Glasgow Calling…

Hello Outbound exchange blog readers! My name is Emilie and I am a third year law student at the University of Toronto the University of Glasgow! I flew into Scotland four days ago after a crazy 23 hour, 3 flight, 2 six hour layover epic journey. (Word to the wise, the Brussels airport, not the best airport to spend a six hour layover… the only thing going for them is some super comfy couches to pass out on until you get shooshed away by an angry guard speaking Flemish…) But I made it! I’m currently living in an apartment flat style university residence with 3 awesome girls from all over the globe.

International Orientation started on Monday and I’ve yet to learn anything about the University of Glasgow law school, or Scottish law, or even what courses I’m supposed to be taking (not to worry, that all gets sorted next week, classes don’t begin until the 24th of September). However, I have attended a Ceilidh (Scottish dance party with accordions and fiddles), learned a couple interesting things about Scottish culture and taken plenty of photos to document these discoveries.

1. Sunday Dinner: I arrived in Glasgow Saturday night around 9 in the evening so Sunday was my first full day in the city. Nothing was open… except the place to get a European sim card for my phone and the pub. But really, on a Sunday what more do you need? In Scotland every pub does a Sunday roast “with all the trimmings” (Beef wellington, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, various root veggies). For 6 pounds, this was the perfect introduction to my new home.

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(Notice the Black pudding and Haggis variations on the menu… amazing!)

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2. Scottish Ikea: You know how in Canada you can literally buy everything at Ikea? They’ve taken that to the next level in Europe… Ikea in Scotland sells its own brand of beer… and prawns! Talk about a one stop shop… My flatmates and I were able to furnish our flat AND get grocery shopping out of the way in one trip.

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3. Freshers week: (aka Scottish Frosh week) is next week and as an exchange student I am able to sign up. This is not your Grandma’s frosh week, they take it very seriously in Scotland. While it’s been 8 years since I did frosh the first time around (I know, oh dear, I’m so old…) in Scotland it is not just for first years, so I figured why not? It looks like an awesome way to really get integrated into the University of Glasgow culture. Also, the events look amazing… and confusing? (What is a “Very useful Quiz!?”… will update you all next post.)

That’s all for now readers! I’m off to the clubs fair to sign up for the rowing and riding clubs. The clubs take beginners (which is key as I have no experience with either…). Wish me luck!

The beginning of the journey – …Paris?

View from Tour Montparnasse

View from Tour Montparnasse

Paris is a loaded word. Through its portrayal in countless literature and media, “Paris” often evokes an image of a romanticized, glorified and idealized city. But the word is also swiftly followed by the counter-culture that perpetuates the idea of rude Parisians, formidable pick-pocketers and outdoor chain-smokers. The real Paris, if there is such a thing, perhaps lie somewhere in between.

Studying in Paris does not necessarily lead to a radically different view of the city, but by

Captured on the Les Cars Air France bus on my way into Paris proper

Captured on the Les Cars Air France bus on my way into Paris proper

virtue of a longer stay, and more interactions with the locals, it does offer a more well-rounded view of the city. I would like to preface by stating that after three weeks in Paris, I have not become an expert of the city or of French culture. But I can share some of my experience that may add another dash of colour to your perception of this city.

Let’s start with the facts.

Château de Fontainebleau. Not exactly in Paris proper, but it is located in Île de France.

Château de Fontainebleau. Not exactly in Paris proper, but it is located within Île de France, at a 40 minute train ride from Paris. (The castle is free for students. Show your student card!)

Paris is a city. Though it may be small geographically when compared to Toronto, its population density is far superior. And its long and vibrant history contained pivotal events and characters that shaped modern Western society.

I would like to think that above all, Paris is predicated on human interactions. People who have lived here before, people who live here now, and people who will be living here, (even tourists!), have smeared their painted fingerprints on this city.

The people I have spoken to, whether they be the grocery store staff, the bank counsellor or the restaurant owner, are all incredibly aware of the international and the pluralist nature of the city. They choose to live in a largely French lifestyle, but many of them are from different corners of the globe.

It leads to interesting results, where the tradition and the foreign are very much a part of the city life.

Chocolate store at Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Chocolate store at Saint-Germain-des-Prés. While it attracts large crowds of tourists, it does have heavenly-tasting chocolates and cookies.

Le Petit Prince paraphernalia at Pantheon (which is free for those under 26. Show your passport if you are not an EU citizen!)

The conspicuous and rather out of place Le Petit Prince paraphernalia at the Pantheon (the Pantheon is free for those under 26. Show your passport!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Briefly, Living in Paris:

View from my apartment (located in the 6eme arrondissement)

View from my apartment (located in the 6eme arrondissement)

Housing is expensive, especially when you live within walking-distance to the school. Be prepared to find a French guarantor and open a French bank account prior to signing the lease (which is inherently difficult because French banks require proof of your French residence before allowing you to open an account).

