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More than just a friendly neighbor — Corbett Scholar Kelsey Rudes

Kelsey at the new Climate Pledge Arena, waiting for the Kraken game to start. Photo credit: Kelsey Rudes.

April 18, 2022

I always considered Canada our friendly neighbor to the north, but prior to this program, I did not think much further than that. I knew we had close economic and political ties, and that we have defensive commitments to one another, but it goes so much deeper than that. This program has given me the time and space to explore the relationship further, and I am surprised by how intertwined our two countries are, both at the complex international level, down to the familial ties and athletic experiences that we share.

One of my favorite aspects of the Corbett Virtual Exchange Program has been the workshops, where we have heard from two experts on the relationship our countries have. The first workshop was with the U.S. Consulate General in Vancouver, and his talk helped us to understand many of the formalities and complexities of the Canada-U.S. relationship, as well as what it is like to serve in the foreign services. His talk led me to think about how interconnected we are through formal economic and political agreements, but also how we are connected in less formal ways. The second workshop we had focused on our shared identity as the Salish Sea, and it really changed the way I looked at regional identities in the Pacific Northwest. We are one shared region, the Salish Sea, and the speaker had perspective shifting maps that drove home the point that our regional identity spans beyond borders and territories.

In addition to the two speaker workshops, we are encouraged to participate in different events that expand upon the Canada-U.S. relationship. I have participated in two so far, the first of which was a virtual event hosted by the Burke Museum in Seattle that featured historical North Coast artwork from the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Hearing the stories and seeing important artifacts of indigenous tribes in the Salish Sea region reiterated how connected our histories and cultures are. The second event I attended was a panel discussion on the Evolution of the Arctic Council. It looked at how the Arctic has changed since the founding of the council and what that means for future activities and the global system, both of which are important to the U.S. and Canada as member states of this council. This event was particularly illuminating considering current events, and it reinforced the shared commitments that Canada and the U.S. have with one another.

Credit: Twitter.

While the speakers and events have introduced me to many of the complexities of the Canada-U.S. relationship, the program has challenged me to think about the ways our countries interact in less formal or political ways. Hearing about the fluid border experiences of my cohort, where many people have either lived in both countries or have family members spread across the two, has reinforced the shared experience of living in this region, and it made me reflect on a shared athletic experience that occurred prior to joining the exchange program.

While hockey may not be as popular in Washington as it is in Canada, it was a huge deal to Seattle when the Kraken were announced as the next NHL team. After months and months of anticipation, the Seattle Kraken played their first home game on October 23, 2021 against the Vancouver Canucks. As a demonstration of cross-border competitive spirit, the BC Premier, John Horgan, made a bet with Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, that the Canucks would win (with salmon as the wager, naturally). Unfortunately for the Kraken, the Canucks won 4 to 2, but it is a perfect example of how Canada is much more than the “friendly neighbor up north”. Sure, we share formal political ties, international agreements, and economic treaties, but we also share similar cultures, histories, personal relationships. I hope to continue to explore more of these informal ways our countries intertwine, and I look forward to the next few months of this program.

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.

Canadian Studies Center

Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650