Fifty. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

Today is my last day of freedom (for a while anyway) and this one is hitting harder than all the ones before because I’m coming out of a fantastic summer. That’s why I was thinking about Ecclesiastes today.

I’m passing from one season to another (both literally and figuratively) and it’s scary.

But I want to take some time to praise God for the amazing experiences I had this summer.

First, anyone who knows me knows I love the summer because I’m out of school so I’m less stressed, I get to work and I love my job, and I get to travel and see my family. This summer delivered on all counts!

Mom, Dad, uncle Dima, aunt Julia, cousin Jessica and Elizabeth (in the front)

Mom, Dad, uncle Dima, aunt Julia, Jessica and Elizabeth (in the front)

In June, my parents and I went to Pennsylvania. We were staying around the Pocono Mountains and Shawnee Valley area. My aunt, uncle and two cousins from New Jersey came to see us (and we went on a hiking trail),Ā and we took a few side trips too. We went to Philadelphia (we’ve been before, but it was still cool) and an awesome sculpture park.

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders :)

Jessica, and Alex with Liza on his shoulders šŸ™‚

At the end of our trip we went to see their new house in New Jersey and my brother even joined us šŸ™‚

At the end of June and into the beginning of July, we had our annual cottage week with our family friends. This year we were at Charleston lake. Ā Two of my best friends joined us for a few days, and my brother came by too.

The couples: Khaviches, Urievs, Ghazals - all relaxing by the lake

The couples: Khaviches, Urievs, Ghazals – all relaxing by the lake

I actually stayed in Ottawa for pretty much all of July but I got to spend lots of time with the best people. Two of my best friends were in Ottawa, and one of my other best friends came to spend a weekend with us. We shared a lot of laughs and became inseparable!

In August we went to Las Vegas and I got to celebrate my 22nd birthday there. People are often shocked to hear about my family going to Vegas so often because it’s known as Sin City but there’s plenty you can do there without getting into any trouble too. Like meeting up with family friends, seeing fantastic shows, eating amazing food and marvelling at the gorgeous (and extravagant) hotels!

This is indoors!

This is indoors!

Also indoors

An indoor waterfall

An indoor waterfall

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Seeing Terry Fator (AGT)!

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

Souvenir pictures from Pampas

I’m really grateful my parents value travelling. We’re able to see the world, experience culture and adventure, create memories and spend quality time together. Life won’t always be like this, so I’m happy for the time we have.

As soon as we got back from Las Vegas, Lindsey and I joined JustineĀ at her family’s cottage on Belmont Lake, in Havelock, ON. The girls surprised me for my birthday with delicious cupcakes by the fire.

11866385_995967960455017_345829462079769578_nWe slept under the stars (literally took our sleeping bags and slept outside on the deck), went to Toronto to see a Blue Jay’s game (Lindsey’s and my first baseball game ever!) and laughed way too much. I always have such a good time with these women.Ā 11850618_10155996787990714_37859395553056815_o
3296Romans

Our next trip was a combination trip, but my brother came with us for the whole thing! We drove to Washington, D.C. at night-time (easier for my dad, who’s used to working at night) but stopped in New Jersey to leave my dog with our family. My grandparents from Israel came to visit for a few weeks and were staying with my aunt and uncle. After a quick rest there, we drove on to the capital of the U.S.

My brother and I took a few tours together and went to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum (that has been on my bucket list for a very long time!) before joining my parents for the rest of our touring time. We went to an incredible spy museum, saw and heard so much, walked way too much and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

With my brother and my mom in front of the White House

With my brother and my mom in front of the White House

After three and a half days in D.C. (we were actually staying in Alexandria, VA though) we joined the rest of our family for a reunion in Naples, NY. We had a great time relaxing at the cottage there, swimming in the pool, hiking along a river (and trying not to die as we jumped from slippery rock to slippery rock across fast-moving water!) and just generally enjoying some time to catch up with relatives from around the world.

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I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend with family and friends, the new places I got to see, the experiences I was able to have, and all the laughs and fun memories that will last forever. I’m so thankful for such a full and wonderful summer, for health and joy and peace, for the beauty of life.

And I need to hold onto these happy times as I’m heading into a scary time.

