The Travelling Student – The Pick Up

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is part five in the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program.

In the first three parts my friend Matt and I left London, Ontario on an adventure to the remote reaches of Quebec. Our contact in Quebec (who Matt met the previous summer tree planting in BC) assured us he could get us jobs brush cutting when we arrive. A surprise text message in Ottawa had us changing directions abruptly.

In part four we found ourselves in Montreal where Matt ended up climbing the iconic Biosphere (don’t try this at home!). After a short night’s rest we were back on the road only minutes before Matt decided to pick up a hitchhiker!

The girl walked up to the car as my window on the passenger side rolled down. She had long, curly hair, and looked a bit rough around the edges. She was wearing a vest over an old t-shirt and a toque on her head. The vest had some old buttons on it mostly with band names and political causes. If I had to use one word to describe her style it would be punk.

She told us her name was Annie and she was heading to Halifax. Matt told her we could take her as far as Quebec City. I reached back, moving my backpack and textbooks off one of the back seats so she had enough room. Luckily she wasn’t a serial killer and she even bought us coffees along the way. The two-hour drive to Quebec City flew by as she told us about how she too was traveling from Ontario. She was much less prepared than Matt and I and the fact that she had made it this far was comforting.

We drove across the Pierre Laporte Bridge, which runs alongside another long bridge, the Quebec Bridge, as we entered the city. From some signs, I gathered that the city was very proud of the almost 100-year-old bridge, though my main thought was that it was extremely ugly.

If You’re an engineer, an engineering student, or know one, you may have heard of the ?iron ring?. The iron ring is awarded to all engineers in Canada upon graduation. As legend has it, the first set of iron rings were made from the iron of the Quebec Bridge after its catastrophic collapse in 1907. The iron ring serves as a reminder that engineers have a special responsibility to ensure the safety of Canadian citizens. Of course, history majors will tell you that this is nothing more than a legend. Though I like to believe there’s some truth to it.

After crossing the bridge we made a few random turns well looking for a good parking spot. By chance we ended up in the historical Old Quebec City. you’d think this was great since Old Quebec is one of the most historically significant locations in Canada. It’s one of the oldest settlements in North America and is the only one where the original fortifications remain. The whole of Old Quebec has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The down side of this is that the roads, originally built for horses, are extremely narrow. We drove at horse speed through the old city and finally found some parking at a church.

Annie unpacked her stuff from the back and we bid her farewell on her travels. Before we hit the road again Matt decided to do a quick oil change. If You’re thinking it sounds like it’d be awkward to do an oil change in a church which is also a popular tourist destination You’re right?it was awkward. I decided I’d venture off for a few minutes in search of a washroom.

Little did I know I would stumble upon some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Quebec.

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