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!

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 😦

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 ❤
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-Seven. Challenges.

Recently, a friend emailed me and asked what God’s been teaching me while I’m in Belgium. I was a little worried because I thought I would have to write “nothing” but I didn’t want to give that as an answer.

Before I could even consider responding to him, I had about fifty other emails to send out because I’ve entered a time of sheer lunacy at school.

As an exchange student, the first 2-4 weeks of the new semester are very crazy. They say there’s lots of help available, but in reality, no one really wants to help you.

You’re left floundering in a sea of confusion, trying desperately to choose courses that satisfy the host school’s rules and also satisfy your home school’s program requirements. You also have to consider the amount of credits, the level of study, the language barrier, the pre-reqs, etc… It’s all such a headache.

On top of that there are other things going on in life too and it can quickly feel overwhelming.

If you’re someone like me, you’re used to having it all together, having all the answers and people relying on you for information and support.

You can’t really support others when you feel like you’re lost and drowning yourself.

But in the midst of all that, God is good! He is always good!

That’s what God’s been teaching me – “Rely on me; Trust in me; Lay your burdens down at my feet; Take rest in me, take courage, take heart. I AM your peace. I AM in control.”

It’s an incredible reminder that the Creator loves me despite or in spite of my failings, short-comings and imperfections.

I don’t always have to have it all together because He does. And sometimes us perfectionists really need a good kick in the bum to remind us that we’re human and imperfect.

No matter what happens with school, or work, or our social lives, God is sovereign, He is love and we don’t need to worry.

I want to encourage you that no matter what ridiculousness you find yourself stranded in, God knows exactly where you are, what you need and He knows the outcome too. He loves you and He wants you to lean on Him.

In other news,  this is one of my shortest posts ever I think. But more importantly, I spent two days in England last weekend. It was my very first time in the UK and it was very exciting!

And recently I’ve come to realize how common it is to have to dodge dog poo on the streets. It’s a daily struggle really… but it’s even worse when you’re trying to get home but have to consciously avoid large piles of dog poo, trees, construction and traffic… It’s actually quite terrifying. And very dangerous.

I also almost stepped in vomit on my way to school… But thank you, drunk person for, at the very least, taking a bus…

Thirty-Six. Preparation.

Sometimes when life happens, you end up writing about unexpected things.

That’s what I’m doing now, because as I mentioned in my last blog, I had an idea for this post. I’m not writing that idea now though, because I need to write about my last trip to remind myself not to do what I did – or rather didn’t do – next time.

This will probably be a shorter post than usual, but hopefully you’ll enjoy my story of silliness.

…and, contrary to the title, non-preparation.

I went on a day trip with my friend to another city in Belgium, Ghent. Our plans had changed a couple of times in the few days leading up to our outing, but it still wasn’t a surprise that we would be going to a beautiful, new place with nothing but time and a desire for adventure.

Whenever you go somewhere, there are certain things you make sure you have. I mentioned this when I wrote about packing to move for ten months, but sometimes you can be super organized and seem well-prepared but there might still be something you forget. Sometimes it’s not something very important, like when I forgot my microfiber cloth to clean my computer screen, but sometimes it just might be the most important thing… or things.

I was picked up on Monday evening so we could leave together early Tuesday morning. I packed some clothes, my toiletries, and grabbed my purse.

I hadn’t checked the updated weather report, and I didn’t double-check my purse to make sure I had the things I really needed with me, so when we got to Ghent, my friend and I realized we didn’t have cameras. In this day and age, most phones have a camera function, so we thought, even if they won’t be good quality, at least we’ll capture some memories from our trip…

Well, within minutes of stepping off the train, we both checked out phones and found out they were holding on to dear life by their very last battery juices. Both our phones were about to die and we needed to save at least one to make a phone call to get picked up.

So, we had no cameras, no phones for communication, no way to tell time (because we depend on our phones for that), no maps, no solid plans and we can’t read Dutch so the signs were rather unhelpful to us. It was also very, very cold and we didn’t have enough to wear.

