I will start with a tip for going on exchange, then with a story to give context to the tip and the title.
Exchange Tip: Make an effort to become friends with people from your host country/city/university, even when making friends with other exchange students seems much easier.
During orientation week in September, which is called ‘101 week’ at uOttawa, I made my first Canadian friend through another exchange student. A couple of months into the semester, we (all of our exchange friends on our exchange facebook group) woke up to the most beautiful, thoughtful and caring message from our Canadian friend Laurriane. It brought tears to my eyes!
The message read:
“Hi guys!! 🙂 who’s here during Christmas break? Who wants a typical Canadian Christmas? My family and I are welcoming you for a week of pure Canadian fun (including the night of Christmas) skiing, snow hiking, snow sliding, ice skating, bonfire, drinking, and even more! You are in? You can stay for free at my place, everyone is welcome. (boyfriend/girlfriend are visiting you? They are welcome) it is the 23 until the 27 of December. The information about the transportation and everything else will come in another group 🙂 I know I’m a bit early but I love Christmas ahaha… and I need to know who’s coming…if you are just PM!! Hope You will”
If – a family willing to share their Christmas with many other exchange students who cannot be with their families for Christmas, without even knowing them – isn’t one of the nicest and most thoughtful acts, I don’t know what is!
Part 2: Christmas weekend outcome
Weeks later, here we are spending our first ever white Christmas with the most beautiful family, at their chalet in Val Saint Come, a ski resort about an hour away from Montreal. It was by far the greatest Christmas I have had, despite being away from family. We were made to feel like home from the moment we arrived. On top of it all, we ticked off so many Canadian must do’s in one weekend.
Whoever said you shouldn’t walk outside in your pyjama’s on a snowy morning to go to breakfast was wrong!… snow? PJs? Outside? sounds like a Canadian must do combination for sure.
The breakfast itself was a highlight, after we finally managed to make it inside and stop taking photos with the snow, which you would think we would be sick of after a month of non-stop snow and -30 temperatures… It was incredible to see how close our exchange group had become, we were making breakfast like a real family, everyone taking part to prepare something.
Day of the 24th was spent walking, falling, and playing in the snow – as expected by a group of international students. For the first time all semester, we were wearing the right outfits for the weather and felt semi-warm (which is as warm as you can get) in the snow, thanks to our Canadian friend giving us REAL gloves, jackets and boots (apparently Australian UGG boots are the item to have, shame on me as an Australian for forgetting to take them with me!). Snow fights are a workout on top of being super fun, but that was just what we needed to get hungry for the upcoming Christmas dinner!
The Christmas dinner was nothing short of perfect for many reasons:
1. It was celebrated as a family thanks to our friend and her family for hosting us;
2. We were together as an exchange family for one last time, and;
3. Home-made cooking was long missed and overdue (nothing beats home cooking especially on Christmas – again thanks to our friend’s family for their wonderful hospitality)
We ended the night by enjoying a hot chocolate in our mason jar Christmas gifts followed by snow sledding which I have bruises as proof instead of photos! Nevertheless it was a weekend that ended our exchange semester on a high note.