Meeting the President of the University of Regina

Last Tuesday I got the fantastic opportunity of meeting the President of the University, Dr. Vianne Timmons. It was fantastic that she took time out of her busy schedule to sit down and have a brief chat. She was very interested in why I chose the U of R and how I enjoyed my time as an exchange student in Canada. Her daughter is a  student in New Zealand at the moment so she knows what its like as a parent to have their child on the other side of the world. Dr Timmons and the University of Regina are strong advocates for student exchange; She believes in the educational and social benefits a student exchange program brings. I want to thank my parents for allowing me to have this great adventure. Its been a wonderful opportunity and it couldn’t have happened without their love and support.

Dr. Timmons gave me a University of Regina t-shirt and we snapped a quick picture. It was a real pleasure to meet with her.

Dr Timmons and I

Dr Timmons and I

The T-shirts

The T-shirts

The Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the most famous sports team in Saskatchewan. The ‘Riders’ play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Riders have an incredible fan base, anywhere you travel in Canada you can find Riders gear, anything and everything you can think of can be found with the Riders logo on it.

Rider Pride

Attending Rider games is a completely amazing experience. The atmosphere is electric. From the moment the team runs on the field the crowd is just nuts! Fireworks, the teams mascot – Gainer the Gopher, the fourth quarter stretch and the cheerleaders all add to this experience. Rider fans also tend to sport watermelon head-wear, just another tradition.

Gainer the Gopher

As the Riders field is in an open air stadium, braving the elements to attend a game is also one of the fans biggest challenges. Saskatchewan has a huge range of temperatures, from 30+ degrees in summer to -40 in winter. I attended a game a couple of weeks ago where the weather was hovering around the -7 mark, with flurries of snow every now and then. Needless to say I was RUGGED UP. I was referred to as the ‘Pillsbury Doughboy’ a mascot for a baking company, made out of dough, looks something like the Michelin Man. Being outside for three hours in anything below zero requires some serious dedication, and layering of clothes. I had something like 7 layers of shirts on that day!

All Rugged up for the game

I attended a charity auction and Darian Durant (Roughriders Quarterback, guy that throws the ball) and Weston Dressler (Roughriders Slot Back, guy that catches the ball/makes touchdowns) happened to be in attendance. These two guys may possibly be the most famous people in Saskatchewan. I was lucky enough to get pictures with both of them. So I may have felt like a bit of a big deal. They were very friendly and have a big game this weekend so people were very excited to see them around.

Darian Durant


Weston Dressler

The last month of Uni has been crazy, with mid-terms and assignments. It’s starting to slow now, which is kinda nice! I’m also heading to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers in a couple of weeks that I’m super excited about!

Bye for now, from chilly Canada

West Coast and Rocky Mountain Tour

Hi again,

This blog is seriously delayed. Apologies. And it’s really long – enjoy!

After landing in Regina, I moved in to my home for the next 7 months. I’m living in an apartment which is located in downtown Regina about a 5 minute drive from the university campus.

I only spent a week here before I packed my bag once again and headed off on my tour of the West Coast of Canada with a tour company called Moose Travel Network. I chose a tour called the Pacific which is the most extensive tour they offer in the west.

Moose Bus

My tour began in Vancouver, this is where I met my guide and the people I would spend the next 15 days with. Day one was a journey from Vancouver to Tofino, which is a small fishing town located on Vancouver Island. Along the way, we all began to get to know each other, and I quickly found out I was traveling with another Australian. As well as two Brits, who were brother and sister and two Dutch guys. This leg of the trip involved viewing a couple of waterfalls as well as jumping in a very cold lake. A BBQ steak dinner, and some drinks on a rock wall right by the ocean topped off the day.

Sunset in Tofino

The following day whale watching and a relaxing dip in some hot springs were on the cards. Grey whales were spotted and bodies were soaked before the 2 hour boat ride back to Tofino once again.

Hot Springs in Tofino

Our journey to Victoria began bright and early with a stroll through an old growth forest and then along Long Beach. The bus ride continued through some very scenic areas with stops at more lakes and old growth forests. Just before arriving in Victoria out guide made a stop at a glacier fed waterfall. She assured us that all of her tour groups jumped in. A few of us stepped up to the challenge and jumped into the 6 degree plunge pool at the base of the waterfall. Needless to say, the jump was breath taking- not the good kind either. After we all scrambled out and attempted to regain feeling, we found out that only one other person had ever jumped in. And I can understand why!

