Twenty-One. Be active (Exchange prep two)

So now you know what you love, or at least like or are interested in… And you’ve decided to pursue it.

Obviously, my exchange is a university exchange, so I had to wait until university (I knew I wanted to go on exchange back in high school). Basically, starting with this post, my exchange prep will probably be pretty specific to applying for the university exchange program at Carleton University and then later on, more specifically for Belgium.

So anyway, since I knew I wanted to go on exchange before even getting to university, I decided to get informed early on. I highly recommend this because it might be too late to start in second year after they’ve invited everyone to begin applying (if you intend to go in third year).

First, I looked around on the school website. I found a list of partner universities and immediately picked the ones I’d be interested in… in France. I saw that  two universities offered Journalism, but neither one was in a country I wanted to go to, so I filed them away for future consideration if necessary.

Some programs have travel opportunities built into the program itself already, some programs have co-op options, so it’s important to know how an exchange will affect your program. For me, journalism doesn’t have anything extra outside the standard four-year program.

So I went to talk to an undergraduate adviser for journalism and she told me the program doesn’t really support exchange but she encouraged me to do it anyway. She said the journalism program at Carleton couldn’t really take transfer credits from other universities so no matter what, I wouldn’t be able to get my third year Journalism credits until I came back. She said I’d have to do a fifth year at Carleton as a part-time student.

That sounded fine to me and we continued chatting about travel experiences and the benefits of going on exchange. We also discussed and agreed that third year was the best time to go on exchange.

I also made sure I talked to at least one teacher. This is important, and seriously, start as soon as you know you want to go on exchange (but also just in general). You will need letters of recommendation from your teachers for stuff, so you should get to know them. Go to their office hours, say hello, speak up in class (if it’s a class where you can do that, like a language course), don’t be rude (like using your phone), and make sure your teacher knows who you are for good reasons.

Seriously, I even went to my French teacher and said, “I’m planning on applying for an exchange next year, can I count on you to write a letter of recommendation for me?” (Except in French.)

So fast-forward to second year, I’m still checking things on the website about exchanges, and I’m slowly looking at what courses the universities I wanted to go to offered. Nothing concrete was happening yet.

Then when the International Student Services Office told everyone to start applying for their exchange for the 2013-2014 school year, I was ready. I’d researched some universities, I’d talked to my program advisers, I’d talked to my teachers so I got started right away. I also had a good CGPA – which is also very important guys, try your best in school, don’t procrastinate (although I really can’t talk about that one… we’ll cover my student habits some time), get help and take your education seriously… Obviously you should do that regardless of any other plans you have. If you have no other good reasons, think about this: you can get money (scholarships), other awards, and/or you’ll be ahead of other people in a very important consideration. This can help in contests, or in being chosen to represent something… or when applying for the exchange program.

I had to go to an information session. For me, it wasn’t particularly informative since I’d done so much research on my own beforehand, but you have to go anyway and it helps you get comfortable in the ISSO and with Chau (the program director) and you have a chance to ask questions right there, or hear other people’s questions that maybe you hadn’t considered.

Anyway…

So I got my stuff together, I think it was pretty basic information. There was a general application form which wanted a profile about me, like my program, CGPA, that sort of thing. I also had to write two 300(ish)-word answers basically about why I wanted to go, how the exchange would benefit me, etc.

Interesting story about gathering documents for this application. I downloaded the general form quite early, I think the day of my exchange information session and I read through it. It gave a checklist of all the information I needed to include and one of the check boxes said something about a consent to publish form which I had to obtain from the ISSO. So I got everything together, went to the office and the guy at the desk tells me I have to download and print the sheet from the website.

I told him there was no link for it and the instructions said to ask for it at the ISSO. turned out they had only recently put the link online and I pointed out the flaw in their system. Just goes to show you, pay attention to details and don’t be afraid to speak up. Ask questions, get help, make sure you understand everything and it’s all clear… and follow instructions.

Back to the application, I also had to choose my top three university choices.

