Coleen G. – The Pack https://thepack.unm.edu Student Stories at The University of New Mexico Tue, 19 May 2020 21:06:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6 71725995 What I Will Miss Most https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/what-i-will-miss-most/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/what-i-will-miss-most/#respond Tue, 19 May 2020 21:06:07 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17380 It is the end of the semester, by the time this is published I may be officially done with my exchange. Finals end Friday and then there will only be some odds and ends of paperwork to sort out. I feel like the time flew by and it was still too short a time to […]

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It is the end of the semester, by the time this is published I may be officially done with my exchange. Finals end Friday and then there will only be some odds and ends of paperwork to sort out. I feel like the time flew by and it was still too short a time to live in Montreal. My exchange taught me about myself and about Canada but most of all it gave me the opportunity to make new relationships with people from all over the world.

Home for the past 7 months – My Adorable Apartment

A Virtual Good-Bye

After being home for a few weeks during the quarantine I was starting to feel like nothing had changed. I felt almost as if my exchange had not happened. In some ways, the odd limbo of a pandemic was a nice distraction from how much I missed everyone in Montreal. A few days ago my friends from Power to Change made a “We’ll Miss You, Coleen” video. The video was many clips of people sharing the memories we made.

I was surprised by the people who had taken the time to send in a video and say something kind. Watching it made my exchange feel real for the first time since my hurried return. It gave me the closure I needed and a reminder that I had had an impact on the city and people I missed. I hadn’t realized how a simple thing like eating lunch in the same place on campus everyday one of the most meaningful ways I made friends. 

Meal-Prepping for lunches on campus in the apartment kitchen

I miss the People’s Potato, the student-run soup kitchen for students. Eating lunch there I met and developed many friendships. I also miss the coffee shops with French coffee sizing. The truly local grocery stores run by a family I could get to know are hard to find here. I miss the apartment cooking with my roommates in our white kitchen. The maple trees are going to bloom soon and I am sorry to miss the turn of the season to summer with the other international students. I miss my friend’s apartment and playing board games after church. I miss my church that met on the 8th floor of an office building.

The view from our church building

It was a huge shock to go from living in a city of 4.2 million people on an island that’s only 10 miles across by 30 miles long to a town of 100,000 in an area the size of West Virginia. Not to mention the country shutting down. So it has all seemed surreal. But watching that video brought me back to reality. There are many things I left undone and saying a proper goodbye is one. I will return someday but for now, the virtual good-bye will have to do.

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The Unexpected Party https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/the-unexpected-party/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/the-unexpected-party/#respond Thu, 09 Apr 2020 17:06:00 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17336 “PARRRRTAYYYYY….!” My roommates sauntered through the door with three “iced caps” (the signature Canadian drink from Tim Hortons) and a chocolate cake sticking out of their grocery bags. “Can you take a break?” they asked, looking at me expectantly. I had been packing for the last hour trying to decide about leaving, everything strewn about […]

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“PARRRRTAYYYYY….!” My roommates sauntered through the door with three “iced caps” (the signature Canadian drink from Tim Hortons) and a chocolate cake sticking out of their grocery bags. “Can you take a break?” they asked, looking at me expectantly. I had been packing for the last hour trying to decide about leaving, everything strewn about my room, yes, I thought, I can take a break.

Treats from the roommates for our last night together

Friday

The first day that school was canceled was a Friday. In Montreal, whispers of a virus in Toronto reached my friends as we enjoyed a game night. Conversation lilted from classes and exams to COVID. We had no idea that school being canceled for one Friday would turn into an entire semester completed online. 

Saturday

I called my parents the next morning to discuss what I was to do if school was canceled for a few weeks. We both decided that it would be best for me to stick it out, wait for school to start again. After all, I didn’t want to miss classes trying to get back to Canada from Alaska, I didn’t want to miss the Montreal experiences that I had planned. 

Sunday

That was Saturday, on Sunday the president of the United States started limiting travel from Europe and many other countries. Cases in Canada had doubled overnight and deaths in Italy had sky-rocketed. Trudeau’s wife had been diagnosed with coronavirus and the WHO declared a worldwide pandemic. The NHL canceled all upcoming games, so much for Montreal experiences.

Sunday still, McGill college suspended all in-person procedures, including final exams. Concordia communicated in short emails. They assured students that decisions were in the process of being made. By Sunday evening, I took my friend to the airport to say goodbye. Their flight had been canceled and rescheduled twice already.

There were only two other families in line for check-in, the rest of the airport seemed empty. At customer service to rebook the flight, a skeletal staff manned the desks. I called home. But not my mother this time. My ex-military uncle. He was very clear, “Come home”, he said, “this won’t be over for a while and it’ll get worse before it gets better”. I found a flight leaving the next morning for a quarter of the usual price and booked it. I thought the 24-hour cancelation policy would give me time to think about it. Shortly after that, Concordia suspended class for the next two weeks. 

Back at the Apartment

When I arrived at our apartment I texted my roommates, explaining that I had booked a ticket to leave. I explained that it would probably just be two weeks, but I am not sure what is going on and my family thinks it will be best if I am home so I am packing. When they walked in the door bearing gifts they asked, “How much are you packing?” “Everything,” I said. As a minimalist, there wasn’t much to pack. As a pragmatist, I packed for the worst-case scenario. 

