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), 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 🙂

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

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.  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 Justine 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. 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-Three. September.

Well, now August is quickly coming to an end and I want to share just a quick update on some things that have happened this month and some of the things that’ll happen next month.

As mentioned before, we went on two trips this summer; we spent one week on Round Lake with friends (and that’s where we celebrated my birthday) and then we spent a week in Cape Cod, Massachusetts with family and some other friends.

The first week was, unfortunately, kind of miserable. On Monday the weather was alright for swimming, so we did have a chance to enjoy the lake somewhat, but after that it was cold, and windy and rainy… We did have good company though so it was still nice to be out there, away from all the technology and noise.

And my birthday was nice because we had lots of people come to join us. It was the biggest party I’ve ever had for my birthday!

Then we drove down to Cape Cod. It was a long drive, and no, I didn’t help my dad… My mom is still uncomfortable with me driving so my dad had to drive all the way there! The weather was mostly nice almost all week so we got to enjoy a few beaches. We also had a bunch of fun activities planned.

Cousin, Uncle, Cousin, Me, Dad, Mom, Aunt *Photo credit to Leonid Gilman

Cousin, Uncle, Cousin, Me, Dad, Mom, Aunt
*Photo credit to Leonid Gilman

On Saturday and Sunday we were with my aunt, uncle and two cousins, as well as a friend of theirs and while we were mostly eating during those times when we could be together, it was very nice to see them again and catch up with each others’ lives. We had planned to go to an aquarium all together but one of them was closed for the day and the other one had gone out of business recently… so instead we watched some seals play around the men unloading their fish.

On Monday we went whale watching! That was an amazing experience. We’ve been to many aquariums and while it’s definitely nice to see the whole animal swimming under water through the glass, it’s different to get on a boat and go out into the wild to see whales swimming wherever they want! There’ll be an album for that posted later.

On Tuesday we went to Boston/Cambridge and we enjoyed our day so much, we want to go back to spend a few days concentrated there. 100_2821While in Boston we saw the New England Holocaust Memorial, which was beautiful, and I’ve posted a separate album for that. [*That’s one of the new things this trip inspired, instead of one huge album with over 1000 pictures to go through, I will try to break them down into themed albums as much as possible so that I go through my photos faster… I haven’t forgotten about my European pictures that I’ve yet to post.]

Another highlight from our trip was the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. Such a beautiful place there! They also have what I believe is a permanent feature there; a collection of classic cars. I don’t enjoy talking about “cars” much but these oldies were really amazing!! So much so, that I posted an album with 120 photos in it! [Yes, I did cut that down from the total.] So here you go, I’m pretty proud of this one: Classic Cars [There will be another album for the rest of the gardens]

One new thing our time in Cape Cod inspired was for me to post some random reviews. They would just be quick blurbs of my thoughts on restaurants, activities, books, movies, etc… whatever I can think of. There will be a separate page for these.

Anyway, it was an excellent trip!

In other August news, MY KEYBOARD IS FIXED! I had ordered a new keyboard online before we left, and it came sometime last week to my brother’s house, so yesterday we went to the shop and they installed it for me pretty quickly! They were so friendly and helpful – they’ll be getting a positive review [eventually] ! But more importantly, now I can type normally without hitting backspace every few seconds… but now I do need to break that habit too.

On to September news!

Well, as I talked about for August, I challenged myself to read one chapter of Proverbs every day, and I’ve been doing that, but I was also thinking about what I would do for the next month because I didn’t want my spiritual growth to stop after one month of daily devotional time. Today I got a link in my email for an ebook called The 30-Day Praise Challenge because it’s free on Amazon at the moment. I’m going to follow that for September I think, and we’ll see how that goes.

Obviously school is starting up again in September. It’ll be very strange for me because I’ve just spent a year in a totally different environment. It’ll be hard to get back into Journalism mode… I only have classes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Wednesday being my busiest day. In fact, I have pretty much all of Tuesday off, just one class in the evening.