I’ve been taking swimming lessons this summer and tonight is my last one – so I’ll be tested to see if I’ve learned enough. I guess that’s not particularly scary. It’s actually been fun, even if a little embarrassing. But any kind of test is stressful.

Tomorrow though, I have my first day of classes in my last year of school. I’m looking at my schedule and some of my classes fill me with fear and dread. I feel like I’m doing this alone because my best friends aren’t at school with me.

I have to focus on the blessings in my life though, and praise God through all the storms I’ll face over the next eight months. I’m going in as a different person than I was last time around and I know I’ll come out changed again.

Whatever is coming, I’m glad I have the Lord guiding me through and the support of family and friends around me (even if they’re not going through it with me right now).

I hope that whatever kind of summer you’ve had, whatever is about to come around for you, any new jobs, locations, or a new stage in life, or maybe you feel stuck, remember that there is a time for everything.

I’ve just come out of a season of fun and freedom, of friends and family and I’m heading into a season of hard work and stress but through it all, I will praise the Lord! I hope.

God Bless!

(PS, check back, album links will be coming… hopefully. And yes, Ireland is still in the works.)

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Forty-One. August!

In my last blog, I left you with the promise of my last Belgian adventure!

I’ll keep it short because this keyboard is really annoying me and I do have some other important things to write about.

Basically, the guy who was helping me with my cellphone was really cute and we’d exchanged some flirtations throughout the year but as soon as I cancelled my service (which we both said was sad) I added five euros to my account (they moved me from a monthly service to a pay-as-you-go type service) and I sent him a little text complimenting him on his smile and thanking him for his friendliness. So uncharacteristic of me.

He replied.

We continued to flirt via text a little more but that was the end of that, I’ll likely never see him again.

But it was fun, and makes a cute story (especially if you know me at all, know any French [I still have our text messages saved on my phone] or like almost-love stories).

Moving on, my parents picked me up from Waterloo and we spent two days in Paris. Our first order of business when we got there though, was to throw out some of my stuff and sort out our bags! Let me tell you, moving somewhere and living there for ten months definitely means you’ll accumulate new things and wear out some other things!

And now I’m finally back in Canada – whether home or not – and the first thing I did, take driving lessons! That’s right, my G1 license will expire soon but we’d already paid for the exit test. But being a chicken, I never wanted to learn to drive (I just liked having an incredibly convenient piece of I.D.) and when I got back at the end of June, it was crunch time! I was so nervous, I didn’t even want to look at a car. I had zero experience (well, I tried to drive in a parking lot three times maybe, but I was awful at it) and my first time driving, on Thursday, June 2nd, actually wasn’t too bad.

Anyway, I have one lesson left and my driving test is on Friday, August 8th – ONE WEEK!

I have to say, I’m proud of myself. I didn’t think I could do it, I never thought I’d get to the point of being able to admit I could drive and I feel pretty confident for next week. I have to admit though, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without God who protected me and my friends and family who encouraged me. Every time, before I got into the car I would pray and pray and pray some more and every night and every morning as part of my prayer routine, I would pray for my driving too.

I’ll let you know how that goes šŸ™‚

So why is this post called August when today is only the first of the month?

Because I have lots going on and I’m excited about it!

Now usually, I would be excited about working during the summer, but my timing didn’t work out this year, so I didn’t work and won’t get a chance to either. I arrived back in Canada at the end of June, after Canada Day I called work and they were excited to hear from me again, but I got no calls, so I actually walked in to work and I was greeted with hugs and questions and promises of shifts, but nada. It’s ok though, as boring as July might have been for me, August will be great!

As mentioned, I will have my driving test next week, and I will be devastated if I fail, but everyone, including me, is pretty confident I can do it šŸ˜€ That’s on the 8th.

On the 11th, we’re going to a cottage on Round Lake for a week (we get back on the 15th). This year, we’ll be spending my birthday there and it’s shaping up to be a bigger event than ever before!

On the 13th I turn 21!!! Obviously in the US this is a bigger deal, but it stills feels special and exciting to me.

On the 16th, we’re off again, this time driving to Cape Cod, MA. We’re meeting some old friends there and looking forward to enjoying a week exploring Massachusetts! [As a bonus, I’ll already be 21!]

