From sweating to shivering: My experience with Canada’s seasons as an international student

by | Oct 23, 2023 | Arts & Life

“What the…?”

This (along with other expletives) was my reaction three weeks ago, as I left the LRT at Health Sciences/Jubilee and stared in disbelief at a dude in plain shorts and a t-shirt, while the temperature was a mere seven degrees Celsius. I was shell-shocked.

At that point, my mind went back to what my instructor said during one of my finance lectures. The words that hit me the hardest were “rude awakening,” when I pitifully told him that the weather was already too cold for me. He replied with a smirk that winter was going to get way colder than this. 

Coming from Malaysia, where snow and four seasons are nonexistent, and where the sun blazes and the rain pours, Edmonton’s weather is indeed a drastic change. For us Malaysians, the word cold means sitting in air-conditioned rooms.

In Malaysia, the coldest place would be Cameron Highlands, a scenic area famous for its fresh strawberry farms and tea plantations. But here I am in Edmonton, one of the coldest cities in Canada. You would laugh if I told you that the coldest Cameron Highlands gets is approximately 17 C. That’s like summer for Edmontonians. 

While you laugh at me, I also laugh at myself for packing mostly shorts and T-shirts instead of warmer clothes for the weather here. On top of that, I didn’t believe my sister when she said that the temperature once dipped to -22 C while she was a student at MacEwan University four years ago. The joke is on me, I guess. 

I am not alone, though. I sought the opinion of two other friends who are also international students. I asked them to use three words to best describe the weather here. Arya Mehra, my friend from India who’s pursuing his first year in Business Administration (Finance) said “drastic, unpredictable and harsh,” while Princes Ponce from the Philippines, who is in her first year in Business Administration (Accounting), used the words “diverse, seasonal and extreme.”

From what I gather, the weather has been slightly difficult for us international students. Besides the weather, we also need to adjust our attire to best suit the days here. Coming from Asia especially, it is always either hot, hotter or rainy. But in Canada, it is cold, colder and mostly unpredictable.

However, despite the negative temperatures, I am generally a positive person. I did have my fair share of joy and fun and “Seasons in the Sun” (sorry Westlife for butchering the lyrics). Changing seasons only meant that I am about to experience and learn a bunch of new and cool (pun intended) stuff.

For example, the kid in me is extremely excited to experience snow and build a snowman. The only time we could see snow back home was on the television, when they played Christmas movies. Now, when winter comes, I can finally feel what snow is like in real-time. 

I would also like to tell my friends in Malaysia that I have walked on water—frozen, that is! To be able to walk or skate on frozen lakes is something that we could only imagine, and now that imagination is about to become a reality. 

One thing that has kept me warm is the comfort of my family here and the friends that I’ve met at NAIT. They have been very welcoming and helpful, which means a lot to someone who is more than 7000 miles away from home. The temperatures might be low, but the kindness and the spirits of the people here is certainly high. 

Life in these cold temperatures isn’t easy, but having it easy means there’s no chance of creating memories and life experiences that will last forever. Would I prefer it to be less cold? Sure. But if life is like a brief candle, I’d like my light to continue flickering into the coming seasons that Canada has to offer.

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