You only start to appreciate how cold the conditions can truly be in Canada once you’re out on the rivers and lakes, breaking through inches of ice, trying to collect invertebrates for your taxonomic collection; instead of viewing the splendour and warmth which the idyllic scenes normally radiate across the valley and mountain tops. That’s one of the perks of studying ecology though, you get to experience what an area truly has to offer and get out and about exploring the beautiful landscape.
The landscape all over the Okanagan is breath-taking: from the height of summers with the sun glistening off the lake waters, to the snow-capped valley mountains in the dead of winter. You soon adapt to the winter lifestyle though, mainly through layering up, and learn to enjoy the perks of it. You even reach a stage where anything over 0oC is a nice warm day. One of the most enjoyable perks is having access to one of the best ski mountains in Canada (Big White) only an hour away; so I took the opportunity to learn to snowboard (I am still improving), and would highly recommend anyone giving it a go. Ice skating, hockey and walks through the frozen forests additionally transform the whole idea of wintertime into an active out and about lifestyle (as is the Canadian way), instead of traditionally spending more time cooped up.
As the seasons move on and transition to the next you notice the subtle shifts of nature around more than you would in Norwich. Due to the wide spacing of everything, you are never more than 5 minutes away from a forest/lake or whatever solitary landscape you wish to enjoy in nature. The openness and stillness is something to behold here, even if you are only a brief distance from the hub of humanity, it can feel like you are off in the wilderness out exploring.
Due to the vast expanse of land that is Canada, there is a lot to explore and travelling is a must; especially as a plane ticket here is more often than not, cheaper than a return train ticket from London to Norwich. So far I’ve managed to walk the city of Vancouver, explore the ski trails of Whistler and eagle watch along rivers to name but a few – I plan on doing much more in the summer though! However, wherever I go in Canada, the people are always friendly and that air of community spirit never really leaves.
I guess I should talk a little about the campus and school life. The campus of UBCO here has expanses of green nature surrounding it, with woodland trails bordering the back of it. Most days on the way to class you can find me with my neck craned towards the sky watching the vultures circle and the eagles fly by. Most of the courses here try and make knowledge of the surrounding area of the Okanagan Valley or Canada more generally, applicable the syllabus; giving me an immersive look into the ecosystems I am marvelling at on a daily basis.
I’m sure I shall miss the wondrous sites that I see out of my bedroom window here on a daily basis, but hopefully I will be able to come back at some point and marvel at it all over again.
Jeff Kay – BSC (BIO)