With that schedule in mind, I applied to work at the daycare center on campus!

I’m very excited about the opportunity to supply there because that has been a dream of mine since I started at Carleton.

Anyway, I think that’s all I wanted to share with you guys right now.

I hope you all have some exciting changes coming up!

As always, know that I love you, but God loves you more!!

Be Blessed!

Thirty-Nine. Love.

First of all, I’m so sorry I haven’t been writing lately. It’s like I’ve been entirely too busy, without having a lot of something specific to do.  I’ve really missed it, but I’m finding I don’t have as much time to sit down and write when I’m inspired as I did before. I’ve talked about this before, how it’s both a good thing and a bad thing that I have less time to “waste” – or rather, to use for personal interests.

Second, I’m sorry I haven’t posted all my newest photos yet… I have five more albums to put up: the Carnavale in Alost, my trip to Ireland, my trip to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, my time in Israel and my trip to the UK. BUT, in my defense, four of those albums have over 600 photos! I have nearly 3000 photos to go through (2914 if someone needs the exact number). So, I’m sorry they’re taking so long, I will work on it… I’m sure I’ll get around to sorting through photos when I’m procrastinating on studying for exams 😛

Also, I had another blog post going up in mid-March, I wrote the draft for it and everything, but I wasn’t happy with it, so I didn’t post it.

I’ve found I have my best blog post ideas when I’m walking, but it’s weird for me to whip out my recorder and talk into it in public and I can’t always walk and write safely, so often, my best ideas get lost, or partially lost. I need a “notebook” that’s attached to my thoughts o I can think of what I want to write and have my exact thoughts available for later. Or else I need to get over my awkwardness in talking into a recorder in public…

But I digress, onto what I really wanted to talk about today (and I’ll add a little update on my life at the end).

Is it the month of love? No, I guess that’s February.  Well, at my house (back in Canada) May is pretty sweet too because it’s my parents’ anniversary! (29 years this year! – Congratulations!! I LOVE YOU!!!)

But that’s not even the kind of love I want to talk about right now… that was just my attempt at an awkward transition or introduction or something… Sorry.

I actually wanted to talk about love languages because I’ve had a few interesting conversations about the topic recently.

If anyone hasn’t heard of Love Languages, they are the five ways in which people understand and communicate love.  Usually, perhaps because we’re selfish, we think of how we prefer to receive love. But we also need to think about how we communicate love to others. [If you want to know more, you can Google “Love Languages” or go to 5lovelanguage.com]. One of the best things about love languages is that they’re for more than just romantic expression, they’re applicable to every relationship we have 🙂

When I first moved to Belgium, I asked my roommates to do the test “for fun” – well, I was also curious and wanted to know how I could best communicate love to them. Only one actually did it, and it was so long ago, I can’t be 100% sure, but I believe his results showed words of affirmation and acts of service as his top two.

My top two were, very obviously, physical touch and quality time. No one needed a test to confirm that though 😛

Anyway, I’m not in love with my roommates, but I do love them and knowing that I’m probably the only believer they’ll interact with, I was really encouraged to show God’s love to them – I know that’s part of why I was sent to Belgium in the first place. So it wasn’t as important to find out how I understand love as finding out how to adjust my communication of it towards them.

So I had to make a conscious effort to hug a little less, leave them alone a little more, say thank you often and do kind little things without being asked or expecting anything in return.

I learned that you can actually train yourself to accept and communicate love in a way that wasn’t entirely natural before.

While I’m still working on it, I’ve been trying to accept compliments more and I’ve been learning to let others do little things for me too. I’d like to think that, just as I had to learn to accept compliments, my roommates had to learn to accept hugs – at least a little bit more.

In every relationship love is a two-way street and it’s important to accept and understand each other’s differences.

I think it’s also important to recognize areas you might be lacking in and work on them if a particular relationship could use a bit of strengthening.

