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Cross-border cultural differences – Corbett scholar Cole Carey

Husky Spirit at 2108 W Day. Photo credit: University of Washington

February 13, 2020

The Corbett program is a great opportunity that gives people a better understanding of all the cultural differences that there are between Canada and the US. Even though Victoria and Seattle are only about 100 miles apart, some of the differences I have already noticed even after just my first quarter at UW are surprising.

First impressions

The first main difference I noticed is about how holidays are celebrated in the U.S. For instance, in Victoria stores will still be open on Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated in October), but for Thanksgiving in the U.S. some friends and I decided to go out and drive around Seattle, and it was a little shocking how almost everything was closed. So that is one thing for people to remember if they are from Canada and going to be participating in the Corbett program.

I also noticed differences in the overall academic class structure in Seattle compared to Victoria. For example, if you have a class that is two hours or longer your professor will give the class a break about halfway through which confused me because in Victoria you could have a three hour lecture without any breaks or pauses.

Another noticeable difference–and probably one of my favourite things about being given this opportunity–is the sports environment. At UVic if there is a game people still show up, but it is nothing like at UW. At UW there are signs put out early saying that there will be traffic delays, some streets are practically closed on game day because of how busy they are and everybody is wearing purple and gold to show their support.

Exploring one of  Seattle’s main attractions

One place I made sure to visit during one of my days off was Pike Place Market and the gum wall. People always talk about both those places when they talk about Seattle. This is why I had to make sure I went at least once during my exchange. I had no idea how busy it got or how much there was to do there until I saw it for myself. There are so many food options to try so you have to go more than once to try them all.

Pike Place Market. Photo credit: Emily Roy.

The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program, housed at the Canadian Studies Center, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, 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. More information about the program and how to apply is available here