August 18, 2016 – I take a quick last look at the country I won’t be seeing again for the next few months, uttering a little, soundless goodbye. With a deep breath, deriving mostly from excitement and also from a little portion of nervousness which belongs to the start of every memorable journey like apples to an apple pie, I enter the plane that will take me from Frankfurt, Germany, to Vancouver, Canada.
The first time I experienced Canada was back in 2014 for a three weeks vacation trip in BC. At that time, I got to see Vancouver, Banff, Jasper, Kelowna and many more amazing sites as well as Kamloops which I honestly didn’t really considered to be worth a place in the top 5 ranking of my favourite cities in Canada at that time, and probably not even in the top 10, either. However, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with that breathtaking country that has so much to offer, with its endless and multiple sceneries, its stunning combination of picturesque lakes, towering mountains and majestetic forests and with the wholehearted friendliness and candidness of the people. Of course I had to return to this place as soon as possible, an opportunity which arose not even two years later as my semester abroad needed to be planned. So I had to decide which city to choose and as you know, my choice was to go for Kamloops and the TRU. Now you probably ask yourself why I’ve chosen the city which didn’t really amazed me (at all) in the first place and actually I can’t really tell. Regard it as something like a slight feeling, a foreshadowing if you believe in that stuff or just fortune if you don’t. However, this decision was the best I could take, I never regretted it and I’m still more than happy that I took it, because TRU turned out to be the spot where an unforgettable semester took place and so many awesome activities had their roots.
One little piece of advice before you continue reading (which I truly and deeply appreciate! When you’re done, you should get yourself a cookie or a bar of chocolate or something, you deserve it!): I tried to describe the aspects I’m dealing with in this text not merely in a descriptive way, but also from a little humerous perspective, sometimes garnished with some sarcasm as this is what makes a story interesting, in my opinion, when you start to recognize the funniness which is hidden in so many things, the sense of humor in life. The main aim of this article is for you Canadian guys to get to know a different, unknown and hopefully amusing perspective on all the stuff you know so well and for you international fellows to recognize yourself in some parts here, or to be a little inspired, maybe 🙂 moreover, this is definitely intended to be a little personal homage to Canada and TRU. So relax, lean back, don’t take everything here too seriously and just enjoy 🙂 and in case you don’t have or don’t wanna spend so much time, there’s a simple solution: In the following, each paragraph deals with a different topic or aspect of my experience in Canada or rather Kamloops, so if you’re not interested in a particular subject, just skip it and continue with one you like better. This way you have the option to avoid spending too much time reading this very long text about my thoughts, my experiences and all the unnecessary jokes. The text starts chronologically with my impressions during the first few weeks in Kamloops and at TRU, followed by several independent paragraphs about cultural topics. So if you have personally encountered international orientation week and have dealt with everything related to acclimatizing to Kamloops and TRU yourself and thus aren’t interested in reading something about that, I recommend going on to the paragraph “So let’s talk sports”. But make sure you don’t skip too much stuff, otherwise you risk loosing some good carma! This little fella to the left, which I got to know in the Vancouver Aquarium, will watch you very carefully! And he is no one you wanna mess with.
After a few days of vacation in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, in Victoria, I entered the Greyhound bus that took me a few hours north east from VanCity and the Pacific coast, to Kamloops where I resided in UCH for the semester, which I really enjoyed. Two days after my arrival, the international orientation week was about to begin so I left the residence, enjoying the feeling of excitement prior to the first day at a completely unfamiliar university, and crossed the Summit Drive which brought me right to the area where the campus starts, marked by the futuristic sign provided with the four flags; a way which many of you surely know well. However, these approximately 7 seconds of crossing the street, simultaneously looking at the truly stunning valley, depicted the first time that I realized how beautiful this place is. Once more I absolutely marvelled the breathtaking vastness of this country, presenting itself in so many different appearances, once more I appreciated the opportunity to be there, at this place, at the beginning of an adventure with so many memorable events to come.
