Holiday abroad in Canada

Traveling can be the perfect reward after term papers and exam studying. I remember when I was studying abroad at the castle in first year, the looming decision was whether to stay over the holiday break and travel or go back home and visit my family.

I started to wonder whether traveling in Canada had the same appeal that Europe had for me – so I spoke with three exchange students, Melanie Braith from the University of Konstanz in Germany, Lena Ilg from the University of Tuebingen in Germany and Alice Marechal from Sciences Po in France, to find out how they`ll be spending their holiday break in Canada:

Q: What`s the most Canadian thing you`ve experienced so far?

Braith: Eating poutine was one of the most Canadian things … I’ve never heard of it. I’ve never seen of it, and when I heard about it I thought, “That must be awful!” But, I loved it!

Ilg: We had this ugly Christmas sweater party, which was pretty cool.

Marechal: I tried poutine, beavertails [and] I went to Algonquin Park to camp and canoe. I went to Montreal and Toronto … I visited Old Montreal … and McGill and University of Toronto.

Q: Why did you decide to stay in Canada, instead of going home for the holidays?

Braith: If I’m here for the whole year, I want to experience everything – and that includes [a] real Canadian Christmas.

Q: How will you be spending the holidays?

Braith: My boyfriend’s coming to visit me … It’s our first Christmas together so we’re really looking forward to it. We’re definitely doing a trip to Niagara Falls because [my boyfriend] has never seen them yet, and I hope they’re beautiful in winter. We haven’t planned [much] yet. It’s just Kingston, Montreal, Ottawa and whatever else there is to see.

Ilg: I’m going to New York with a friend for a little bit of a road trip. Before and after Christmas, we’re going to [rent] a cabin near Montreal with some other friends … We’re [going to] drive north to Quebec City or maybe even further north … We really want to [go] dog sledding – I think that’d be pretty Canadian.

Marechal: With some friends, we plan to rent a cabin in Quebec for Christmas week. We want to ski, go hiking, dogsledding and visit Trois-Rivieres. After, we want to do a small road trip across Northern Quebec [and] after I want to go to Quebec City for New Years Eve … and after we’ll go to Montreal.

Q: Why did you choose Queen`s?

Braith: I’m focusing on Canadian studies at my home university, and soon as I am back, I’m going to grad school [where I’ll be] also focusing on Canadian studies. I think you shouldn’t do Canadian studies if you’ve never been to Canada so that’s the reason why I’m here.

Ilg: I heard about Queen’s and all its traditions and about its school spirits, which is … better than other universities … so I really wanted to experience that.

Marechal: I really wanted to go to Canada. At first I wanted to go to UBC, but I talked with some exchange students [at] my university and some Queen’s students who really seemed enthusiastic … I live in the center of Paris so I wanted to discover something else – Queen’s seemed like a good choice and it has a really good reputation.

Q: What else would you like to do before you leave Queen`s or Canada?

Ilg: I really want to meet a lot more Canadians because so far I’ve met a lot of other international and exchange students … I really want to try and get more involved at Queen’s with clubs … And of course, I want to see more of the country, go to the west coast maybe after [school] is done in April.

Marechal: I really want to go to the west coast to see Vancouver … I really want to see [Pacific Rim] Natural Park and to go hiking and canoeing because Canada is really famous for nature.

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Ilg and Marechal feel really at home, they said, with students on campus being so open, friendly and helpful.

With this being Ilg’s second Christmas away from her family, having been in India three years ago doing volunteer work, she’s not too worried about the fun winter activities she’ll have up north.

Marechal, similarly, said she’s most excited for ice-skating, as it’s an activity that young people don’t partake in a lot back in Paris.

Though it’s the first time these three girls have been to Canada, they’re excited to experience what they’re anticipating to be a fun holiday of traveling and new cultural experiences. With the west coast on their minds, I can’t help but be excited for them and all the hiking and outdoors activities they have in store after the term ends.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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