Wednesday, August 27th 2014: I woke up at 6 am: Even though I could have slept longer, I was too excited to lie down again.
I stepped out of my bed, walked and looked around the room. For the first time, I understood, that I would leave all these things in my room, at home; my safe environment in Germany.
And I? I would simply take the 22-kilogram heavy suitcase and step out of the door into the real world, where I would be responsible for myself. (I remember thinking that I would almost be an adult, but, as I realised later, I was not.)
On the one hand I was on top of the world: it was a great summer day and I was looking forward to the flight to Kamloops, where I would meet my new host family, a lot of new friends, and experience a fantastic time in Canada. On the other hand, I was sad, because I had to leave my family, my friends and everything else, besides my memories and my suitcase, at home.
My family and me drove to the Airport in Frankfurt, where I checked in and met Greta and Felix: two students from Germany, who flew with me to Kamloops. At the same moment, it was time to say good-bye to my family. Although I had been looking forward to this great adventure, I had also been thinking about this sad moment for two months. I finally gave my parents a last hug and afterwards, I went through the control.
The two hours waiting for the boarding felt like an eternity for me, because I thought a lot about the past with my family and friends; at the same time, I was thinking about the following five months in Canada.
After we finally got on the plane and everybody found his seat, the plane took off and the 10,000 kilometre long journey began.
Then the first bad news arrived: the TVs did not work for the whole flight because the electronic system dropped out…
Almost everybody on the plane fell asleep and I also tried to sleep, but could not, because I was too excited. I was not able to put my feelings into words: I was happy, excited and sad to leave Germany at the same time.
After 10 long hours of excitement, confusion but also some incredible beautiful views over Greenland and Canada, we arrived in Vancouver.
At 6 pm local time and 27 hours awake, we finally sat on the small propeller machine to Kamloops and everybody was happy, because everything worked well in Vancouver.
On the one hand, we were relieved, because we arrived safe and without any problems in Kamloops. On the other hand, we were still really excited because we would meet our host families in the next few minutes. We knew, that we would live with them together for five months and we would spend a lot of time with them. I hoped that I would get along well with them and I also had some expectations. For example, I wished to have an open-minded and very active host family, who would do a lot of activities with me and show me the country Canada. In addition I hoped, that I would not have to change host families.
I went into the airport building and met my new host mother, a 50-year-old married woman with two children. On the way home I talked with her and I was really happy, because she was really nice and friendly. Another point was, that I had a fifteen-year-old host brother, who really enjoyed sports and especially skiing like me. Besides, the family was very active and they seemed like the perfect host family for me.
After the first two days, I decided to change my host family, because my host family had a cat: which nobody told me before I arrived in Canada. I have a strong cat allergy, which leads to breath problems in the first days. In addition, as it turned out later, it would not work out with my host family and me. Even though they first seemed like the perfect one, we had different standards and expectations. I contacted my international counsellor and I was glad, that she understood my issues with the family and was very helpful. She phoned me back on the same day, to tell me that she already found a new host family for me and I could move in on the same day. Now I had to explain my decision to my host family; I felt bad and it was not easy; but even so I was glad, that they were understanding and they accepted my decision.
My host mother drove me to the place of my new host family and after I thanked her for the warm-hearted welcome and also for the understanding for my change, I met my new family: my host father, who loved cooking and watching sports, my host mother, who was a nurse in the hospital and enjoyed reading, and my host grandmother, who was still really active and involved in sports. In the following days, I was really happy; I did not doubt my decision to change at all and I enjoyed the time with my host family. My host parents did a lot of activities with me: they showed me Kamloops, the region and my dad and I enjoyed going into our pool and hot tub every day… :) Although I never thought about having an older couple with children, who are already grown up, as a host family, I loved it and I would recommend to everybody to be open-minded to every host family. But besides, I can say that I am really glad, that I took this way and made this decision, although it was not easy.
Even though the experience with my first host family was overwhelming, I noticed later that it was an experience, which would help me in Canada: It would aid me to become a responsible adult. (I know it sounds "clever-clever", but trust me: it is true.) :)
During the first three weeks, the teachers in B.C. were on a strike and every student enjoyed the summer without school. We, the international students, had a meeting every day at the international school. It was supposed to replace the real school, but, as everybody can imagine, 50 students from ages 15-19 do not really pay attention to a "teacher" who tries to explain the difference between an adjective and a verb. :) The school district tried to keep us busy and it was a great opportunity to meet new friends from around the world, this experience helped me to improve my English before the "real" Canadian school (or how we Germans would say: the serious of life) would start: it also helped to get a better orientation in Kamloops. (Especially getting to know its fast food and shopping facilities… :)
Since we are already speaking about Fast Food Restaurants, I can continue here and recommend Tim Horton’s as the real Canadian experience (although an U.S. American Fast Food Restaurant just bought it… but Canadians avoid speaking about that). Everybody has to try the donuts at Tim Horton’s; another must-do is going to DQ (McDonalds in better) :) and eating a Burger at A&W.