Packing Everything – A bit of a mess…

We spent the evening packing and reminiscing about being roommates, with music and laughter and a few tears. I kept saying I would be right back. And I will surely visit again, but as the borders remain closed, it seems unlikely it will be soon.

Our last night together… for a while

Our unexpected party became an unexpected parting and in the morning I boarded a plane with only five other passengers. All the way home I wondered if it was silly to leave, not to mention considering the ramifications of bringing the virus home to my family in Alaska. Not knowing how school would be handled, I made the best decision I could. With only a hunch that things wouldn’t go back to normal for a very long time. I felt like the hobbit saying goodbye to unexpected friends that had become dear. But also as if I was embarking on a new adventure, not knowing what was ahead or how long it would last.

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My Last Week in Montreal… https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/my-last-week-in-montreal/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/my-last-week-in-montreal/#respond Wed, 25 Mar 2020 18:15:39 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17252 I spent the week seeing the best of Montreal with a friend. Little did I know I would be packing all my belongings into two bags and boarding a plane with a one-way ticket at the end of that week.  The week of exploration felt like a vacation inside this exchange right inside the city. […]

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I spent the week seeing the best of Montreal with a friend. Little did I know I would be packing all my belongings into two bags and boarding a plane with a one-way ticket at the end of that week. 

The week of exploration felt like a vacation inside this exchange right inside the city. Time to get to know Montreal even better and it turns out my guide to Montreal was indeed missing a few activities that I will add when I return to Montreal someday. I want to take vacations right where I am living from now on.

Lac Castor – Mont-Royal Parc, Montreal Quebec

The highlight of the week was somewhere between finding Lac Castor and the Botanic Gardens.

After a few detours and explorations, I found a route that took less than 6 miles to run. I wanted to route us up to the lookout (mentioned in a previous post), then down past the cross, and finally down the other side to see 270 degrees of the city in one morning. Aerial views of the city bookended our week. Once from up on Mont-Royal and then again on La Grande Roue.  

We booked an AirBnB a block away from Concordia in the center of downtown. We got to see the sunrise and set over the Montreal Skyline. A new vantage point of the city from a few miles away and 30 floors up was a really fun way to know it even better.

Les Jardins Botanique

The botanic gardens were a gem even in the winter, quiet on a midweek day. “The Strange Plants of Madame Z” opened for a spring special event, which was a look into some of the world’s most strange and Dr. Suess-like plants with a fun theme of a steam-punk investigation occurring. I saw the advertisement for it on a billboard in the metro and I am so happy they did a good job advertising.

The entrance to the Exhibit- a cheeky display

As we went along we saw signs pointing us toward the exposition. Before the final exposition, we wandered through each beautiful space. I felt a pang of nostalgia in the southwestern exhibit, reminded of Albuquerque. Separate climate-controlled halls broke up the large facility. Each one represented a different place in the world. Montreal did such a good job of bringing us a taste of the many climates in the world. I am inspired to travel more, to seek out those strange and wonderful creations we got a glimpse of at the Gardens. 

….African Dr. Seuss like plants – name unknown
Strange Plants – the Staghorn Fern

La Grande Roue

On the last full night, we took a ride on the La Grande Roue, the 60-meter Ferris wheel in Montreal and saw it from above again, as the city lights sparkled below us. By the end of the week, Old Port had become a ghost town, and all of Montreal lay silent beneath our feet. 

The view from the ferris wheel

I am finishing writing this from Alaska. I had no idea when I started writing this that I would no longer be able to blog from my host country about my exchange. Like most of the country, I find life feeling a little upside down… Right now, I do not know when I will be going back. I am slowly getting used to the idea that I no longer live in Canada… I feel blessed to have so much to miss. This experience has been a good lesson in taking advantage of the opportunities when you have the chance. Everyone is going to have their own story of the week when the pandemic was announced. I will try to record mine next month, hopefully with a few more answers.

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“Reading Week” Reflections – (Or “Spring Break”) https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/reading-week-reflections-or-spring-break/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/reading-week-reflections-or-spring-break/#respond Wed, 25 Mar 2020 18:12:47 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17209 The last week of February is Concordia’s “winter semester” a week-long break. It does not coincide with any other school’s breaks, different from even the university’s down the street and so I found myself boarding a plane with businesspeople and retirees, one’s unbound to the conventional early March break timing. Here, only the Americans call […]

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A view of one Concordia building from the Engineering Building

The last week of February is Concordia’s “winter semester” a week-long break. It does not coincide with any other school’s breaks, different from even the university’s down the street and so I found myself boarding a plane with businesspeople and retirees, one’s unbound to the conventional early March break timing. Here, only the Americans call it “Spring Break”, the rest call it “Reading Week”. The aim of the week, theoretically, is to get caught up on school before the second half rolls around and leaves any trailing students in the dust. Many Universities have them in the Fall semester too. In the name and in function this break reveals a little of the differences in student culture.

Midterms

From listening to other exchangers, it seems that my program in Canada is much like the European system. The semesters are relatively calm and uneventful, punctuated abruptly with torrents of studying, all-nighters, drastic measures, and a general hectic studying in preparation for midterms and finals. I am aware that many students choose to do this in US schools as well but here it seems to be much more the norm and expected behavior. I get exhausted just listening to the frantic students listing their heroic attempts at learning 6 weeks of material in 24 hours on a red bull and no sleep. “Thank goodness the library is always open 24 hours,” I hear often.