The night in Victoria involved many different things including but not limited to dinner at the Sticky Wicket, drinks at Big Bad Johns, dancing the night away in club 9one9 finishing with, of course, a stop at McDonalds.
Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and has a very big British influence. I spent my free afternoon wandering the streets, exploring the bug zoo and talking a walk around the harbor to a place called Fisherman’s Wharf, where there is a population on harbor seals that take advantage of the fact that people can buy a plate of herring and feed them. It shows in the seals waterline how much they enjoy those herring!

That afternoon we jumped back on the bus and began our journey back to Vancouver. The only way from the British Columbia mainland to Vancouver island is via boat. We caught the ferry and it takes about an hour and a half. We had a quite night in Vancouver enjoying the sunset whilst sitting on a beach with the Vancouver skyline in the distance.

Our next day involved jumping back on the Moose bus and heading off alone the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler. Whistler is where the 2010 Winter Olympics were held, so the Sea to Sky highway was upgraded only 2 years ago. Along the way we stopped at another gorgeous waterfall, had a glimpse of the golf course where Happy Gilmore was filmed and passed what is known as the Stawamus Chief. The Chief as it is affectionately know is the second largest granite monolith in the world and also a very popular hiking and rock climbing location.
As it was another hot day the group has the option of going to a lake in the area for lunch and a swim or going for a flight in a small plane. I took option b along with three others, flying over The Chief, Howe Sound and Shannon Falls was breathtaking and to top it off the pilot let me fly the plane for a short while whilst we were heading back to the aerodrome.
After arriving in Whistler that evening and taking a dip in a lake and eating supper it was time for another night on the town.

Shannon Falls from the Air

We had a free day in Whistler the next day so I chose to take the Gondola to the peak of Whistler mountain, which proved to be a beautiful view. This is where Iseen my first bear ever! It was a mummy black bear with a cub, scary and exciting at the same time!

Black Bear

That afternoon I decided to go Bungee Jumping! I had never bungee jumped before, so to say I was a little nervous was certainly an understatement. I’d kept my intentions of bungee jumping secret from my family as I knees they would freak out! The jump I did was about 50m over a river about 15 minutes out of Whistler, and was the most exhilarating thing I’ve done in my life so far. It’s such a weird thing to just jump off a bridge, but just incredible!
We stayed in Vancouver once again and had another quite night.

Inukshuk in Whistler

On the edge of the Bungee Bridge

The next two days were filled with travels as we were en route to the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately about 2 hours out of Vancouver the bus broke down. This left us stranded on the side of the highway about 3 kilometers from a town called Hope – kinda ironic really. It was a super hot day, and after multiple attempts to get the bus going with no success, most of the group decided that they would bite the bullet and pay for taxis into Hope to get lunch and a drink. After what felt like an extremely long three hours, a new bus arrived and we were back on the road.
Due to our delay we unfortunately missed out on the houseboat ride that was planned for us. Instead we went bowling, which turned out to be quite fun! The next day involved nothing but a very long and hot drive to Banff.

The next leg of our trip involved two nights in wilderness hostels. Rampart Creek was out next destination, on the way we stopped at Moraine lake and Lake Louise, two of the most beautiful lakes you may ever set eyes on. They have striking blue/green color due to the rock flour suspended in the water. The rock flour comes from the rock beds of glaciers, the glaciers grind down the rock bed with their movement and deposit the rock flour in the lake at the bottom.

Moraine Lake

Due to the remoteness of these hostels there is no running water or electricity. Also being this far into the mountains the risk of crossing paths with bears, this meant no deodorant, hair washing and no toothpaste near the sleeping quarters.

Mumma and Baby Grizzly Bears

The hostel in Rampart Creek had a sauna which provided the entertainment for the evening. Running from the steaming sauna and then jumping in the glacier fed creek was certainly a shock to the system, but so fun!
Edith Cavell was our next destination, we drove along the Icefields Parkway, which is up there with one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Columbia Icefield is located about halfway between Banff and Jasper and is big enough that everyone in North America can stand on it with one square meter each!

Athabasca Glacier

On the Athabasca Glacier

Ice Explorer

The bus stopped at the Athabasca Glacier, where we boarded Ice Explorers which drove out to the middle of the glacier, you can really begin to appreciate the incredible size of not only the Icefields but the glacier itself whilst you are out there. It was a breathtaking experience, and you stand on 400 year old ice when you are in the middle!
For lunch, our tour guide let us climb a waterfall and look over the ice fields and the mountains. It was amazing to just have the sound of the water and nothing else, such a relaxing peaceful experience.

