Coming to Canada 101

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Genny on a Quest back-packing trip, third from the left.

Genny Anderson is from Camano Island, Washington. She recently completed her certificate in QUEST, and is returning to Columbia Bible College for a second year, to pursue her Diploma in Applied Leadership. We asked her what it was like to move across the border to join the Columbia Bible College community, and for her best advice on making the adjustment to life in Canada.

Here we go… Genny’s post for Americans thinking of applying to Columbia Bible College:

You are looking into going to school in Canada. Congratulations!

Isn’t Canada just like the US?

True, the two countries have similarities, yet they also have many differences. Coming up to school in BC, I assumed it would be just like my home in Washington. I’d just have to get used to some new vocabulary – things like “washrooms,” “loonies,” and “toques.” To a degree, this was true.  To start off, I would love to pass on some terminology I learned.

Poutine. Yum.


Some basic Canadian vocabulary so you can follow and start conversations:

Loonie, Toonie: One- and two-dollar coins. Remember the smallest bill up there is a 5!

Timmies: Usually referred to in exuberance, Tim Hortons is like a McDonalds meets Starbucks on steroids. It is the staple place for just about anything.

Poutine: Fries with gravy and cheese curds. I would personally recommend a ski lodge over Dairy Queen for your first try.

Hoser:  An insult, yet a strange, loving kind.

Canadian Tire: Not comparable to Les Shwab, it sells MUCH more than tires.

Zed: How to reference the letter ‘Z’ (e.g ‘Yes Luke, Zoo is spelled zed, O, O.”)

Grounders: A game, similar to Marco-Polo with a playground as the pool

Give yourself permission to be a little clueless about Canada.

For me, the more little things I learned and could remember, the more successfully I was adjusting. I was interacting with friends and making new ones, talking with teachers and going on adventures, learning more and more about Canada as the year progressed.

As confident as I was in what I knew, almost every week I kept learning some new tidbit or angle of the culture. It was like a reflection of the culture I knew from home, but with a few twists. It felt similar to a carnival mirror. As you first walk up it seems normal, but the more you move, the more differences are revealed.

Keeping that in mind, when my transition north did not feel as seamless as I expected, I became frustrated. Frustrated at myself.  Which was mainly due to my conviction that I was looking into a perfect mirror, that there was no true transition to acknowledge.

Anyone who knows me a bit can vouch that I am first a thinker, than a feeler. I spent a lot of time analyzing and weighing out the differences, instead of just giving myself permission to be unable to blend in, and to be unknowledgeable about things. Sometimes, I got really hung up on things, but I learned a lot in the process.

Here are some specific difference, and what I learned from them.

A ton of people in Canada can skate, ski, and snowboard ridiculously well. That’s ok.

I never grew up going to the slopes, or even going ice-skating, I was adamant about never going to the rink or lake with my friends due to my complete absence of skill. The trip in Quest I was most apprehensive about for the entire year was the one to Baker. I had skied for 3 hours of my entire LIFE! I was going to hurt myself, or at least damage any illusion of dignity!

I forgot that some of them grew up on the slopes, played hockey since middle school, or figure skated for years. That is how they were raised, a lifestyle that was part of their community and towns and not part of mine. That’s ok. There is no need to find value in comparisons.

American politics are a super interesting topic in Canada.

 Many dinner conversations involved questions and conversations about the election or other political decisions and actions. No need to fear – none of the students are mean or critical of your view, just really curious. Even though they’re not voting, they have perspectives too and I found it really interesting to compare different sources and angles of the news.

Keep in mind that peeps know their stuff. If you want to talk, you will have to do some research. Also, be careful not to bear the weight of your country. There was so much unrest this past year with the election that I felt really overwhelmed. This was due to the fact that I let my focus shift and settle on all the problems that were being pounded by the news. I began to feel like I had to have the solution. Remember who puts kings and rulers over us, and that the same God remains sovereign over all our leaders just as He does over sparrows.

 Flags are not a huge deal in Canada.

Few people there feel the need to ‘prove’ their patriotism through clothing, flags, or social media postings. There is no need to storm into campus with your flag-printed hoodie, saying “merica!” and showering everyone with pennies. There is no competition. You have no need to prove anything for or against your country. Yes, recognize it is your home and influences how you grew up. Just keep in mind there are pros and cons to every place.

Aboard the Pacific Grace, on the Quest SALTS trip.


Canada is beautiful and I absolutely adored living at CBC this past year.

I adore it because of the challenges it brought and the late night dialogues it involved.

I adore it because it helped me recognize and appreciate the ways the US formed me.

I adore it because it facilitated an adoration for both the country itself and all of God’s children whose lives have been formed by it.

It is true that for me there is nothing quite like crossing back over the border and letting fresh air in. Sitting back and watching fields roll past as I drive towards home. Yet, there is also a bubbly excitement when I park my Rav in the school parking lot and run up the steps to the dorms, an anticipation of who I will see and talk with and what God plans to teach this day.

Check out our US Student Info page for some of the logistical details about studying at Columbia Bible College as an American student.

Photo Credits: “Poutine” by Mathieu Plourde is licensed under CC by 2.0.