This is something I struggled with a lot because my heart was 100% in love with Paris (still is) but I had to consider things like cost-of-living, living situation, travel possibilities, weather, etc., as well as personal preference about where I would be and which school I would go to. My heart wanted to be in Paris, but soon my head started saying, “Let’s look elsewhere… somewhere close enough to travel to Paris easily, but somewhere cheaper than Paris to live in… Maybe somewhere less touristy.”

So after consulting with my dad, I had my choices narrowed down to Paris, Lyon and Brussels (I don’t actually remember how this came into the equation, I’m pretty sure I wanted to go to Rennes). You all probably know this part, I eventually submitted the application with my choices listed as: Lyon, Paris, Brussels.

Everyone I’ve talked to about this knows my frustration with the eventual outcome but at the time, I was incredibly unsure of where I wanted to be because my heart was still fighting with my head so my most active response was to pray. I started to feel really good about Lyon so I made my choices and somehow got it into my head that I would actually go to Lyon. It got to the point where, if I had been given 100 choices, the first 98 would be Lyon, the 99th would be Paris and reluctantly I would put Brussels as the 100th choice… just because they said I had to.

But then I kept praying.

And waiting.

So that’s where I’ll leave this post for now. Just a quick recap (because that may not have been clear for you) you start with a desire. Then, when you decide to pursue whatever you actually want, you have to be active. Get informed, ask questions, do preliminary research. Make sure you pay attention to details, dates and deadlines too. Be active in your preparation, no one else is going to do it for you. Be patient.

And of course I’m going to recommend you pray about it too, it’s incredibly important. None of this would be happening if I hadn’t been praying about.

Well, this post went on way longer than I thought it would… I guess that’s appropriate though, since if we were having coffee or tea together, I could easily go on talking more than I should 😛

Sorry I ramble guys, I just want to tell you things and be friends.

Anyway, as always, God bless you lovely readers, few as you may be.

Quick update: I have one exam left this Friday and then I’ll be done with my second year of university!

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Twenty. Passion (Exchange prep one)

So I want to keep a fairly detailed account of how this whole exchange process thing goes.

For myself just as much as for others.

I was thinking about where to start and I realized, it all starts with a dream. That sounds a bit too philosophical or as if I’m trying to make this bigger than it actually is. So maybe “a dream” is an overused phrase, but you do have to have a desire to go somewhere before you actually do.

A lot of things influence whether or not you’re interested in things like traveling or what destinations you’re most interested in. Your parents and family situation, the media, your socialization, ect, all shape your thoughts in some way.

My parents, for example, worked really hard (and still do) but they didn’t buy fancy clothes or brand name items, they saved, they budgeted, they planned, and they stretched every dollar so we could go on amazing vacations. They instilled a love of travel and adventure in me.

Unfortunately it didn’t rub off on my brother…

They also put me into French immersion in school. This was hard, and when I was younger, I was probably pretty frustrated with them because no one spoke French, so if I needed help, I was on my own. Thankfully, I was gifted with an aptitude for language (and English isn’t my first language) so I always did well in French, but imagine if I didn’t have to practice every day?

I wouldn’t be doing most of what I’m doing now. I’m able to tutor others in French, I’m able to double-major in French (and Journalism), I’m able to travel, I’m able to adapt, I’m self-reliant (kind of) and now I have this amazing opportunity to study for a year in a French-speaking country all because I picked up a language as a child.

French classes through the years have exposed me to a lot of French culture as well. Movies do that too. In North America we really like Europe so portraying French culture as beautiful (as one example) was easy and common.

Without this background of French culture, would I want to live in France for a year?

Probably not.

Now, I’m not actually going to live in France, which is a bit of a bummer for me because I am so hooked on French things, but my French speaking abilities, and love of Europe are still putting me in an awesome place, both to live and gain access to other adventures.

If I didn’t have a desire to go get out of my little box, if I didn’t have a love for people, for Europe, for adventure, if I didn’t have a penchant for language, for culture, or any of the things I like now, would I have applied to go anywhere? So maybe I won’t be in France, but being in Belgium doesn’t stop me from going there… and then going to other paces too. The things I love are applicable outside of France.