On top of my own birthday, the OMF was born in August two Ā years before I was, so we’ll be celebrating as a congregation and this year, we have a special event planned that’s open for anyone to come and join!

Whew, ok, so that’s the stuff that you all might be interested in because they are events, with dates and there will be pictures and stories and they could somehow affect you…

But what else is going on in August? Well, I’ve decided I want to be more productive this month. Why this month? Because It’s a new month, it’s no longer July, I will turn 21 this month, and it was about time! [Also, August has 31 days, so it’s perfect for starting new things…]

I’ve been meaning to start reading my Bible more often. I mean daily. I wasn’t doing it often enough before and I really wanted to get into it. So today I started with Proverbs 1. [I’m doing that month-long reading plan where you read one chapter of Proverbs every day because 31.] I’m starting small to form a habit. I forget how long experts quote it takes to develop a habit, but hopefully 31 days will be a good start šŸ™‚ [Just looked it up. Google says 21 days. Thanks internet!]

I won’t be writing about my readings every day because they are for me. Getting into God’s Word daily is personal, between me and my Father, but I can share that today I was reading about wisdom and knowledge. I opened my time with God in prayer and I asked that my spirit would be open to hearing something new from the Lord this morning.

I did.

It was simple, it was personal, but it related to the things that have been going on in my life recently and it was an amazing confirmation of God’s love and the fact that He does answer us! He is listening and He responds!

I want to encourage you to get into God’s Word more often too, and approach it, not as a chore, but as a blessing.Ā Even if it starts out feeling like a chore, push through the laziness, push through the boredom and keep at it. If what the internet says is true, in three weeks it will be a habit and you will be blessed by what God has for you! I only just started today but I already feel better than I did yesterday.

God is good!

Anyway, I’m sure I have more I could tell you about, but I think I’ll stop there for now. As always, please feel free to ask me things, you can submit prayer requests if you want (there’s a special page for that), and I love reading comments too!

I hope each and every one of you is blessed today and everyday!

I love you! God loves you more!

– Rita

PS, I also love writing, so I’m definitely going to try to do that more often, I know I say that a lot, but now I have a goal to post two blogs per month and this doesn’t count as my second post for August. I don’t know if I’ll be able to post while we’re away, but I might write the blogs and just post them when we get back. Also, I hope you guys like my new picture. I worked on it for awhile until I was satisfied with it. That’s my own photo, the first time I was ever asked for my name in a Starbucks (in Paris!) and, more impressively, they actually got it right šŸ™‚ Thank you, French languageĀ for making the t in Rita actually sound like a t and not a d.

PPS, I went to Belgium to “improve my French” but when I got there, people told me my French was perfect anyway, no one had any trouble understanding me at all (unless I used the wrong word and accidentally talked about condoms in food) and in fact, as with the other English-speakers I met while abroad, my command of spoken English has deteriorated. Hopefully I’ll make a full recovery soon!

OK, now bye for real!! ā¤

Forty. Back from the dead.

I have really missed writing for the last two or three months… however long it’s been. Sorry.

A lot has happened…

Back in Belgium, I finished my exams. They were tough and there were tears… I did end up failing one class in second semester, which was really disappointing, so overall, I failed two courses this year. That’s not at all like me…

For anyone who knows me, they know I’m usually a very strong student. I’ve always had good grades. But the system in Belgium really caught me off-guard and was a lot harder than expected.

It’s not exactly set up to promote student success. Normally, in any given class there will be assignments, readings, homework, tests… something to have some kind of feedback from the teachers, something to indicate if you’re keeping up or not. But in Belgium, I sat in classes, listened to teachers lecture (many of whom didn’t use any kind of aids to make it easier for us to follow along) and at the end of the semester, I had one exam worth 100% of my final grade. Needless to say, I was struggling more than I, or anyone else, realized but it was too late to fix the problem.

All I can say is, thank God my report card has no effect on my admittance to Heaven!

Anyway, that’s enough about academic disappointment. I will add one anecdote though and maybe you will better understand why I haven’t been writing.

