2016// Review [PART 3]

February // Went up to Grouse Mountain to ski and for the first time in my life I thought I was going to die. Celebrated CNY with friends from all over the world – yum cha for brunch and hot pot for dinner! During spring break, I set off to Mexico with a bunch of new friends and had a fantastic time! I was also the only person who didn’t get food poisoning after ¬†eating street tacos. Came back to UBC only to be bombarded with 3 consecutive exams (all of which I passed – thank god!!) Went up to Cypress at the end of February.

March // My first frat party was rather….underwhelming. At least pre’s was fun ūüôā Had the time of my life at Blank Canvas though ūüėõ ¬†Also went on my first hiking adventure in Vancouver – one of my regrets is not going on enough hikes during my time there. Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by getting woken up at 6am by drunken neighbours and then spending the rest of the day¬†periodically drinking. Watched my first UBC Thunderbirds Basketball Game (too bad we lost!!) Went up to Cypress again and tried snowboarding for the first time. I failed badly, but at least it was fun!! Later in March, the crew and I went on a cruise hosted by the Exchange Society and then spent hours at a nearby casino. ¬†Joined my curry mates for an arvo full of fun at Holi! During Easter Break, I went to Victoria with a bunch of other mates; it was honestly the most boring place ever and tbh, I never want to go back hahaha.

April // Started off April with a bonfire with the ENTIRE crew. Everyone was sad about our inevitable departure. Went skiing one last time at Whistler and had a blast! Celebrated the end of another semester by  attending this music festival-esque event hosted by UBC. Exchanged ended with fine dining and dress ups (men in suits, women in dresses and heels). Took one last group photo with the UBC sign. Went hiking at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge park. Wrapped up April with Jessie, Ben, Simona and Zacq by flying off to the States for our West Coast adventure!!

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2016 // Review [PART 2]

In my last post, I mentioned that my life had changed. 2016 has been the best year of my life so far, and I’ll forever be thankful for all the ups and downs that happened this year.

January // January 1st – I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime (literally). I left my parents at Shanghai International Airport and ventured into the unknown. To be honest, I can’t remember how I felt. I’m sure I felt a multitude of emotions inside – excitement, fear, nervousness, joy, anticipation and trepidation all at once but a year later, I honestly can’t remember exactly what was going on in my head. I met a high school student from a small city/town? near Toronto and we chatted about Canada. I was surprised everyone recognized my ‘Australian accent’ as in Australia, an Aussie accent…isn’t an accent.

I arrived in Vancouver on the 1st of January and I remember thinking the streets were so empty. The taxi driver said it was because it was still early and/or people partied hard the night before so they were all inside asleep. The streets, buildings and trees were all covered in layers of snow and I’d never seen anything so beautifully fascinating. The motel I stayed at looked tiny from the outside, but I was given a whole apartment to myself. It was literally an apartment!!¬† I spent the first and second day wandering around Downtown by myself. I bought instant noodles, and ordered pizza at 2am in the morning. I still remember after uttering 2 words, the pizza guy was like “are you Australian” and I just felt kinda exotic???

I wandered around Stanley Park and walked 15km each day. This is why I love travelling – I don’t know what public transport to take so I just walk and absorb every little thing around me. Nothing goes unnoticed; not the benches with writing carved on the back support – a dedication to a family member/friend/loved one who had passed away, similar to an epitaph; not the exquisite colour of the water and¬†the families strolling leisurely through the park.¬†While I enjoyed experiencing all this by myself, it was another story when I went inside¬†a restaurant. I’ve never liked eating alone inside a restaurant –¬†I feel¬†so lonely while everyone else is chatting away and I always feel like I don’t belong. I remember because of that, I bought food from the local supermarket and ordered takeout.

Jan 3rd – I moved in to UBC. I remember tipping the taxi driver $10 because we couldn’t find the entrance to my house and he went around asking for me. We eventually found an entrance (not the entrance though haha) and I walked with all my luggage from the other side of Fairview to my house. That day was probably the most homesick I’ve ever felt in my life. I walked in to a house with 3-4 people lounging in the living room. They were polite and we exchanged pleasantries. One girl was actually from Melbourne and she lived in my room the previous semester, so we talked a bit. Then after a while she said she was going to leave to go to a¬†bar. I felt….lonely. There was no one else in the house – the girl downstairs is a local and she left the house early, another local girl lived upstairs with me but she was at home with her parents, and the last girl hadn’t moved in yet. After reading all my YA books and watching romantic comedies, I had envisioned moving in with someone I’d become immediate friends with. Obviously that didn’t happen. I remember leaving my doors open to seem ‘inviting’ in case anyone came back home. No one did. I suddenly realized I didn’t know anyone at UBC – not my roommates, nor anyone from UNSW. I started imagining spending my entire semester at UBC locked in my room because I didn’t know anyone.¬†I can’t begin to¬†describe how traumatizing that was for me, but because of the sudden epiphany that I could end up wasting my time at UBC without any friends, I decided to message the only person from UBC who had messaged me several months back. Luckily, he was nice and agreed to meet up with me the next day. Turns out, he’s one of my closest friends now ūüôā

Early Jan – Met a bunch of people from around the world who will later become some of my closest friends.

