SUNY Oswego, Goodbye

“It’ll go by so fast, trust me,” a past exchange student told me back in April. It was a throw-away comment, a cliche – something I heard so often that I didn’t really know how to interpret. I clearly didn’t take their comment sincerely enough.

My experience of traveling exponentially faster through time began from thanksgiving. Typical of the diversity found in Queens, the thanksgiving dinner spent with my dorm-room neighbour was a delicious mix of Puerto Rican-Italian-American. Vegging out in front of the football was the only way to comfortably digest.

Black Friday shopping with my other neighbour in White Plains, partying in Manhattan and amazing Thai food in Park Slope tied up this week-long pre-break before finals week.

Dreaded finals week. I guess I was aimlessly wandering around the few weeks before because I wasn’t anywhere near ready. This is when people you normally see out no longer venture any further than their room or the library.

“I’ll have it all done by Wednesday,” I promised myself. I just needed one more essay done by Friday, the last day of college. The final 24 hours of my semester went a little something like this:

  • Friday 16th December, 10:34am – Return from a hungover breakfast to finish my film theory paper, due by midday.
  • 12:05pm – Out of breath and sick to my stomach from running to submit my paper, I’m feeling elated. One final workout at the gym before it closes, then lunch.
  • 2:47pm – The five cups of coffee are still working, but not enough to counter my procrastination of packing my bags. I decide my time is best spent with some friends I may not ever see again.
  • 7:30pm – A farewell supper at the Red Sun. Seared Ahi tuna with a cold soba noodle and beetroot salad. Ommegang Rare Vos to wash it down. Yes.
  • 9:48pm-2:18am – The bars.
  • Saturday 17th December, 2:42am-? – Crazy antics with the people I’ve grown to love in my residence hall.
  • 8:32am – Gladly woken after just a couple of hours of sleep, my room is a mess and I haven’t packed a single thing. We have to get out by 10am.
  • 10:18am – I’m checked out, somehow. After breakfast, the few of us who still remain say our final goodbyes. Emotion is raw but we manage to stem most of it off with promises that we’ll see each other again. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil. An overdue trip to Europe. An imminent professional life in New York for myself someday.

What you get out of the exchange experience comes down to how much you put in. Thanks to my friends, professors and fellow exchange students at SUNY Oswego, I’m wholeheartedly satisfied with my semester abroad.

Tuesdays at Lighthouse Lanes

Tuesday nights in Oswego now have a new meaning – cheap bowling.

Lighthouse Lanes makes it possible to fill in a normally mundane night of the week at a ridiculously low expense. There are all sorts of combo deals that include pizza, lane and shoe hire, all under four or five dollars.For most of us it was distraction and procrastination from school work desperately needing to be done. Nevertheless, a few friends from my residence hall and I decided to indulge in this escapade. 

Ten pin bowling is never an easy sport to begin. Fitting into embarrassingly retro yet strangely appealing shoes is far from straight forward. Sizes do not seem to correlate with any other normal style of shoe. 

Of course, an eternity of time is spent finding the perfect bowling ball. The Goldilocks ritual of not too heavy, not too light, is played out by everyone. It is necessary though. One must not be ridiculed for the colour of their ball. Toes may also be mashed and fingers might dislocate caused by finger holes too big or small. 

We began with a strike bowled by myself. Whether it was bad luck or the continuous flow of beverages, my success slowly deteriorated throughout the night. What was more rewarding however, was witnessing the varied beginner bowling techniques used by everyone.

There was Brazilian flamboyance, Australian grit and German precision. German exchange student Marie continued her consistent performance and finished top at the end of the game.

I have to admit I expected more from my American dorm-room neighbor. When I have absolutely nothing to do I occasionally watch bowling on cable television back home. It is broadcast in America of course, so I thought it was a big deal over here. The Simpsons episode when Homer bowls a perfect game also helped me come to that conclusion.

It turns out however, that bowling shares the same status as it does in Australia – a weird sport mostly played by retired people and children celebrating their 12th birthday. It is still fun for college students though.

Taste the World

I will admit I have complained much about the absence of quality espresso coffee in Oswego. I was lucky to find a coffee shop down a quaint shopping arcade in town however, and have sampled their caffeinated goodness a number of times. I can now proclaim Taste the World have come to the rescue for myself and the rest of Oswego. 

Located in the Canal Commons, a converted red brick building dating back over a century, this delicatessen come coffee shop actually roasts their own coffee on the premises. Owner Anne Backer informed me she roasts every week on her four kilogram Ozturk roaster.

It has become a weekly ritual for me to return to Ms. Backer’s store to buy one-quarter pound of ground coffee every week, usually in addition to an afternoon espresso. Single origin Brazilian, Ethiopian, Colombian, Guatemalan, Honduran and Sumatran beans are on offer as well as a number of blends. 

Brewing through an AeroPress, my favourite so far has been a lighter roasted Honduras single origin. Delicate citrus notes came through with a decent amount of crema remaining, thanks to a perfect grind setting. During a hectic week of college I tried the most widely sold Nuclear blend. The full bodied concoction certainly kept me awake and put a few more hairs on my chest.

Not only does Taste of the World sell freshly roasted coffee (my bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe that week was bagged straight out of the roaster), a range of specialty food products and cheeses are available as well. Think of a spice, dip or condiment and chances are it will be there. Nostalgically reliving the few Ukrainian/Canadian Christmases I remember, I cannot wait until I bring a bag of pierogies home one day.

Sunday Arvo at The Shed

Concluding a big week of schoolwork and a healthy weekend of rewarding jubilance is a tough ask. How can you make a sunday afternoon not fall victim to melancholic foreboding of what monday has install?

Luckily it was a surprisingly mild and sunny day in Oswego, the perfect conditions for a stroll to the newly reopened pub down the road, The Shed.

Back home it is a sunday tradition I greatly enjoy indulging in. Usually around a pool table with the football playing in the background, there is nothing better than spending time with good company and sharing pitchers of quality ale.

There are watering holes in Brisbane that specialize in the sunday afternoon session. Finally I found a venue in Oswego to have a couple of casual beers with my new friends to leave the weekend with a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Instead of the AFL providing ambience, it was the NFL. Instead of calamari and potato wedges for finger food, it was buffalo wings with blue cheese dip. And man they were good.


Shock Top is one of the best mainstream beers I have tried, mouthwateringly served with orange slices to bring out its soft citrus notes. A wheat ale with a creamy head and medium body, it is America’s answer to Hoegaarden. The perfect brew to wash down the sweet and subtle kick left in the mouth from the wings.

A couple of hours eating, chatting and absently gazing at a sport I had little understanding of and all worry for another busy week ahead was dispelled.