My hardest exam this semester was probably the one for political economy. I was up late studying as best I could with about 50 downloaded documents to work with. Often, when I’m cramming (which I know you’re not supposed to do – spare me the lecture) I forget about basic human needs. I sit in a room (not my bedroom) and I study non-stop, taking micro naps (2-3 minute session where I close my eyes and rest) and I rarely move. I forego eating and sleeping and even going to the bathroom as long as I can help it. But this time, I wasn’t studying alone. My roommate, knowing that I won’t feed myself, convinced me that taking a break to eat a little soup would be good for me. So I was prepared to go downstairs to feed my brain and body a little but she also suggested me relax a little and watch something silly. We didn’t/don’t have a TV kitchen, obviously, so we brought my laptop downstairs to watch something on Netflix…

Soup was spilled.

My computer immediately started misbehaving to the point where I couldn’t use it at all for the rest of the night…

I did not need that kind of stress at that moment, but thankfully one of my other roommates answered my panicked midnight phone call and let me use his laptop.

I still failed that exam.

To this day, my keyboard doesn’t work properly, double-typing many of my most-used keys so lengthy essays aren’t much fun right now.

Moving on.

So what else has happened?

I didn’t really get to go on any more trips because I need three things to travel: time, money and a partner. The first two, I would deal with on my own, but that third one, a partner, that’s a different need because that person (or people) also need time, money and willingness. I had one really close friend who was willing and had time, but money was a bit of an issue, I had another good friend who had time and money, but no desire. And of course, not to try to be funny or anything, but seriously, I had another friend with money and desire but no time šŸ˜¦

So back in April I went to Ireland, the Netherlands, Israel, the UK (photos are not up yet) and those were my last international trips until my parents picked me up at the end of June. I did have a chance to go to Antwerp, another city in Belgium that came highly recommended.

May was basically all about exams, and then June was down time. My lovely friend and adoptive family put on an amazing wine and cheese as a last goodbye party.

Don't we all look classy at a wonderful wine & cheese party! Amazing food, excellent wine and even better company <3 A perfect way to celebrate a fantastic year abroad!

Don’t we all look classy at a wonderful wine & cheese party! Amazing food, excellent wine and even better company ā¤
A perfect way to celebrate a fantastic year abroad!

I had a bunch of legal-type stuff to take care of, the reverse of everything I had to do back in September, but everything was fine. I had to give back my residence card, that was sad; and I had to declare taxes because I’d lived in Belgium so long… The man helping me with that didn’t really know what to do with me since I hadn’t worked at all, had nothing to declare and would actually be leaving before tax season was even over. But we figured it out and all was well.

We also had to work hard to clean the house from top to bottom to pass inspection and settle accounts and then the tears came as one by one we parted.

It’s so hard to live with someone for ten months (or five months in some cases), to form a close bond and friendship with them and then to say bye to them for an indeterminate amount of time… perhaps even forever. I don’t know when I’ll see my housemates again, and that makes me cry every time I think about it. I’m crying even now.

And then I decided to leave the house in Brussels a little early to spend two days in Waterloo with my adoptive family before my parents came to take me away from Belgium, to take me out of Europe and to bring me, as some would say, “home.”

In those last two or three days in Belgium, I did have one more funny adventure, this one through technology.

BUT, I will break this post up because this will get far too long otherwise.

You won’t have to wait long, I promise. I’ve already written part of it, I just cut it from the bottom of this one and I will post it right after this one, so you’ll read a second deluge of my thoughts in just a few minutes (or you might accidentally have read them before this post if you’re just scrolling down my homepage)

Thirty-Four. Updates.

Well that plan failed. I had every intention of writing another blog post last month, I had an idea and everything, but life sometimes has a way of getting out of hand. I feel like I’m busy without being particularly busy… That didn’t make any sense.

Anyway, I’m sorry for the lack of posts, I’m sure you would love to read about my adventures here in Brussels.

For the most part, I find life is similar to life back home… on a general level. You know, you wake up (often before the sun comes up) and get ready for work or school, do what you do there and come home. There’s eating in between, wasting some time on the internet maybe and you have your hobbies. Or you have homework. Or maybe a report for work or something.

Some people have sports or special lessons a few nights per week.

Some people have date nights.