The international orientation week turned out to be a real blast. I’ve never seen so many people from different countries at a single spot before. It was like a melting pot of cultures creating a completeley new one using all the different traditions, all these different stories those people brought with them as part of their personality, automatically but unrecognized, as ingredients for something very special. It was a kind, friendly and lively atmosphere, everywhere I looked there were students from all over the world, talking to each other, introducing themselves and telling about their cultures and their home countries. And everyone was truly interested in the stories, eager to learn something about their fellow students from places they’ve mostly never been to, not rarely not even knowing where these nations are more or less exactly located. I’ve never experienced an atmosphere like that before and I was truly amazed and excited about it. This was a prime example of multiculturalism, internationalism and absolute undoubted respect. An atmosphere which I regard as very rare on this planet nowadays which makes it absolutely special. I know that you kind of lose the feeling or rather the view for this as you get used to it after some weeks or months and start to take it for granted, but you should never forget about how valuable and special the atmosphere, the situation at TRU is, where multiculturalism is not merely working well but even existing pretty much undoubted. At least this was my impression. And it was an aspect which not just impressed me at this moment but depicted one of the facets that inspired me most during my time in Canada.
Shortly after many great experiences during the international orientation week, such as BBQ’s, welcome dinners information events and many more, this phase of introduction and presentation of the university was over. On this point I have to and want to mention how great the work by all the people who helped to organize the international orientation week’s been. The staff was totally eager to provide help where help was needed, always kind and friendly, never losing their motivation and humor. Thanks for that! But this didn’t end when international orientation week was over: At TRU you always and easily find help if you need it while dealing with the “everyday” problems of an international student in another culture with another language. And often it even results in a great little talk. Moreover, what TRU offers its international students for entertainment is incredibly. At this point, I want to highlight the AdventureU Outdoor Club which offers numerous great activities like cayaking, rafting, hikes and so much more in which I took part many times. It’s a great opportunity to meet more (international) students and try various outdoor activities and sports with competent and super friendly instructors. You students at TRU surely are in good hands.
After these experience had already been great, I was excited for the actual semester to start. Corresponding my subjects of study back at Germany, I took 3rd year English classes and a 2nd year History course in order to get to know differences regarding how those are taught and learned in another country and – last but not least – to get the credits for the university and the faculties back home. Especially the English classes turned out to be quite a challenge at the beginning as I was more or less the only non-Canadian guy there but this was pretty much what I was expecting so nothing too bad and besides I love to be challenged, actually. In fact, I could learn so much more in these “native speaker – classes” that way which improved my language skills quite a bit I’d say. Nevertheless, I really hope I didn’t bother my fellow students too much with comments about in which ways multiple aspects of university and classes actually differ from those in Germany (but they really do and it’s soooo interesting!). However, I learnt a lot about Shakespeare stuff, English literature as well as many more interesting topics and most importantly I had the opportunity to use and test my own English skills amongst native speakers and thus improving it significantly. Moreover, I learnt many things about the Canadian university system and there was one aspect which I found most interesting: Students at TRU actually study so much different stuff! Alright, you have your major and maybe a minor, as well, , I got that, and you have some more classes in that field, certainly. But next to this you just randomly choose some courses you’re interested it. I may major in business education, but I also take one class in tourism, I’m enrolled in a psychology class and besides, I got a Spanish class, because I want to understand the lyrics of that one Enrique Iglesias song I heard on the radio last week. At least that was the impression I got and that’s so great and in this way so unimaginable in Germany! You cannot just enroll in a business education seminar if you’re not enrolled for studying business education in general. You are given a great opportunity at TRU (/ in Canada) that you are allowed to check out as many different fields as you want in order to find your true passion.
