Post-exchange to-do list

Welcome back to Queen’s. It’s cold, wet and the sidewalks are slicked with ice. After a semester abroad, readjusting back to the Canadian winter is no easy feat. Kingston may not be lined with Parisian cafés or nestled in the Swiss Alps, but it does have its charms. From postcard writing to pubs, here are some ways to settle back in after exchange:

Revisit Canadian favourites
Whether it’s a Timmy’s coffee to-go or a deep-fried BeaverTail, there are some foods so engrained in Canadian culture that it wouldn’t feel right eating them anywhere else but here. Peanut butter, Kraft Dinner and late-night poutine also top my list of comfort snacks.

Make friends with exchanges students at Queen’s
The International Programs Office (IPO) and Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) both offer resources for connecting returning and current exchange students with networking nights, social programs and daytrips. While your friends may get tired of listening to exchange stories, outgoing students are eager to hear about your experiences. I still get excited each time I run into a French student here at Queen’s – there’s always an instant connection over their culture and language.

Keep in touch with international friends
A handwritten postcard is thoughtful and doesn’t take long to write. Receiving mail back in return is an added bonus. Even a quick Facebook message to see how someone’s doing is meaningful and will brighten their day. Having contacts in other countries also means a personal tour guide and potential roof to sleep under – not something you want to miss out on.

Eat internationally in Kingston
Although I have yet to find a Lyonnais-style restaurant, Geneva Crêpe Bistro and Le Chien Noir Bistro both serve authentic French dishes like cheese fondue and boeuf bourguignon. It’s not hard to find other international cuisine with places like Royal Angkor and Mango all conveniently located on Princess St.

Check out what’s new in Kingston
The Underground, The Brooklyn and Fluid Night Club are all new night-life additions (or rebranded ones at least). For a daytime outing, there’s Limestone City Cupcakery with unique flavours like Maple Bacon, Earl Grey and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I was shocked to discover that Botterell’s Garden Street Café underwent renovations with slick new tables and seating – best of all, Big Breakfast is now served all-day.

Catch up with friends
They’ve seen your Facebook travel photos, but now they want to hear your stories in person. CoGro and QP offer perfect atmospheres for meet-ups whether over a piece of cake or heaping plate of nachos.

Be a tourist
Reverse culture shock – feeling out of place at home – hits hard. You constantly feel bored, alienated and restless. One way to fight this ennui is to check out Kingston’s tourist attractions. Skating at Springer Market Square and the Wolfe Island Ferry, remind you what it’s like to explore a new city.

The spontaneity and adventures of exchange may be over, but remember everything you missed while abroad. Whether it’s cheap bagels at Timmy’s, reconnecting with housemates over a pitcher of sangria or the unwavering spirit of Queen’s students, there’s a reason you looked forward to coming home.

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