I didn’t have any of that back home, and I still don’t here. But I also don’t have as many demands on my time. So on a personal level, I’m much more relaxed here.

Back in Canada I had a lot of work to do for school and, being in Journalism, a lot of running around chasing stories. Here, I’m not studying Journalism so there’s none of that. They also evaluate very differently here, so the workload is different. Instead of tests and assignments throughout the year, most of my grades will be based 100% on the final exam. That’s very scary and I’m not a fan of this system.

For one course, we had a small bibliography assignment, a slightly larger but still small writing assignment based on the bibliography (due next week) and a final, oral exam. For my MA level course we have two written assignments (30% and 60%) as well as 10% participation.

But my other three classes all have one final exam. My grammar course exam will only have one question on it. (And two hours to answer that question.)

So in terms of homework throughout the year, I haven’t had any except reading.

I don’t have any job(s) while I’m here which is a nice break from the three jobs I had last year. Between supplying, tutoring and caring for kids on Wednesday mornings, I was busy. I also had a volunteer commitment every week having to prepare the slide show for church, and once a month preparing the bulletins.

It might not look like all that much really, but it certainly felt like it and, to be honest, I was kind of happy to have the opportunity to drop everything and get away. I felt really worn out.

Now I feel like I’m having fun because I get to spend time with friends (usually the guys I live with) and I get to relax and enjoy my time doing things that I like doing, like reading or writing or watching shows/movies.

And somehow, despite all this free time I supposedly have, I haven’t been travelling as much as I’d like (admittedly, I travel way more than the average person, but it’s less than I had envisioned for myself before I actually got here), and I definitely haven’t been writing as I thought I would.

In my mind, I’d have crazy stories to share on this blog, and I so wanted to write for the French department at Carleton, but for some reason, things didn’t go quite as I had planned. Sometimes it’s because I like the guys too much and spend a lot of time with them, sometimes it’s because I made other friends and want to go out with them and often I’ve found that I just can’t sit still long enough to write out coherent thoughts worth writing and sharing.

So I’m sorry.

But, now that I’m procrastinating from those writing assignments, I feel like putting out a little update on my life.

November 29th – December 1st/2nd, I was in Stockholm, Sweden for a friend’s birthday. What an amazing experience! Seriously, go up North sometime; visit a Scandinavian country! It was so beautiful. It was cold, yes, but so worth it!

My fingers were cold and it got too dark too quickly, so I couldn’t take as many photos as I normally would (only about 315 for three days) but here’s a small album with pictures of me and my friends: Tony’s Birthday in Stockholm; and here’s a much bigger album with pictures of the city, the harbor, the Christmas decorations, the buildings, the scenery: Stockholm.

It was really an incredible experience and there were so many memorable moments for us. The most important thing about travelling is who you’re with. That way, if something bad happens, there’s someone else there to make it easier to deal with, and if something good happens, there’s someone there to share it with. There were so many laughs throughout the weekend and no picture will ever be able to capture how much fun we had together.

Last week, I also had the chance to go with some students for a small unofficial tour of Brussels, but not just Grand Place where everyone seems to go. (For the record, we walked through it, but we didn’t really stop there at all except to gether the group together again.) We saw some beautiful places on our route, the Grand Sablon, the Petit Sablon, a big Synagogue, a beautiful church, and lots of lovely Christmas lights. It wasn’t quite as decorated as Stockholm was, but it was nice. We ended up in the Christmas market at Sainte-Catherine.

Here’s a small album from our walk: Christmastime in Brussels. It’s not very good because my camera really doesn’t like taking pictures in the evening, but there it is.

Now, we have one week left of classes for the semester so everyone’s working on final projects/assignments and preparing for exams in January. People are also really excited to go home for the holidays.

Originally, because of strange and complicated flights/connections/plans, I was supposed to leave Brussels on Dec. 26th to fly back to Canada via Paris and Philadelphia. Instead, now, I’ve booked myself a train ticket to go to Paris a couple of days early. I’ll be there for Dec. 24th and 25th and I’ll still be going home on the 26th.

