Pittsburgh through a Canadian’s eyes

Written By Maegan Fewell, Staff Writer

“Steel City; Bridges everywhere; Yinz; Steelers; Heinz; Fries on everything.”

These all sound like familiar Pittsburgh terminology-right? This vocabulary became more and more familiar to me as I transitioned from Calgary, Alberta in Western Canada, to Pittsburgh, East Coast USA.

Wow, I will say, what a significant change! Not just for me but for many incoming students this year. So, what is the city of Pittsburgh like to someone who has never been? Someone who has virtually no knowledge of the city or its history? Someone that is not even American?

Let me tell you my first impression of my new home city, where I will spend the best part of the next four years. There are bridges and UPMC buildings everywhere, it seems. Primanti Bros. is a curious food experience and a Pittsburgh newbie tradition. I was told I HAD to partake in the food as an ode to the historical significance of the renowned meat, coleslaw and french fry packed sandwich. (It is an imperative first step into becoming a local.) And, there always seems to be something interesting going on in every street downtown. (This does make the college days more sensational.) Overall, it has a feeling about it unlike anywhere else that I have ever been. Pittsburgh welcomed me into its city on my first day here. It felt as if the city was saying to me: “Welcome, Maegan. Glad to have you here, and you’re going to be just fine. Enjoy it.” It’s calm. It’s cozy. It’s inviting. It has enough hustle and bustle to stay fairly exciting each day, but it still has the feel of a small city that’s not too hectic. (Driving in Pittsburgh, however, is another story for another time. The bridges and signs become my downfall.)

Incoming Freshmen, I am sure you are as thrilled as I am to start this year off healthy and in person – a gift we didn’t appreciate until a year and a half ago. In my opinion, we are so lucky to study at Point Park University, downtown, in a beautiful, quite underrated city. Pittsburgh welcomes all of you, no matter your history or where you have come from. I fully believe that. You can be absolutely anyone you want to be! A completely fresh start! What could be more exhilarating than that?

Returning students, I’m sure you will have new experiences this coming year and find even more to learn/love about our home city. I look forward to learning from you!

Think back to when you were maybe 7 or 8 years old. Did you dream of living in a big city? Somewhere incredibly exotic, or a romanticized movie-version of a particular place? A place that seemed too good to be true, an escape? I definitely did. Was Pittsburgh one of my idealized fantasy destinations I wanted to emigrate to as a little girl? I will be honest — no. I don’t think I even knew about the city until I was well past that phase.

Nevertheless, I cannot imagine myself at 18 years old living anywhere else. Life is what you make of it. We create our own fantasies, our own dreams, our own destinies. Living a dream is a beautiful sensation. Why wouldn’t I want to live in a city that accepts me, welcomes me, makes me feel like I belong, and has a world of opportunities? Plus, some of the best pizza ever — open until midnight hours — are at my fingertips. Doing what I love, in a city, I have already grown to love, for the next four years? That sounds like a dream to me.

Students may have an emotional attachment to the city, even locals. It’s the first place many of us are all on our own! The first place where we are pursuing our adulthood and have consciously chosen to study towards an undergraduate degree. Our first “home away from home.” When graduation comes, I have a strong feeling that Pittsburgh will have a special place in all of our hearts.

The 7-Eleven off Smithfield Street playing only classical music through the speakers all day, passing by the mile-long line for Millie’s Ice Cream every night (no turning right on red!) and the very typical jay-walking, all makes Pittsburgh its own unique city. I can’t wait to learn even more about our home for the next few years and what makes Pittsburgh unique!

As for the transition from living in Canada to the States, it’s not a huge change, I’ll admit. Thankfully, I speak the same language, and everyone’s personalities are relatively the same depending on the group. However, I had my first Dunkin Donuts coffee the other day in Market Square (fellow Canadians, let me know if you miss Tim Hortons as much as I do). I tried a Milky Way for the first time and learned a lot about dorm life! (Which is less common in Canadian universities.) Canada is my home, of course, but someone can have multiple homes, I believe. My city of Calgary is a vast metropolis, with all kinds of people inhabiting the downtown. My background is the beautiful scenery of the rocky mountains, glaciers, glacial runoff into lakes and streams, snow-covered mountain peaks all year long, and terrible, arduous winters. (I do have a leg up on all of you on that one!) As a huge city with almost two million people, it has an exciting downtown life. You are surrounded by monstrous skyscrapers and historic buildings everywhere you look, which is similar to Pittsburgh.

For some insight into what makes Calgary famous, there is the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo/carnival for thousands of incomers worldwide) and the Calgary Tower in the heart of downtown. As well, there are unsympathetic, frosty winters but picturesque scenery of lakes and mountains. Although Calgary is coined “Cowboy Country” (a nickname I am not a fan of, but it is accurate), it has similarities to Pittsburgh. For example, a few bridges — just not as many as Pittsburgh — a beautiful, historic downtown and a multicultural atmosphere. To locals, the city of Calgary can seem lackluster, “rednecky,” dull, and not as exciting as other Canadian cities. But to outsiders or tourists, Calgary and its great outdoors has some of the most beautiful areas in the world. You just have to look for them!

These past couple of weeks, I feel endless gratitude for the city of Pittsburgh. Thank you for everything and everyone you have given me so far. I will do my best to make you proud these next four years and might just become a Steelers fan by that time too!