So let’s talk sports! Something I really love to do by the way… anyway, I was super excited about experiencing the “typical” American sports such as basketball, football and hockey first hand(I’m still not really a fan of baseball, sorry ’bout that, but shout out to the Blue Jays, though, of course!), the professionals as well as the Wolfpack teams and I spent much time watching all kinds of matches. Especially hockey is a sport I find absolutely fascinating. Still in Germany I already followed the NHL, rooting for the the Blackhawks (at this point you’re allowed to boo for a second if you absolutely feel obligated to). Moreover, I liked the Oilers, mostly because of Draisaitl – finally a German kid who really got some serious hockey skills. And this one moderator/expert with the creative and colourful suits all the time in the hockey broadcasts was just great. But something that’s absolutely crazy is that you guys can actually watch hockey every day! We don’t know that in Germany, I mean we have soccer which we couldn’t love more (which is why we’re pretty good at it) and many guys play handball, which I bet most of you didn’t even know does actually depict a real sport, but the games take place at the weekends and sometimes on two days during the week but that’s it. When you’re in Canada, you can watch some hockey pretty much every day, visiting some sports bars for it which is making the experience even better… which probably costs you super much time you should normally spend on writing an essay for your political science class, but hey, it’s hockey, right? I mean Canadians would probably bail on Kate Upton/Ryan Gosling during a date for the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals… that’s so crazy, I really love you guys for that, even though I also love Kate Upton very much and she doesn’t deserve to be treated like that, so shame on you, as well! During the semester, I visited the Kamloops Blazers many times, enjoying the fact of having some Canadian hockey atmosphere so nearby. The best evening there was the bear toss night (another thing we don’t have back home) with goalie Connor Ingram retaining the huge green monkey, clearly proving some taste there. Awesome choice, Connor, you’re definitely ready for the NHL! Which would allow me to say “I remember this guy who turned out to be better than Holtby, Quick, Rask and Bishop combined, I’ve watched him cuddling a giant, ill-looking chimp once”. Counting on you, bud.
One of the most important aspects during a semester abroad is language. I wasn’t born in Canada and not in GB, the US, Australia or New Zealand either, so I had to learn all languages except for German in school. And, as you surely know from your personal experience, learning a language in school is not necessarily easy or fun. I remember lots of language lessons to be as effective for me as running a marathon with an elephant on the back, and just as funny. But luckily I always found English pretty interesting (I mean there’s just one definite article and the ending of the verb mostly doesn’t depend on the subject, so obviously lazy 5th grade me found English absolutely fantastic after becoming desperate during his French class and before trying to survive his Spanish class). However, I sticked to the language and even decided to study it in university, even though I noticed at some point that it features some more complex grammatical structures and sooo much vocab to learn by heart, after all, and now I even find grammatical structures interesting (I guess 5th grade me had been pretty embarrassed and anything but sympathetic if he would have known that – sorry by the way, little fella!). But my English studies in Germany not only depicted the reason for the semester abroad but also provided me with a functional basis of English grammar and vocab I’d say, but if you’ve already read up to this line, you’ve certainly already made your own judgement about that. However, three weeks in Canada taught me more stuff regarding English than years of school and furthermore, your speaking skills in another language will never be really profound until you practice a lot with native speakers. Because of that, I absolutely support everyone who wants to spend time in another country and is willing to learn the foreign language and to constantly improve. What makes TRU an even more outstanding place for that is again its multiculturalism. You have the opportunity to get in touch with many more languages without travelling through multiple countries and besides, you’re not alone between native speakers which can also be a little depressing from time to time, when you’re struggling with the foreign language at that moment. At TRU, many people are constantly learning English and improving their reading, listening, writing and speaking skills all the time, everyone on his or her own level, progressing slower or faster, but never stopping making progress which is absolutely great and inspiring. I met so many people with outstanding English skills even though it wasn’t their first language. I deeply appreciated this atmosphere. Another aspect which makes TRU such a fantastic place. So talking about English and so many other languages during my time in Kamloops has truly been great BUT: There was one aspect which kept coming up again and again… guys… German isn’t a harsh language, come on! 