When I fell for Vancouver Island

I was 19 years old when I first set foot in British Colombia, Canada from my village in the South of France. My English at the time was highly questionable, and the only fact I knew about the city I was moving into was that it hosted a parliament house. I honestly didn’t even know I was going to live on a big Island…

6am, camping in front of Kennedy Lake (the largest Lake on Vancouver Island)

Here is a list of my top picks activities I experienced while being an international student in Victoria BC which were defining adventures in my love story with Canada, which may inspire you to come check it out one day.

The first time I saw a deer

The first time I explored my campus was in the summer 2012. The campus was empty because summer class had just ended, and I was looking to find the engineering building. All of sudden behind the trees I noticed a deer eating grass (right in front of the engineering building!). As I very quietly approached it, getting closer to her with each step, I realized that she kept on living her life peacefully as if nobody was around ! She finally decided to leave when I was about 3m away from her. I had never seen a “wild” creature being so accustomed to humans in my life. After a few weeks, I learned that seeing a deer in Victoria is more than common, and parts of the population consider them as nuisance as they will eat through your gardens. It was still a defining moment though !

Canoeing downtown Victoria

My good friend took me on a canoe ride once and we were able to paddle right along the inner harbour: it gave a very different perspective of the architecture and we watched sea planes take off and land.

Paddling in the calm ocean

I tried surfin’ the pacific waves

I had never tried surfing and went on a camping weekend with a bunch of West Coaster Canadians. After putting on a thick wetsuit I borrowed from one of my guys to protect me from the cold water, I (a complete novice) borrowed his longboard and ran towards the ocean. I am guessing my friends onshore figured out I had no clue of what I was doing. One of them paddled towards me for support and taught me “surfing 101”. We were pretty far offshore seated on our boards when all of the sudden he points his finger to the beach and tells me to look: a large black bear was walking along the shoreline, thankfully away from our campsite. I will never forget the feeling of my body floating on the board, staring at the bear as it was walking away. This was probably one of the moment I felt the closest with nature.

An orca dived below our boat

My oldest and best friend Manon came to visit me from France one summer ! we decided to take a whale watching tour as Victoria Island is home for many families of orcas and whales. We had to dress up with large red and puffy suits which would keep us dry and safe in case we fel down on the water. In the summer, the ocean is at about 10C. After gearing up we boarded a small open boat which guaranties an experience as close to the water as possible. We saw many orcas that day and felt especially lucky. All of the sudden, a pack of three orcas came swimming around our boats. That was unreal but they were still keeping their distances. At some point, one of them decided to change his course. The orca swam towards us with his dorsal fin out and dived below our boat right before hitting us. He then came back up on the other side. It took us passengers a few moments before realizing what had just happened — and what could have gone wrong. It was a very powerful moment that taught us that the orca knew exactly what he was doing, and didn’t want to hurt us.

Hiking on Mount Douglas

During my time as a student I moved 7 times in BC — that’s right ! At one point, I was living 20 minutes away from campus by bike right below Mount Douglas. Before starting my day in the lab, I enjoyed walking up the mountain as fast as I could to get some exercise, fresh air and an astonishing view. I even had a secret spot to meditate. This part of town is a real beauty.

Feed the seals in Oak Bay

A happy seal

Oak Bay is a unique municipality next to Victoria, filled with vibrant spots and… old people. I lived there for about a year while in Victoria and loved it. One activity I loved to do on weekends is go to the local harbour, purchase some small frozen fish to feed the seals who had taken residency in the area. Good times are guaranteed !

I have a lot more stories and moments to share about living in Victoria BC. I am thinking of starting a series for those who would like to learn about what it is like to live and study in this area when coming from another country.

Mechanical engineer who wants to help the planet. Vegan & international, living in Montreal. Here are things that matter to me. Je suis française !