Cultural Experience | North America

Why You Should Consider the University of Calgary For Your Semester Abroad

This Western Canadian city is overlooked and underrated.

What I have discovered whilst travelling Europe is that it seemed that many people didn’t know a lot about Canada, much less Western Canada. Whenever I told people where I was from, they would stare at me blankly as I said Calgary, and only knew where I was talking about when I finally just reverted to saying Canada. The only recognizable city is essentially Toronto, and occasionally Vancouver. A lot of people were unaware of Calgary and the undiscovered potential for adventure that it holds.

The city– Calgary is one of the biggest cities in Canada yet it doesn’t have the same crowded feeling that Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver do. Calgary has all the amenities of a large city, and just as many things to do without making you feel like you’ve been swallowed up by a booming metropolis.

Public spaces– Calgary has some great public parks for hanging out with friends in the sunshine. Even in winter, Calgary is still the sunniest city in Canada (score!). There are many great spots, such as pleasant Prince’s Island Park, hip Kensington, which is connected to downtown by the controversial yet engaging Peace Bridge, the recently gentrified East Village, and Fish Creek park, which is one of the largest urban parks in North America. There is also the Glenmore Reservoir, which serves as the water supply for the city and also provides great biking trails with beautiful views of the Rockies.

Proximity to the mountains –These majestic beasts are almost always visible from the city, which means they are just a short drive away. There are many great hikes in the Kananaskis area, which exists just at the base of the mountains in the Foothills, and is about a 45-minute drive from the city. A bit further out, you will find the legendary town of Banff, followed by the majestic village of Lake Louise, name after the pristine lake that draws thousands of tourists every year. In the summer hike up Sulphur mountain in Banff and then reward yourself with a dip in the hot springs. In the winter, head up to Sunshine to hit the slopes or go for a snowshoe on Chester Lake. After 21 years in Calgary, I still have not run out of things to see and do in the mountains. That’s how you know they’re awesome.

Johnston Canyon Kearan image

The Calgary Stampede – If you are studying abroad for the whole year or for second semester, consider sticking around until the beginning of July. This is when the whole city turns into a true cowboy town, where for 10 days the city is filled with a massive rodeo. The legendary event is full of barrel racing, outdoor concerts, lots of beer, and deep-fried anything. It’s one party you don’t want to miss.

The school – The University of Calgary was recently ranked the #1 school in North America in the under 50 years old category, and it is held in high regard amongst the leading universities inCanada. It also has top-level sports teams, which means there are plenty of opportunities to showcase your school pride at sporting events from basketball to volleyball, and football to hockey.

Nightlife – Calgary has no shortage of Western bars, which makes it a unique city to go out in. Amongst the standard clubs playing electronic music, house music, and top 40, you’ll find clubs where country is the music of choice, and cowboy boots are the only acceptable form of footwear. Spend a night out in one of these clubs (Ranchman’s, Knoxville’s, or Cowboys) to truly experience Calgary in all of its two-stepping, line-dancing, mechanical bull-riding glory.

Ease of access to the States – Being the friendly neighbour to the north has its perks- it is very easy to take trips into the U.S. while studying in Calgary. A road trip into beautiful Montana is only a 5 hour drive south, which offers a stop-over at Waterton Lakes National Park along the way. Feeling a little more adventurous? Rent an R.V. with some friends and head west to go down beautiful highway 101 to experience the stunning coastline along Washington, Oregon, and California.

Roadtrip to states kearan image

If none of these reasons have convinced you, then perhaps this parting fact will: Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi was voted the best mayor in the world in 2014. Such a cool guy must run a pretty cool city.

Kearan Meagher

University of Calgary | 9 stories

Kearan Meagher is in her fourth year of accounting at the University of Calgary. After completing a semester abroad at the University of Leeds in England, Kearan joined the College Tourist summer team while still backpacking to write about her many experiences abroad.

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