The following blog was written by Graphic Design & Web Development student Kim D’Sa who made the journey from Dubai to CAT and details the best parts of Kelowna!
Coming to Kelowna.
It is a crazy transition leaving your nest to come to a place that is unique in so many ways. Life here in Canada is different. Different is not always a bad thing. Different is something you have not experienced before. Kelowna is a beautiful city in the province of British Colombia. It houses many different lakes, scenery and people of different races. This is a place where the summers are summers. It is hot, and sweaty and reminds me of home. Kelowna has now become my new chapter in life. My next phase into independence. I do not think of independence as leaving the nest and getting a crappy apartment that you can barely afford. Independence to me is about navigating through life without judgement. Its about accepting and recognizing that people are different. It is about growing up, not physically but mentally and spiritually. Its about doing things to better your life and the people in it.
Like a lot of foreigners to this country my first choice was not Kelowna. I did not even hear about it. Toronto was on top of my list. So, in 2019 I quit my job. A well-paid job. The stress was not the main factor for resigning, but because I saw my life hitting a dead end. I worked as a retail designer for an advertising company. Sounds like fun. It was. I enjoyed my job thoroughly; I got to make connections with people in the industry, my communication skills were getting better, and I even learnt how to write a professional email. I know, it is weird things to be happy about.
Finally, I made the decision to come to Canada to study Graphic Design at the Center of Arts and Technology. so, I resigned and told mum and dad I am going to back to school. Of course, my parents were super supportive and helped me not just financially but prepared me for whats to come. Without their help I probably would not have reached Canada. So, I went through the normal channels, researched different schools in mainly in Toronto because that is where all my friends were. But things do not work out exactly like you plan them to be. My life had a different journey, a different destination. That is where I came across an arts school that offered exactly what was looking for. I applied, got my acceptance letter four weeks later, and I was off. So here starts my new chapter in life. New place, new school and new me.
As an international student, I did find it hard fitting in but the people I came across in Kelowna, were welcoming and thoughtful. It made my adjustment to this beautiful city much easier. So, I want to repay the kindness and share with you my personal guide to Kelowna on a budget.
My first stop was at Toronto airport from there I took a connecting flight to Kelowna international airport. When you reach Kelowna before your plan even touches the tarmac, your eye catches a glimpse of what the city is like. The view from the plane is breathtaking. Its hills after hills of vinery some stretching over acers of land. A sight to see. So, before you even get out of the airport you have got a birds eye view of your next couple of years in this city. Trust me you will not be disappointed. So, keep your cameras ready because this is Instagram worthy!
Kelowna is in the south of the British Columbia province. It is the Okanagan valley on the eastern shore of the Okanagan lake. You are always surrounded by vineyards, orchards, provincial parks, and enormous mountains.
Kelowna’s airport is one the small yet well organized. There’s a little Timmy’s (aka Tim Horton’s) you can grab a quick coffee and bagel before heading out. Yellow cabs are available outside the airport, they have different sized cabs. So, whether you are carrying 5 bags or more (someone like me) then yes take a cab. For the ones with less baggage take the bus! Kelowna public transport system is so convenient that you can travel around the city from the west to the east. I recommend getting the student pass that merely cost 55 CAD dollars (monthly), with unlimited rides. You can also download the BC transit app on the apple or play store for free, this makes it easier to plan your trips ahead of time. This helped me a lot during my first month here. You could also check the bus schedules on google but I find the app to be a lot more accurate. Buses here are always on time, which means you got to be on time. I learnt that the hard way. Missed my first bus to school ended up having to catch a cab to avoid a first bad impression.