Mid-January (exact date is engraved in my memory) – I met a guy; a guy who was vastly different from all the guys I’d previously liked. He stood out amongst all the other guys I laid eyes on at the pub.¬†This guy¬†was very….different, which was probably why I found him so intriguing. He was self-assured¬†in a way that people might mistake¬†for cockiness; he knew how to have fun and didn’t give a crap about what anyone else thought of him. I initially thought he was the irresponsible type who actively sought out attention but after observing him I realized he was the opposite. There’s something so attractive about a guy who knows what he wants and doesn’t try to impress those around him.¬†He was¬†straightforward and¬†sometimes too blunt and honest, but he was real¬†. Not once did he try to be someone he wasn’t, nor did he pretend to be nice to the people he didn’t like. I’d never seen someone who could talk so easily with everyone and knew how to have fun the way he did. I fell for him…and I fell for him hard.

Late January –Went skiing for the first time in Canada and second time in my life!!!!!!!

 

5 tips to save money while overseas

When I travelled around USA, Canada (Toronto and Montreal), Mexico and Europe earlier this year, I kept a very strict record of all my expenses. I was travelling on a budget as I’d spent the majority of my savings in Canada (all those ski trips and parties emptied my bank account) so my budget at each leg of my trip was around $AUD1000-2000 (for a minimum of 2 weeks).

To be honest, it took a lot of self-control and sacrifice to ensure my expenses were kept within my budget range. Occasionally I wanted to splurge on a succulent meal or purchase a souvenir but in the end, I was glad I managed to suppress my impulsive buying habit.

These are some money saving tricks I adopted while travelling:

1.Be flexible about your accommodation

I know a lot of people are very inflexible or uncompromising with their accommodation; some of my friends need a nice and comfortable bed to sleep in at night, especially if they’re driving the very next day. And that is completely fine. But what saved me a lot¬†of money was not being overly picky about where I slept. Whether it was in Canada, USA or Europe, I was content to sleep in the cheapest hostel and share a room with 5 strangers or if my plane landed at night, I would stay overnight in the airport. In the states, my friends and I camped out in the National Parks for several days and this allowed us to save up and splurge a little in Vegas.

2. Take public transport/Walk

So I know when I go back to China (or anywhere really) with my parents, we would always take a cab to get from A to B. Cabs are generally extremely¬†expensive, and ubers aren’t that much cheaper either, especially when you want to go to the airport or train station. At every destination in Europe, my friend and I took public transport to the airport/main train station and i’m not going to lie, that was tiring as hell. I had two massive backpacks that weighed a tonne and it would’ve been so much more convenient for me to grab a cab but I sucked it up and took public transport (even if it meant I had to run for the train or change trains a billion times.) Also, when touring around the city, I preferred to walk. Even if I ended up walking more than 20km a day, it was definitely worth my time and effort!

3. Don’t impulse buy plane tickets

This my friends, is one of the most annoying things about travelling for me. If I’m planning to go somewhere, I would HOURS researching and comparing different flight prices then decide it was still too expensive and come back the next day. I remember spending a whole week monitoring flight fares from Prague to London and then finally buying the cheapest ticket that I found! Also, be sure to keep updated on sales, discounts (e.g when you download the site’s app, you may be eligible for up to 15% off).

4. Save on foooooooood!

I know we go to different countries to try their authentic cuisine but there are definitely ways to save on food! In the States, the 5 of us would go grocery shopping and cook or make sandwiches for lunch/dinner. Breakfast was either included at the hostel/motel we stayed at or we would find somewhere to grab a quick bite before setting off to our next destination. In Canada, my friend and I cooked very healthy meals for breakfast and dinner every day but would eat out at local cafes for lunch. We would grab brunch maybe once or twice a week but that was it. In Europe, my friend and I splurged once in every country at an authentic diner, but would spend significantly less for lunch and dinner on the other days. Breakfast was once again included in the AirBnB or hostel!

5. Always have cash & DON’T EXCHANGE MONEY AT THE AIRPORT. ¬†

I wasted almost 30 Euros¬†in Milan. I had around US$100 on me but no euros as I never got the chance to exchange any in the US/Canada. For some reason on that particular day, the credit card machines weren’t working and since I didn’t have any cash, I couldn’t purchase a train ticket to get to my hostel. I then exchanged money at the airport and had to sign a paper that indicated a significant portion¬†of my exchanged amount would essentially be eaten up as commission. I was so annoyed but obviously couldn’t do anything about it. So moral of the story: ALWAYS HAVE CASH ON YOU.

