As an exchange student from the University of British Columbia at the University of Washington this academic year, I’ve had highs and lows and done some exploring of our beautiful Pacific Northwest. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything! I remember my first day here thinking that the cultures would be so similar that I wouldn’t notice any differences between them. I expected that the biggest culture shock would be the sudden lack of Tim Hortons and poutine, but I was definitely wrong. While living everyday life, I noticed several small but distinct cultural differences, from bus etiquette to food choices; the difference between our two countries was definitive. One big cultural difference became evident when I ruffled some feathers with my roommates around the American postal system. Turns out, here in the United States, you can use your mailbox to send out mail using clips or flags to show the mail carrier which letters are outgoing; in Canada, this isn’t a normal practice. Without realizing it, I had brought in my roommates’ time-sensitive mail for about ten days in a row, which obviously made it late. I apologized profusely and learned my lesson to check the address of the letters before bringing them in—and got a reality check that I was in an entirely different country.
Thanks to the awesome international student program here at UW, there were tons of opportunities to explore Seattle and the surrounding area. From local trivia night and Seattle scavenger hunts to hikes and exploration in the nearby beautiful wilderness, I’ve explored so much of this cool city. One of my favorite experiences so far was a day trip hike to Mount Rainier. Although we obviously didn’t make it to the summit, we hiked to a pretty high altitude and experienced the spectacular views, and I bonded with my fellow exchange students. I’ve gone on several other adventures with these friends, exploring downtown, visiting Christmas markets, skating in Bellevue, and even taking ferry trips to Bainbridge. As big Grey’s Anatomy fans, we were all very excited to take the same ferry rides that Derek Shepherd took. The views from the ferry were unmatched and Bainbridge was an absolute darling island to explore. As students, we took advantage of the free entry or discounts offered by Seattle’s museums; we learned to navigate the downtown area and experienced Seattle’s amazing art scene. A couple of friends and I actually got to see Brandon Stanton, the creator of the Humans of New York photoblog, speak at the orchestra hall here in Seattle, which was a very cool and informative experience. The concert scene is amazing here as well; from big, well-known artists to cool, indie bands, Seattle is a great place to explore music. Seattle’s reputation for great music precedes it, but I didn’t expect that it would be so easy to get involved in.
The school experience has also been a slight adjustment. One of my courses required me to do a service-learning project, which was a new experience but I gained skills to add to my resume, which helped me grow as an individual. I loved the face-to-face contact with visitors from all over the country and sometimes the world. It was a very cool experience as a foreigner to see such an inside role of the tourism industry. The Greek system at UW was also a huge difference for me, especially at the beginning of the year during rush when all the fun events such as serenades are happening. To witness these events was amazing. With such a big and diverse school, the options of clubs and activities are plentiful. Because of this and the convenient placement of the campus right along the water, I actually got to learn to surf this year! Every other year of university I have learned to do something new: skiing, surfing, and rock climbing. It was good to continue this tradition here at UW. Sailing in the bay here was also a new experience and a great way to make new friends and explore the outdoors.
Overall, I’ve had many new experiences here at UW. Living in the beautiful Emerald City has given me memories and connections that’ll last my life through. Not only have I met amazing locals, who I plan on visiting often, I have also been blessed to meet some foreigners who have offered to show off their hometowns to me. In return, I got to take several Europeans to Canada and be their personal guide in Vancouver, which was incredibly exciting for everyone. After navigating what was a new city for all of us, it was good to be able to show some of them Canada for the first time so they could experience the similarities and differences first hand, and I will forever treasure the time spent doing so.
This experience, I’m sure, will be the gift that keeps giving. I think more people should use the close and important relationship between Canada and the United States to explore the beautiful continent of North America and protect our close bond. I thank the Corbett family for this amazing opportunity and applaud them for giving us students this chance!
The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program Fund provides an opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Washington to spend two semesters at the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria; and for students from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria to spend three quarters at the University of Washington.