May 24, 2016

Exchange diaries Barbados: Heat, housing & hazing

The idea of going on exchange first crossed my mind last October. Since then it has been a very long and arduous process involving lots of meltdowns, paperwork and meltdowns involving paperwork (the details of which I won’t bore you with here).

When it was finally time to leave and embark on this amazing journey, I didn’t feel as excited as I expected to — mostly because I just couldn’t believe it was finally happening.

But it did happen. After around 12 hours of flying from Victoria, B.C., I landed in Bridgetown, Barbados and moved into Sherlock Hall Residence at the University of the West Indies (UWI).

I arrived in the middle of rainy season, so the weather has been hot and muggy (my hair straightener is no match for this humidity). I’ve been told that most exchange students chose to come next semester to catch the sunny weather, but I’m here for the full year so I’ll get to experience both seasons.

Barbados is one of the most westernized of the Caribbean islands and has a few of the same stores you’d see back home. People kept telling me that I could buy food at “The Essos”, which I thought must be some sort of local market but actually turned out to be an Esso Gas Station — but with pizza and beer. My favourite place to go for food is a little barbecue hut called TNT, which serves their burgers with coleslaw, cheese, pickles and barbecue sauce. I don’t normally go for coleslaw, but this was good.

I’m not sure how to describe my residence, but I’ll say that I regret ever complaining about West Campus. But what Sherlock Hall lacks in facilities, it makes up for with a good location and fantastic view. Apparently everyone here becomes very close as well, which is definitely a bonus and something I can appreciate as a former Westie.

One thing I didn’t at all expect from Barbados was hazing. I fully thought that my frosh days were behind me, but apparently I was wrong. Here, I’m called a “fresher” or “Fresher Tootsiepop” as I’ve been nicknamed. We’re all given nicknames with lewd backstories, something I found very shocking and vastly different from the political correctness and emphasis on respect at Queen’s.

Although it makes me a little uncomfortable, I realize that it’s an attempt to build camaraderie between us and would like to respect it as a long-standing UWI tradition. One of the RAs actually told me that the hazing here used to be a lot worse and had to be toned down after complaints from parents.

Barbados has now become a real tangible place to me, rather than an anxiety-producing word on paper. It’s only been four days but it feels like so much longer and I can’t wait for the year ahead.

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