The Library Atrium

On top of foregoing sleep, students also forego attending class during exam weeks. My 300 level courses, 130 people enrolled with a regular attendance of 75-100 people, dwindle to 30 or 40 especially hardy students. Any study groups I have on texting groups become peppered with comments like “skipping for a midterm tomorrow, send me the notes for class”. I can’t determine if I was oblivious in the States or if this points to the different student culture.

Extracurriculars and Study Groups

These are only generalizations about the student attitude and certainly does not apply to all students. I have tried hard to find students who follow a more consistent studying routine like I am accustomed to and have been lucky to find a few. I am looking forward to my UNM study groups when I get back!

One Concrete Toboggan Ski on the table with “Gack” Display piece behind it

In hindsight, I was looking forward to getting more involved in engineering societies this semester, but I have found a commonality in that the clubs center heavily around drinking together in various settings. The groups have amazing projects and Concordia’s Concrete Toboggan received 2nd place overall Canada this year so they manage quite well but I have found it is not generally my scene.

Overall, I am relieved that I have been able to stabilize my own habits to reflect that I am on exchange to learn more than integrals, but that I also want to succeed in school without 24-hour cramming sessions. This semester is going a lot smoother than last semester with that accomplishment.

I am looking forward to the last quarter of my exchange because I think have found an equilibrium. Every met expectation is a blessing and every unmet one has been a learning opportunity. With that, happy spring break!

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A Traveler’s Guide to Montreal – Part 2 https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/a-travelers-guide-to-montreal-part-2/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/a-travelers-guide-to-montreal-part-2/#respond Wed, 26 Feb 2020 18:57:10 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17123 Hello, welcome back to the Montreal Traveler’s Guide, this section can be completed on its own or paired with the previous post. In this post, each paragraph is its own adventure and a convenient stepping stone to the next exploration. St. Laurent Street St. Laurent is a street that spans from Old Port all the […]

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The main road – Maisonneuve at dusk

Hello, welcome back to the Montreal Traveler’s Guide, this section can be completed on its own or paired with the previous post. In this post, each paragraph is its own adventure and a convenient stepping stone to the next exploration.

St. Laurent Street

Eva B and delicious $1 Samosa

St. Laurent is a street that spans from Old Port all the way to Little Italy. Running North-South, and it’s this street that I consider the most diverse. First China Town near Old Port and through the night-life bars and fun coffee shops. Along the way, a detour to La Banquise may supply exactly the energy you need for the rest of the walk. For shopping or perusing, there some great thrift stores or bakeries. My personal favorite near St. Laurent is a thrift store and cafe/bistro called Eva B, it is a very unique and strange experience. It is easy to miss that there are nearly three floors so take some time to explore. It is an adventure in itself. Additionally, the $1 samosas are delicious and you can often have a feast for under $5. 

Marche Jean-Talon 

Fun displays and rare items at Jean-Talon

Grabbing the 55 bus will take you all the way down this street if you’d rather view it from a window. Towards the other end of the road, you’ll find the entrance to Little Italy and Montreal’s largest, year-round outdoor market, Jean-Talon. Here the farmers are kind, handing out samples of their fresh produce, telling you where it is from and how it’s grown. Specialty items such as pastries, rare mushrooms, special cheeses, and handmade soaps are easy to find here. Or for grocery shopping, I love looking for discounted fruits and veggies because they are especially cheap. For instance, Quebec apples make a great snack, smaller than the apples I am used to but full of unique flavor, each apple at peak season costs less than $0.50. 

St. Viateur VS Fairmount Bagel

Inside St. Viateur annexed bakery

Making your way back to Outremont and Mile-End area, you will find my own neighborhood. Now it is time for settling your own mind on a long-time dispute about the best Montreal-style bagels. The two most competitive bakeries happen to be within a few blocks of each other. You will know you are close when you see people walking along with paper sacks and chewing on torn pieces of bread. Both bagels are sold for about a dollar each depending on the type. Of the many choices, I highly recommend the classic sesame. Or perhaps, branch out and try the muesli at St. Viateur. At Fairmount, their cranberry and chocolate versions are highly satisfying. there is hardly any seating at the bagel shops themselves, usually with a fast-moving line running out the door.  To capitalize on this many cafes surrounding the bagel shops suggest bringing your bagels there.

St. Joseph’s Oratory

Inside St. Joseph’s Basilica

After that, I suggest grabbing a bus or the metro that will take you straight down along the mountain to a neighborhood called “Cotes-des-Neiges” (Snowy Side). Where the Cathedral and Oratory of St. Joseph beckons grandly from a perch on the south side of Mount Royal. This is the best view of the sunset in Montreal. The balcony faces the opposite direction of the lookout and provides a view of the other half of Montreal. Here the history and heart of the city through the years can be felt and seen. If you can catch the organ playing, it is an astonishing sound inside the basilica. In summer the gardens add landscaped tiers of flora. Through the garden, there is a path that follows the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, ending at one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. 

One view of the fountain from the gardens

What I Love About Montreal 

Sunset at St. Joseph’s

During this journey, I suggest noticing the people that walk the streets. You will see the college students near McGill and Concordia, business people biking in their suits and heels, and the various ethnicities of each district. All tell a story and make up the community that is as transient and comes from as many origins as the water of the St. Laurence. You’ll see the waters of this river any time you near the edge of the island. This river contributes to the economy, geography, and the life of those in Montreal, it’s path winds everything together.

