Some people may be thinking that exchange life is more like normal life at home but in a different place, and in a lot of ways they are right. The length of time is definitely long enough for certain habits and routines to development and the ones around you take really no time at all to become family. But it is also a way of life that is exciting and thrilling, unrelenting and often tiring at the same time, which may sound unappealing but would definitely not be done in any other way. Because the soul source of all those feels that makes the whole experience so vibrant and worthwhile comes down to one thing: The ability to travel.
There are limitless easy possibilities when you find that you’re in a country surrounded by other regions and countries rather than by sea, and I can say without fail that each and every exchange student would have taken absolute advantage of this to see more, taste more, learn more and feel more. So for a fun post that might even give you a bit of inspiration with where you might want to do your exchange in the first place. By no means do I love Montreal any less, I thought I could give a brief little rundown of all the other places I managed to wander to.
The first and certainly the one that set the standard was Quebec City. Granted a massive push of summer heat even at the end of September, it was like we had walked into a beautiful European town that really glowed and you just couldn’t help but smile wherever you went. With a huge French influence that really appealed to what I love personally, the days spent just walking around and enjoying the delicious food on outside terraces while listening to street jazz music was just the perfect start to my exploration of this part of the world. It was exactly the type of holiday that I love, and a perfect way to get excited about my next endeavours.
The second destination could perhaps be considered a must hit for eastern Canada and while I could have chosen a better time than before a heavily weighted midterm to go, Toronto was a place that appealed to me in ways I couldn’t have imagined myself. Being the biggest city within Canada, the rich variety of things I saw whilst I was there really made an impact, and the engineer inside me really appreciated that even without the CN tower, those tall buildings downtown were extremely impressive. And of course the Niagara Falls were not at all disappointing, but I loved the fun and amusing township most of all which everyone had somehow forgot to mention. While it was undeniably more slightly stressful than what I was used to, perhaps it was the most surprising trip that led me to a place I seemed to think I had a full grasp on yet found I knew barely anything at all. But isn’t that what travelling is all about?
If Quebec City was the epitome of a perfect summer vacation, then Ottawa was its equal in every way as a winter getaway. And in true contrasting style, we managed to fill a house full of new friends and roommates to have a wild weekend away, where we could celebrate coming together from all over the world and make unforgettable memories while we had the chance. It was true a time of bonding, with one of my best friends and my roommate treating ourselves like queens in an outdoor mountain spa in the dead of winter. I cannot even convey the luxury of having warm water wrapping around you as the morning light faded to a chill night, and when the lights and candles started to glow through the steam, we experienced our first real snowfall. It stayed until the next day when we walked our way through Ottawa in absolute awe of this magical setting to consolidate a very heart warming and lovely weekend away.
The final and certainly biggest destination was the only one I had set my eyes on before I had even left for my exchange experience because who could deny an opportunity to explore the concrete jungle? New York was absolutely spectacular. It was impressive and grandiose and interesting in so many ways, but I could not believe how lucky I was to get a full week and a half to spend there, including the infamous New Year’s Eve. Snowstorms and high winds did nothing to knock our spirits to wander anywhere and everywhere that we could, and I don’t think we could have taken more advantage of being there than we did. Rooftop parties, food and cafe hopping days, shopping getaways… we went big because as sad it was, we knew we were going home.
But what a perfect way to finish off a massive adventure that held nothing back and gave us everything it had. If something like this doesn’t convince you that an exchange is worthwhile, I really don’t know what will.
Keep up to date with my adventures through Instagram (shirleyxjiang) and my personal travel blog (http://pageparisienne.blogspot.ca/)