Free activities for international students in Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo

Sunset over the Grand River at Linear Park in Cambridge, Ontario Canada.
Sunset over the Grand River at Linear Park in Cambridge, Ontario Canada.

I share tips for inexpensive fun and relaxation with my international students at Conestoga College.

Here’s a list of my recent suggestions to my Technical Communications classes, with a focus on minimal cost recreation. This is also likely of interest to any student at Conestoga, and at the University of Waterloo or Wilfrid Laurier University.

During the break week, when I’m not teaching, I share information about activities that don’t cost much or any money.

I encourage them to spend time outside visiting:

Kitchener Public LibraryWaterloo Public Library and the IdeaExchange library in Cambridge, offer events, such as movies, crafts, and a 3D printer access. Yes, the libraries still offer books and movies to borrow.  (Students will be asked to sign up for a library card for any registered events).

There’s an e-sports gaming hub open to Conestoga Students at the Waterloo Campus of Conestoga College, at 108 University Avenue, in Waterloo.

There are also Farmer’s Markets to visit in Kitchener, St. Jacobs, and Cambridge.

I also always suggest international students go for a walk in Downtown Cambridge, which straddles the Grand River. Four bridges are open for pedestrians to cross the river in what was the City of Galt. Galt, Preston, Hespeler and parts of Waterloo and North Dumfries townships were joined in 1973 to create the City of Cambridge.

There’s also evening video shows projected on the Old Post Office branch of IdeaExchange, the Cambridge public library system. Times and shows follow the seasons.

Cambridge is a popular place for movie and television production companies looking for filming locations, often including historic buildings and the Main Street bridge as backdrops.

My steps to health usually top 15,000 every day, Fitbit says

I wear out running shoes. Often.

I have a secret to share with you.

Well, it’s more of an obsession, truth be told.

You see, for years – for decades, really – I’ve been sneaking away from home every day. From work at the office, too.

Sometimes, when I’m on family outings, I quietly step away, attracting as little attention as I can.  Then 15 or 20 minutes later, I return as if nothing happened.

Sometimes, I get sideways looks as sweat drips from my forehead.  I expect some people wonder what’s going on.

I know better, but I still catch myself pausing and hoping nobody notices my repeated absences. 

Some days, I joke about it.  Some days, I might call it my 10K compulsion.

I’m talking 10,000 steps.  Every day. That’s what many “medical experts” online say everyone should walk daily to boost their health. There’s now research suggesting around 5,000 steps a day is an effective minimum daily walking goal.

Usually, I log triple that number by bedtime: 15-K a day. 

Sometimes I top 20,000 steps by midnight.  What a rush!

I own my daily pace.  Honestly, I can’t say my Fitbit made me do it.

Walking the land

I’ve been a serial walker since I was a teen. I’ve never seemed to be able to take a step back.

I remember walking the concession roads around the farm where I grew up, sun or rain.  

Swayze farm near Elfrida, in Hamilton Ontario
The Swayze Farm at Elfrida, in rural Hamilton, Ontario, around 1995

Or I walked the laneway to the back forty on sultry southern Ontario summer evenings.  

I must have known every rut and ditch as I walked through the fields.

In summer, I’d have Blue Jays baseball games playing my knock-off Walkman. 

Sadly, I wasn’t one of the cool kids sporting my iPod of the ’80s.  

I always bought a portable cassette player with an AM radio in it. 

In winter, my cheap headphones — the ones with orange foam ear pads— were tucked under my toque.

I listened to the Maple Leafs lose games while watching for patches of ice underfoot.

Me and my running shoes – we have always been a great pair.

This battered old Fitbit is a constant walking companion.

Today, I am taking steps to validate my compulsion. Normalize it, perhaps.

There are two dogs at home that need walks.  Lots of walks.  Long walks. 

They don’t bark when they are tired. 

Nor do I, so it appears.

I proudly walk by my own path today, knowing that medical science vindicates my obsession. 

Here’s what Prevention Magazine says about regular walking.

Improve your mood

Not only does a walk help me cool off after an argument, walking also helps me manage the dark days of winter.  

If I don’t walk, I notice the world drags me down.  And that’s my cue to grab the dogs’ leads and poop bags—and saddle up for a long walk.

Or return an overdue library book to the night drop slot, a 30-minute round trip from home on foot.  

After the walk, I’m not even bummed by the overdue fine.

Or the fact the Leafs lost.  Again.

Creative juices start flowing

I like to walk first thing in the morning, before breakfast.  Ten minutes around the block wakes me up. It gets me thinking constructively about the day ahead. 

Later, if I hit writer’s block at work, I leave from my desk for a stroll around the neighbourhood.  

As I wander, I let my mind wander. Like writer and artist Austin Kleon, who is an avid walker.

Walking works wonders for my creativity.

Lower risk of chronic disease

Regular walkers have lower blood sugar levels. 

They have lower blood pressure levels. 

And a 30 percent lower risk of cardio-vascular disease.

I’m counting on that.

The Cleveland Clinic praises walking to help you lose weight, too.

You’ll be more ‘regular

Ahem.

Yes, I do think walking helps keep my bowels working like clockwork.  

Thank you for asking.

Ahem.

And here’s a walking bonus I never thought of before…

Your goals become reachable

It’s all about routine, Prevention says.  Once you have one healthy routine, you’re more likely to continue it and adopt other healthy behaviours.  

And that will help you reach other personal goals.

But I wonder.  

When I don’t have an overdue library book or the dogs hide from me behind the furniture, 

Oh.  Excuse me for just a second.  Let me tap my Fitbit.

Hmmm—only 8,903 steps.  

Please excuse me. I’ll be right back.

Anyone like to join me for a little walk around the block in the fresh air?

But first, can someone direct me to the nearest washroom?

Please?

Thank you.

This is adapted from a project speech presented on Oct. 12, 2018, at Cambridge Toastmasters.