Ghent is beautiful, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I can’t share an album with you. Sorry. We’ll have to go back one day and when that happens, we’ll be better prepared and there will be a lovely album to go along with it 🙂

As for us, I think we’re going to remember to prepare better for next time.

Preparation is a wonderful thing that I used to be good at. In fact, I was over-prepared and had what many called a “mommy purse” because I packed for all kinds of different possible situations that can come up unexpectedly.

We had a wonderful time anyway, but it could have been better.

Anyway, please forgive my lack of pictures (I did buy postcards) and learn from my mistakes – make sure you check the weather, charge your phone and PACK YOUR CAMERA!!! I feel silly.

God Bless you all, have wonderful moments, days, weeks, months and years 🙂 Love you!

Thirty-Five. Transients.

Well first of all, a very belated happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good time over the break with friends and family, and I hope this year will be amazing 🙂

Sorry I haven’t written in forever, I was away and then I had exams and such…

So last time I told you about my trip to Paris and how nervous I was to be travelling alone. Turns out I was right all along, travelling alone kind of sucks. I think it’s good to do it once in your life, but mostly so that you can complain about it properly. Sure it’s nice to “be free” and do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it without really considering anyone else.

But I don’t need that kind of freedom. I’d much rather spend time with people I love, deepening already meaning relationships with people who’ll actually be a part of my life for longer than just the trip.

A lot of people really like travelling alone because they get to do and be and love and think about themselves… I’m definitely not like that. I missed having someone to share good times with, someone to make amazing moments even more memorable, someone to help me make decisions or to make suggestions, someone to reassure and comfort me if something went wrong. I missed having someone to hug before saying goodnight.

I felt pretty lonely while I walked the streets of Paris by myself. Sure, they were beautiful – it’s a gorgeous city – but there’s something special about sharing the sights. Sometimes I’d catch myself wishing I was back at my hostel sleeping, or on the internet trying to connect with someone I could talk to just to pass the time before I finally got home. But I had to remind myself I could be in a way worse situation… Sure, no one wished me a merry Christmas on the 25th… but I was in Paris! So I did make myself smile and enjoy my surroundings.

It still would have been more enjoyable with a friend.

And with less rain.

A lot of people like travelling alone because they feel like they meet more people that way. Maybe I’m just unlucky but whenever I’m on a plane, I’m either with my parents, next to an empty seat, next to someone who’s asleep or next to someone who doesn’t speak English – so plane rides are pretty lonely. I also don’t see many other people wandering the streets by themselves so I don’t have many opportunities to talk to and connect with other single travellers.

On this past trip (I’ll post the link to the album at the end of my post) I did get a chance to meet someone during a free walking tour of the city. I overheard two people talking behind me in line and the girl said she was Canadian. I decided we had something in common so I could insert myself into their conversation. Thankfully it worked!

Throughout the tour Sogal and I took pictures of each other and we chatted in between the guides stories, telling each other about our lives and how we ended up where we were [as a point of interest, she’s originally from Toronto but she now lives and teaches in London, England].

After the tour, Joe, the other guy we were talking to, had to leave to catch a bus or plane because he was leaving the same day. Sogal asked me if I had any plans and I said that I didn’t have any specifics plans. I had thought about going up to Montmartre but I couldn’t turn down the chance to walk around with someone – even if we were going to the same places I went to alone the day before.

Actually, it was kind of funny to hit the same sights as I had already passed the day before, but this time with a friend because it really solidified in my mind that travelling alone is awful. My second day in Paris was definitely more enjoyable than my first.

Anyway, Sogal and I walked around a lot, did some dangerous street-crossing (sorry mom!), had a lot of laughs and wasted far too much time for two people who would only be in Paris for a few days. Eventually we realized it was getting late and I had to leave early the next day to catch my plane, so we decided to get back to our hostels. Though we weren’t at the same hostel, we were actually just down the street from each other, so getting back was pretty convenient!