Anyway, passion is one thing, you also need to seize opportunities and believe you can achieve the things you want. You have to believe you deserve them and that’s it’s possible for you to get where you want to get to.

It wasn’t enough for me to say in ninth grade that I’d go to Carleton for Journalism. I had to write, to practice it and fall in love with it. I got involved in my school newspaper, I took extra English classes, I took classes that would compliment what I wanted to learn about later. And then I had to apply.

That can be scary for people because of the reputation the program has and the fear of not being good enough. How could I be where I am now if I let my own self-doubt stop me? Imaging myself somewhere without actively pursuing that goal is useless.

The same applied to my dream of living in Europe. I wrote it really high up on my bucket list (it’s #4, right after family related goals) but if it just sat there would I ever have a hope to achieve it? I have “Go to the Moon” on the list too, but that’s not entirely realistic… I’m not pursuing any kind of astronaut related stuff. It would be super cool though.

Anyway, I had to apply for the exchange program despite knowing the competition there is, despite not having amazing grades, despite any doubts that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t deserve it. So I did and while I didn’t necessarily get the result I wasted most, I’m able to experience something other people only think about or dream about.

So I would say the first step to going on an exchange is to want it. Then you set about actually doing it, but that leads into the second step of research/filling things out and the actual program application which I’ll talk about in the next post.

I don’t know if this was a particularly helpful “first step” but it was something I wanted to say. For me, this exchange is a big deal because I love traveling and I like going on adventures. For someone else, this might be kind of a cool idea, but not something they would be excited about themselves.

Anyway, God Bless!

Oh, a few updates, I managed to get the three essays due for the 9th done. I think they were ok 🙂
I’ve written my first exam, the one I said would be my hardest and the one I had the least time to study for… I think it went well actually, despite the lack of study time, and I’m a little worried it might turn out to have been my easiest actually.

I’ve discovered a love for the old TV show, Boy Meets World (thanks Esther), and I also started watching House of Cards two days ago (I’ve watched 8 episodes), so I really don’t want to study or think about school related stuff at all.

I still have one more essay to write and two books to finish reading before my exam on Friday.

I get to start working again! Unfortunately, my life is too complicated to make work schedules simple so I have two half-days and one full day planned for the next three weeks, which isn’t much and cuts into my sanity and peace of mind, but I’m doing it anyway (not enough time to study before my last exam).

I’m at the hard part of exchange planning, more about it later, but let’s just say bureaucracy is awful! I’m trying to apply for a visa, and get tickets and insurance and stuff and everything is complicated and costs a lot.

And I think that’s it for now.

Nineteen. Stress

I think I like to post blogs at the most stressful times. The times when I definitely should be focusing on getting other things done…

I just can’t focus when I’m too busy over-thinking and writing helps me process whatever I’m going through.

I also don’t like the sound of my own voice so I’m sure people get tired of hearing me talk, but this way they can read at their own leisure and imagine whatever voice they’d like.

So today’s thoughts are on stress. Specifically the crazy, messy situation I’m in now. I’m also feeling lonely tonight.

Sometimes, even surrounded by people you can feel lonely. And in those times, I start singing worship songs in my head. Eventually I get to a computer and play worship songs on YouTube. It’s really amazing how turning your focus to God can brighten your mood and/or bring comfort in difficult times.

Anyway, it is often in times of solitude you realize certain realities of your life, and sometimes they’re not so great, but there’s not always anything you can do. So sometimes you have to eliminate that particular stress in your life by accepting you can’t change or control everything. Right now, I really need to trust God and seek fulfillment in Him.

So why am I so stressed out right now? Well, as I mentioned in the previous post, I have three essays left to write. They’re due in four days. Granted, they are short, and yes, it’s my own fault I left them so long, but none of that helps me write them.

On top of that, exams are  coming up and while my schedule is really nice (one exam on Saturday the 13th and one each on Fridays the 19th and the 26th), my hardest exam is the very first one.

