From Yellowknife to Sydney: OzTREKK student trades snow for surf

Believe it or not, Canada and Australia have a lot more in common that you think: friendly, relaxed people; small population  relative to land area; cities and towns relatively far apart; population concentrated along borders; a need for rural and remote health care; and weather extremes. While Australia boasts lofty, soaring temperatures, Canada lifts its chin with an icy stare and subzero grin. Aussies are proud of their ability to roast in the heat, and Canadians are keenly aware of their defence of hockey, Tim Hortons, and ability to frolic outside in the bitter cold sans heavy-duty winter gear.

Yes, we Canadians can endure chilly winters, but compared to say, the real Great White North, how cold are we?

Meet Lorynn. She’s from Yellowknife. Lorynn decided to swap Canadian snow for Australian surf and just a little bit of dentistry at the University of Sydney, New South Wales. Here’s her story!

From Yellowknife to Sydney: OzTREKK student trades snow for surf
Enjoying  a NWT plane ride

My name is Lorynn Westad. I’m from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories in Canada. Even some Canadians are uncertain where Yellowknife is, but most know that it is far, far north. This is true, and Yellowknife is actually the last capital city in the northern direction before you leave Canada and head over the North Pole.

Some people know Yellowknife from the TV shows Ice Road Truckers, or Ice Pilots, both of which are filmed out of Yellowknife. It’s no coincidence that both of these shows include Ice in their titles. As you can gather by the location, we experience weather extremes unlike anything encountered in the southern Canadian provinces. People think it’s absolutely crazy that I would choose to live in such a remote area where you are in a constant battle with the weather, but the truth is, Yellowknife is a very special place, too.

There are three questions that I am commonly asked by people once they find out where I live:

From Yellowknife to Sydney: OzTREKK student trades snow for surf
Ice Palace for the community

1. Wow, it must be cold up there! How cold does it get and is it cold year-round?
Yes, it gets extremely cold sometimes. From October to the end of March each year, you get everything from 5° Celsius, all the way down to -50° Celsius—and that doesn’t include the windchill factor. Head-to-toe Canada Goose down-wear is a necessity, unless of course you want to freeze.

In addition to the cold, our days are extremely short during the winter, with some days only having a small sliver of sunlight for a few hours before the darkness returns. Fortunately, we come together as a community in those months to play indoor sports, have community social functions, and the notorious Ice King builds a breathtaking ice palace for the entire community to enjoy.

During the summer months (June to August), the Yellowknife area is the most beautiful place to be. You have sun all day long, temperatures ranging from the low 20s to the high 30s, and beautiful expansive lakes with unrivalled fishing. In fact, it is so nice we even have a beach, a popular hangout for the entire community, with weekly beach volleyball games and paddleboarding if you should choose.

2. Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?
This is one of the most amazing parts about where I live. I see the Northern lights at least once a week if not more often. Pinks, greens, blues, purples—there’s a reason people travel from far and wide to see our phenomenal aurora borealis!

From Yellowknife to Sydney: OzTREKK student trades snow for surf
Current Sydney DMD student, Lorynn Westad
3. What do you do for fun there?
During the summer there’s limitless opportunity and possibility for outdoor sports. Some of the best fishing in Canada can be found in the numerous massive lakes surrounding Yellowknife with lake trouts weighing up to an impressive 80lbs being yielded from the lake.

In the summer, you can go camping at the nearby Fred Henne Campground, go for a hike through the numerous trails, or go down to the sand dunes with a four-wheeler with your friends. Every July, Yellowknife also hosts the “Folk on the Rocks” music festival where people come from far and wide come to enjoy great music, wonderful company, and good food.

During the winter, there is no shortage of recreational sports teams that you can join. With a multiplex housing with indoor soccer fields, a Racquet Club, and open gymnasiums at the numerous schools in the community (for basketball, badminton, and volleyball), you can always find a way to keep active with your neighbours and friends. Since Yellowknife is so isolated, everyone in the town depends on each other and there is a very strong sense of community—you certainly don’t have to go very far to find a familiar smiling face.

Sydney Dental School’s Doctor of Dental Medicine

The Sydney Dental School’s DMD is a graduate-entry program that has been purposefully designed to adhere to the well-rounded course structure of the North American postgraduate model, but has also maintained the sophisticated clinical training for which the University of Sydney has come to be renowned, giving students an applicable knowledge of dental health from the community to the laboratory.

Program: Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Location: Sydney, New South Wales (Camperdown/Darlington campus)
Semester intake: February each year
Duration: 4 years

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Stay tuned for Lorynn’s next blog: why she chose to study dentistry so far away from home—the University of Sydney, Australia!

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