Arrival in Ottawa

Prior to applying to study abroad, I already had full intention on studying abroad when possible. In addition to that, I also had family members that had travelled to Canada, either for work, placement or even to study abroad there! So not only did I already have the decision to take this unique opportunity, I even had decided where I wanted to go! It was of great relief when I saw a letter of acceptance to travel to the country of my choice! The hardest part before leaving was realising that I would not see my friends until the next year. I packed my bags, excited to see what was to come entering a country on my own.

As I first entered Canada, I was shocked almost instantly at what I saw when I left the airport, the air was warm and the sun was blazing. I took my jacket off just to compensate for the heat. It seemed I packed too heavy for such a warm weather. So with my first assumption already out the window, I enter my campus and placed my stuff down quickly to then set off and explore the grounds.

The second thing I noticed was how the place showed similarities to the UK, city wise that is. The structure of buildings reminded me of a busy city area in London. Which may sound minuscule. However, it made me feel comfortable to know what to expect when it came to exploring the place. Everybody I met there was incredibly welcoming, and since I was essentially a freshmen, I took pamphlets upon pamphlets so that I could navigate myself around the campus. Unlike most universities in the UK, uOttawa, at the very least, was incredibly open, some of the buildings would stretch into the city, and every now and then you would find a building somewhere in the main city with a uOttawa sign on it. So at least I knew that on my way to my lectures, I could grab a Tim Hortons and pretend I was a Canadian like everyone else. As I walked around the campus, I was greeted by many friendly guides from Ottawa who were more than happy to lend a helping hand.

I went to my first class of season, technical theatre, I was anxious to see how the classes would be structured and how the students would interact with me. Fortunately, the second I walked into the room I was greeted almost instantly by these two people who then became one of my closest friends. Overall, the first few weeks showed promise, and I was excited to proceed with the further months to come.

Saying goodbye to Maple-Syrup Country

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Jake studied abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada with his Film degree at Reading. We are already well into the Spring term but Jake’s post looks back on the end of his semester abroad. 

My last few weeks in Ottawa were hectic to say the least. Knowing my time in Canada was drawing to a close, I tried to make the most of everyday whilst also ensuring I dedicated enough time to completing my Finals for the five modules I chose to take at uOttawa.

In the last few weeks, my Final essays undeniably consumed much of my focus and time. However, despite all the stress, I thoroughly enjoyed writing each one. In many cases, by being able to choose my own research questions, I was afforded more academic freedom and creativity than I would have perhaps experienced in Reading for the equivalent courses. From comparing the films of Atom Egoyan, to also analysing how an audience responds to a film like Spike Jonze’s Her, I was able to write about ideas and theories that really captivated me. Canada allowed me to grow in confidence socially, but also enabled me to become more secure in my own academic interests and writing.

Apart from my finals, I made a conscious effort to re-visit my favourite places in the city of Ottawa. In the very last few days of my exchange I visited numerous coffee houses and photographed beautiful scenery, exploring places that were increasingly covered with more and more snow. I conducted my own ‘magical mystery tour’ of the memories I created in the very first days after my arrival. It really hammered home how the time had flown by and confirmed to me that, with an experience like this, you really have to make every second count. It is over before you know it! You do not want to be left wondering whether you really ate enough poutine or skated (wobbled) around an ice rink as frequently as you could have done.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Looking back on my overall time in Ottawa, I do not regret any moment. Despite the worry, nerves and academic stress of taking such a big leap, I have been exposed to an amazing culture, seen wonderful landscapes and made life long friends. I thoroughly believe that throughout our lives it is our experiences that define us. Everything we do and see contributes to our sense of self, and as I learned in Canadian Cinema, this process of becoming is never ending.

