101 Week – I survived!

So if you weren’t already aware, I MOVED!

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10 days ago (was it that few days??) I packed up all my things in a van my mom rented, said a heartfelt goodbye to my friends and puppies and drove 5 hours north-east to the capital of Canada, Ottawa! I’m going to school for International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa and after a week and a bit, I can say that there is nowhere else I would rather be. You know that feeling you get when you have just complete peace with knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time? I was in my orientation for my program on my third day, listening to the President of the School of Development speak and I was just so overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation and this strong sense of being exactly where I’m meant to be this year.

So far, I have had an easy peasy transition to university. I’ve made lots of friends right off the bat, my dorm is small but cozy. I love my floor. Most people seem to be very social and we all hang out and study together almost every night. There are a couple of other first years in my program living on my floor so the three of us have ben hanging out a lot, buying books together, studying etc which is cool to have that support system built right into where I live. There are also quite a lot of international students from the US, Morocco, Nigeria, France etc. I love getting to learn about other cultures!

And campus is so pretty! I love the architecture and the vines and ivy growing on the buildings. One of my favourite parts is that the school is really integrated with the city around us so I can basically walk off of campus and right into downtown, instantly having access to museums and restaurants and I can practically see Parliament from where I live! Also, my res is the only one connected to the “skywalks” or “tunnels” that connect various buildings on campus so we don’t even have to go outside to access the dining hall or library which is kind of cool. Speaking of the dining hall, it has a waffle maker, a chocolate milk dispenser and a latte machine, so it’s basically my favourite place to go. The salad bar is cool too, don’t worry guys!!

Frosh week has come and gone, so now it’s time for the real work to begin. 101 week was fun, to an extent. It definitely introduced me to a lot of people. My program has their own student federation which means we got our own frosh week and I met a ton of people in my specific program and therefore in my classes so that was great. My favourite activities were probably a fundraiser we did called Shineday doing silly things in downtown to raise money for cystic fibrous, a camping night, exploring the city and jut getting to talk to other first years and the guides. A lot of the other events were not really my cup of tea, like parties and stuff. I’m glad I did it though, it was good experience.

Turns out, my high school teachers were not exaggerating about how much reading there is in uni! I feel like all I do is read  pages and pages and pages of my textbooks. And those things are not cheap, let me tell you! I’ve never been so grateful for education than I am now when every second I’m here costs me money! So far, I’m very excited about the classes I’m taking. It’s such a breathe of fresh air to feel passionate about the things I’m learning, to want to engage with the material and to have real opinions about the content. High school was basically pretty cookie cutter but now I’m in a program tailored to my interests and I already love it so much. The french immersion, honestly, it turning out to be easier than I thought it would be. I had my first “cour d’anthropologie” today and I understood pretty close to everything the prof was saying! I think a big part of that was that I had done the reading in advance (took 5 billion years) so I had the vocal already but still, it definitely relieved some of the fears I had. And today just kept being a good day to learn because my other class was Arabic! After the first day, I can admit. This is not going to be easy. But, I don’t need easy. I just need possible. That’s a Bethany Hamilton quote I believe! Anyway, ana ismii Sam, please pray for me in that classe!

The hardest thing about this week was Sunday night. In the morning I went to a church near the school with some people from res and it was pretty similar to what I’m used to at my home church. But even though I know my God is the same anywhere I go, it sucks not being with my church family. Like seriously. It’s weird being surrounded by people but having not one of them actually know me, or to be honest, care about me. Not yet anyways. That night I sat in my room and wished I was in Barrie, at Mapleview, worshipping with the Young Life. They say you take things for granted until they are gone and I am seriously missing the community I had back home. I’m praying to find a place here in Ottawa where I can connect and find a way to be involved. And I know, these things take time. I see a few friendships here with the potential to bloom into long lasting ones, and I’m sure I’ll meet more as time goes on. I’m going to try more churches too, and find one that fits! Just one thing I’ve noticed about being here that makes me miss home. Shout out to all my TSL people, love and miss you guys always!