I hope this guide is helpful to someone, and I know I will refer back to it if I return to Montreal years from now, to see how it’s changed and what remains. Best of all, I will be able to remember all the moments with great friends that were along this route, winding my way through Montreal. 

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A Traveler’s Guide to Montreal – Part 1 https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/a-travelers-guide-to-montreal-part-1/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/a-travelers-guide-to-montreal-part-1/#respond Thu, 06 Feb 2020 19:26:49 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17106 For the entire month of January, I bought only two things; groceries and “trips” (defined as transportation and AirBnBs for trips this semester). I was determined to spend less money eating out/buying things. And now, as February begins, I know Montreal better and am inspired by what I learned. I appreciate Montreal more and I […]

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Sunrise in the city of Montreal.
A simple sight of the sun through the steam in the city

For the entire month of January, I bought only two things; groceries and “trips” (defined as transportation and AirBnBs for trips this semester). I was determined to spend less money eating out/buying things. And now, as February begins, I know Montreal better and am inspired by what I learned. I appreciate Montreal more and I know where I want to put my dollars. If I spend money this semester it will be on community or shared experiences. With that knowledge, I have created a Traveler’s Guide to Montreal.

This guide revolves around the island providing a look into the history, beauty, struggle, and joy that are all brought together in the city. There are so many things to do in Montreal that require no money in winter or summer. So this guide is for anyone, the saver, or the gourmand. This guide has a little of everything to help people see the city that people really live in.

This journey could be accomplished all in one day, all on foot or using the metro. However, I suggest taking it piece by piece and going at a pace that is comfortable and allows for the serendipitous occasion, time to appreciate what you find along the way. So each paragraph can be its own outing or just a step along the way.

Start at the Lookout 

At the Mount Royal lookout, you have a view of the north-east side of the island, the classic skyline with the Jacques-Cartier Bridge far off in the distance. This is a beautiful place to be any time of day, most of the year the sunrise occurs directly in front of this lovely spot.

View of a skyline at dark. The view is of the Montreal skyline lit up from a lookout at night.
The Montreal skyline from the lookout at night

Downtown Along St. Catherine

From there you can make your way down many sets of stairs to land on the outskirts of downtown Montreal. Walking toward the large mural of Leonard Cohen painted on the side of a skyscraper will land you in the center of the city and turning left down Rue St. Catherine will provide a walk full of fancy storefronts and elaborate window displays. Along this route are some coffee shops, Concordia University buildings and is often the same route of parades and processions. Instead of walking one can always hop onto the metro, finding the orange or green line and take it straight to Place-Des-Arts. 

View of a tall building called the Concordia Engineering Building.
One view from St. Catherine of Concordia’s Engineering building

Place-Des-Arts

Pedestrians can take advantage of the landscaped and constructed environment outside Place-Des-Arts. There are often students sitting outside, concerts, or people spectating the start of parades. Just below, the underground spaces are feats of engineering. All year long, events take place drawing international talents and the local community of spectators. Outside or in, this is a fun place to be.

View of the interior of a large mall called the Place-Des-Arts.
Inside one of the Place-Des-Arts malls

Old Port

From there, walking a short way to Old-Port or Old Montreal past Le Cathedral de Notre Dame is a humbling experience, the reminiscent french side of Montreal. Out onto the main waterway, a sidewalk opens onto a closer view of the Jacques Cartier Bridge over the St. Lawrence River, the Grand Ferris Wheel and some of the oldest buildings in Montreal. Here there’s good coffee, crepes, and chocolate as well as other Quebecois cuisine. This is a predominantly pedestrian zone which makes walking a great way to experience it. Because of high tourism, things are more expensive, but walking is enjoyable all day long. On the other hand, getting a dipped cone of ice cream at La Diperie or Chocolat-Favoris is a classic addition to this outing, according to my friends who grew up in Quebec.

View of Old Port  Park from behind the Ferris Wheel.
View of Old Port Park from behind the Ferris Wheel

From there, you can head home or stick around! I hope you enjoyed the first part of a traveler’s guide to Montreal, the next half of the tour is coming later this month. Happy Travels, Lobos!

Get to know Coleen here.

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Appreciating Montreal Life https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/appreciating-montreal-life/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/appreciating-montreal-life/#respond Fri, 31 Jan 2020 18:46:34 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17070 When I arrived in Montreal the first time, everything was magical. After a short time away it is magical again. The snow seems to fall without end. The real, cold, winter weather is upon us and we have spent many days below 0 Fahrenheit. I take the subway more frequently, and the cavernous metro stations […]

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Continual Snow and Buried Cars

When I arrived in Montreal the first time, everything was magical. After a short time away it is magical again. The snow seems to fall without end. The real, cold, winter weather is upon us and we have spent many days below 0 Fahrenheit. I take the subway more frequently, and the cavernous metro stations are entertaining. After visiting New York I appreciate our large, open stations much more. 

Snowdon Station – Montreal QC
Outremont Station – Montreal QC

Back to School

I love being in the swing of the semester again and commiserating about homework with my roommates around the dining table. Our textbooks are out and tea is brewing, with the temperature outside, there’s not much else to do anyway… I am thankful for the opportunity to study here. My classes have started well, my professors are kind, and now that I am used to the system I feel much less uncertain about how this semester will go. I am seeing a few familiar faces in my classes too! That is so fun. A lot of people have a relieved face when they see each other after the break as if to say, “Phew, glad to see you made it to the next round too.”