Anyway, we also wanted to get some dinner because we’d been on our feet all day (the tour started in the morning and we hadn’t sat down at all).

Why is it important to mention the fact that we went to eat together? Because something amazing happened and that’s really the point of this blog post.

We wanted to eat at Sogal’s hostel’s bar/cafe but the kitchen closed about half an hour before we got there (we were very late getting back) so we just went to the nearest McDonald’s. As we ate our burgers and fries, Sogal told me that Joe had been pickpocketed twice in Paris! Then she asked me how I’d feel about it and the conversation turned into our outlooks on life.

I told her I honestly don’t worry too much about my possessions because I believe in a God who loves me, protects me and makes sure everything I need is provided. Is it still possible someone will steal my stuff? Absolutely, but I can also be assured that I would survive such an ordeal. I told her I stay in hostels, bring my laptop and don’t have a lock to close it up in a cupboard somewhere but that I don’t think about it much… [If anyone’s interested, I’m not opposed to bringing a lock to a hostel, I just didn’t have one and I am opposed to wasting money. I’ve brought a lock back from Canada with me though, so I will have one from now on.]

I told her I would probably feel angry or upset at first, but I’d get over the anger pretty quickly and I wouldn’t really keep thinking about revenge or making sure I’m the one who brings the thief to justice.

Sogal was really surprised and really impressed by my attitude but she wasn’t entirely convinced and challenged me a couple of times. She said she was kind of the opposite and absolutely would want to make the thief pay.

Because I mentioned God in my reasoning she asked me a few follow-up questions about my faith but not before she added something I’ll never forget.

“I don’t usually talk about politics or religion or anything because it makes people angry or they get offended but I’m really interested in what you think. I want to know more.”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (NIV)

“Always be prepared to give an answer”

A friend of mine mentioned in a Facebook chat a while ago that he was concerned about his speech. He said that other than with me, he rarely spoke about God. He said it made him kind of ashamed because whatever we’re most eager to talk about is most likely where our deepest passions lie.

I think he was right, but I didn’t quite realize how right he was at the time.

Thinking about my own life, I didn’t really pay attention to what I talk about most. I tend to talk a lot so I figured, sure I talk about God, but I also talk about Survivor or food and as long as I’m speaking in love those are all good things I think. But since I’ve begun actively reflecting on my speech I realize my two most talked about topics are children/babies/my job/my future plans for my life as they regard my own offspring and God.

I was pleasantly surprised.

So I was really happy Sogal asked me about what I believe and I was able to share with her even though it was probably too quick.

Sogal is one example of someone transient in my life. We meet transients all the time and often disregard the opportunity they present us. I will likely never meet Sogal again in my life, but at least for the brief time we spent together, I know she was told at least part of the Gospel. Even though I will likely never see or hear of her accepting Yeshua into her life, I planted a seed, or watered a seed and she heard the Good News. The rest is up to God.

Don’t be afraid to answer people when they ask you questions! I have a hard time evangelizing randomly because too often I’ve been met with, “I don’t want to talk about this,” or “I don’t care,” or an exasperated, “That’s great for you…” and I get the feeling people don’t like when Christians approach them. I don’t particularly like when people I disagree with come up to me with the sole purpose of telling me about their beliefs. If it comes up in conversation, that’s great, but if I’m reading, or studying, or checking my Facebook while I’m sitting alone on campus, I wouldn’t really appreciate someone coming up to me JUST to talk about their faith.

This is not to knock random evangelism, it really can work and it’s happened many times that there have been amazing results because someone was willing to talk to a stranger and engage them in a conversation about God, but it doesn’t really work for me.

So I wear my Messianic Seal of Jerusalem at all times and often people are curious about the symbol they don’t readily recognize so they are the ones to ask me about it. I try to make sure I’m always smiling and seem approachable so people who want to ask, feel like they can.