Obviously there were other things I sacrificed in order to spend within my budget, but these were the main tricks I used!

Exchange Updates

It’s not Thursday but feel like posting #throwbackthursday posts hehehe

This was written sometime in March.

13/03/2016 – 20/03/2016

Another week has passed, and I’m dreading the last day of exchange. I can feel it creeping up slowly, but surely, and honestly, as cliched as it sounds, if I could do anything to stop time, ¬†or to rewind time to January/February, I would. People are saying how we should go to as many parties as possible, spend as much time with friends as possible, but exams are looming and it’s almost impossible for everyone to be free at the same time to catch up and do things together. I for one, need to study my ass off to pass my courses because right now I’m terrified I’ll fail them.

Over the past month I’ve noticed that I can’t even remember what my Sydney life was like. Was it really so uneventful and unmemorable? All I remember is waking up every day to go to Uni, spending a few hours 3-4 days a week tutoring little kids and high school students and occasionally (how often is “occasional” though) going out to dinner with friends.

I do remember how every time my friends and I wanted to organise a dinner to catch up, at least one person would be busy because of work or some other commitment, and then this dinner would get cancelled and then everyone would forget to reorganise it. There were never any spontaneous dinners or drinks because everyone simply lived too far away. No one could be bothered to get out of the house at 9pm to go to the city for impromptu drinks. But in Vancouver? Since every lives on campus, it’s so convenient to walk 5 minutes to Mahoney’s or someone’s residence and have an impromtu party there.

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Love you guys ‚̧

I distinctly remember one Saturday when everyone was at home studying or just chilling, one friend messaged “Guys, drinks tonight” in the group chat and immediately, everyone replied with a thumbs up. It turns out one person was a little upset due to personal issues, and a few of us started messaging other friends to come join as well. Within an hour, everyone – and I repeat, everyone we messaged– ¬†rocked up and I was quite literally floored at how supportive everyone was. A few came directly from grocery shopping (didn’t even go home to put everything away), and others turned up in sweatpants because they didn’t expect to go out that night. Thinking back to that night, I’m filled with love and gratitude to have met such an amazing bunch of people who would drop everything to come comfort a friend in need. It’s times like this that I really appreciate what exchange has shown me; back in Sydney, I don’t think it’s possible for someone to say “hey guys, this happened, come out for drinks tonight” and expect the entire gang to arrive. It’s just…not possible. But on exchange? I’ve witnessed it happening and it’s a scene that I’ll always remember.

UPDATE:¬†I think I wrote this while I was extremely stressed and unfortunately¬†it feels unfinished, but these were my naked thoughts at the time and finishing it off now will just smear the authenticity of it so I’ll simply leave it as it is.

UPDATE 2: OMG I MISS EXCHANGE ūüė¶ ūüė¶¬†

 

TORONTO DAY 3

DAY 3| 29th MAY 2016

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO:
We started off the day visiting the University of Toronto. I remember I used to hate visiting famous universities; in 2014 I visited Boston and the last thing I wanted to do was explore Harvard and MIT. My parents, relatives, friends and basically everyone in the world told me to buy a Harvard cap/t-shirt/souvenir and I was like “WHY???? I DON’T CARE ABOUT HARVARD”. 2 years later, I’m visiting famous universities in every city I go to.

IMG_1452We didn’t have time to explore the entire campus + a lot of buildings were dispersed in other areas so we sat on the grass, read our book (standard) and then headed to Casa Loma.

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THE MASONIC TEMPLE:
On the way to Casa Loma, we stopped by a few open buildings. Toronto had this “open buildings tour” over the weekend where many famous and historic buildings all over Toronto were open for the public to visit. We asked a volunteer for any recommendations as to where to go and he mentioned the Masonic Temple. I had no idea who the Masons were, but after googling it turns out the Masons;
1) are like a modern version of the Illuminati
2) they may or may not control the world
3) are basically a frat for adults (no women allowed)
5) are all over the world
6) there are sub organisations within the Masons
7) collectively agree that there is one God
Overall, it was rather intriguing so Jessie and I decided to pay the Masonic Temple a visit.

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As usual, we got sidetracked on the way there (we went to Sephora and MAC…AGAIN) and ended up going inside at exactly 4:30. (Doors close at 4:30- YOLO life).

So the Masons occupied the building since its construction in 1916; MTV took over in 2006 and is now occupied by InfoTech.

CASA LOMA:
Our final stop for the day was at Casa Loma – A FREAKING CASTLE IN TORONTO.

Well…not really. It looks like a castle but¬†it was simply the home of a financier – Sir Henry Mill Pellatt in the early 1900’s.

Casa Loma was used as the filming location for quite a number of famous films/TV Shows; X-men, The Mortal Instruments, Hemlock Grove and I only just found out today that it was ¬† the location for the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 where the castle itself was apparently “transformed into Hogwarts”.

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