A typical week in Canada
Hello, my name is Nicola and I come from Fabriano, a small town in the heart of Italy. Since September 1, however, I am in St.John’s, Canada, where I am attending a high school year abroad. It is a small piece of paradise I am staying until the end of June 2020. I chose to leave because I have always had a dream of living this experience of studying in a country other than mine, both to improve language learning and (and perhaps above all) to grow as a person. Now I’m here to tell you about my typical all-Canadian week!
November 4: A normal Canadian student’s day (but with a more lenient weather than usual
This morning, when I woke up, I was surprised: strangely it is a beautiful day, with a warm and pleasant wind. Here, in fact, it is usually rather cold and, as the Canadians tell me, it is strange that I have not seen the snow yet! However, the funniest thing about these early “winter” days is to see us exchange students who already wear coats while Canadians still wear short sleeves. Who knows what they’ll think when they see us!
Weather conditions aside, my day started as usual here at St. John’s: I took the bus to school – the bell here rings at 9 o’clock instead of 8am. After putting my things in the locker (yes , just like we see in American movies and TV series), I go to class. The study hours are very different from the Italian ones: you do not have the same class all day, but you change every hour. It is the students, in fact, who go into the classrooms of the professors and not the other way around. The school day consists of 3 hours in the morning (9 to 12), a one-hour break for lunch where you can leave school or eat in the canteen, and then 2 hours in the afternoon (from 1 to 3 p.m.).
After school, I come home and prepared to go to the gym. Here sports are very important because the food is not very healthy and you have to try to move as much as possible. In schools there are many sports available and they are not expensive. The cost usually depends on the athletic contract, the registration of tournaments and any trips. You can choose from a variety of options, including basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, soccer, rugby… I did the tryouts for the volleyball team and I made the team! Yuppie.
Another difference with Italy is dinner time: here you sit at the table at 6.15pm, also because for lunch you eat just a sandwich or a little more, at some point you get hungry! My host parents are fantastic cooks and they made me try a lot of typical local foods and dishes, such as moose. Eating early enough, after dinner you have time to do anything: from studying, going out with friends, to playing sports. Today I had to study because tomorrow I have a test and I have to start organizing all the things, since in January I will have the exams at the end of the semester. I attend the twelfth grade and this year I will have graduation, which is a bit like our maturity exams, but made american! There are exams (all in June, or half in January and half at the end of the school year, as in my case), but there are also big parties (such as the prom), and in general it is a very heartfelt moment. After finishing my homework, I spent some time with my host family, watching television all together. Their routine is completely different from ours, and sometimes they go to sleep even around 8 p.m. When it happens I go to my room and give myself some time for myself, also because I can’t go to bed so early!
November 5: Bonfire Night and Fireworks!
Do you remember yesterday’s beautiful day? It was just an illusion: Winter is coming… Today, however, it is a great celebration. In the English-speaking countries, Bonfire Night is when we remember, in 1605, a foiled attack led by some English conspirators, whose leader was Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the parliament with a large amount of explosives. For this reason there are large bonfires and fireworks.
So, after leaving school we had dinner very early, around 5.20pm, and then we headed to a party organized by the fire department, where there was a tall bonfire about 15 meters and we saw a fireworks display. All accompanied by free food (wishing you could make a donation) and typical local music. Back home, I did my homework for half an hour and then around 9.30pm relatives of my host family arrived, who had not seen for a few months. We have been talking for quite a while about the plus and minus, especially the differences between Italy and Canada. Everyone is very interested in the culture of the kids who do the year abroad: for example, talking about Halloween (which has just passed), when I told them that we do not decorate the houses with pumpkins, monsters or various robes as they do, they were really surprised!
November 6: Between choir and volleyball, extracurricular activities matter a lot here!
Today was a fairly quiet day, similar to the others. The only difference is that during lunch time I had the chorus hour. My school, in fact, is the most renowned in the territory for the arts, such as choir, instruments and theater. Almost all students do some sort of music, even to meet new people.