😉 At this point I really have to advocate my home country’s sweet and beautiful language. Of course all your languages sound great, no doubt about that, but German is totally worth to be learned, as well! We have many very long great words like “Verkehrsinfrastrukturfinanzierungsgesellschaft” which really is an existing single word (no kidding) and means ~society to finance the transport infrastructure. But no worries, we have many really short ones, too, such as “Ei” which means “egg” and even topps it regarding its briefness, as you see. So if you’re interested in learning another language – why not German? 🙂 and if you are not motivated enough to learn the whole language (right now), I will just leave some of our puns right here to prove German is not harsh but can be actually pretty funny and nice: 1) Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold – talk is silver, silence is golden 2) Was der Bauer nicht kennt, das frisst er nicht – The farmer won’t eat what he doesn’t know 3) Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth 4) Vom Regen in die Traufe – corresponding: out of the frying pan into the fire; but actually saying: from the rain into the rainwater pipe 5) Schwein gehabt – corresponding: tough luck!; but actually saying: You had a pig 6) Ich glaub’ mein Schwein pfeift – corresponding: blow me down; but actually saying: I believe my pig’s whistling 7) Da wird der Hund in der Pfanne verrückt – corresponding: it’s enough to drive a person mad; but actually saying: This way the dog in the frying pan gets mad 8) Lügen haben kurze Beine – corresponding: you won’t get far by lying; but actually saying: lies got short legs. – So you see, dealing with the German language can actually be a little funny, as well 😉
Food. Canadian food. Tell me, what was the first thing that came to your mind when you read that? Apparently, Canadians don’t have a real clue which food is actually considered stereotypical for them. I talked to many people about that and in most cases they told me about some stuff I had never heard about. Then I always told them we Germans would think of bacon, burgers, huge steaks and even more bacon (absolutely no offense to the vegetarins out here!). I let you decide whether you’d say this is true or not. However, most Germans have never heard about poutine, it’s shocking I know, but one of your favourite dishes is rather not to be considered stereotypical (but it’s great, though!!!). I hope, if you’re Canadian, you’re not too mad about those stereotypes, but if I ask you for typical German food you will probably say sauerkraut, weisswurst or something like that… seriously guys, no one outside Bavaria eats this stuff more than once a year, come on! So we’re even here. However, I really love that Canadians put bacon on pretty much everything, best idea ever. And I miss Tim’s so much I could actually think about opening one in Germany just to be my own best costumer. The time I spent in line in the Tim’s on campus was probably enough to watch a summary of every goal Gretzky has ever scored in his life but it was definitely worth it. But I have to say that it is remarkable that no one in Canada ever actually seems to be in a real hurry. The guys behind the counter always looked so relaxed like they just came back from a six-weeks vacation on Hawaii and not a single person in the line complained. In Germany, the people waiting would have already started a spontaneous revolution in order to get their coffee, just topped by the shift supervisor, furiously shooing the other employers around, with his head appearing in a colour that would make any tomato jealous. But this depicts another outstanding aspect of Canadian life. The people are not just so friendly that a German would suspect they’re actually hiding something or are about to prank him the next second, but they are also deeply relaxed which results in a much better living atmosphere! After some time, you start adapting to it and you notice that it goes with a much better feeling and that you don’t need the highest productiveness possible at any time. Another aspect I miss really badly.
Last but not least I want to devote the concluding paragraph to TRU itself and all it meant to me: multiculturalism, multilingualism, respect, tolerance, excitement, sports, variety, breathtaking nature, learning from and about each other, numerous interesting encounters, great people, inspriring characters and philosophies, finding and reinventing yourself and most important – diversity. TRU is a great place to be and I enjoyed every single second I spent there. In “Let Her Go”, his most famous song, the British singer/songwriter Passenger says: “you only miss the sun when it starts to snow”. Well, this guy really has a point there. Though I was always aware that my time at TRU has been something special and unique, I really started missing and even more appreciating it as soon as I had left Canada, taking all those great experiences with me. So in the end, I wholeheartedly want to give you one little piece of advice or rather a small reminder: Make sure to enjoy every single minute you’re spending as a student of TRU, doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian or international student, you are at a great and very special place and many things you start taking for granted after some time are truly everything but that. Because all of a sudden, your time at TRU is over, whether you return to your home country or you complete university. Make every second count and enjoy. Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate it and I hope my little “report” could amuse and entertain you a bit. See you in Kamloops one day, maybe.