Goal Keeping – No-buy Month

In keeping with my goals, this month I decided to buy nothing but transportation and groceries. 

So far I have purchased three trips, two to the states and one to the countryside in Quebec. A weekend in the country was a beautiful and restorative time. Through the self-imposed restraint on purchases, I have realized what I most care about here and how I later want to prioritize my spending habits. I have not missed going out to most restaurants. It is the experience of other foods that I miss most. Poutine, I miss a little, though eating fewer potatoes and gravy is probably great for my system. I miss the very small things, the one-dollar hot bagels around the corner and the equally inexpensive samosas at my favorite thrift shop in town. Those things I will go back to purchasing. But the rest, I don’t mind foregoing.

Parkside Ranch, Orford Quebec – First Trip Purchase

Freeing up funds to travel has been rewarding, I am delighted with the outcome of this “no-buy” month. This low-consumption choice has increased my ability to see beyond the dizzying availability of physical things to buy and appreciate daily Montreal life. And! I am more informed about what I most want to do with my last months here.

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Preparing for my Second and Last Semester in Canada https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/preparing-for-my-second-and-last-semester-in-canada/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/preparing-for-my-second-and-last-semester-in-canada/#respond Tue, 07 Jan 2020 23:50:56 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=17030 With the New Year, motivation and inspiration are high to keep good habits and build new ones. Upon returning to Canada, I hope to carry the innocent anticipation of greatness into everyday life. I am reluctant to leave my family and friends from home but I look forward to making the most of my last […]

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With the New Year, motivation and inspiration are high to keep good habits and build new ones. Upon returning to Canada, I hope to carry the innocent anticipation of greatness into everyday life. I am reluctant to leave my family and friends from home but I look forward to making the most of my last semester abroad. At the end of the semester, I’ll take a few weeks to travel and enjoy Canada without being in school. That said I have exactly twenty weeks left in Canada. Only sixteen weeks left in my junior year of college.

A Sunrise Picture – My stopover in Denver

Looking Back

This time, the trip across North America from Alaska to Montreal is far less intimidating. Compared to four months ago, I know what to expect. I feel comfortable in my apartment and with where I need to grocery shop. I also have a better understanding of how to traverse the city. Classes will be a new shock and I hope I enjoy the professors I have, I do not recognize any of my new instructor names on paper. I also hope to see some familiar faces.

Returning to my snowy little neighborhood

Looking Ahead

I’m looking forward to making the most out of my relationships and routines. I hope to continue to workout 4-5 times a week, read my Bible in the morning with coffee and do well in classes. This semester marks crunch time for travel goals from Montreal. My travel goals include Nova Scotia, Toronto, and possibly Iceland, though visiting all four in one semester would be quite an undertaking. I don’t want to detract from my studies and wallet too much. 

Putting Reflections and Goals Together

Looking back, my monthly spending has been higher than I think it needs to be with the amount of eating out and traveling I have been doing. One of my New Year’s goals will be to cut back on spending in small ways overall so I have more resources to use for traveling. Eating out less will help me achieve this goal. I am excited to see the friends I have made again. This semester and spend one more exciting semester in Montreal.

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Au Revoir, Quebec https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/au-revoir-quebec/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/au-revoir-quebec/#respond Thu, 02 Jan 2020 18:46:57 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16943 There will be many things I don’t realize I missed until I come back. For now, I feel ready to go, grateful for the time well spent and excited to return to a place a little more familiar, a little more home.  Over the break, I plan to read in French a bit so that […]

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There will be many things I don’t realize I missed until I come back. For now, I feel ready to go, grateful for the time well spent and excited to return to a place a little more familiar, a little more home. 

The YUL Airport

Over the break, I plan to read in French a bit so that I can keep some of my language skills. I am concerned that because I am not taking a french class, next semester my language skills will retract. Hence, I will pack a few french books.  

This exchange has been planned in order to build my engineering knowledge, knowledge of the world, and knowledge of myself. So far those things are being accomplished. That is a satisfying feeling, but I am finding that the thing I will miss most will not be the poutine or the metro, the weather or the cityscape, but I will miss the people. 

It has been delightful to share the days with my roommates, mostly studying silently together and then explaining the random bursts of laughter that occur during studying. My church family, at a little church plant, has been a kind and welcoming group to spend Sundays and coffee dates with. A few engineering friends at school that were fun to commiserate with. The grocer down the street who corrects my french with a gentle smile is a little boost of confidence in this french city. I will miss them the most this break and I am so grateful I have one more semester to spend with them. 

In the last few weeks, with finals and trips, I haven’t reached out to my friends in Albuquerque. This break I am looking forward to a few calls to the desert to hear how life is going. Things are always changing and moving here was a choice I made in spite of it meaning I would miss things. But a phone call can go a long way in keeping relationships strong. 

The church I walk by nearly every day

With a bag full of Quebec Christmas gifts I am heading home. Bon Voyage and Merry Christmas! 

