One common question that I have been constantly getting while living in the Great White North is “Why Edmonton?”. It is indeed pretty perplexing for my Canadian friends to know someone, who comes from a beautiful tropical country and decides to step into a cold, snowy city that is Edmonton. While the locals always look forward to be engulfed by the unlimited warmth of the sun in the equator, I decided to leave that paradise and live in Alberta since 2011. Oh well…
Alberta is home for one of the most beautiful places in the world – Rocky Mountains. It is pretty much in Edmonton’s backyard and it is only a 4-hour car ride. I still remember the first time I saw the Rockies – majestic ranges of mountains covered in snow and ice, with pine trees along the face of the mountains. The scent of winter seems to be embedded in this hilly part of the earth. Reminiscing on this piece of heaven almost made me forget that I should probably talk more on how I ended up in here.
When I looked back to my past couple of years, it has definitely been quite a journey. I honestly had never heard about the city until shortly before I applied to my university. I was referred to the University of Alberta while researching for an institution with a good engineering program; which is what this university is well known for. At the time in 2011, there were a lot of engineering jobs in Alberta due to oil sands related activities – Alberta holds 168 billion barrels of proved oil reserves; third biggest in the world after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia – it made a lot of sense to get an engineering degree in Alberta if you want to easily find work in this field. However, things do not always go as planned – the job market has not been in their prime in the past years. As the economy is still recovering from the great 2014 oil crash, let me just share a little bit of my time while I was an undergraduate student.
One of the perks studying at the University of Alberta Engineering program is it allows some of its students to enter a cooperative program. If shortlisted, you get to work in the industry for 20 months and get some industrial experiences under your belt. It is a challenging and highly competitive program, but definitely rewarding. For me, getting into this program was very crucial in my self-development; I got to not only see how Canadian manufacturing industries work, but also contributed to the process. During my time, I had a chance to work in a pulp and paper mill, salt manufacturing plant, and petrochemical (plastics) manufacturing plant.
As I kept rewinding my life tape, I realized my career as a student was a result of overcoming initial obstacles at my university. At first, it was hard adapting to all-English courses; I remember struggling on my first-year Chemistry and Physics class – the material itself was something I had already learnt, but relearning everything in English made it so much more challenging.
There were very few Indonesians studying at the University of Alberta, as it is not as popular as studying at the University of British Columbia or University of Toronto. This could be good and bad – bad in the sense that there aren’t a lot of people that have the same background as you, good in the sense that you can immerse in their culture and learn from it. One clear advantage of this would be my English skills; thanks to being surrounded by people who speak English all the time, I could improve mine a lot faster as opposed to if I were surrounded myself with Indonesians. This has surely helped me surviving the cold weather with the locals!
Now that I feel more comfortable living in cold weather, I realized it is also an adaptation in living in Edmonton. Edmonton is clearly a winter city for most of the year. Winter officially starts at the end of December and ends in late March. Nonetheless, the temperature usually drops to below 0 in late November and stays that way until late April. I do enjoy winter – going snowboarding is one of my favorite sports. Summer in Edmonton, while short, presents the best that this city can offer. It is beautiful, and the city celebrates it by throwing tons of festivals going around in every corner. If one day you decide to come to Edmonton, keep in mind that it is a very cold place. Know how to dress appropriately for the weather and you’d be ready to be in Edmonton!
Photo provided by Flickr and author.