My schedule for the next week is kind of tough for studying. Today is Friday, it’s the Sabbath and typically I don’t do any homework on Fridays… this week I might have to because I have a mini assignment due for my discussion group by midnight tonight.

Tuesday I have class from 8:30 to 1 pm, I will get home between 2 and 2:30, then I tutor at 4:30. Kind of busy.

Wednesdays I don’t usually have class, but I do work in the nursery during W2W at the Met. This is my favorite day of the week… usually. For some reason Carleton screwed up everyone’s schedules and decided to make up Good Friday’s missed classes by giving us a Friday schedule this Wednesday. so instead of my usual relaxing day with one year olds, I have class.

Thursday, I have to come back to school for a mandatory exchange prep meeting. Then I have some time planned with my friends because with exams and travel plans and moving, we won’t spend much more time together after this… I’m leaving for a year and Esther is moving away forever, well at least for the foreseeable future. Ruth also doesn’t live in Ottawa, so we won’t have much of a chance to hang out.

So next Thursday evening, I will go to youth group, go to Esther’s house and come home sometimes on Friday, but I don’t know when or how. But then, just like this week, when I get home on Friday, I have to make the powerpoint for the evening’s service.

Then I have an exam on Saturday.

Basically, I have this weekend to write three essays and study for my hardest exam. I’m stressed out and worried. And I’m still very sick… I’ve been coughing for over six months now.

I also have a lot to think about with my exchange, but I think I’ll elaborate on that later.

For now, I think I need to take things one day at a time. Now, I’m working on the assignment I have due by the end of the day. Hopefully it’ll go more quickly than I expect, but in all likelihood I’ll fall asleep before it’s done and I’ll have to work quickly when I get home after class.

Then I’ll have to write my French essays and I just won’t stop until I finish. If all goes well, I can have those done on Saturday, realistically however, I’ll probably have to stop in between each page or something because I’ll get bored with writing… In those breaks I’ll try to read for my exam and soon enough I’ll give up on studying and make myself get back to writing.

Hopefully, by Sunday I’ll be done the essays so I can use Monday to do the bulk of my studying (I’ll have to write a blog about my “studying” at some point) and really, I’ll just take each day as it come next week, using chunks of time here and there to read a little more for Political Science.

Thankfully, I have gone to every class and every discussion group, so I will pray that I don’t get worked up and psyche myself out during the exam. That’s always my prayer during exams actually, not that God would give me good grades, but that He would help me to stay calm and focused and especially for Him to help me remember everything I know from being in class. Really, if I’ve been in every lecture, I should know everything I need to know for the exam so I just need to unlock it when it counts.

Then I will breathe a huge sigh of relief, watch a few movies and prepare for my next exam.

Or go to work.

For now, lovely readers, I will get to that mini assignment. I’ll get through this trying time. And you will get through any of your difficult times too.

I find God is especially loving during times of high-stress. Focusing on Him helps me put my life and problems into perspective and suddenly, grades don’t seem as important as bringing glory to the King. I would encourage you to keep your eyes on Him and I know He’ll bless you. He’s blessed me far more than I deserve.

If you’re stressed out, eat something. Drink some tea. Have a nap. Sing/listen to worship songs. Repeat any steps as necessary.

Eighteen. Updates

I haven’t written in a while. Sorry about that.

March was exceptionally busy between school – the year is almost over – and my exchange many things have happened and I haven’t had much down time to write. I also haven’t been able to stay up until 2 in the morning procrastinating on my homework.

Anyway, I feel bad about not sharing anything, then I read another friend’s blog and another one and basically I feel like I’m failing at this blog thing. It would be easier to actually meet up with someone who’s interested in my life and to chat with them over coffee. Or something like that.

Well, I did share that my parents were away. They’re back now.

They had a good time and brought me back a bunch of earrings, which is awesome because I love earrings. They said I lost weight while they were gone… I think it’s safe to say I’ve gained it all back now that they cook for me.