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Quebec City Christmas Experience https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/quebec-city-christmas-experience/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/quebec-city-christmas-experience/#respond Tue, 17 Dec 2019 23:33:10 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16893 Quebec City is known for its authentic German Christmas Market and it’s a spirited celebration of Christmas, the snow covers the rooftops as Christmas lights and red ribbons twirl around the lampposts. As the semester came to a close and I got more pictures of beautiful Quebec, I started to look at my schedule for […]

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A Trip to the Last Walled City in North America

Quebec City is known for its authentic German Christmas Market and it’s a spirited celebration of Christmas, the snow covers the rooftops as Christmas lights and red ribbons twirl around the lampposts. As the semester came to a close and I got more pictures of beautiful Quebec, I started to look at my schedule for the possibility of a trip before I fly home for Christmas. As with everything here, I feel like I only have one cycle of seasons to experience things, one shot to soak it all in. With a 5 day break between two of my finals, I decided to study on-the-go and book a train to Quebec City. The last walled city in North America! The headquarters of the New France back when the french part of North America spanned from Quebec all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Quebec remains the capital of the Province of Quebec and I have been told to visit it by everyone who has been, at least of all my two roommates who grew up there. 

Montreal Train Station

From Montreal, a Canada Rail service travels three hours due east to Quebec City. Out of the window, through the industrialism of the outer metropolis that is Montreal, the terrain became mostly fields, answering my questions of why it was so easy to buy local food in Montreal. The snow blanketed the fields and I loved the feeling of a “Winter Getaway”. Being raised in Alaska, I have never traveled to see another place specifically during winter… We always seemed to have enough of that where we were. 

Two days seemed to be the perfect amount of time to see the Old City and Downtown Quebec. We spent a night at a fondue restaurant eating a Quebec blend of cheeses with a baguette, served by a waitress with a Quebec-Country French accent. 

The next day was spent walking all around. We got to see the grand centrale station, Le Château Frontenac, and many quaint streets filled with souvenir shops and beautiful window displays. 

Rue Champlain from above, lots of window shopping
Le Chateau Frontenac, nearly too large to photograph
A highly accurate representation of Le Chateau Frontenac (pictured above)

Before we left Montreal, we asked the owner of a favored coffee shop who brewed the best coffee in Quebec City. He gave us a list and that’s how we chose where to have breakfast our first morning at Cafe St-Henri. 

Chocolatine and Americano for me, please.

I was able to find any type of maple candy, sugar, glaze, dressing, hot chocolate that I wanted and we did some Christmas shopping for friends back home. 

We lunched at “Le Ceil” (which means “the sky”) restaurant that was on the 27th floor of a building where the tables and chairs on the outer edge of the restaurant turned slowly with the window. It was amazing to see Le Chateau Frontenac from so high. It looked grand. 

The next morning I caught up on work and studying for finals and we had brunch at a crêperie served by a waiter who seemed delighted to help us with our French. 

It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I got to see this adorable city all dressed up for Christmas. 

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To the States and Back to Canada https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/to-the-states-and-back-to-canada/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/to-the-states-and-back-to-canada/#respond Mon, 02 Dec 2019 17:58:07 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16814 A few weeks ago I left Canada for the first time since I moved here. Even though I was only going a few hours across the border, I was looking forward to going back to my own country for a weekend. The plane was full of French speakers and the signage on Air Canada is […]

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A few weeks ago I left Canada for the first time since I moved here. Even though I was only going a few hours across the border, I was looking forward to going back to my own country for a weekend. The plane was full of French speakers and the signage on Air Canada is first in French and announcements are made in both languages but as I dismounted in Boston I noticed the French falling away. The weekend showed me how much my education in a different country is changing the way I see my own country and possibly the world. 

Leaving Canada for the first time this semester

I realized just how easy it is to operate in my native tongue. The signage was in English… the advertising was in English. As I approached an information booth for directions, my heart beat quickly, prepping the French question in my mind, and then I sighed. No need for that. 

Sitting on the bus, I started to memorize the accented sound of the name of my stop so I would recognize it when the automated voice announced it. Shortly after we started moving I heard, “Next stop…” Oh, this is too easy! I thought. 

I was relieved to return to some simple amenities that Canadians seem less attached to, like the option for paper towels in bathrooms, largely sized coffees, even the US dollar sign before the amount was a welcome sight. As I waited for my train in Boston I walked around and was so pleased to understand all the traffic patterns. Little things I never thought about. 

A chilly walk in Boston, American traffic patterns

Additionally, it was odd to be the girl traveling from a big city in another country (even Canada). I am used to being from Alaska, I am used to everyone assuming I’ve never really experienced urban life, not really fitting in with fashion, always being a stranger in a strange land. Now, my confidence is high. I am very grateful to my experience in Montreal for teaching me I can learn to be self-sufficient in many situations. 

Landing amidst a snowstorm – Welcome Back to Canada

As I landed back in Canada, snow flew past the windows and the warm lights of the city glowed with a blurry steadiness. Welcome back to Canada, I thought. And welcome to winter

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International Education Week – Learning French in the Grocery Store https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/international-education-week-learning-french-in-the-grocery-store/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/international-education-week-learning-french-in-the-grocery-store/#respond Mon, 18 Nov 2019 21:59:02 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16758 As of International Education Week’s start, I have officially been in Canada for eight weeks and the winter winds are picking up. I still love walking outside but the streets are less full, the shops have pulled their street wears inside and have folded up their summer eating patios. I am still trying to learn […]

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Mont-Royal Park in the pre-winter fog

As of International Education Week’s start, I have officially been in Canada for eight weeks and the winter winds are picking up. I still love walking outside but the streets are less full, the shops have pulled their street wears inside and have folded up their summer eating patios. I am still trying to learn french, reminding myself often that my goal was to be fluent in French after my year here. When I first moved here, that seemed like a monumental task and it still does. After 10 weeks here, I am still encountering many words and phrases I don’t know. When I have to ask someone to repeat themselves, I often feel like I have hardly learned anything. 