It’ll be a challenge for me to travel alone because as much as I love travelling, and as much as I love Paris, I love people more. I like doing things with friends, I like talking and laughing and sharing moments with others. Alone, you can’t really do that so much… All my pictures will be selfies and those are never as good as pictures with friends and I won’t have any input as to what others want to do. I’ll be wandering the streets and getting lost all on my own.

As nervous as I am, I’m also kind of excited for what possibilities there will be for me. Sure, there’s potential for loneliness, but maybe I’ll feel more confident and independent and I’ll end up meeting some wonderful people! Who knows?

Anyway, I think that’s about it for now. I do have a new project I’m working on, but it’s a secret. The only reason I’m mentioning it is because it might take away from writing here. But considering I haven’t been writing regularly anyway, maybe you guys wouldn’t even have noticed.

We’ll just have to see where life takes me.

God Bless you all!

See you soon, Canada!

Thirty. One Week In.

So I’ve been here for a week now. And a day, but you know, doesn’t count.

I talked about the important things I still had to do in my last post, and I said I’ve already registered at school, but they don’t have class registration, so I still have to figure out what to do about a schedule. They have “JANE” on the 12th (JournĆ©e d’acceuil des nouveauxĀ Ć©tudiants) and faculty orientation on the 17th, so hopefully I’ll figure out all the last details.

I’ve also ordered a SIM card so I’ll have cell service really soon. It’s actually amazing here because my “plan” costs 9 euro/month, no contract, 120 talk minutes and unlimited texts!

I also had some bank and school things to deal with back home, but that seems to be taken care of now too. So, since I have no more tasks to complete, I have nothing to do.

It’s nice to have this time of freedom though, so I can relax before school starts. Instead of doing useful things, I’ve watched two seasons of New Girl. For those who don’t know what that show is, it’s about a girl who moves in with three guys. That’s my living situation too, but I’m sure my life will be nothing like her’s. It was a funny show though.

I’ve also now uploaded seven new albums to Facebook from my vacation with my parents.
Links: Aachen, Cologne/Koln & Bacharach, Burg Eltz, Beilstein & Cochem, Brussels, Clervaux, Trier & Burg Satzvey, and Maastricht & Gemund-Schleiden.

Wow, this is my thirtieth legitimate post and I feel like I don’t have much to tell you. I have a lot of individual stories I could share, but they’re short and not connected.

Story One

One time, while I was walking home, a couple stopped me and asked me, in French, if I spoke English. I said yes, but they kept talking to me in French. The guy also asked me if I spoke Chinese but then started laughing and I said no and he said something that sounded like he didn’t really mean to ask that… We also talked about Celine Dion and Garou, and they wished me a good school year and an easy move/transition.

Story Two

So far, everyone that I’ve talked to has been really friendly and willing to help. We noticed this on our vacation too – especially when we first came to visit Brussels. We weren’t sure about parking so we asked two old ladies. They didn’t drive though so they told us to asked the butcher. The butcher helped us too, but while we were looking for the store he told us about, we saw another old lady. She was so wonderful and friendly because she explained how the parking worked, gave us her blue Brussels parking pass and gave us directions.

We also stopped other people on the street on a couple of occasions to ask for help, and we were always greeted with a smile.

Story Three

One time, when I needed to make some photocopies of some of my documents for the local authority, I walked down the street to find a copy shop. I walked into the first one I found. It literally said “Fax, Copy and Telephone” on the windows and sign, so I thought that’s where I needed to go. I explained to the man in French what I needed. He answered me in English and said they don’t do that there, I have to go next door to the night shop – which is closed until later in the evening, hence the name “night shop”

My question is, why have “copy” written on your store if you don’t do that…

Anyway, I found a different shop a little further down the street and that was fine.

Story Four

On another of my walks I needed to go to the bank to sign some papers. I knew the way so I just started in the right direction but eventually I realized I either missed a turn somewhere or else I walked right past the bank entirely. Instead of turning around, or asking for directions I took the first right I could and walked to the next big street. I turned right again and felt really lost because I couldn’t find any street signs. Eventually I found where I was supposed to go and found the right street to turn right on again. I made a really long, really silly loop. When I left the bank to go home, I realized I really did just walk right past it the first time because it’s literally a straight line down the street…

Story Five

On one of my first days here, I walked into a “snack” place (like a deli or a sandwich shop) and I was studying the menu. The lady behind the counter asked me what I wanted and I looked at her, turned red and explained that I didn’t want anything… I had just moved in so I was looking around and checking the prices. I told them I’d be back and they thanked me… but I still haven’t gone back.