Another great way to travel around the city is by riding a cycle. That my friends, is your own best mode of transportation. If you are that type of person who prefers cycles over motor vehicles. I suggest getting one. You can buy them on the Kijiji website, second hand of course. If you are an expert cyclist Kelowna is known for their bike trails. There is approximately 300 km of on-street lanes and 40 kilometers of separated paved multi-use paths for walkers, joggers, skateboarders, and cyclists. The Okanagan Rail Trail is a paved pathway that provides a safe, accessible route. These trails are extended all the way to the marina and you enjoy cycling past by views of the mountains, lakes, and blooming neighborhoods. Here is some of my favorite places to cycle to:
Boyce-Gyro beach park
Kangaroo creek farm
Kelowna has all four seasons. The summers are hot, and the winters go below 0 degrees but bearable than other provinces in Canada. I love the springtime. The cool fresh breeze that comes in from the West. The longer days that stretch on bringing in ample warmth to the frost left behind by the harsh winter. Animals and People come out of hibernation; it is a whole different world. Keep your eyes peeled for wild deer that sometimes if you are lucky will be right there in your backyard, picking on the fresh grass. It is like you can almost befriend them.
Paul’s tomb – Famous Grave Site
If you want to immerse yourself in hike journeys that go through remarkable trails, I suggest Paul’s tomb. It can be accessed throughout all the seasons. Paul tombs trail can be accessed through two entry points, at the end of poplar drive or from the look out point at Knox mountain or through a gravel path which I honestly prefer cause you walk along the edge f the hill over looking the lake. And the best treat of it all is the secluded beach at the very end of the trails. Some locals go cliff jumping there when the tides the are high. Not my kind of adrenaline rush but it looks like a lot of fun.
There are also many wonderful parks around the city, some are walking distance others require modes of transportation. So, do not limit yourself to a new experience. Immerse yourself in nature and you might find a new sense of purpose or just be able take your mind of stressful things going on at that moment. Hiking alone is not a bad thing at all, instead I recommended 100%. Just listen to your favorite tunes and start walking. Most important of them all, don’t forget to charge your phone or carry an extra power bank, because these are wildlife trails, meaning there are chances during the summer that you might come across wild animals such as a black bear. Be alert and do not wander off the trails unless you are certain about the route back. It is easy to get lost.
The second-best hiking trail is in the very same area. The Knox mountain apex trail. This trail tests your strength. One of the best things about this trail is that it is easy to access. It is a popular tourist destination. It is a great place for walking, running, hiking, biking, and birding. The mountain itself is home to several ecosystems. for our sport enthusiast there even an app quest that adds to the enjoyment of the trail. “The Knox Challenge is all about getting to the top as fast as you can, by timing it, challenging your friends and seeing how you improve,” said Mariko Siggers, event development supervisor with the City of Kelowna. Knox Your Sox Off! is a leisurely challenge, containing a series of exercises, including answering trivia questions about the history of Knox Mountain and its local plants and wildlife. There are also tasks that involve taking pictures of wildlife that exist only via augmented reality on your phone’s screen, including a grizzly bear, an owl and even Ogopogo. Take a friend with you, it is a great bonding experience and an amazing workout. Except the next day your legs become numb.
After a hike like that I am sure hunger settles in. To wind down and relax, head to the downtown area of Kelowna. Where you are surrounded by many different cuisines that cook ample varieties of food. From burgers and shakes to sushi and biryani. One of my best places to eat at is Dawett. This is my go-to restaurant every time I am craving Indian comfort food in Kelowna. It is affordable and aroma of spices in the air really gets you hungry. I also highly recommend Tang dynasty. They’ve got big portions but smaller prices. It is worth checking out.
Shop till you drop!
Where do you go when you are on a limited budget? I got one word, Dollarama. One of my favorite places to shop at. Its within budget and it has got everything. It is Canada’s largest retailer of items for four dollars or less. You get everything from household products to toys for kids. A tip: get the Dollarama reusable bag, it helps with groceries and it’s also good for the environment. The dollar tree store is also similar. If you want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth of groceries, most supermarkets in Kelowna have a store card, where you can be eligible for many discounts. Trust me when you see a discount on your purchase, it’s a new kind of happiness. Now I know how moms feel.
Kelowna is a vibrant place that is filled with good people and positive energy. My last tip would be to EXPLORE and have FUN! You can only get to know a place if you get out of your zone and embrace what it has to offer!