International Endurance – Weather Wisdom

A huge part of the typical international student’s experiences consists in facing countless novelties and learning how to deal with them, whether they are good or bad. And given that we are in Montreal and just three days ago we survived one of the (to my mind) worst days ever from a weather point of view, here are a few suggestions for those of you who almost never feel ready.

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissa.joy

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissa.joy

– Don’t get discouraged.
It is easier than you think. I had no idea I could be affected so much by weather, and especially by the cold. When I lived in Milano, I had a very hard time getting through the extremely humid and hot summer, but winter was never very hard, even though the humidity could make a trivial 0°C feel like a -15°C. Then Montreal became my home and I realized that the length of the bad season here, and particularly the wind, have become my worst enemies. There is little I can do about them though, so I can just suggest you to spend time with friends when you feel blue, and hold on because summer in Montreal is pretty amazing. If it’s your first time, you’ll figure it out, otherwise you know what I am talking about.
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Make the Most of Montreal – January

It’s the beginning of the year and we all have to give our best to keep up with work and other commitments, but let’s not forget to take some time every now and then to enjoy ourselves and allow us to get through the winter in a better mood and better physical and mental shape!

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissajoy

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @lissajoy

– Go skating somewhere cool
I am so excited about skating! I can’t say I am good at it, but I have enjoyed every single time I had the chance to do it with my friends and family. Now, imagine how much more impressive it would be if you could skate in a wood? Well, it turns out that you can! There are two lovely places fairly close to Montreal that I am eager to try out, one in Lac-des-Loups and one in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, maybe you want to do the same.

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Make the Most of Montreal – November

This post comes a bit late, since we are at the end of the month, but the following suggestions should still be good for December, otherwise well… I guess next year. They are obviously based on what the current month had to offer for me, and I hope they will give you again some ideas about funny activities for your study breaks.
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Be kind to yourself

kind to yourself

In our fast-paced reality of to-do lists, meetings, places to be, people to see, deadlines to meet, friends and family to be there for, and hobbies to stay true to, our hectic lives involve figuring out that fragile balance between work and play, ourselves and others. The most delicate part of this game is managing to stay healthy while being so busy – managing to stand steadily on the ball while we juggle all the pins and the balls and the fiery hoops.

It’s a serious worry many of us have, especially in an endlessly long season of arctic temperatures, snow, ice, flus, viruses and whatever else may be going around. None of us can afford feeling ill, falling behind, feeling weak. We all have way too much to do. But, funnily enough, it is always the case that the exact point in time where we can least afford to fall ill is precisely when it happens. This is no coincidence, though. Your body knows when you are over-worked, over-stretched, over-stressed and over-tired. Bodies know when they are being abused. Bodies aren’t stupid.

Sometimes, whatever you catch absolutely floors you and you have no choice but to stay in and recover. Other times, the feeling of illness is much more gradual, more subtle, more complex, and easier to ignore. You notice you haven’t quite felt like yourself the past few days. Then those days stretch into a week, the week spills into the next week, and suddenly you don’t know where the month has gone, but you feel like you’ve lost your groove. Whatever the ailment – be it physical or psychological, or a bit of both – the drill is the same: we need to put ourselves first. It is funny, actually, how we put just about everyone and everything ahead of ourselves sometimes, until something happens to make us realize that this may in fact be the wrong strategy.

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Getting on ice with the MOC

This weekend I scaled a 40-meter wall of ice with 8 knives attached to each foot and an ice axe in each hand, got smashed in the face by a brick of ice in -20C weather, and loved every second of it.

Climbers! Photo: Dana Dragomir

I was one of 22 wonderful participants to go on the McGill Outdoor Club’s intro to ice climbing trip. For McGill students who are at all outdoorsly inclined (I don’t care if that’s not a word – I just added it to spellcheck so bam!), the MOC is seriously worth looking into.

The club (whose website is here) is one of Canada’s oldest and most respected student-run outdoors groups, and they host events almost every weekend ranging from hiking, camping and canoeing to rock climbing and basically any other outdoors pursuit you can imagine.

On this trip, known affectionately as ‘ice-school’ by the veteran MOC members, a small group of students have their first crack at a sport that basically involves attaching lethal weapons to every limb and chipping your way up a frozen waterfall.

On Friday night we headed to the MOC house in Prevost, Quebec. Although it’s only 45 minutes away from downtown Montreal, the clubhouse has all the makings of a classic naturephile’s getaway: a big fireplace, loads of bunk beds, and proximity to lakes, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing trails, and of course, icy cliffs. (more…)

Winter is around the corner in Montreal!

Being someone that has an optimistic view on life, I am able to appreciate all seasons of the year. Each has specific qualities that make me fall in love with that particular season. The warm air of spring, the terraces and fun times that summer brings along and the beautiful colors of the trees in autumn are just a couple of examples. Although winter is not my favorite season (that would be fall!), it too consists of elements that make it a very enjoyable season for me. The long winter coats, comfy winter boots and cute hat and mittens necessary to survive a winter in Quebec, as well as drinking a mug of hot chocolate at home wrapped in PJs and a blanket while reading a good book are some of my favorite things that accompany winter. (more…)

Poinsettias and Panettone: Chasing the holiday spirit

Since my previous blog post, I have fully accepted that Christmas is coming. By now, I am ready to embrace the holiday spirit and to feel my senses rejoice with all the simple pleasures this time of year brings along with it.

When I lived in Europe, this pre-holiday season would make me giddy with wonder and happiness. Late-November in Milano meant the massively tall Christmas tree would be set up — with the help of mega-cranes — in front of the Duomo (Cathedral) and the most wonderful lights and building projections would liven up the grey, fog-cloaked city. The cobblestone streets would be made all the more narrow with Christmas markets selling handmade arts and crafts, and after only a two-minute stroll, I’d suddenly be overwhelmed with the desire to fill my already-overweight suitcase with handcrafted Italian Christmas tree ornaments. Shopping for gifts in tiny, artistic shops (or even gorgeously decorated department stores) never felt hectic or crazily consumerism-driven, and the way the clerks would gift-wrap everything for you automatically with the most amazing paper and with such classy flair always left me smiling. Late-November in Milano was the season of outdoor markets, of Christmassy musical concerts in churches, of poinsettias and panettone, and of the scent of roasted chestnuts permeating the crisp foggy air.

Photo credit: Kristina Kasparian

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My 5 favorite – ‘Winter Holiday’ Movies

With the winter break right around the corner, I’d like to share with you my 5 favorite ‘winter holiday’ movies.

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