After three weeks, school finally started and I was really excited; however, as it turned out later, I did not have to worry, because even when I had problems with finding the right way to the classrooms in the huge school building (where everything looked the same), there was always an understanding student or teacher who was able to help. My school was South Kamloops Secondary School: it has 1,800 students from grades 8–12 and it is divided into two buildings. My four subjects were English 10, Pre-Calcius 11, PE 11-12 and Psychology 11. I enjoyed having these four subjects every day because I got to know my very competent, open-minded teachers and every student in my classes very well. In contrast to the other students, who changed almost every class, I did not have to change one class.
I can recommend taking some classes in Canada, which you cannot take at your school in Germany, such as Cooking, Drama or Psychology. Although I enjoyed every one of my classes, I have to say that Psychology was definitely one of my favourites because I had a great teacher and learned a lot of interesting things about human development, self-esteem etc. We also did some interesting projects (e.g. about child abuse, adolescence) and I am sure, that I will use the lessons I learned in my every day live.
The first weeks, which flew by really fast, were great and a lot of students asked me if I would like to spend my lunch with them. In addition, I met some good friends and I got to love the Canadian school, which, when compared to the German school, is actually pretty easy. My Canadian teachers explained to me that homework is not useful at all and I totally agreed. I will try to convince my teachers in Germany, but I have a bad feeling that it will not work. :)
All together I have to say, that the school systems and especially my school, represented the Canadian lifestyle: the people are always smiling and happy, but at the same time, much more relaxed. For example Canadians do not care as much as the Germans about clothing and fashion. Most of the students at my school came in sweat pants to school and so I did too.
Another point of the school in Canada is the school spirit, which was for me very impressive. When the football team or the basketball team was playing, almost the whole school was watching the game. (Even when it was during school.)
We had a Spirit day with the topic: school colours, which were black and yellow (for me as a BVB supporter exactly the right ones :)) and on this day, everybody, including the principle wore school hoodies and pants.
To conclude, one can say, that the school was a paradise for me; everybody, including the teachers, was really helpful, friendly and at the same time the school was much more relaxed and easier than I am used to know in Germany.
When I first started to think about a certain time in Canada, my parents and me thought a lot about which province, region, school district and school I should choose. After a long time, I finally decided to choose a University City, with approximately 80,000 habitants. (… and the second largest ski area 45 minutes with the vehicle away… :))
Now I would say, I probably thought a little bit too much about my decision, because in my opinion it does not play a huge role, but I am really happy with my decision and felt really comfortable in region, city and school.
The most important thing is, that you are open-minded, flexible and always try to make the best :)
Over a long weekend in October, my host family and I went for a little trip to visit Vancouver, Whistler and Squamish. Even the four-hour drive to Whistler was exciting and the nature was totally impressive with Lakes and the Rockies. After a walk around the Whistler Olympic Village, my dad and I took the Gondola to the top of the mountain. While we were sitting in the Gondola, we saw a bear, but he looked more like a little ant. :)
The view from the top of the mountain was incredible. After one night in a nice hotel, we drove to the new "Sea to Sky Gondola" in Squamish and this time, my host mum, who was afraid of heights, went with us to the top of the mountain. The view in Squamish was even better than in Whistler, because it was very sunny and we could see the huge Rocky Mountains with their snow-capped peaks and, at the same time, the blue infinite ocean. After that, we drove to Vancouver and had two great days in the city, where it is always raining in the fall, except for the weekend, when we were there. We did some great sightseeing, shopping and I got a first impression of Vancouver.
Three weeks later one again, I went with 75 other international students from the school district for two days to Vancouver. We visited Stanley Park, the Aquarium and had five hours in the largest mall in North America for shopping.
Not only that, the school district did a lot of activities with us at least once a month. We went bowling, climbing, and watched a game of the Thompson River University basketball team. We watched a Blazers game: which is the Hockey team of Kamloops and we had a Curling lesson, where my friends and I showed our German Curling talent. Even though we could not convince our teacher of our talent, we, the teacher including, enjoyed laughing at ourselves, when falling on the ice. Curling is not as easy as we thought. :)
One of my favourite activities with the school district was the ski trip to Sun Peaks in November, which is the second largest Ski Resort in Canada. It is about 45 kilometers from Kamloops. The huge group of international students got divided into several groups of skiing and snowboarding levels and we went skiing in these groups the whole time. It was a great day, it was really sunny and we had a great view from the top of the mountain over the Rocky Mountains. At the same time, it was really cold (-35 Celsius) and we had to take some breaks to get warm again. Although we thought that we were already Canadians who are never cold; we had to admit on this day, that we were still not totally Canadian :)
In the following months, I went skiing every weekend and even in the winter school break I went quite often. I just loved it and enjoyed the great weather (almost always sunny), the great conditions and a lot of powder snow.