However, having my family visit showed me how much I have learned. I realized I had been telling myself that the parts of the language I understood were just the simple parts that everyone knows and I had been selling myself short when, actually, I am understanding  (simple) phrases of another language

I love looking at the names of all the fruits and vegetables and expanding my vocabulary at the grocery store. But when I am feeling particularly brave, I try to start a conversation with my grocers.

A Local Grocery Store

One night, I realized I needed some food for breakfast and needed to stop on the way home from my night class. The cashier was a young man, maybe a high schooler, who looked a little somber. I thought, okay, I will try to practice… “Comment ca va?” How are you doing? Immediately he brightened and with a smile, he responded “Bien, merci, et vous?” Well, thank you, and you?”  He said it so fast I hardly comprehended it and as he stood there expectantly *meanwhile I am trying to get my fruit into my reusable grocery bag without squashing my bananas*  I responded with, “Ca va bien, merci,” I’m doing well, thank you. Then he handed me my receipt, just like that it was over and he waved me away, happily wishing me a good night. 

Another Grocery store – outdoor wears pulled inside

Lately, at the Epicerie down the street, a very kind cashier has been having conversations with me. She talks clearly so I understand her words. She adds a “Parfait!” to the beginnings of her sentences to tell me I am responding well. These small interactions make my day.  Even if I use my English, it’s positive interaction and I am starting to count that as a success.

Learning a language is teaching me about confidence, the importance of being a little uncomfortable, and celebrating the small victories. It has also reminded me how important individual interactions are. How we live every day here in the city, shoulder to shoulder with other people and seldom hold conversations with them. The goal of learning French has helped me talk to strangers in a way that has made my new city a little less wild and random, a little more like home. 

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Happy Halloween From Quebec https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/happy-halloween-from-quebec/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/happy-halloween-from-quebec/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 16:51:29 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16662 BOOOOOOOooooooOOOoooo happy Halloween! Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was younger Halloween was a family event. We never focused on gore or fear for the holiday but rather the festivity of pumpkins and the nights getting longer. For many years, my family has made a collective effort to come up […]

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BOOOOOOOooooooOOOoooo happy Halloween! Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.

When I was younger Halloween was a family event. We never focused on gore or fear for the holiday but rather the festivity of pumpkins and the nights getting longer. For many years, my family has made a collective effort to come up with costumes from our favorite book series or to each read a scary story together in the fall. This year, I am reading “La Trahison du Vampire” in keeping with the spirit. The children’s chapter book includes pictures every few pages and an intriguing tale of the betrayal of one three-century-old vampire. I think reading stories or having them read to me is how I learned English so it seems appropriate to learn French the same way.

Bookstore Window Display for Halloween

Here in Canada, I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether costumes or indifference or trick or treating were in order. It seems it is very similar to the US in that some families embrace the spook, others decorate for fall, and some ignore the season altogether. 

A simply decorated house in a nearby neighborhood

For the lack of yards around me, there are still many houses that have managed to make a display out of their green patch next to the sidewalk. I love going by and seeing the creativity some people have. Typically it’s tasteful and subtle decor… But sometimes it is all out scary. 

On a run one afternoon, this yard caused me to pick up my speed a bit

Other than the vaguely frightful houses there are apartments across the street, where there are a few Jack-O-Lanterns or plain pumpkins. Grocery stores are lined with pumpkins for sale. I have found it is far more common to set pumpkins out and not carve them here than it is in the states. Additionally, many people buy and cook the small sweet pumpkins instead of buying the puree in a can. Because of the sales of pumpkins, I couldn’t resist buying a small one and cooking it up for myself to see what the craze is about. This may be a tradition I keep. 

One pumpkin I used for decoration being prepped for curry

Walking around downtown this weekend was particularly entertaining as we saw people dressed up in a range of costumes some even in full makeup.

I myself am excited to see what trick-or-treating looks like here and I may take a walk that night to see if, in the neighborhood near ours that isn’t apartments, there are children dressed up.

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Thanksgiving in Canada and Homesickness https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/thanksgiving-in-canada-and-homesickness/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/thanksgiving-in-canada-and-homesickness/#respond Thu, 31 Oct 2019 16:48:50 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16648 After a week of visitors and a Canadian Thanksgiving, I sat in front of my computer and settled in to study for midterms. I am happy to have something to keep me focused on why I am here.  Starting the week off with being invited to a Thanksgiving with some friends I had made from […]

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A view of the Montreal skyline as the sun was setting

After a week of visitors and a Canadian Thanksgiving, I sat in front of my computer and settled in to study for midterms. I am happy to have something to keep me focused on why I am here. 

Watching Friends on Thanksgiving – Oct 14th

Starting the week off with being invited to a Thanksgiving with some friends I had made from church was so fun. They even turned on reruns of Friends, Thanksgiving episodes, so we laughed together and I felt like I was almost at home. Although Canada does not take Thanksgiving as seriously as the United States I must admit it made a lot of sense to celebrate thankfulness for harvest in harvest season… but all the same, it is those moments I am reminded how wonderful my community here is. But time here does not always feel full and lovely like the holiday was. 

