In my third year of university, I embarked on a Canadian adventure as an exchange student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO). As a small De Havilland Dash 8-400 flew me into Kelowna airport, giving off a deafening sound that did not install the utmost confidence in the propeller’s aeronautic abilities, a single thought circled my mind, what have I gotten myself in for? The view out the window certainly wasn’t offering any clues, with the surrounding area covered in a smokey hue leftover from the summer’s wildfires. But, on the third day, in almost biblical fashion, the smoke cleared, taking with it all of my doubts.
Sandwiched in the province of British Columbia, from Kelowna to Kamloops, the valley, known for its wineries and relatively warm climate, is somewhat of a hidden gem. Sitting in its westward corner, UBCO offered a very different type of educational timetable. Mornings were met with a brisk walk along the pine trail in the forest at the top of campus with the nights filled with drinks by the Okanagan lake or watching the mighty Kelowna Rockets try their hardest to beat the Seattle Seahawks at Ice-hockey. All of this was accompanied by quite possibly the world’s nicest people, for whom nothing was too much trouble. As long as you didn’t make the social faux pas of dismissing the differences between them and their American neighbours.