That’s all for now, it’s getting late and I have class tomorrow. Have any of you started school the las couple of weeks? How has it gone? What are the best and worst things thus far? Let me know!

  • Until next time, Sam

First dorm room selfie hahaha

First dorm room selfie hahaha

20 Differences Between School in Canada and Switzerland

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Hello everyone! Today I am writing about all the things I’ve noticed that are different about high school ( or collège ) in Switzerland than they are in Canada. I’m obviously not going to explain the entire schooling system because it’s very different from ours and a bit complicated (it’s taken me this long to get it all straight) but there are some very obvious dfferences! Sorry if it’s pretty random, I’m just writing them as I remember. Also, none of these things are meant to be negative. Different doesn’t mean better or worse,  just…different! 🙂

1. Number one is the reason I’m sitting in my bedroom on a Thursday morning at 11 am writing this blog post! Forget supply teachers, if a teacher is sick, class is cancelled and the students are free to study in the library, go home or really do whatever they want. No French class for me today!

2. So that last sentence was a lie, I actually have FOUR hours of French on Thursdays so I only got out of two. Why only on Thursdays? Because in Switzerland, your “program” changes everyday. Unlike in Canada where (if you go to a semester school like me) you have 4 classes at the same time everyday for 5 months, in Switzerland, you have different classes everyday of the week! It can be pretty confusing. For example, On Mondays I have art, history, French and English. Then I’m done with art and history for the week! Thursdays to contrast are English, French, Gym and French. (I have French almost everyday “yay”)

3. HALF DAY WEDNESDAYS. The absolute best thing about school here. At 11:30 on Wednesday, school is over and all the students are freeeee! It’s actually great because it’s like you start school on Monday and then it’s only two days until Wednesday. and after Wednesday, it’s only two days until the weekend! It make the school week that much more bearable.

4. Long hours. Enough said. No thank you, I would like to finish school before 4:30 in the afternoon. However, because of the changing programs, you can sometimes get out at 2:30, or not start until 10. My program however sucks and I don’t get any of that. I just love having more classes than my exchange partner! *not*

5. The actual school itself. Obviously not all schools are the same here or in Canada, so this is a direct comparison between JOA and Saussure. My collège here is pretty strange for me. Basically, if you disconnected all the hallways in JOA and stacked them on on top of the other, stuck the cafeteria underneath and the gym underground, you would have an idea of what Saussure is like. It is in total, 8 stories high and you can take the stairs or use the student elevators (just don’t use the teacher one by accident like I did, oops!) There are 4 gyms, and the library takes up most of the 3rd floor. It’s very different and easy to forget what floor you are on as they all look very much the same.

6. Gym class is taken so much more seriously here. Like I’ve been climbing ropes, doing handstands off a meter high board, flips, and balance beams and swinging on loops hanging from the ceiling. Cause we’re all gymnasts right? Also, it’s obligatory for all four years of school. Here are some pictures of my class.

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6. Speaking of obligatory, the kids here basically have no choice in what classes they take. You choose between German, Art or Music and you can pick Spanish or Italian. That’s really the extent of it. Enjoy chem, physics, math, english, french, geography, history etc for all four years. Collège itself however isn’t mandatory however and you have to have certain grades to get into high school. Otherwise, you can go straight into the workforce, get an apprenticeship etc.

7. You start/finish school one year later. I’m in a third year English class and they are all 17 and 18 (as opposed to 16/17 year old gr. 11’s in Canada)

8. You are with the same class all day, everyday. While the program changes everyday, the kids in your classes do not. With the few exceptions of art or Spanish (one of the few options) you are with the same group of students for every class for the entire year, much like elementry school. This makes catching up if you’re away easier I guess but if you aren’t in the same class as your friends it could be pretty sucky. There’s also the issue of gender imbalance as Amen’s class has only three guys in it and her friend’s has only 3 girls…who made these classes???

