked up my bedding (which I was glad about as I was ready for bed!)

On my journey to the flat I quickly realised how different Calgary is to any city in the UK; the roads are so quiet and all the buildings are very spread out so it doesn’t feel like you are in a city at all. The first building I saw as I approached the University was the Olympic Oval (A large ice skating rink used for the 1988 Olympics). The campus is really pretty, but it’s massive and there are so many multi storey buildings (luckily they like their ‘elevators’ here).

I arrived at my 4 bedroom flat to be greeted by my orientation week rep and my flat mates; Amy, Louise (who both go to the University of Leeds) and Kelsy, who is from Australia. The flat has a kitchen and a lounge (we have sofas 🙂 ) and a ridiculous amount of storage (it’s crazy!!).


My room and my walk in wardrobe 🙂

By the time I reached my flat, jet lag was starting to hit me and I just wanted to go to bed! I decided to join the others though and I went with them to a barbecue where I met a lot of other British and Australian exchange students. This is when I realised how bizarre the weather is here; at 4pm I was in a t-shirt and I was boiling and by 6pm, even though I had my jacket on, I was shivering and my hands went numb! Once I had warmed up I fell asleep, I was shattered it had been a very long day!

Things I miss

Living abroad can be lots of fun, but you soon learn that it’s not all pretty and there will be things that you miss;
Here is a list of the weird and wonderful things I missed while in Canada!!

1. Friends and family
This one is a given but I have to admit I had really overlooked how hard time difference can be. At night sometimes I just wanted someone to talk to when everyone in the block was studying and everyone at home was asleep. The one thing I had though was Ashleigh in Oregon, which really helped us both to get through on those nights!

2. Fish and chips
Ahhhh I wanted fish and chips so much! I wouldn’t even mind but I never eat them in the UK, this craving however, lasted for the whole 4 months…

3. Sainsbury’s
I admit I actually cried because I missed this place so much… Ok, so by this point you are probably thinking ‘she’s actually lost it’, but every time I went to Safeway’s (saying the word again freaks me out..) I use to have a mini meltdown.
I could never work out the price of anything because THEY ADD TAX WHEN YOU GET TO THE TILL (AHHHHH), all the products are different and if I tried to ask for something they couldn’t understand my accent or didn’t recognise the British name for it. Then there was the fact that it was so expensive and I couldn’t deal with how much I was spending on food!
I think though, the main issue I had with Safeway was just the lack of normality anywhere and really brought home the fact that I was living in another country and hadn’t got a clue what I was doing!!


4. British sterling
I spent the whole 4 months totally confused about the exchange rate :(. I still do not understand how you use the silver coins and hey, how do you get the correct change ready if you don’t know how much something costs because YOU DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH TAX THEY WILL ADD!


5. Multi-pack crisps (yes CRISPS not CHIPS)
I have many issues with this. For a start they are not called chips, that’s what you eat with your fish from the fish and chip shop (cry 🙁 ), they are crisps people!! Secondly, where are the multi-packs?? All I wanted was to take a small packet with me for lunch, but oh no we only do share packets??

6.Green Grass

Well I know I had snow, and beautiful as it was I started to miss seeing rolling green hills. When I came home everywhere looked so green that it was like the world had some weird filter on it, it didn’t look real!

7.Brass band
I hadn’t thought too much about this before I left but I have played in brass bands for the past 8 years and it’s become such a big part of my life. It was so weird not to go to band on a week night and I really missed it!

8. People understanding me!
This was a nightmare. My international friends couldn’t understand my accent and no-one understood my British words.
When I said ‘tea’ (as in the meal) everyone though I was going to drink tea (because that’s all British people do apparently 🙁 ). Then there were all the weird names for things; ‘washroom’, ‘thongs’ (not the underwear, flip flops, see the confusion), ‘soccer’, ‘toque’

9. Chocolate
Ok I wasn’t in Antarctica they do have chocolate but it’s really not the same. I tried a mars bar in the first week and it tasted vile, it was nothing like the stuff at home!!

10. Roast dinners
What I would have done for a good Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and stuffing! One thing I was surprised by was the lack of English food over there, especially Christmas food; no mince pies, no Christmas cake, no Christmas pudding :(.
I used to make myself a full English breakfast though, but Canadian bacon is just not the same :(.


11. Brick buildings and cobbled streets (and history!!)
Ok, Canadian buildings are pretty and colourful but you can’t beat  a little cobbled street and a building that is older than the people living in it!! I couldn’t wait just to see a normal British street again and a castle and a cobbled street wouldn’t go amiss either!!

12. Rain…
Haha jks, I didn’t miss the grey clouds and constant rain back in England. I love the snow and deep blue skies, it’s so beautiful!


So lets just say studying abroad isn’t the easiest of journeys, but it’s an amazing experience and even the hard bits are funny in hind sight!!

4 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes, 20 seconds and counting

Back in 6th form like many other students I was really confused about what to do after A levels: everyone seemed to be going to university and I had no idea if this is what I wanted to do and if it was; What would I study?, Where would I go?

After looking at many different courses I decided that I wanted to study Environmental Science, but I still had to decide where I wanted to go. I have always loved to travel and so when I read the prospectus for Lancaster University the opportunity to study abroad in my second year was too good to miss. All I had to do now was to achieve AAB in my A levels and 60% in my first year at Lancaster.

It didn’t seem like I was at Lancaster two minutes before it came around to end of exam celebrations and now after achieving the grades I need I am going to be flying out to Calgary in less than a week! I keep telling  people that I’m going to Canada on the 4th of September (I feel like I’ve said it a million times) but I still don’t believe it! I keep saying that I’m so excited but the truth is I don’t really feel like it’s actually going to happen! There’s been so much to sort out this summer; flights, accommodation, visas and trying to decide what I need to take with me!! I’ve just been making so many lists and hoping that I don’t forget anything important!

After barely having any room left in the car when I went to Lancaster last year I didn’t think I would fit all my stuff in a suitcase! I haven’t quite managed to fit everything in a suitcase but here are the two I packed this morning!!!

Lydia Cowell_Suitcase

I have been a bit unsure on how cold it’s going to be, temperatures in the winter can fall to -10 degrees but everyone seems to say that it’s a ‘different’ cold to Europe (Whatever that means!?) Anyway I know there is going to be lots of snow so I have my ski jacket, my salopettes and these snow boots that I got the other day!!!
Lydia Cowell Sallopetts

I am going to be flying out to Calgary on Sunday (my first ever time going abroad on my own!!), I’ve managed to get a direct flight from Manchester which I’m glad about. I am going to be 4,222 miles away from home, a lot further than the 1.5 hour journey to Lancaster!!

I’ve never been to Canada, or even North America before so I don’t really know what to expect but I’m very excited to travel into the Rockies and maybe even learn how to ski!! Calgary is known as ‘Cowtown’ for the Wild West culture and the world-famous stampede that happens every July (Unfortunately I won’t be there for it though 🙁 ) I am really excited about exploring the city, there’s quite a lot to see; Calgary tower, the zoo, the Olympic park….

Lydia Cowell_Calgary

This week is going to be full of goodbyes and the stress of getting ready to go but hopefully it will all be worth it!!
I’ll keep you all updated on my travels
Until next time,
Lydia x