Apology and culture shock.
First of all, sorry I have not written in so long. I do not have the internet in Montreal, and I lost my username n password.
I think I’m starting to feel a bit of the culture shock, I’m a little disappointed/disheartened with school, particularly women’s studies, actually mostly just womens studies. I’m also starting to find Anglophone Canadians slightly passive aggressive which is slightly offputting. I’ve made alot of friends but I do not feel completely at home with any of them, I feel like my Queer friends for example judge my more hetero international friends etc But anyway i’m descending into stereotypes which is not productive, or nice or polite or anything.
But even the politeness here is bugging me. I want to fucking swear and be loud and my self, and it just does not seem appropriate. In front of Quebecois it’s ‘so anglo’ i.e. so trashy, loud n obnoxious, and in front of anglo Canadian’s it’s just rude, offensive or bizarre.
That and school has been hectic. So difficult to adapt to, but I got a bunch of grades back, and I got all A’s and B’s which I’m happy with, extremely happy with in fact, but I think I would prefer lower grades and less stress/workload to be honest. They seem to overload you so much here e.g. for women’s studies I have 3 or 4 readings per week to do and approx a 500-word write up for both of my 2 women’s studies classes! It’s bullshit. Plus assignments, one of them an activist project, is just ridiculous, not only depending on what I do for it do I have to risk deportation but there is absolutely no communication or support with it. They will also give you weighted assignments that weren’t outlined in the syllabus or didn’t have a date set like a week before they are due. I don’t know how Canadian students work and take a full-time load, though I haven’t met one that does yet, maybe they just don’t.
I’ve also found there’s a bit of an assumption about exchange students; that they’re rich, trashy only here to have sex, get drunk and that they don’t take their studies seriously. I am not rich! I lived below the poverty line for the first 19 years of my life, I worked 40 hours a week, plus fulltime study load, took out a loan and got a scholarship to get here. I’m not a ‘stereotypically priveleged student.’ I’m just lucky and hard working. And you’re right, no body really wants to listen. I feel like my Nan for example is in complete denial of any troubles I might be having, she keeps changing the subject or even responding to my complaints with, “Sounds like you’re having a really great time.” The conversation seems so detached and bizarre.
Anyway obviously not feeling great today so I’m uploading this photo I took a couple of weeks ago:
As tired n grumpy n frustrated etc. as I am though, nothing has been that hard or that overwhelming. I did have a cry twice that I remember, but because of pretty hectic stuff that would probably make me cry at home as well. When I left I was really sick, like so so so sick. I contracted a virus, which gave me bronchitis n laryngitis, and traveling whilst not being able to stand without puking is one of the more hellish things I’ve done in the past few months.
I also had alot of trouble with my cell phone carrier when I got here, and they charged me a buttload and my phone didn’t even work, was still sick, couldn’t contact my family, trying to find a place to live (WITHOUT A PHONE!?!), my hostel booking was about to run out in a few days, and I couldn’t extend it so I was thinking I might end up sleeping in the metro with the bums :S Definitely distressing. But the universe conspired to help me, I got so ridiculously lucky, met some really cool people and found a place to live 2 days before my hostel booking ran out, cheap as chips, right near school, and one that I could move into straight away (I couldn’t with any of the others I looked at). I received so many random acts of kindness around that time, which was really inspiring n cool. Anyway positive note to end on. Think I will show you some cool photo’s I took in the bush at Mont Tremblant, cos we all need some beauty n serenity sometimes:
Oh another randomly annoying thing! No body understands a word i’m saying! Even the Anglophones struggle with my accent. Makes for a massive burden in my womens studies classes; i.e. things are turned backwards and taken the most offensive way possible. And hence evoke the passive aggressiveness I was speaking of. It’s so frustrating. I struggle so hard to make myself understood all the time even in english speaking environments. It’s quite frustrating and alienating.
October 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm
Bek, no need to apologize! Great post, especially because you’ve pointed out a lot of the hardship that tends to get ‘washed out’ by the positive afterglow. It’s one of the hard things about preparing students to go — no one who comes back seems to want to talk about being so sick you can’t stand up, or worrying that you’re about to wind up sleeping in the metro station… You’ve given us an unvarnished peek at your experience, warts and all.
So many interesting comments in your post that make me want to respond — the observations about swearing and being polite (I know what you mean), about how people like your Nan can’t seem to deal with you when you report the rough parts, the frustration of trying to talk to people and finding that they cannot seem to understand your accent when you have NO TROUBLE understanding them. God, that one drove me freakin’ nuts a few times! I found myself just about shouting at people: ‘You know damn well what I’m saying! Stop checking out just because I have an ACCENT!’ The only really grim wrinkle in your version that I have never considered was the passive-aggressive variant where, when they can’t understand you, they assume that you are saying something offensive that sounds vaguely like what you said. Diabolical!
I wish I could say for certain that you were doing a lot of good for changing the way Canadians see Australians, but I’ll wait until you come back and see what you think. But this is a great share, and I hope we can show it to other students to prepare them for all different sorts of experiences that they might have while on exchange.
October 29, 2010 at 7:32 am