My exchange programme is over. It’s time to leave Canada and return to the UK. But before I fly back, I will spend some time with family on this side of the Atlantic (or as we like to call it, the ‘pond’). Fortunately my parents decided to join me in London, so we made the seemingly short journey up to the Blue Mountain resort for some skiing – a hobby I love but rarely get to enjoy. It had been 4 years since I last planted my feet atop two strips of composite fibre to descend a snow-covered mountain. I couldn’t wait to get going again.
As we drove deeper into rural Middlesex county, Ontario, heading away from the centre of London, I began to appreciate the true scale of this vast country. Driving progressively into what seemed a rural wilderness, made me realise just how ‘un-rural’ this was. A four hour drive in snowy conditions allowed us to cover such an insignificant portion of one province, let alone the country. In the UK, a four hour drive would get me from Southampton to Manchester – almost half the length of the country! [pictures] I’m likely to return to the UK and speak of all the fantastic experiences ‘Canada’ has to offer, when realistically, I only saw 1 province out of 10.
But during this drive I think of all the experiences I’ve had whilst here, all the sights I’ve seen, hobbies I’ve rediscovered, food I’ve devoured, and the people I’ve met… I think of the professors that taught me, and how their styles differ from those in the UK. I think of the incredible friends I made and how each of us have come from such different walks of life, yet all miraculously ended up at the same location and bonded so well. You have all made a mark; all left your footprint on my life story. And unlike this season’s snow, they won’t fade with time. From sharing languages and insane gastronomic creations (shoutout to my fellow ‘foodies’!), getting stuck into new hobbies, exploring the famous as well as untouched areas of Ontario; to engaging in meaningful conversations and debates, as well as sharing advice, guidance and late night election tears; to those I saw regularly for lunches, coffee breaks and movie nights, to the infrequent, fleeting ‘corridor conversations’ with those I barely got the chance to befriend.
Strangely, I also think of the many taxi drivers I encountered, each with a unique and equally interesting/arresting story: the two avid football-supporting Turkish men that were keen to set up their own automotive sales businesses, with hopes of revisiting their Turkish family in the near future; the young Nigerian ‘yuppie’ who, despite openly preferring Canada to any other country he had visited, was studying full-time with hopes of returning to his roots in Nigeria to manage the supply chain of an international company; and the Moroccan lady who (out of eight siblings) deemed herself exceptionally fortunate to be a migrant, a working mum, and the wife of a respectful Polish husband.
All of us are so different in culture, yet so similar in the values we share. Willing (and able) to move across the world in order to give ourselves (and those around us) the best chances of success. We all chose Canada to be our home, whatever the motives and regardless of the duration. And what a fantastic home it has been.
See you soon, eh? [Translation: Until next time, Canada.]