“London? Wow, you’re going to the United Kingdom for exchange?” was the standard response I got when I told my friends I was heading for exchange to London, Ont. Most people I told have never even heard of a London in Canada or even Western University (but hey, London is Western, right?). But going on exchange is all about stepping out of our comfort zones, so despite my apprehension, I took the plunge anyway.
I don't regret it one bit.
My first impression of London was that it was quiet, which was really a good change from Singapore where I hear cars zooming by all day long even in my room. This was quite surprising as I've read about Western being a party school, so the image I had was one where crazy loud parties go on every night in residence.
I'm half glad that was not the case, but it would've been interesting to experience.
I also loved the abundance of nature. Look at all the geese! And squirrels! And the occasional raccoon! Back in Singapore, I had to head to the zoo if I wanted to see these animals. We have lots of stray cats though, which I love.
When I tell Canadians I enjoy the cold weather here, they often look at me like I'm crazy. Singapore is located near the equator and experiences hot and humid weather all year round, with temperatures ranging from 27 C (if we're lucky) to 33 C. The cold here is a welcome change even though it numbs my hands and face.
But above all, what really impressed me was that the niceness of Canadians wasn't an exaggeration.
Imagine my surprise when I first heard passengers thanking the drivers before disembarking the bus!
Of course there are exceptions, but most Canadians I've met have been quite friendly. Little things like "How are you today?" and "Have a good day!" can really make someone's day.
The high cost of eating out is something I found hard to get used to, though. In Singapore, I was able to buy a meal on campus for less than four dollars. Cooking my own meals helped cut costs, so it was great.
With less than a month left in Western, I hope I'll be able to enjoy London as much as I can before leaving.
I'll definitely miss this place.
— Theron Muk, third-year Faculty of Information and Media Studies exchange student