In fact, I wandered into a Christmas market on my first day in Paris and a man was selling some coated nuts and nougat. He called me over to his stall and offered me some samples. The treats were delicious and while I was standing there, and he was trying to sell me his products, we had a little friendly chit-chat going on. It was cold and I had my coat zipped all the way up.

I left without buying anything.

The next day, when I was out with Sogal, I started thinking about the nuts because they were so delicious! Since we went to all the same places I had been before, I told her about them and I said we should go find the stall again so she could try them. I also really wanted to buy some and bring them home for my family.

Eventually we did find the man and he recognized me right away! He was so happy I came back, he kept giving up free samples and he kept the conversation going with me and then he noticed my necklace. It was much warmer so I had my coat open.

He recognized the Jewish symbols and asked if I was Jewish and I was able to tell him, “Oui, mais…” [“yes, but…”] and I gave him a very brief overview of my faith.

It was a very short interaction but we’ll never know what those few exchanged words could turn into in that man’s life. Maybe he’d never heard of Messianic Judaism before and what I said would prompt him to look into it. Maybe he’d never met a friendly believer before and his outlook would change. Or maybe he forgot instantly and we’ll never know if he ever gave his life to Yeshua.

Either way, always be ready to give an answer.

That’s what I want to encourage you to do. Don’t be afraid to talk to people about what you believe. As long as you’re speaking in love and you’re not expecting them to agree with you right then and there, the conversation should be fine. It’s not your job to convert people – you can’t.

It can be hard to talk about God with family, for example, because if they do get offended [I wrote about being offended before] you don’t want there to be tensions. And for some, it can be hard to talk to strangers because you don’t want to seem annoying or pushy.

But transients are perfect to talk to!

Listen, everyone needs to hear about Yeshua, but it can be really hard to open up. It’s uncomfortable and our human nature is to shy away from uncomfortable things. If you really have a hard time sharing with people, try this first. The more you share, the easier it will become.

And when someone else is the one initiating the conversation, you’re golden! Go for it!

Anyway, I’m really tired. I’ve had a hard time falling asleep for the past three nights because of my exams. I’m glad I finally got back to my coffee breaks though 🙂 I have at least one more blog planned, (I had another one but I forget what it was now) so I want to promise I’ll write again soon… but we shouldn’t make promises we can’t keep. I’ll just say, be prepared for another post within the next week or so (hopefully).

Love you!
God Bless 🙂

PS, I almost forgot, here’s my Paris album 🙂 Enjoy!

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.

Thirty-One. Patience and Perfectionism.

This post is incredibly late, not only because I haven’t written in a month (sorry!) but also because this isn’t a new development.

How many of you have experienced moves and found them difficult? *Expectantly awaits hands to raise, heads to nod and affirmative comments.*

Well, moving to another country – especially one with a different language – is even harder. Not only is there some difficulty understanding one another but the culture/society/attitude/expectation is different and that reaches into every part of life… including bureaucracy.

And when you’re moving to a new country, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved.

Maybe that’s why it’s taken me so long to write this post, I’m only now realizing just how frustrated I am with the system here. I might have been irritated before, but now I’m tired of all the back and forth and I’m really annoyed with all the time I’ve wasted. It all seems so unnecessary.

Let’s stop talking in abstracts and I’ll just get on with my story.

So I’ve been here for just over a month now and coming in I had a list of 4 things I needed to get done ASAP. Register in the commune, register at school, open a bank account and get a SIM card/phone number. The plan was to do it in that order.

Plans don’t always work out and the things you’d think would be the simplest end up taking the longest or the things that are most important take way too long.

I went to the commune, then I had to go back with an appointment. Once I opened the file, I had to wait for a police officer to show up at my door randomly – and hope that I would actually be home – so he could make sure I live where I said I did. That happened and I expected the rest to go quickly after that.

