The first autumn I spent in Canada was a little over a decade ago, when I lived in a rural town of Québec as a college exchange student. After a rough month of adjusting to the new life on campus, Canadian Thanksgiving arrived, and just like many other international students, my new dorm friend and I organized a trip to Toronto for the long weekend.
It was going to be our first ever trip in Canada. I didn’t know what to expect, but as we left our college town on Friday evening and took a night bus from Montréal, I felt my heart hum with excitement for the first time in a long while. A sense of freedom and power filled my body after a month of daily struggle of culture shock and of not being able to communicate fluently with others. I welcomed the escape from my daily life.
We had the whole Saturday and Sunday to explore downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls. As we took in the new sceneries, ate take-away food on the street, appreciated the clean bedding in the evening, and marvelled at the magnificent view of one of the greatest falls in the world, my friend and I chatted about our life, exchanged stories from our home countries and shared visions for our futures. And before I knew it, my mind had become free of any anxiety and opened up for new possibilities. Even my body felt lighter as our weekend adventure came to an end, and we waited at the Montréal bus terminal on Monday late afternoon for our final bus journey.
I want to remember this feeling.
That was the thought that repeated in my head as we settled into the packed bus.
I want to remember that I’m always supported. I’m free. I’m powerful.
We were crossing a long bridge over the St. Lawrence River when my friend suddenly turned back.
“Look,” she pointed outside the window. “The sun!”
As I looked out, the amber sunlight filled my vision. The burning setting sun hang low in the sky over the vast shining river, its presence so powerful and unmovable. The glowing sunset was forever imprinted in my mind together with all the memories from the trip and the reassuring voice that filled my head in the magical moment on the bridge.