One of my friends recently started a new relationship and one person loves physical touch, but the other, not so much. I would hope, that for the sake of their relationship, they’d both be willing to work a little bit to learn to like other love languages. It’ll be a slow process and it won’t be easy, they might not even ever get to the same comfort level, but I think love is worth working on.

I guess I had just accepted that there are different love languages and that different people appreciate some more than others… but it struck me to realize, as I looked back at myself when I first came to Belgium, to see the differences in my own life with regards to how I communicate love.

Well, I hope you can take some encouragement from that and perhaps a little advice (in case you’re in a relationship that’s struggling to effectively communicate love) and I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts about love languages too. Or love in general, love is a pretty awesome thing to think about 🙂

God Bless! LOVE YOU!!

P.S. for those interested, I’m hoping to go on a few more trips in the next two months (like to Rome and maybe Marseille and/or Barcelona) but I have to finish up school first. I have one paper, two oral exams and two written exams to get through; everything will be done for me on June 5th. I leave Belgium on June 26th… I’m pretty sad to be leaving so soon, but it will be nice to see some old, friendly faces again, back in Canada. Also, I will try to write again soon…

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-Three. Travels.

I haven’t written an actual post in a long time… Hope you’ve been enjoying my pictures though 🙂

Well, obviously I’ve been doing a little travelling. Trips to Brussels might not seem that interesting since I do technically live here, but the center is very different from the commune where I live. Plus it’s always nice to get out with a new friend.

Getting out with old friends is wonderful too. Even if it doesn’t seem like the best idea (going into a haunted house) or it means you have to sacrifice something (it was expensive), making memories and enjoying life are really great activities and always worth it. Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday, but I do love spending time with friends 🙂

Getting out of the country is my favorite kind of travelling here though, that’s for sure! One thing I was incredibly excited for was the closeness of everything in Europe. Coming here, I knew I would want to take advantage of travel opportunities to go to places many people don’t really think of going. I’ve never heard of someone planning a week-long vacation to Luxembourg, or even mentioning it when they list European countries. We always hear about France, Germany, Spain, Italy, England… and they’re awesome, but when someone can say, “I’ve been to Liechtenstein,” that seems much cooler. *I do hope to get there this trip because of the movie A Knight’s Tale*

I’m also incredibly blessed to have friends here who also love travelling and have a car. It’s really nice to explore together.

This weekend I had a really big, awesome opportunity to go somewhere I’ve never been before and have wanted to visit for a long time; Berlin, Germany.

There’s an organization for exchange students like me, (we’re called Erasmus students) and they frequently organize big trips, pub nights, parties, get-togethers, activities, etc. I hadn’t been able to participate before this trip for various reasons, but when I heard about the trip to Berlin, I got really excited because the price was good, the timing worked and it would be my best chance to get there.

The problem: I hate travelling alone and it’s hard to make friends in university.

I  do have a friend here from Canada, but she’s currently stuck in Italy because she got really sick and had to have surgery so she wouldn’t be able to come with me. She’s also here with her boyfriend who’s not an Erasmus student and therefore wouldn’t be able to go on Erasmus student trips. So the one person I’d have wanted to go with, couldn’t come… I hesitated so much about this trip because of that.

I realized there would be other Erasmus students on the trip (there were over 60 of us) but most of them have their own groups of friends and wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with me for the whole weekend.

Luckily another girl was in the same situation as me and we just happen to both be Canadian (she’s from Quebec) and we hit it off! So I wasn’t alone and it was a wonderful trip because of that 🙂 I really thank God for her actually because it would have been a lonely weekend without her.

Other than making a new friend, seeing Berlin was amazing. It might not be the most beautiful European city (I have to be honest here) but it is so steeped in history that I still enjoyed every moment. It was cold and windy, but seeing the Berlin Wall, seeing Checkpoint Charlie, seeing a Stasi prison (Hohenschönhausen), exploring “bunkers” and hearing about the things that went on in the city was so awesome.

There are really incredible tours to take in Berlin and if we’d had more time, we absolutely could have gone on more of them and learned so much!