The police officer came a week after I did the initial registration but even three weeks after his visit I’d heard nothing from anyone. So I went to the communal authority and asked to make sure everything was okay, that was last Thursday, and the man told me they’d sent me a card the day before so I’d get it probably the next day. But in the meantime, he would make me a new one and then I could disregard the one that would come in the mail.

But he did say I’d still have to come back to get the physical document.

Sure enough, I did get a summons in the mail on Friday but by then it was too late to do anything about it so I had to wait until today to go down there again.

Apparently I hadn’t understood the ridiculous process of registering so my trip today was completely unnecessary because the man who’d helped me last week made a new summons card for me so I actually need to wait another 3 weeks, at least, before I get something in the mail with “codes” on it. Then I have to go down to the commune again.

So the process is:
1. Present  yourself to the communal authority (by appointment only! and with lots of extra documents), pay money and open a file.
2. Wait for the police officer to come to your door and ask you all kinds of questions about the dimensions of your room… The officer will come more than once if you’re not home, but they don’t tell you what the limit is so I’m not sure what you’d do if you weren’t home to meet them…
3. Wait until you get a card in the mail, call to make an appointment, go there and pay more money to them so they can make a note to send you another card in the mail. (This step seems incredibly silly)
4. *Note: this is the stuff I haven’t gone through yet, but this is the rest of the process as I understand it* When that other piece of mail comes, the one with the codes in it, go to the commune again and hope they will actually give you your physical document. Also hope you don’t have to pay any more money because this has already been way more expensive than it should have been…

Now, I live in the Auderghem/Ouderghem commune, and I’ve been told this process varies depending upon where you live specifically. So this might not apply to all of Brussels. But even if it’s only this ridiculous here, I still wonder why. I can understand wanting to make sure you’re not giving ID cards to people who shouldn’t have them, but why jerk us around so many times.

People come here and need to work or go to school, etc. We all have commitments and schedules and things that need to get done… So why make us come and go, back and forth between our houses and the communal authority so many times?

On top of that, no one can explain to me what’s going on or what I’m actually supposed to be doing. Hopefully this post will find anyone else who will ever have to struggle through getting their Carte de Sejour.

It’s very annoying and it’s really been trying my patience. But if I had known what would happen from the beginning, maybe I wouldn’t have worried so much. I still think it’s absolutely ridiculous that this process takes about two months.

School registration is also strange in this country – or at least at my university. I did register with the administration so they could make sure an expected exchange student made it alright, but they don’t have class registration. They do however have a “virtual university” which requires students to be registered in classes… This was very confusing for exchange students because we’re not actually supposed to choose our classes until next week. We’re encouraged to float around from class to class seeing what we want to take.

But all the while the classes are going on and we’re potentially missing important things. I, for example, have already missed an entire assignment in the master’s class I’m taking… It’s worth 10% of my final grade, it was a paper written about one of two conferences that have already happened so of course I missed both of them, but I also didn’t know about the assignment beforehand.

I’m sure my teacher is a reasonable woman though, so I’ll explain to her what happened, but I still feel very silly and I hate that I feel lost in school.

Back home, I’m usually very much on top of things, and part of this comes from preparation and planning beforehand. We have time to build our schedules properly before school starts, we register in them so we know where to go in the first week of school and that way, we miss a lot less of what’s going on. Obviously, changes are made sometimes, but for the most part, any student can have a good idea of what they’ll be doing.

Before I move on to the perfectionism, which would fit in so beautifully right now, I’ll quickly mention the other two ‘legal’ tasks I had on my list. Thankfully opening my bank account was simple and very quick. However, I realized that I still don’t have my proper bank card, I’m still using the temporary one they gave me. That’s a bit annoying because supposedly I’m still waiting for that in the mail too.

With my phone though, I’m seem to be the only person in the entire country having trouble getting a number. What I need in a cellphone is unlimited texting and some number of minutes for talking. I also need it to be cheap. I found a great plan for 9 euros per month which gave me just that (120 minutes for those who are curious)… but I can’t get it without my carte de sejour because they need a document number to open the account.

