Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Sarah Playfair

Politics and Parliamentary Studies, Ottawa, Canada |

Photo of Sarah Playfair

My time in Ottawa was unquestionably the best experience of my life.  Ottawa is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, and it was amazing to be able to live, work and have fun in such a wonderful place with such wonderful people. I did not want to leave after four months!

My internship
I worked for Irene Mathyssen, an NDP MP (and Critic for the Status of Women) for four days a week, from 9am to 5pm.
Firstly, the people in my office and other offices that we worked with were so approachable, helpful, encouraging and just a pleasure to work with. I never had any problems with anyone and I felt that I was given very interesting projects to work on and was treated like a member of the team.

Secondly,  I had the perfect mix of daily tasks, weekly committee meetings, weekly caucus meetings, meetings with external organisations, as well as long term projects, which made my days varied and extremely interesting. I was also given the opportunity to watch Question Period in the House of Commons. I even had the chance to attend receptions which was always fun!

The politics of Canada was strangely similar to England in some ways, however totally different in others. It was a refreshing change, and I wish I could have continued to work there.

Outside of work
Ottawa has a great selection of museums, cinemas, shopping malls, bars, sport venues and an Art centre. In downtown Ottawa there is a fantastic market every day called Byward Market where you can pick up fresh fruit and vegetables as well as Canadian trinkets and also some all important warm clothes! The shopping centre called Rideau Shopping centre is great for anything else you could want.

There is a great independent cinema called the Bytowne cinema, and it is easy enough to get to the ice hockey stadium to watch an Ottawa Senators game at home (I recommend this, as despite not being a sports fan I went twice because it was so fun).  The food was great, and I recommend trying the local gourmet delicacies: Poutine (Fries, gravy and cheese curd) and Beaver Tails (fried dough with maple butter).

I was linked to Carleton University, and although I didn’t have to attend lectures, I made sure to go to all events for exchange students. I’m glad I did make an effort to meet other exchange students as it led me to meet a great group of English, German, French, Dutch and many other international friends. This was great as I had a group of students my age who were going through the same things as I was and also who I could go out with- the nightlife in Ottawa is very different from Leeds though!

During my stay in Ottawa I managed to travel around Ontario and Quebec, and I visited Toronto, Niagara Falls, Kingston and Montreal. This was probably the highlight of my time on Canada as all of these places are extremely beautiful so I felt lucky to have the opportunity to visit them. We rented a car to travel, however you have to be 21 to be able to do this, and you also have to pay a young drivers fee. However it worked out as not too expensive and I would love to have been able to see more!

Overall, I was extremely sad to leave Canada and the people that I had met there. I was obviously a bit homesick in the first week or two when I didn’t know many people; however this did not last long. I really hope that I get the chance to go back to Canada in the future.

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