Photo essay: North America in the eyes of an exchange student

A Japanese student at Queen’s documents travelling through Canada and the U.S.

Kobayashi travelled North America during her first semester at Queen's.
Supplied by Hinano Kobayashi

When I arrived in Canada for fall semester, I never expected a series of adventures would follow meeting a wonderful travel buddy.

Coming to a new place—especially one on the opposite side of the world—is tough. Once I got used to my surroundings and started making friends, I noticed all the activities that were waiting for me. These are the photographs from across my travels in North America.

Niagara Falls

At the end of August, I visited Niagara Falls with my mom, cooling off with a shower from the falls as we boated close to the drop. Our hotel room had the view of Niagara Falls, and the trip represented the beginning of my Canadian life.

After the Falls, we sampled several red and white wines in Niagara and Niagara-on-the-Lake, and tried ice wine while learning how it was made on the tour.


Toronto was my most convenient trip, since it’s easily accessible from most places in Canada. I visited the city’s national art museums, shopping malls, and the CN Tower. Even when I was just in the city’s airport to catch a bus or flight, I tried to leave enough time for sightseeing.

When I came back from a trip to New York City, I made time in between flights to visit the Bata Shoe Museum—which included an exhibit on Arctic clothing and shoes from around the world, offering an intriguing history of each place through the evolution of footwear.

Algonquin Provincial Park

I went to Algonquin Provincial Park in mid-October, and the leaves were a blend of red, orange and yellow.  As my friends and I hiked through the park, I was astonished at the untouched natural environment: trees blocking paths and snaking rivers.

As far as I know, if there’s a tree in the way, it’d be removed quickly in Japan.


As the largest city in Quebec, Montreal is also known for its high quality public art, such as renowned street graffiti.

The streets of Saint Laurent and Rue Saint-Dominique are the most famous, however, walking around is the best way to come across the great public works.  Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, a stunning neo-Gothic that presents the AURA light show, combines orchestral music and visual storytelling seamlessly.

Meanwhile, the Jean-Talon market near Little Italy was a perfect place to buy local souvenirs, surrounded by coffee shops, and a fitting background for my Instagram. 


I spent two days in Ottawa, visiting Parliament Hill, the National Gallery of Canada, the ByWard Market, and Alexandra Bridge. As I visited Parliament Hill on Remembrance Day, I could feel Canadians’ grief and pride as we commemorated soldiers who died during World War I.

From the Canadian Museum of History, you can see Ottawa’s historical Fairmont Chateau Laurier. After I went inside this luxurious hotel, I saw the photos of notable guests like Princess Diana. I felt special—I was in the same place as royalty.

Québec City

Old Québec is a UNESCO world heritage treasure, with the area’s Petit Champlain Street voted as the most beautiful street in the country by the Canadian Institute Planners in 2014.

The language barrier in Québec made me feel like I was in a different country entirely, but it gave me an opportunity to communicate in French. I visited Old Québec almost every day during my stay. Plus, Petit Champlain has great food and its stores are lined up along gorgeously lit streets.

New York City

If you don’t mind over-crowdedness, there are plenty of sights in Manhattan.

This wasn’t my first visit to New York City, but I still got lost in its subway. New Yorkers were very kind to help me out, and the lively and international-friendly atmosphere always pushes me to enjoy such an inclusive environment. 

I saw the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Broadway theatres, the Brooklyn Bridge, Rainbow Bagel stores, and the American Museum of Natural History. Usually, Brooklyn Bridge isn’t crowded, but I went on New Year’s Day: it was so busy, I could barely move.

While the photos from my trip show a picture-perfect experience, travelling alone in a new continent was scary at times. The subway confused me so much I spent an hour wandering around without WiFi.

However, these experiences made me a better traveler. I had almost no trouble using Toronto subway after my trip to New York, and days in Québec and Montréal motivated me to improve my French speaking skills.

The excitement of travel still made up for the troubles I had, and when I was done, I found a new home and friends that span across a continent.

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