If you ever have the chance to go to Berlin, DO IT! I really can’t get over the amazing things we saw and learned there.

This is kind of a funny story… The other reason I wanted to go to Berlin is actually because of the show The Amazing Race. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a reality show where couples start from the US and go to various countries all over the world completing tasks and challenges along the way. A few seasons ago they went to Berlin and one task they had was to find a particular nightclub and find their next clue in the labyrinth inside.

I wanted to find that labyrinth too!

From what we saw in the episode, it’s a very psychedelic experience. One of the racers described it as a sort of pseudo drug experience. There are crazy flickering, flashing lights all over, the rooms are not uniform at all, you don’t only choose between left, right or straight, but also up or down and the whole thing just seemed like a very cool, once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.

I was so excited to do it.

So I asked my friend if she wanted to go too, she agreed and we went off on our first evening to try and find this place. I remembered that in the episode the racers had a hard time finding it, but I had the name, I had the address and I even had exact instructions on how to get there, so I didn’t think it would be hard for us.

I was wrong.

It was hard to find.

No one seems to know where anything else is in Berlin because more than once we asked for directions and usually people had no idea. I even asked in German, and I was understood but they just had no idea… “Entschuldigen Sie bitte, wo ist Kynaststrasse?”

The other problem is construction. There was way too much construction all over the place and the maps we had were not matching up with the reality of the roads.

Eventually we made it.

But, even after all the trouble we went through to get there, they have a limited number of spots for people to get into the maze so we weren’t able to go in. The bar itself is weird inside too but they have a big sign on the door that says we’re not allowed to take any pictures. I only got one dark picture of the sign outside.

Anyway, it was an incredible weekend, but I was very excited to get home to see the boys again. [I really do love these guys.]

Originally, the plan was that driving (in a coach bus) from Brussels to Berlin would take about 8 hours. According to Google Maps, that’s reasonable since just driving is 7 hours and we’d probably need to stop at least once. (It was a night drive, so we were expected to sleep most of the way.)

We realized the trip took closer to 10 hours so the people in charge adjusted our departure time to reflect that. We wanted to get home on Monday night at a reasonable hour to ensure everyone could still take public transportation home and sleep enough before class the next day. The ETA was 11 pm.

Since I’m talking about this, I’m sure you’ve all realized that didn’t happen…

We were stuck in traffic. Where traffic in Germany comes from, I have no idea… You’d never expect to stop on the autobahn. But we sat still for probably 5 hours. We got back to ULB after 3 in the morning (on Tuesday) so public transportation was done.

I live close to the school, but I was tired, and cold, and hungry and I had heavy bags with me… I was not looking forward to that 20-minute walk.

It also didn’t help that I had back to back classes in the morning from 8-12 and another class from 2-4 afterwards. It didn’t make sense to try to sleep for real Monday night so I napped for about an hour. I was so tired.

After my classes were done, the smart thing to do would have been to have an early night but the guys and I had been preparing for a raclette dinner for a long time and we finally had it. Plus, I brought back some German wine as a gift for the house and since I’d been away for a long time, we thought it would be wonderful to celebrate and have a fun evening together.

Dinner was amazing and my first raclette experience was a wonderful success (I say wonderful a lot… we need more words in English). We also decided to watch a movie (The Book of Eli) and finally, after over 40 hours of not sleeping, I fell asleep in my own bed and had one of the best sleeps I’ve ever had in my life. I woke up feeling full of life and happiness. I felt good, I looked good (at least I felt like I looked good – my hair was cooperating) and it was finally warm and sunny!

Then I got to class 😦

Anyway, all this to tell you that everything’s going really well over here. I love my life through ups and downs. I feel so incredibly blessed to be here, to experience everything I’ve been experiencing and just to know that I have this awesome opportunity to travel and meet people and live! I’m so thankful to be here and I do miss the people back home but I know I’m loved so thank you for all the prayers and support 🙂

God Bless you all!

I will write again pretty soon… or at least, I’ll try.

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.