Story Six

The very first time I tried to leave the house, I wanted to test my key before I accidentally locked myself out. so I had the door open and I tried to work the lock. It wasn’t working so I thought, “maybe the door needs to be closed for the lock to work.” So I stepped outside and closed the door. Before I even locked the door, I tried to open it and get back inside, but it automatically locks as soon as the door shuts. That was really scary, but I had a key right, so no problem… Well the key didn’t work.

So I thought I might be able to find a way in through the back… no dice, there’s no access to the backyard. A neighbor opened his front door to smoke so I tried to ask him if he knew Christine, my landlady, and he said no. So I walked some more, I grew more panicked and finally I stopped in the middle of the street and prayed really hard over the keys and the lock. It didn’t work so I prayed again and tried to calm down and finally, the door opened! That was a really scary experience though, and from then, I always carry phone numbers with me so I can call someone if I need help.

Story Seven

When you hear the front door making intense creaky noises at midnight, and you’re alone in the house – that’s really scary. I was lying in my bed, reading before going to sleep and around midnight someone was at the front door trying to get in. It sounded like they were trying to break in. It was actually one of my housemates, Leo, and his key is harder to use than mine is.

Here’s a quick update, I’m not alone in the house anymore! Marc moved in on Friday (that’s why Leo had to break in the night before) and it’s really nice to know there’s another human in the house with me. Leo went back home, but he should be back probably Wednesday-ish and I think he’ll be staying then. Stan will also be back soon I think.

Next weekend I plan to go to Brugges with some friends, so that should be nice.

It’s actually pretty weird that these friends are here. When we first moved to Nepean way back 13 years ago, I was friends with a girl named Sarah. We were friends throughout grade school but then kind of grew apart and lost touch. We never really stopped being friends, I guess, we just stopped hanging out, but kept each other on Facebook. Anyway, I’m also friends with her sister and around the time I posted that I’d be moving to Brussels in August, they also posted that they’d be moving to Belgium because their dad works here.

Seriously, who goes to Belgium?!?!? So anyway, I’m very lucky to have them close-by. It’s really comforting to know that if I really need something, they’re around to help me out šŸ™‚

I think that’s about it for now…

Oh, as I’m writing this, it just started to rain outside! I was promised a lot of rain in preparation for moving here, but instead it’s been a ridiculously intense heat-wave all week. Now it’s finally raining!

Thanks again for everyone who loves and supports me, and prays for me back home. All your thoughts and well-wishes are really helping me stay positive and feel less alone.

God Bless!

ā¤

Twenty-Nine. Getting Here (Post-prep)

I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner, I’m very easily distracted.

I was reading over my last post and I noticed I didn’t write anything about packing… probably because I wasn’t done at that point.

Well obviously that’s in the past – but I can tell you this, I was very lucky.

Before officially coming to Belgium, I was on vacation with my parents for two weeks. The first week we spent with family, and even my brother came, so between our stuff and presents, we could bring four large suitcases out of Canada.

That was really handy since I took up more than two all by myself. One was for [mostly] just parents’ stuff and one was full ofĀ presents for our friends and family in Belarus. My brother took his stuff in a carry-on because he didn’t have very much.

Then, between my parents and I, we had six available carry-ons (three suitcase types, and three “personal items”). Well, who’s going to tell a lady her purse is “too big” to be a personal item… Anyway, I had my own stuff and one of the carry-ons my parents brought was also filled with my stuff.

The reasoning was that I’d be living here for 10 months…

Now my reasoning is that I don’t want to do laundry, so I’m glad I have lots of clothes that I can go through!

Mostly I packed clothing, shoes and toiletries, but I didn’t bring something I now wish I had made room for…

Back in first year of university, when I lived on res, I brought tons of physical family photos and I taped them all over the walls near my bed.

I wasn’t even far from my family, and I went home every weekend, but it was nice to see them, and to personalize the space.

