Summer-y Summary and Starting the Sophomore Slump

This post was supposed to happen a couple months back, but life has a funny way of ruining all of my carefully crafted plans and timelines.

This past weekend marked the end of my midterms this semester, and I am finding new levels of mental exhaustion. I am loving my classes for the most part, but hating Organic Chemistry with a fire that burns brighter than a thousand suns. It is through no fault of my professor, who is truly a nice guy and clearly loves what he is doing. I just do not harbor the same sentiment that he does towards any aspect of chemistry.

I know I said I would try to give a summer update sometime during the actual summer, but by the time anything interesting happened I was already having to change gears and prep for this semester. So I hope you will forgive me, but I want to use this post to go back and talk about my experiences this summer- specifically my trip OUT OF THE COUNTRY. FINALLY.

In July my family took a trip up north and visited Buffalo, New York; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and Bruce Peninsula (a few hours north of Toronto). It was a really awesome vacation and we saw so many different things. We saw Niagara Falls from the US and Canada sides, which was an amazing experience; I would 100% recommend a trip there at least once in your lifetime. Then we spent some time in Toronto visiting the zoo, the aquarium, the CN tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, St. Lawrence Market, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, and a few other cool sights while exploring the city. We also drove up to Bruce Peninsula for a few days, and it was breathtaking. The views were amazing and the weather was perfect and I honestly just love hiking and being outdoors so it was a really fun excursion.

Since my dad’s family is from North Dakota and we spend quite a bit of time up there, a lot of Toronto just felt kind of like the northern US. There were definitely some notable cultural differences though. Some of the most prominent to me were:

Language: Canada is a bilingual country- its two official languages being French and English- so you are as likely to see things written in French as in English, even in the cities and near the border.

Money: The Canadian dollar is worth about 78 cents US. They have color coded bills, which makes them easier to differentiate, and they honestly just look much cooler than our boring green money. Instead of having $1 and $2 bills, Canadians use coins called loonies and toonies. Most places accept debit/credit, and in border towns or more touristy areas American dollars are pretty widely accepted as well, so currency exchange isn’t too much of a hassle.

Government: Canada is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II, is the formal head of state represented in Canada by the Governor General (currently David Johnston). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is head of government, and in each province the Queen is represented by a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the PM. There are three levels to their system of governance: federal, provincial, and municipal (local). I am far from an expert on Canada’s government, but this site has a lot of information about the parts that make up the whole and is pretty interesting for the curious mind.

Health care: This topic provides as much controversy for Canada as it does for the US. Currently, Canada has a publicly funded health care system in which all citizens qualify for health coverage regardless of income, medical history, or standard of living. It is a mostly free single-payer system that is funded by the public and carried out by private doctors (not the government). If you look up “Canada health care” online, many articles pop up with very conflicting opinions on the topic. There are proponents of privatization who say it would cut down on the outrageous wait time for non-emergency visits and fix many of the perceived issues with the current healthcare plan while creating a more sustainable system, and others who strongly back the current system and believe privatization would be very detrimental to the country. It’s a really interesting topic, and many of the arguments parallel the health care debates that we are currently having in the United States.

National pride: Canadians on the whole seem to be much more proud to be Canadian than we are of being American. Almost every house we drove by had some form of the Canadian flag outside and we could tell when we talked to people that they were more than content with defining Canada as their home and having the rest of the world categorize them as Canadians. They possess a strong sense of uniquely Canadian identity, and are proud of their diversity and heritage. A lot of these sentiments were even more prominent this summer, since 2017 marks Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Hockey: This one doesn’t really need a ton of explanation. Hockey is to Canada as football is to the US. Every kid grows up playing it, watching it, and living it, and every city has a team.

Tim Hortons: Like our northern neighbors’ version of a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks with the popularity of Chick-Fil-A on a college campus, they serve coffee and pastries and specialize in Timbits, their version of donut holes that come in many different flavors. Especially maple.

…and bagged milk. Which I still don’t quite understand. Sounds to me like a recipe for milk spilled everywhere, but it’s also more ecologically friendly and cost effective, so good on you Canada.

Overall, my trip to Canada was a lot of fun and I would definitely go back. I feel like it has definitely helped me broaden my horizons at least a little bit, and I’m more than ready to take my travels further.

Above: one of our MANY Tim Horton’s runs, a painted building we walked past downtown, and me in front of Casa Loma


Above: the view of the falls from one of our hotel rooms, my mom and I at Bruce Peninsula, and a rainbow over Horseshoe Falls (the Canada side of Niagara Falls)