I spent one winter semester (Jan-Apr) in University of Saskatchewan, Canada. While there, I ended up taking two courses in geography and an introductory course in astronomy. I have lived in Finland my whole life and wanted to experience something similar but different, so Canada seemed like the best match from the beginning.

University of Saskatchewan is located in Saskatoon, which is a city known for its harsh winter conditions and low winter temperatures. During my exchange, the temperature went down to as low as -40 degrees Celsius in January. Gladly, not for many days but it was a new experience for me. Otherwise, the climate and temperature felt comfortable, only with a lot more sunny days than I’m used to.

The environment, nature and effects of climate change have been interests of mine since I was in primary school. When I saw that USask offered courses on global climate change and northern environments, I knew these were the right courses for me. I got to learn about the dynamics of ecosystems, land changes and formation, indigenous peoples, and vulnerabilities of the Arctic in the face of a warming climate. Seeing changes in the nature, due to harsh, cold winters of Saskatoon, has inspired me to travel to other northern destinations and learn more about the Artic environments.

The USask campus was diverse and there were many places to study all around and in university residence buildings. There were museums, cafés, and beautiful architecture all around campus. Courses felt slightly more time-consuming than what I was used to but far from impossible. I enjoyed that the courses were more focused on performance throughout the semester instead of just relying on the final exam. Additionally, there were midterm exams in March, accompanied by a reading week with no lectures.

There were mandatory student fees (about 300 dollars), which included a bus ticket for the semester and the right to use the gym, climbing wall, swimming pool, and other sports facilities in the Pack building. The bus network was not the most advanced, but it got us to and from many places. The university residences were all located near campus and living at College Quarter was a great experience for me. Most people that I knew lived in residence, which made it easy to spend free time with friends on my free time and get home easily by foot afterwards.

For any future students going to USask, you should definitely stop by Banff National Park! It is part of the Canadian Rockies and the views there are breathtaking. It was definitely one of my highlights of the exchange. We rented a car with a group of exchange students and spend four nights in a town nearby, Canmore. It is about an 8-hour drive, but it is totally worth it!

All in all, my exchange semester was unforgettable. Getting to experience North American nature, winter, learn about the north and meet incredible people from all around the world felt like a once in a lifetime experience. Getting to break out of usual habits and moving to the other side of the world can teach you a lot about yourself and studying in a different country gives valuable perspective and experience that I can recommend to everyone.