Give yourself a lot of time. It took me 90 minutes to open a French bank account, and a further two and a half weeks to receive my French bank card. I have yet to apply for my residence permit, but I have already been sent back-and-forth between a few places.

French bureaucracy is tedious. I would highly recommend making multiple copies of all your official documents before coming to Paris.

Walk. Or take the metro. When it comes down to it, Paris is a small city. I can walk to most of the places I need to go. If you do not like the 30 minute trek from Saint Sulpice Church to Rue Mouffetard, there is always the reliable and frequent metro. But I would suggest you walk, because you will be walking through the Luxembourg Gardens (which is always beautiful).

Speak French. It is a wonderful time to practice. I was pleasantly surprised by how nice most Parisians were to me when I make an effort to speak French (majority are nice even when you speak English, but you will see the relief in their eyes when you switch to French).

Your student status is wonderful. Most, if not all, national museums and castles are free when you present your student card or passport. This includes the Louvre, the Rodin Museum, Musée d’Orsay, Château de Versailles and many more. You will also receive discounts on metro tickets and metro cards. Not coming to Paris when you are young and spry seems such a waste, non?

 

Next entry on life in Sciences Po, and attempt at figuring out the Sciences Po methodology (la problématique, un exposé en deux parties anyone?)

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An Introduction to Denmark

Rain, rain, go away… Come again another day.

On second thought, you really don’t have to come back at all.

It is with this new found mantra that I begin my term at Aarhus University, in the beautiful country of Denmark.

The many colours of Copenhagen, Denmark's capital.

The many colours of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital.

First of all, I have to admit that upon choosing Denmark as my country for exchange, I knew little about it – its customs, its people, or its climate. In all honesty, the only thing I did know when choosing my host school was that I wanted to do a semester abroad in Europe… Anywhere in Europe.

The school I ended up choosing seemed to fit perfectly. Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, has a university with a solid psychology program, courses taught in English (my aptitude for languages is, let’s just say, not the best), and a semester that lined up with U of T’s so I could return for my last spring term at home. Jackpot!

When the sun is shining, Aarhus University's campus is breathtaking. I could get used to this!

When the sun is shining, Aarhus University’s campus is breathtaking. I could get used to this!

It was after deciding on Aarhus and beginning preparation for my departure to a new country that I started gaining more information about good old Denmark.

The first thing I learned (something I’m still very curious about!) is that Denmark has consistently ranked within the top 3 of the “happiest countries in the world”. So far, it’s not hard to see why this place is so happy – life here definitely seems a lot more laid-back than the busy streets of Toronto I’ve become accustomed to. And everyone is just so friendly!

That brings me to one of the things I love most about this area of the world – the people. As soon as I stepped off the plane and into Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, I felt a welcoming air from everyone I met. Being the silly foreigner, I had no choice but to ask a lot of stupid questions, fumble a lot with this strange new money (Danish kroner, by the way), and look at everyone with stunned Bambi eyes whenever they tried to speak Danish to me. Everyone I met, however, took this in stride (not to mention with a lot more patience than most of the people I know back home would’ve!), and that made all the difference. Friendly people make going to a strange new corner of the world just that much easier. And Aarhus has even come to gain the nickname “the City of Smiles” – now how you can you not be happy living in a town with a name like that?

Aarhus, "The City of Smiles".

Aarhus, “The City of Smiles”.

Unfortunately, there was one thing that I hadn’t learned about before arriving in Denmark, something I was totally unprepared for… the weather.

Being a self-proclaimed sun worshipper, it was with extreme disappointment I discovered that the long stretch of rainy, cloudy weather we’d been having here in Denmark wasn’t just a fluke – it was a fact of life. Having packed a plentiful supply of shorts, tanks, and sunscreen (perhaps a little too optimistically… it is Northern Europe after all), it’s with sadness (and a little fear) that I continually hear the phrase, “You think the weather’s bad now? Wait until October…”

Regardless of the weather, Aarhus is a beautiful place, rain or shine. It’s a small city of about 300,000, that somehow has the intimate feeling of a tiny European village wrapped up in its hustle and bustle. Turning one corner out of the main and very chic shopping street, brings you right into a quaint, close-knit, village-like neighbourhood. So basically, I can take in the feel of small town Europe, while at the same time being seconds away from some of the country’s best shopping. Definitely not complaining!

I'll leave you with the image of a typical Danish breakfast. Tell me, how does everyone here stay so fit?!

I’ll leave you with the image of a typical Danish breakfast. Tell me, how does everyone here stay so fit?!

In short, it’s with excitement (and without my sunglasses, sadly) that I begin my term, and look forward to an eventful stay in Europe. Let’s see if I can survive this rain, and figure out the secret to Denmark’s happiness!

Cheers,

Patrick