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From Irish country gal to Canadian city slicker

Martina Gannon | Fulcrum Contributor

Illustration by Kelsey Shore

Countless students at the University of Ottawa could write this outsider’s perspective—there are so many non-Canadians living in Canada’s capital. This cultural and ethnic diversity was one of the first fascinating things that struck me about Ottawa. I come from a rural town in the west of Ireland, where about 95 per cent of the population is Irish and Caucasian, so Ottawa was quite a culture shock for me. No two people are in any way similar, and I love it! In a strange way, this diversity makes me feel more at home; I’m not the only one who is experiencing a world entirely different from what I have always known.

It’s as if almost everybody has been uprooted from another country and re-planted here to make Canada’s capital one vastly diverse, colourful garden of nationalities. It appears to be a place where you can simultaneously be anonymous and share connections with various different worlds.

As an admitted country girl—geographically speaking, not mentally!—I find O-Town incredibly impressive. It seems to perfectly exhibit all the features of a nation’s capital and all the conveniences of a city, yet it also manages to retain an awe-inspiring mystique and beauty that peaks in the Parliament Buildings, Chateau Laurier, and all of the historical sites sprinkled throughout downtown.

All Canadian stereotypes I’ve ever heard have been affirmed by the majority of people I’ve met who welcomed me with helpfulness and a distinct politeness. It’s almost as if you could do them the worst wrong and they would end up apologizing for it.

Upon my arrival here, so many things that were normal to Canadian students were foreign to me. Sororities, fraternities, red party cups, American football, and ice hockey games were all new and thrilling experiences.

Despite having been in Ottawa for less than a week, I have already learned so much about the vast diversity that this city has to offer, especially from my housemates, who all happen to be international students. I have garnered a wealth of insider knowledge on global stereotypes, French and Spanish curse words, English slang, and, most importantly, international drinking games. My house is like an incessantly hilarious Lost In Translation scene. I can’t help but feel like a sponge here.

Admittedly, this enthusiasm could well be magnified because of the amazing weather here and the fact that I come from a country that gets about five days of summer. Perhaps if you ask me in the winter how I feel about the city, I’ll have a different opinion.

Truthfully, I came to Canada to escape Ireland for a little while. After only one week living here, I am certain I could not have chosen a better oasis for change. I have trudged hungover  into classes only to emerge with an enlightened and altered world view. This city never ceases to intrigue me. This year as an Ottawan, anything feels possible.