I have skated in the snow, watched mesmerising light shows projected on parliamentary buildings and drank gallons of Tim Horton’s coffee, far more than is probably healthy. However, I can safely say despite the numerous things I have accomplished, I am not quite satisfied. This exchange in Canada had awoken within me an intense desire to travel and experience the world. I want to return to Canada in the future; I have fallen in love with this maple-syrup country, despite the literal toe-numbing temperatures towards the end of my exchange

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Regardless of it being a cliché, I can now see that the world is full of possibilities. After completing my degree to the best of my ability, I cannot wait to get out there and explore it in its entirety. I thank Canada, and the people I met there, for making this exchange an unforgettable experience that has helped me define myself that little bit more as I continue onto the future.


Missed Jake’s last post? Catch up here



Snow, national parks, and discovering what all this ‘poutine’ fuss is about

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Full Academic Year

Emmeline is studying abroad at Emily Carr+ University in Canada with her Graphic Communication degree at Reading. Just after 2 weeks moving to Vancouver, Emmeline updates us on the start of your semester abroad!

I have just finished my first week studying at Emily Carr University of Art + Design! But let’s start at the beginning. It feels like years have passed since I first attended a study abroad meeting to hear students talk about their own study abroad experiences – I went to that meeting on a whim, having never considered studying abroad before. It seemed too exciting an opportunity to miss out on. All the waiting since then made the prospect of moving country seem quite surreal, as I had talked about it and been planning it for so long that I sort of became numb to the reality of it. And then the day came for me to get on a plane and fly halfway across the world, where I would be living 8 hours behind my family and friends for the next 4 months…

My first week in Vancouver was exciting, and we were blessed with great weather (locals tell me this is a rarity). People I encountered were cheery and said hello as they walked by, or made small talk at a bus stop. The sun shone nearly every day, and when the sun was gone it snowed heavily. I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I had experienced so much snow! I visited Stanley Park (twice) and Lynn Canyon Park – popular spots amongst both locals and tourists – which were beautiful, peaceful places, brimming with huge trees and wildlife (no bears thus far). Vancouver really seems to have it all: beaches, national parks, the city, and mountains on the horizon no matter where I am.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Full Academic Year

View from Stanley Park

A week after arriving, I attended an induction at Emily Carr for new exchange students. Typically, I befriended a fellow Brit. She told me she had poutine the day before. I was afraid to tell her I had absolutely no idea what poutine was, but she was very excited about the poutine, and said ‘poutine’ a good few times. So I thought I should try it. When in Canada, eh! Anyway, I had poutine. Turns out it’s chips and gravy with some lumps of cheese thrown in. And yes, it tasted great!

After the induction, I got a nasty cold. It was to be expected. Since then I’ve been taking it easy; I visited some waterfalls with fellow study abroad pals, started classes at Emily Carr, and have been settling into life as a temporary Vancouverite. But I won’t pretend it’s all been grand and perfect. There were a couple of days where I felt extremely overwhelmed, and moving so far away from home to where you literally know no one is of course going to feel lonely at first, and will take time to adapt to. So that’s where I’m at now – I’m adapting. I’m allowing myself to relax and encouraging myself to embrace life here, and I’m definitely taking advantage of the great public transport in this city (also, I can’t express how kind and helpful all the bus drivers have been)! I am looking forward to what the next few months will hold for me; both academically and personally.


Making the most of Reading Week in Canada!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Jake studied abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada with his Film degree at Reading. This post is reporting back mid-way through his semester in North America!

I am mid-way through my exchange and I am still enjoying every minute! Canada has offered me all I wanted and more, allowing me to see wonderful scenery, meet new people and begin to grow more confident in myself socially as well as academically.

During reading week I had an amazing time because my sister flew out to stay with me for the duration of my time spent away from uOttawa. It was amazing seeing family again, giving me the boost I needed to carry on and enjoy my time away from home. Whereas we ran out of time to do the ‘big stuff’, visit Niagara and Quebec City, I can only be slightly disappointed because we still managed to cram so many things into just one week.