Waterfall where we ate Lunch

Edith Cavell is a mountain that the Native American people called ‘White Ghost’, this is because of its eerie appearance at sunset and into the night. The snow capped mountain almost glows. The hostel once once again a wilderness hostel with limited power and no flushing toilets. After a BBQ Dinner it was bed time because the mozzies were just so bad! The following day we spent the night in Jasper, and then we were back to Banff. A couple of my tour mates and I decided to go white water rafting on the Kicking Horse River. Another great experience!

Angel Glacier at Edith Cavell

Mt Edith Cavell

White Water Rafting

The last three days of our tour involved a lot of traveling all the way back to Vancouver. It was really sad to say goodbye to the people that I bonded with over the two weeks, but it’s a bonus that now I have friends in more countries around the world, and an excuse to travel there!

I apologies for how long winded and overdue this is, I promise I’ll get better at this!


Ps: All the photos on this page are all photos I took whilst on the tour

Stage 1 – Travel

 After saying a sad goodbye to my family in Melbourne I was officially on my exchange journey. I departed Melbourne en route to Guangzhou at 2230 on the 26th of June 2012. After what was a nearly 10 hour flight I touched down in Guangzhou at local time 0600. Hopping off the plane into a very balmy steamy 28°C was a bit of a shock to the system. After being directed to a body temperature scanner and then to the International Transfers desk I was stamped into China. As it was still so early in the morning very few things were opened, I wandered aimlessly for a short while before making camp to charge my phone and try to access the “free Wi-Fi” which was offered at almost every gate with no success due to the language barrier. I browsed around stores in order to kill some time but again everything in Cantonese provided some issues.

 After four hours my gate location for my flight to Vancouver was finally displayed. In China there were a couple of significant differences that I noticed firstly the toilets were just porcelain holes in the ground which were designed for you to squat over.  These toilets still flushed like regular toilets but I had never seen a toilet like that before. The second most noticeable thing was the fact that the tap water was not safe to drink, so in order to provide drinking water to people traveling, machines were placed in the airport which boiled the water in order to make it drinkable. This was interesting because if you wanted a drink you would pour yourself a cup of hot water and either wait for it to cool or drink it warm. It was at this point I was upset I hadn’t carried any tea bags with me!

After a lengthy 8 hour layover in Guangzhou, I boarded my flight to Vancouver. After boarding the plane a flash rainstorm began. This meant that we were unable to take off until the rain subsided. We were not informed of much so it was just a waiting game until the rain stopped. This situation is not ideal as the flight we had ahead of us was 12 hours and nobody really wants to sit on a plane in a small space longer than they have to. The rainstorm took an hour and a half to pass so that meant we were delayed our arrival that time. This would not have been an issue if I didn’t have to catch a flight at the other end to get me to Regina. This hour and a half delay only allowed me an hour in Vancouver to get through immigration, collect my bags, check onto my next flight and clear security.  It was a race against time so after collecting my bags and running through the airport to check onto my next flight I had to clear security once again. Unfortunately I beeped in the scanner and was required to undergo a pat down and have all my belonging scanned for explosives needless to say I wasn’t carrying any so was free to go but had to run the entire way to the planes gate as my flight was now boarding.

After 20 odd hours of travelling I made it relatively unscathed to Regina, Saskatchewan, my home for the next 7 months. Now to enjoy some summer weather!

The toilets in Guangzhou

China Southern Plane I travelled on


Hey Guys!

My name is Sarah Van Den Akker and this blog is going to be all about my experiences throughout my exchange to Canada.

I started to think seriously about going on exchange this time last year after a Charles Sturt University Global presentation in one of my first weeks of University last year. Exchange was always something that I had wanted to do but this presentation really got the ball rolling.

My cousin had done an exchange, and then I begun meeting people at university who were on exchange, I only heard fantastic things about doing a student exchange which drove me into doing some research into what universities offered subjects for my course. 

After extensive research I decided on the University of Regina, which is in ReginaSaskatchewan, Canada. 

The application process for exchange is quite an extensive one, lots of forms and research. Once my application was submitted to my University, the waiting began. My application was assessed and I was then invited to attend an interview. The interview was the final step of the application process. It was conducted via Skype with the CSU Global co-ordinator whom is located on the Bathurst campus. This interview was to determine my suitability as an ambassador for CSU and Australia. I was accepted into the CSU Global Student Exchange program and received an Australian Government sponsored scholarship of  $5000.

From here it was all about booking flights and organising everything so my exchange adventure could begin!