School’s wrapping up now. I’m actually really happy summer is coming, but not because I hate school. It’s more about loving my job. In the meantime, I have three more essays to write. Between now (I should be working right now anyway) and next Tuesday I need to finish at least two because my teacher said we could  hand in the last one on the day of the exam. I don’t want to do that. He also changed his mind about how many essays (or essay preps) we had to do. My french class is pretty confusing.

But the main thing is, I’ve known about these essays all year and yet, I find myself in a crunch now trying to write about books I don’t remember anymore. Why? Because of priorities and self-discipline – or lack thereof.

My teacher doesn’t believe in due dates, dead lines or penalizing someone for handing in their work late. This might sound wonderful at first, but trust me, it’s actually harder. When the time came to do homework, the things with due dates took precedence over these French essays. We were warned not to leave them until the end of the year, but many of us did not heed those warnings.

So until two days ago in the early hours of the morning I had finished none of the four essays. At least I got one done, but I still have three more… but now I have even less motivation than I did all year. Knowing it’s my fault doesn’t make it any easier to write.

Having homework to do DOES make it easier for me to write about my life though, as shown by this post right now.

I’ll probably write something about proper time management in the near future.

What else has been going on…? I guess I can update you about my exchange process.

So the application I was doing at the end of 2012 was to Carleton’s exchange program. Then I heard I’d been accepted and tentatively placed at ULB but I still had another application to do for them. I’ve finished that now, it was stressful and I made a little mistake along the way, but it’s done and now I have to wait for confirmation from Brussels. Even though I’ve haven’t officially been accepted, we’ve started planning the trip.

Also, I’ve been getting to know the two other girls from Carleton who are going to ULB. It’s much more exciting knowing I won’t be going alone.

Two days after my birthday we’ll fly to Belgium. We’ll spend one day there before flying off to Minsk, Belarus for a week. Since my grandma died in December we didn’t have a chance to go – specifically my mom didn’t get a chance to go be with her family, so we’re going now. Then we’ll get back to Brussels but the hotel we’re staying in is actually in Germany. But my parents will stick around for a week, we’ll do some touring around northwest Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands (Holland is not a country).

They will fly back to Canada on August 31st and leave me to fend for myself. Hopefully I’ll have somewhere to live for ten months by then.

So that’s the stage I’m at now, planning flights/activities, looking into rental places, thinking about work, thinking about school, all while not doing my last assignments from my second year of University.

Anyway, for the next few posts, or maybe they won’t be the next ones in a row, I don’t know, I’m planning on writing a series on my exchange plans and preparations. Obviously, when things come up in life, I’ll write about that too, but I kind of want to share all the stuff I went through, or will go through as I prepare for a year abroad before getting into posts about actually living abroad. Which I will do. I will also, probably, be writing some blogs in French for Carleton’s French department – more details to come as I find things out.

Finally, one more update. I really like supporting my friends and a lot of people have blogs of their own. Some are Christian, some are not, but have a look.

Alyssa Bethke, I don’t know her personally, but she has a great Christian blog: http://blog.alyssajoy.me/
My friend Hope, she’s Christian: http://unveilinghope.com/
My friend Sarah, she’s also Christian: http://acupeoftea.blogspot.ca/
My friend Anna, she’s in Journalism and she’s also a Christian: http://notwithink1.wordpress.com/
Emily is also in Journalism, and also a Christian: http://livetotelltheworld.wordpress.com/
Cassie is not Christian but she’s in Journalism and she’s a really good friend of mine. I even made it into one of her blogs:) http://cassieontheedge.wordpress.com/
Nip is Australian, I met her at school while she did an exchange here. She’s studying Journalism too: http://nipwijewickrema.wordpress.com/
My [Christian] friend Keenan is writing a book chapter by chapter: http://godthrowscrazyparties.wordpress.com/

So, go ahead, read some or all of their stuff or just know that I’m supporting people I love ❤

Love you too, reader, whoever you are. But remember that God loves you more ❤