I signed up for Low Notes, one of the 4 choirs available. To enter there are no auditions and you do not have to know how to sing, everyone is welcome and I took advantage of it. Back home after school, I studied an hour for a math test that I would have the next day. In Canada, quizzes are much more frequent, but in general they are not too difficult. For dinner we ate some fish caught the same day by friends of my host family and then we started watching a TV show all together: it was a special dedicated to the history of the building where my host mother works.
November 7: The professors are students for a day and we… party!
Today is the last day of school of the week. In fact tomorrow, Friday 8 November, will be PD day; this means that during the school day the teachers take refresher courses, and therefore the students do not go to school. Then on the weekend you are obviously at home while Monday is a celebration: it is Remembrance Day, where you remember all the soldiers who gave their lives or who fought for Canada during the world wars. As this is a very important holiday for Canadian people, today at school we had an assembly that lasted about an hour during which various speeches were made by students and people outside the school. The whole thing ended with the a “minute of silence”. I really enjoyed this day and like me the other students who, despite being so young, understood its importance and respect. After the meeting there was lunch break, during which we went to the gym to see some dodgeball games for the interschool league. At the end of the lessons, I stayed at school because I had volleyball training. After the workouts my host family picked me up and we all went together to CostCo. This is a huge supermarket, where you can find all kinds of food, appliances, medicines, furniture and more. Usually, however, when you go to these big stores the expense amounts to about 200/300 dollars, since you buy large quantities of items and food. Each house has in fact at least 2/3 huge freezers, but that’s their culture. When I told them that in Italy you usually do the shopping at least once every 3 days and you buy only the essentials for the same day or at most for the week they could not believe it!
November 8: Gym Friday and junk food
Luckily there was no school today, so I could sleep more… My host father wasn’t working either so at around 9am we had breakfast together and then went to the gym. Here the gyms are huge and very equipped, with rooms with virtual courses and things that I personally had never seen in Italy. It was fun to go to the gym and do the exercises with him. We got out of the gym and went home, had lunch and shortly after that I left as I had my workouts again at 3pm. In the evening, my Canadian parents went out for dinner, but I didn’t go with them because it was a dinner between 4 longtime friends, so I preferred them to enjoy the evening. Before they went I asked friends if they could join me at home and they agreed. It is not in fact in the culture of kids going out to the city, because it is usually too cold, and so you stay at home all together or you go to the mall (unless you do other activities, this is their “normal” routine). Friday is junk food day, so for dinner you don’t cook but order takeaways, usually fast food or pizza.
November 9: A typical autumn Saturday at the Canadian
Saturdays in Canada don’t go to school and it’s usually the day you eat brunch. This is a meal that you make around 11/11.30, so halfway between breakfast and lunch, and you eat enough to be in place until dinner time. Having woken up early enough I helped my host family prepare brunch and this included: pancakes with fruit and maple syrup, bacon, eggs, sausages, toast with peanut jam and butter, chocolate milk, juice and fruit centrifuge. Then at 12 o’clock I went to training, which lasted 2 hours, and then at 4 pm I saw myself at the mall with exchange students. Back home, I had dinner and then I met up with other friends on the volleyball team and went to see a game together. But I came home early enough, that is, around 10 pm, since I was very tired…
November 10: Wet Sunday… Lucky Sunday?
The plan for today was to go with my host family to “Signal Hill”, a hill near our city from where you can admire the whole ocean, harbour and city, and stay there in the afternoon to wait for sunset (we went there two months ago and it’s truly breathtaking). Bad weather, however, did not allow us… Surely we will also come back because in the spring you can see huge icebergs and whales, which we will watch with a boat ride, doing the classic whale watching! In any case, Sunday is the day I spend with my family, doing activities all together or just staying at home. Considering the temperature, we decided to go to the pool/water park (obviously indoors). Their daughter and granddaughter also came with us, and we had a nice afternoon together. Back home around 7pm, we had dinner and then we went to see the last two episodes of our favorite TV series: Game of Thrones (although I had seen them before, I was pleased to see them again with them and in English).
This is just one of the many weeks I’ve spent and I’ll spend here, but I’m really glad I left: I’m learning about a different “world” from the one I grew up in, I’m having experiences that I never thought I’d live and English is becoming practically my second native language… I think that I don’t think in Italian anymore!
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