We immersed ourselves in the culture, visiting Byward Market for the Fall produce, going to the cinema and a couple of museums, as well as catching Broadway’s Cinderella whilst it was on its Canadian tour.  On top of this, we managed to take a day trip to Toronto where we visited the CN Tower and had a long lunch with the most spectacular view. We also managed to fit in visiting Ripley’s Aquarium and have a quick look at Rogers centre (home of the Toronto Blue Jays!).

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Apart from an awesome, but extremely tiring reading week, I have focused on the academic side of my exchange, which whilst much less exciting to write about, has kept me busy and fuelled my continuing interests in film and media. I have had multiple, stressful mid-term assignments due recently but a positive is, compared to studying in Reading, there are more frequent assignments. Yes, this means more work but it also means more chances to ensure my grades remain high and frequent testing means I understand how I am performing at all times throughout the semester. There are more chances to boost my marks!  My favourite assignments have included making podcasts/videos for my Multimedia project ‘Made of Mad Media’. I have been able to create a website or online community that not only discusses my academic interests of films/TV but has also brought me closer to new Canadian friends who have asked to contribute their own projects and ideas.

Whilst my friendship group were too busy to really appreciate a true Canadian Halloween, I have seen some scary, and funny, costumes/decorations throughout October. More importantly, as soon as Halloween finished the festivity of Christmas arrived, bringing with it a lot of snow! The Canadian landscape has proven even more beautiful, if not much colder, covered in a blanket of pure white. The local shopping centre or ‘mall’ is decorated from top to bottom with lights and Christmas trees and has really put me in the ‘Christmassy’ mood for the remainder of my time in Ottawa.

Before the snow hit, my friends and I managed to catch a greyhound bus to Montreal to experience the nightlife. The music and art world is truly alive in Montreal and it is a city I hope to visit again in the future because, alongside Toronto, I have fallen in love with the atmosphere it provided.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

I am now taking the time to focus on my finals for the semester. I undertook this trip to experience the world and there is no doubt that I have done that so far. I have gone to the cinema too many times to count, eaten the essential Canadian food group that is poutine (yum!) and have walked more and seen more than I thought I could ever handle. Although I will now focus on writing my final exams, undeniably a lot of work that I will have to dedicate the majority of time to, I look forward to the surprises, laughs and memories the last few weeks undoubtedly hold.


Missed Jake’s last post? Catch up here: 



Canada’s Natural Wonders

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Natasha is studying abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada for a semester as part of her Geography degree at Reading. Read her blog entry about covering her first 3 months in North America. 

After being in Canada for just over three months, I have experienced so much during my time here. From whale watching in Quebec, to hiking the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and making friends from all over the world. There was no problem with settling into life in Canada, as everyone is so friendly and welcoming.

During my first few days in Canada, there was a vast array of activities that had been organised by the international office, such as trip to Parliament. This meant that I got the chance to meet other international students, whilst touring the city of Ottawa.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

There is an abundance of lakes, with canoeing and kayaking a very popular past time in Canada, so naturally my friends and I went kayaking for the day! My first Gee-Gees football game was exhilarating, and the annual ‘Panda Game’ against the rival Carleton University in Ottawa was something that I have never experienced before. The tailgate (pre-party) leading up to the football game was the best part, with some parties at 8am!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Within two weeks of being at OttawaU, I had taken part on a trip to Tadoussac in Quebec and Quebec City. This was arranged by the university and was relatively cheap. The trip also took place over a weekend, ensuring that we didn’t miss any classes. This trip allowed us to see the cultural diversity of Canada as an English and French speaking country, being educated about the history of Canada and Quebec, and seeing the second largest whale in world in the wild! As you can see in the picture, it was already so cold in Canada!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Academically, OttawaU is definitely more demanding in terms of deadliness, classes and midterms and final exams. However, it’s nice to know how well you are doing throughout the semester, and the help from the professors is appreciated. The choice of modules offered here is vast, with many modules not offered at Reading. Some the of modules that I have taken include: geographies of tourism, geographies of globalisation and cities and social change. I have focused more on the human geography modules, as this is my preferred area of study.