I spent Thanksgiving weekend with my family and it was a great new experience for me. On Sunday, my host parents and I drove with the vehicle to the aunt of my host mother and her big family, who live 200 metres from our house. (One thing about Canadians: they are too lazy to walk :) and they always take their vehicle. In Canada, there are even Drive-In Cash machines.) We had a delicious Turkey Dinner, which is typical for Thanksgiving, with gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and cranberries. It was a real Canadian Thanksgiving experience with the family spirit.
Christmas time in Canada was interesting because it was quite different to the "usual" German Christmas time, but it was just lovely.
First of all, the most important thing, while the Christmas time here, are the lights on the roof and around the house. Almost everybody has different variations of lights in every colour in the yard. In addition, there are the Christmas lights tours, where you drive through the neighbourhood looking for some ideas for the lighting for the next year.
At Christmas Eve, my host grandmother and the best friend of my host mother came over and we sat together and played some card games while it was snowing outside. (White Christmas! :)) The next morning, we had a great breakfast and afterwards, we first opened our stockings (little socks at the fire place) and later the presents under the Christmas tree (The Canadians love artificial trees :)). I did not expect anything but I got some clothes, candies, socks, a card game, a calendar, etc. and I was really happy. In the early evening, my family and I went again to the aunt of my host mother and we had a delicious Turkey Dinner, which was similar to Thanksgiving.
I would lie if I said I did not miss my family and friends in Germany. There were phases when I missed my family and friends: especially after the first few weeks of excitement in Canada. I experienced the well-known culture shock. In this phase, I was home sick, but I spoke with my host family about this and they always kept me busy. Besides, I did a lot of activities with my friends and I tried not to think too much about my family and friends in Germany.
I can recommend for every "future" international student not to spend too much time in social networks communicating with friends in Germany. (The real friends will wait for you, even when you do not text with them every day :)) Another point is trying to keep yourself busy: help your family and do activities with your friends. For example, I am really into sports, so I went to the local gym during this phase.
But I also can say that to be home sick does not always have to be a bad thing. In this phase I realised how important my family and friends are and I also understood that I am very lucky to be able to spend five months in a country like Canada with such a great host family and with new friends from around the world.
When you first started reading my report about my five months in Canada, you were probably wondering about the title. Now I would like to solve the mystery at this point… :). During my first month in Canada, one Brazilian friend, one Mexican friend and I decided to let our hair grow until the end of our time in Canada.
One of the main reasons was, that we missed our hair cutter at home in our home country and we were too afraid to let the Canadians cut our hair. One reason was because the first guys, who went to different hair cutters in Kamloops, did not actually look great afterwards :). (Sorry to all Canadian hair cutters; I do not mean this personally.) We three had the same idea to let our hair grow and the first thing we would do when we got back in our home country was to visit our hair cutters.
The opinions about my long hair varied widely; especially my host dad did not really like it. Even so I did not want to give up and go to the hair cutter like the Mexican guy :).
I am at the end of my time in Canada and I have to say that it does not look too bad (my host dad would probably disagree :)). But at the same time, I am also looking forward to getting my hair cut in Germany.
Altogether, I had a great time in Canada and I enjoyed every moment. I had the best host family and, besides that, I met a lot of new friends whom I will try to stay in contact with. I am thankful that my family gave me the opportunity to experience such a wonderful time. Also I am thankful for the great support from my organisation Carl Duisberg Centren and especially from Mrs. Rischmann and Mrs. Bopp, who helped making my five months in Canada a wonderful and unforgettable experience. First, they helped me with the change of my host family and afterwards they always contacted me once a month and asked if I would need any help.
Greta and Felix were also really happy, and I definitely can recommend Carl Duisberg Centren to everybody as one of the best organisations.
Not only that, but I also learned a lot of things during my time. Besides the practical things like using the washing machine and the drier (my mother in Germany will love to hear this :)), I improved my English and I became a lot more independent from my parents in different ways.
In contrast to this, I also have to say that my time in Canada was not always great and I was not always happy. My grandmother in Germany says: "There is not always sunshine, there are also some rainy days in life", and this phrase fits for my time in Canada, even so the difficult parts during the five months helped me to grow as a person.
Another important point is that you, as an international student, should always try to keep smiling and being open-minded, although there some difficult phases of your time, because this is a very important part of the Canadian lifestyle. (Canadians always smile :).)
I experienced interesting things during my time. I had a great adventure and fell in love with the country Canada, with the Canadians and with their lifestyle. I recommend everybody to go to another country for a certain time: the time or the specific country does not play a huge role.
Just go and experience a great time! Be always open-minded, friendly and keep smiling!
Let´s go on an adventure!