1. You should bring clothes for all seasons if you are here for the Fall Semester
If you’re anything like me, when you find out you are going to Canada you will start compiling your cosiest jumpers and warmers socks. While it is important to prepare for the cold that will be experienced here you should acknowledge that you will be entering Canada on the tail end of Summer. Due to this, it is a good idea to pack some light layers you can wear in both the heat and the cold. My personal anecdote and reason for bringing this up is that I got badly sun-burnt within three days of arriving on campus, so you should pack some good sunscreen as well as a precaution.
It’s also good to have some t-shirts to wear in the student accommodation, when you have the heater on full blast (to distract yourself from the fact it hasn’t gotten warmer than 10ºC for a week or two). It can also get quite warm in lecture theatres, so wearing a t-shirt under a jacket that keeps you warm when outside, but you can easily take off to avoid overheating when inside.
2. It’s a good idea to have a piece of home with you
I believe that whenever you are away from home from an extended period of time it is a good idea to bring photos of family/friends or even a small stuffed toy.
Throughout my exchange I have lost count of the amount of times I have messaged my sister asking her to send me photos of mundane things for around home or the city I live in; that I could use to compare experiences with people I have met while in Canada.
3. You’ll be making friends with a lot of international students!
I anticipated all the friendships I would make with Canadians before I arrived here. Instead I have been surprised by the number of friendships/connections I have made with other exchange students and international students. In the student accommodation I am in, all exchange students have been placed in one area and we all arrived prior to domestic students; meaning these were the first people I met at the university. I have made friendships with people from Austria, Hong Kong, Finland, Denmark, Holland, India and France (to name a few); I have even met and become friends with other Australians from different cities.
In my time here I have found that WhatsApp has been a great way to stay in contact with people. When exchanging numbers with these people I found myself commonly asking “Do you have international texts in your phone plan?”, as I have an Australian phone plan that has international roaming and allows me to use my phone here and use it as I normally would. I would commonly forget that people would need to be able to contact international numbers to be able to contact me.
4. Secret tunnels exist!
In some of the major cities and some university campuses, you will find underground tunnels that can help get you from A to B when the weather is against you (either rainy or just a little bit too cold). At the University of Waterloo there are underground tunnels that connect several buildings on campus, which helps in the previously mentioned conditions. In trips to Toronto and Montreal, I used this type of tunnels. It was like walking through an underground shopping centre, that appeared to keep going on and on in Toronto.
5. Travelling within and between cities is easy
As a student at the University of Waterloo, I can use my student ID card as a transportation pass to use the bus and train services in town.
If you come to Waterloo or a nearby town on exchange, you will find it quite easy to travel to difference cities or destinations due to the large amount of bus and train services available, that are reasonably priced as well.
If you aren’t one for public transport or a chartered bus, you can always rent a car. Beware there may be a young drivers fee, and so it’s a good idea to get the oldest person in the group to rent the car and take on most of the driving just to be safe. Also, this is a great way to see nature; as you can choose to take some roads less travelled and see sites you wouldn’t from the window of a bus or train.
Although, if you are travelling to/through Toronto you should add a least an extra hour to your anticipated travel time on account for the traffic; it is worse than you could imagine.
6. There are two seasons: Winter and Construction Season
In my time in Canada I have heard the saying that there are two seasons here, at first I thought they were just referring to warm and cold but was quickly told otherwise. Due to the extreme temperature experienced in Canada they cannot logistically do construction work all year round. This means if you come here during the Fall semester it is likely that some campus construction is going on and during your adventures to surrounding cities you may see historical buildings getting a face lift. Though, this does not take away any of the beauty of these sites, it should be expected if you travel here during this time.
I have had an incredible time in Canada and look forward to my remaining time here, though I never want it to end. I have recommendation for anyone coming to study in Canada, you should watch a live hockey game if you have the opportunity. It is such an incredible atmosphere and fast paced sport that I think all visitors to Canada should experience. Also, have as much maple syrup as you can, enjoy a double-double from Tim Hortons, and take some photos of the pretty leaves.