During my reading week at OttawaU, my friends and I decided to make the most of being in Canada, and to travel to Banff national park to see the amazing scenery that Canada has to offer. Although travelling within Canada is rather expensive, it is definitely worth seeing the natural wonders that Canada has to offer.This aided with some of my classes as I could understand the transition that has occurred in Banff, around the growth of tourism and how this has affected Banff as society. I have actually used this trip within one of my assignments at OttawaU. Overall, this was trip of a lifetime, whilst also impacting my studies.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

I feel like transitioning to the Canadian culture has been much smoother than I had anticipated, although this has definitely been helped by the kindness of Canadians, meeting many other international students in the same position as me and the love of the English accent! I can’t wait to see what else I am yet to experience in my remaining weeks here in Ottawa. So far, I could not emphasise how much my confidence and independence has grown since studying abroad, and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about potentially participating in such an amazing programme.


Poutine, Gee-Gee’s Football & Sunburn

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

Jake is currently studying abroad at the University of Ottawa in Canada with his Film degree at Reading. Read on to find out what he’s got up to in the first few weeks into his semester studying abroad. 

Having completed my first week studying at Ottawa, I can honestly say I have already realised what an amazing experience this will be!

Since arriving Saturday 3rd September, so much has already happened and I have already been thrown into the Canadian culture at Ottawa University. It has been both nerve-wracking and exhilarating! It seems a world away since I stepped onto that plane, flying on my own for the first time.

In one week alone I have undertaken a captivating tour of the local Parliamentary buildings, watched a light show projected onto the very same buildings and managed to attend my first ‘Gee- Gee’s’ football game. I haven’t stopped since my arrival and have appreciated having so much to do, helping me to acclimatise to such a different but interesting culture. Everyone has been welcoming and it has been great to begin making friends with other exchange students from around the world, who are in the same boat thus equally determined to experience as much as possible in their time spent in Ottawa.

I wanted to study abroad to experience the world, inspire my creativity as a film student and ultimately grow as an individual into someone who can offer a valuable contribution to the film industry. It is still very early into my semester at Ottawa, I am still nervous, finding my feet and slightly homesick. However, the beauty I have already seen in and around Ottawa has greatly aided my transition.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

On the Monday after my arrival, I made the decision to go exploring on my own because the few students I had met at the time had already seen the Parliament tour etc. Twelve miles of walking later, my feet incredibly sore and my body tired, I returned to my room with a smile on my face…my passion for photography sated. In one day I took so many photos of the scenery and architecture, from ornate rooms to natural landscapes. It was an awesome day! Since arrival, the sun has been shining almost none stop; I have capitalised on such weather by taking photo after photo.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

On top of this, my first week of lectures has been as equally interesting. One of the big draws to studying abroad was that there were no compulsory modules, thus I had such a wide selection to choose from. Despite taking place on a Saturday, Literature and Film has already proven to be a great choice. Watching Hitchcock’s Shadow of A Doubt (1943) was great because despite the obvious culture differences, I felt a familiar and similar passion for Hitchcock in Ottawa, as seen in Reading’s own FTT department.

University of Reading student studying abroad in Canada for a Semester

I already know that I am going to be busy academically with the courses I have chosen, from Canadian and Quebec Fiction to American Cinema, but Canada offers such a different culture compared to what I am familiar with, alongside awe-inspiring scenery. As such, I know there will be plenty of places to travel to like Montreal and Toronto, which will hopefully inspire my work further and aid me in improving my confidence. I have cheered at a football game, eaten poutine and been incredibly sun burnt in only my first week here so I am excited for what else lies ahead. But for the immediate future, the main objective is to find a nearby cinema…so many films so little time!