Honestly, I am a little lonely. I love the friends I have made here. I love the city and the life I have here. I love my schedule and my classes. But there is a hole where spending time with old friends used to be. Having a history with someone and memories to look back on is a kind of experience that is equally as wonderful as making the memories in the first place. So now, after saying goodbye to my boyfriend and my family it is bittersweet to turn back to my city alone, I feel the homesickness that I knew would come. 

Now that I am seven weeks in-country I have crossed the halfway mark of the semester. The time has flown by but I hardly noticed how all that time I spent exploring I was looking for activities to share with my visitors, trying to see the city through their eyes and anticipate what they would like best to do. Now, I get to walk through places we have been together and look back on memories made. A disorienting change, but fun all the same. 

Back to the routine – Morning runs through Mont-Royal

I wouldn’t trade this experience for any other, but study abroad is not without it’s cost. Another difficult thing in this experience has been missing my engineering community, study groups, knowing who to ask for help on what topic. Now in my junior year of coursework everyone else has those connections yet mine are half a continent away… I have been totally blessed and surprised by the kindness I have found here all the same. This week for midterms a few study groups have been found and I am hopeful my last two midterms will go well. 

With that, I will get back to studying but leave this record for those contemplating a big move or travel abroad. 

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Sustainability On Campus – Concordia University, Montreal https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/sustainability-on-campus-concordia-university-montreal/ https://thepack.unm.edu/coleen-g/sustainability-on-campus-concordia-university-montreal/#respond Fri, 27 Sep 2019 15:12:57 +0000 http://thepack.unm.edu/?p=16520 I have been paying close attention to sustainability at the Concordia campus. I will continue to learn about how Concordia University operates but given that this is “Sustainable Action Week” at Concordia, as well as a week of climate marches around the world, I thought this was a timely moment for a blog about the […]

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I have been paying close attention to sustainability at the Concordia campus. I will continue to learn about how Concordia University operates but given that this is “Sustainable Action Week” at Concordia, as well as a week of climate marches around the world, I thought this was a timely moment for a blog about the sustainability culture in my new college. 

On campus, the conversation is on most people’s minds. The Hall Building, for example, where most people have classes there and it is also the location of the Student Union: from the entrance to the Hive Cafe on the main level to the top floor where the garden sits, there are posters and advertisements encouraging participation in sustainability events. 

The Hive Cafe on the Main Floor of Hall Building

The People’s Potato Kitchen sits on the middle floor of the same building, the floor with the Student Union and Services. People’s Potato serves a free well-rounded vegan meal every day. If you are willing to wait in line for 20-45 minutes you get free food. But there’s something very unusual about this, other than the food, the funds for which are taken out of our student fees. No disposable cutlery or plates are used. Everyone must bring their own containers and utensils. And this made me realize how normal it is for people to carry around their own eating-ware. And the meals are prepared by volunteers, and it is actually really good. They serve a grain and main, a soup, and a salad every day. The latest meal I had there was brown rice with a chick pea curry and potato rosemary soup. This is a radical and tasty idea that I very much appreciate.

Lunch at the People’s Potato – Blackberry Coleslaw, Millet, Kale soup with Curried Eggplant Stew

Down the street there is a Zero Waste cafe that has random flash sales on their fresh and warm samosas, you can get them for 10 cents each (see below). The cafe sells drip coffee and many vegan desserts or mains and there’s no packaging involved. You bring your own dish, cup, take from the donated containers box or buy a container. I am a regular now because of the samosas and a cup of coffee is only $1. Students attend this cafe all day long, some who look the part of the zero-waster and some who don’t. 

Samosas at Le Frigo Vert

Around the school, waste diversion is very detailed. There is a bin for recycling paper, a bin for plastics and metals, usually a compost bin, and then a landfill bin. There is something unusual about these bins too. The landfill ones… Instead of being labeled with what does go in they are marked by “not recycling”, or sometimes “not compost”, in graphic signage. The reverse thinking with the signage was striking to me.

Waste Diversion with Reverse Signage Featured

Additionally, I got to have a conversation with the Zero-Waste Coordinator of Concordia who explained that at Concordia they are able to recycle the dreaded paper coffee cups! (Coffee cups are hard to recycle because they are paper with a thin plastic liner and therefore don’t fit in a category). He said, here, they are considered paper, they shred the cups and then boil them so that the paper falls away and the plasticy wax from the inner cup floats to the surface of the goo! A fun fact for a civil engineering student with an interest in solid waste. These are the types of solutions I am looking for. 

On email invitations to events like Coffee with the President, International Student Office Bagel Event, Student Union Club Fair, and Sustainable Action Free Coffee Event the emails are ended with a note that students should bring their own mugs or cutlery. It had been very much normalized to personally lower the waste generated at these events. It turns out to be a win-win, students get to drink out of their insulated or cute mugs and the school doesn’t have to pay a huge trash bill every time there is an event will food. I have been to a few catered events by the sustainable food coalition this week and the food is always delicious and served on real plates that are then placed in a dish bin by the attendees. I have noticed that clean up is more concentrated for the event teardowns because there is no need to run around grabbing wrappers, cups, utensils, and plates that have been strewn about the event location but, of course, there are dishes to be done… 

Dinner served a Sustainability Action Week Kick-Off event

The University as a whole has certainly taken a stance on the climate march. They have canceled classes from the hours of 11:30-16:00 to allow for students and staff to participate. It has been a fascinating study to observe the differences here.

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