It really is that picturesque

Ottawa, in one word, is 'wholesome'. People are really friendly and welcoming (and absolutely love British accents), there's almost always somewhere open that serves food and conversation, and the weather - whether really sunny or stormy or freezing - is never just boring grey. I walked past a family and the dad was throwing autumn leaves over his children whilst his wife took the Christmas card photo - it really is that picturesque sometimes. Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for me to feel at ease here.

I was lucky enough that some places opened up in residence so I am sharing a room with another Reading exchange student on campus. We're literally 30 seconds from the University centre, and it's so convenient to be in the centre of all that's going on. Every student is a member of the on campus gyms for free; in particular I'used the exercise classes and the open skating sessions at the ice rink. They also hosted lots organised events that for students that i made the most of, ranging from free food and cheap film nights, to competitions that any student can take part in and potentially win a few hundred dollars; such as pumpkin carving for Halloween, and the Walk of arts in which you get given two hours to paint based on a theme - this year it was 'fashion in 2020'.

The International Office is brilliant and arranges events weekly. With them I hiked in Gatineau park, which was absolutely beautiful this autumn; saw the Ottawa Senators play hockey at Scotiabank place; and spent a weekend exploring Toronto and Niagara falls, including a tour of Toronto and group discount for the CN tower and the 'Maid in the Mist' up-close tour of Niagara. Outside of these organised events, I have been trying to make the most of all things Canadian. I helped cook a traditional Thanksgiving feast with about twenty people in my halls. I have been to art exhibitions at the National Gallery of Canada, and to Canada's Parliament buildings to see the light show about the history of Ottawa. It got snowy enough before Christmas for us to fit in some skiing and some skating on the frozen canal.

Art classes are different here - in Reading, students work on their own projects throughout the year, whereas Ottawa sets focussed briefs with more regular deadlines. I find I am branching out my artistic practice and exploring new areas. I was assigned a room for a week to do an installation in pairs, so we filled a room with oranges. I never before would have thought to use fruit as a medium, but the piece was very visually effective. Other projects include; designing headdresses for an opera production - as part of this we got a private opera performance; and creating outdoor sculptures to be used in Ottawa's Winterlude festival - an annual public event. Ottawa has many facilities that aren't available in Reading, including a pottery room, an excellent woodshop, and a metalworkshop that I'm looking forward to using in the Winterlude project. I have plenty of ideas that don't fit in with the lesson plans that I look forward to exploring when back in Reading.

I had no idea how much there was that I would want to do whilst in Canada, and the experience has been unforgettable!

Louise Rains, BA Art and Psychology

University of Ottawa

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