9. The marking system is odd as well. No precentages, you get a “note” between 1 and 6. Why 6? I have no idea. But you can only get a whole number or a half number. For example, you can get a 4 or a 4.5 not like a 4.8 or something. Strange but I guess it works for them. Oh and there’s no credits so you either pass or fail the entire year. About 40% of students repeat the last year at least once!

10. I know I already said gym was super serious, but honestly all the classes are. These kids do homework all night, every night, the workload is seriously crazy. If I ever hear anyone at JOA complain again…

11. Teachers are way more respected and have a lot more…authority I guess you would say. You would never talk back to a teacher here. All the kids sit quietly and listen and don’t talk in class. If you are talking, the teacher can just tell you to get out, I’ve seen it happen. In Canada, a lot of us (depending on the teacher obviously) are almost friends with the teachers, you can joke around with some of them and have fun in the class. There is definitely none of that here. It’s really strange. The only teacher I’ve meet here even close to acting like a teacher back home is my English teacher who I really like. The rest are very…cold I guess is a good way to put it towards the students and the students treat them extremely respectfully. Teachers show up 5- 10 minutes late all the time too and the class just waits but if you are late, the prof doesn’t have to let you in. Also, my French teacher looks exactly like John from Lost. That is all.

12. This is pretty irrelevant but they don’t really ever use lined paper. It’s all graph paper. And it (the binders) have only two holes, close together in the middle. As I said, irrelevant but still something I noticed.

13. Almost everyone smokes. I hate it. But there are little balconies on either side of the building on every floor specifically for that. It’s also legal to smoke and drink at 16, just thought I’d add that. But you have to be 18 to drive so haha!

14. No lockers. There are a few but they are less then a square foot and you have to pay to use them.

15. Because there are no lockers as mentioned, the walls are bare (okay not bare, they’re actually covered in student paintings which is cool) and so everyone just sits down in the hall. People walking just step over/around. It’s completely normal for an entire class to just be chilling on the floor outside the class.

16. “Poses”. I love this. Halfway through class, a bell rings and everyone gets up and leaves for a few minutes to get a drink, use the bathroom etc. It’s great because you get a nice little break. However, because of that, you can’t ask to leave in class for anything, you have to wait for the pose. AND THE BELL IS LIKE IN GREASE. Sorry, side note. The bell is like ding, ding, ding! Just like in the movie Grease when the principal wanted to make an announcement! Anyway, I like that.

17. No uniform! This only applies for Canadian Catholics school kids like me but is still awesome enough to mention!

18. The caf sells fresh pastries. Enough said #painauchocolate

19. PDA is over the top. Ew.

20. And finallllly. Everything is in French! Shocker! Sorry, I just didn’t want to have an uneven number of facts :p

So that’s about all I can think of for the moment, although I’m sure I’m missing some. Some of these differences are big and some of them aren’t, some are probably specific for JOA or Saussure and some could probably relate to every exchange student. Overall, school here has a very different atmosphere. Much more serious and in some ways I think students here have less freedom than back home. I know this was a longgggg post and some of it probably wasn’t very interesting…and no pretty pictures, sorry ’bout that! I’m still new to this blogging thing! Hopefully you made it that far and are left feeling grateful for the education you got/are getting because that’s what being here has made me! While I really like being here and school is interesting for a few months, I miss JOA and have come to appreciate the school system back home a lot. We have a lot of choice and are more allowed to be individuals.

Anyway, that’s the end! I’ve got to get back for gym class soon, pray I don’t break anything! Also shoutout to my sister for being awesome! If you’re reading this, I miss and love you a lot Mal! Have been thinking about you today and how proud I am to call you my little sis! Can’t wait to get back to our Thursday night sister dates, annoying each other, talking about life and forcing you to hug me 🙂

Hope everyone has a great day today 🙂

P.S. I’m reading Harry Potter en fracais and am rattled by the fact that “Hogwarts” has been changed to “Poudlard” Not impressed translator man, not impressed