My passport isn’t european so their system can’t accept it. I went to talk to a person and he told me the same thing. He said there’d be no problem once I had my ID card because it would have a Belgian document number.

So I’ve been here for over a month with no phone, and I’ll have to wait almost another whole month before I can get a number.

Now on to perfectionism – something I’m sure many people can relate to.

Those of us who feel like perfectionists feel that we need to have everything together at all times (or at least look like we do to the outside world) and we like to fully understand everything we’re a part of. Every situation, every process and every job (“student” included) needs to be under control and “perfectly” executed. By us.

For a very long time, when I was younger, I was ahead of my class, but no one paid enough attention to me to challenge me in school. I believe I talked before about how that made me lazy because everything was so easy all the time, but it also made teachers (and me) expect excellent results at all times.

One time, in seventh grade, I didn’t understand an assignment, and as shocking as that was for me, I mustered up the courage to ask my teacher for help.

She scoffed at me.

Literally.

Her words were, “Oh really, Rita? You?”

I wasn’t allowed to ask for help. I wasn’t allowed to not understand. I wasn’t allowed to be anything less than perfect.

Throughout most of my education, this wasn’t a big problem because I did understand for the most part, but I always remembered what happened in grade 7 when I tried to get help. For a very long time, I truly believed no one would help me because they wouldn’t believe I needed help.

Let me just say, every student will need help at some point, so teachers, please don’t scoff when the smartest child you know comes to you for an extra explanation.

I think at 16 I got better at asking for help. It’s still hard, but people are actually willing to help me now.

The other part of perfectionism, and this is much less serious I think, is detail orientation.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with “Learning Styles” (What kind of learner are you?) tests. If not, you can do a quick search on Google and find millions of links. The basic answers are: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Depending on the test, you can get different results. Your learning style can also change over time.

I’ve always had a combination with no style emerging as clearly stronger than the others. Usually I’m considered more Auditory since I retain what the teacher says quite easily and I remember it for the tests later. That’s also why I hate classes when the teacher mumbles or is monotone.

I’ve also gotten the Kinesthetic result because I understood concepts quite quickly when I would actually do it once. For example in math, it would take one of two examples, and I’d understand the concept. (Usually.)

I’d never really scored highly as a Visual learner, however that may be changing now because as I do more things that others will see, I’m very conscious of what I think looks good. (I’m also finding that I like clear diagrams/pictures in lessons, and I have a somewhat photographic memory. Don’t get too excited about that though, because it only works sometimes.)

At church, I was the Powerpoint person. I put together the slide show every week with the announcements and the songs. It was always incredibly important for me that the whole thing would work together. I love consistency and order. I always had a problem with the smallest differences that would make one song look different from the next one.

No one else noticed. Usually.

And if they did, it didn’t matter to them.

And so, I have to try and accept my OCD and my perfectionism and I can’t let them take over my life… But they do sometimes, and the fact that I’m struggling through some things right now is really difficult for me.

I like to know exactly where everything is. I like things to line up nicely. I like consistent presentations.

But we can’t always get what we want.

What I’ve been working on, is letting go. At least a little bit.

Just relaxing sometimes and letting things be less than perfect.

It’s so hard though.

Anyway, this post is already rather long. I guess that’s what happens when I don’t write for a month. I’m sorry, I’ll try to post more often, but have slightly less to say.

It’s kind of a good thing I’m distracted here though. Often I would write out of boredom and loneliness, but now I’m spending a lot of time bonding with my housemates or out enjoying time with friends so I have less time to sit and write.

Just know, I haven’t forgotten about you all! I really appreciate those who read my blogs.

Love you! I hope and pray that God blesses each and every one of you.

PS, I have some new photo albums on Facebook: Dinosaur Exposition and Bruges

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.