It was also a good way to talk about my family to other people because I could point to the people I was talking about, or even remember the actual circumstances of the picture.

Now, I don’t have that…

But I have plenty of empty wall space which I could have filled up with pictures of people I love.

One more note about packing, people will tell you not to pack too much because you’ll buy clothes once you get here and leave with more than you came with, but I’m on a budget here. The priorities for where I spend my money are rent, food and necessities for school – not clothes! Anything extra will be for entertainment and memory-making.

On to things that are not packing-related.

As excited as I was for this opportunity, it’s still hard to leave all your friends and family back home and come to a new country, with a new language and a new culture all by yourself. Having never experienced it before, I didn’t know what to expect, and while I’m still happy to be here, it’s tough.

I’m incredibly blessed back home, surrounded by people who love me, but here, at least for now, I’m alone and it’s kind of boring. There’s no one to talk to, no one to visit or explore with and no one to share anything with… Thank God for the internet!

Skype has been really useful to talk to friends and family wherever they are in the world and now I’m back to writing here. I share pictures on Facebook (and I’ll add the links here for those who don’t have Facebook so you can see the albums too). Email is a great way to stay connected, and regular mail exists too. It was so nice to come home on my second or third day alone and see a postcard for me from Canada!

Speaking of posting letters, I have some postcards to send home, but everything I’ve read makes the posting system seem complicated and inconvenient. I think I might have passed by a post office on one of my walks, but it might be a challenge to find it again šŸ˜› Hopefully I’ll get this sorted out soon enough.

As I mentioned, I’ve been walking a lot. This serves a few purposes; one, to save money; two, to learn a little bit about where I actually live – this really helps me to feel more at ease and ultimately more at home; and three, it doesn’t hurt to lose a little weight/take in some sun.

I’ve had quite a few important things to do as well. I’ve registered at school (classes start on the 16th), I’ve registered with the local/communal authority (an officer still needs to come to my house and I need to wait for my ID card in the mail), and I’ve set up a bank account.

Eventually I’ll set up something with my cell phone… if I can find a place around here.

And soon enough, school will start so I’ll have some kind of routine. At the moment, it takes less than 25 minutes to walk to school (though this will depend on which building I’ll have to go to) and it seems like all my classes are two hours, from 8 am to 10 am on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and two classes a little later on Wednesdays. That seems pretty manageable šŸ™‚

I don’t want to guarantee those times though because they don’t have class registration here, and everything’s a little complicated so nothing is certain until you’ve been doing it for a few weeks.

Anyway, some other general impressions include cute houses all over the place! But also a lot of public urination because public bathrooms cost money… I think it’s cruel to charge people to use the bathroom.

I’ve seen a lot of hairdressers here too. Way more than necessary.

And just today I caught myself walking with my head up and smiling, but I thought about it, and I’m not sure why. Is it something I’ve noticed people here doing so I want to fit in and make a good impression? Maybe. But I’ve also seen a lot of people who don’t do that at all. Am I just trying to make myself feel better because smiling release endorphins? I don’t know…

One thing’s for sure though, I’ve greeted a lot more people here than I normally do at home. And everyone I’ve spoken to has seemed genuinely friendly.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. I’ll try to post updates more regularly. Also, watch out for French posts. I was asked by the French department at school if I’d be willing to write some short blogs in French about my experiences here, and I did, so I’ll send those to Carleton, but also post them here šŸ™‚

So far, I have an album of my house here:Ā New House
and an album of plants/flowers here: Flora
(I know it’s a big album [200 photos] but some of them turned out really well and look almost professional)

So for now, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy my updates from Brussels!

Until the next time I sit down and make myself write, God Bless! Love you all ā¤

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 Ā two universities offeredĀ 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 undergraduateĀ adviserĀ 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 otherĀ universitiesĀ 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 shouldĀ 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 šŸ˜›

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

Anyway,Ā 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!

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, theyĀ 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 themĀ becauseĀ 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 šŸ™‚
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), andĀ IĀ alsoĀ 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 Ā 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’tĀ 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 Ā 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.Ā 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 tookĀ 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 ā¤

Love you too, reader, whoever you are. But remember that God loves you more ā¤