The city, and the less than fairy tale transition into exchange life

Lost in a taxi: that’s exactly how I started my exchange in Brussels, Belgium. (That was a stressful experience, let me tell you!)

I settled into my room at Village Patrimmonia, a complex where I’m living on a res-style floor with other exchange students, about a ten-minute walk from L’Université Libre de Bruxelles. Most of my floormates are from Québec, but there’s also a girl from Italy and a girl from Paris! My friend Ana, also a Glendon student, is living directly beside me and my other close friend Meena (you guessed it, GL as well!) is living in the other building in the complex. I’ll post photos of my room at some point because it’s really cute, but it’s pretty messy at the moment so you’ll have to bear with me. 🙂

Brussels is an adorable city, full of beautiful architecture and DELICIOUS food. See for yourself:

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Grand Place in the centre of Brussels

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Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

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Street Waffe. I die. ♡_____♡

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Mussels in Brussels (hehe.)

I’ve met some great people, most of whom I don’t have photos with yet, but it’ll happen! Though we’ve all been making our own travel plans, we decided to all go to Prague, Czech Republic, together in October. That is sure to be an unbelievable time!

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Ana and I with Sara, an indescribably awesome girl we live with. She’s from Gatineau, not too far from us!

Ana and Laure (from Paris) loving the free hugs at Grand Place

Ana and Laure (from Paris) loving the free hugs at Grand Place

We haven’t gone on any trips yet, but we did take a day to visit the beautiful town of Bruges, an hour train-ride north of Brussels. I didn’t think it was possible to make as many ‘In Bruges’ references as we did, but rest assured that it happened!

Bruges Centre

Bruges Centre

My favourite photo I took that day. We went on an awesome boat tour on the canal that runs through Bruges!

My favourite photo I took that day. We went on an awesome boat tour on the canal that runs through Bruges!

Next on the itinerary: BARCELONA. THIS WEEKEND. I turn 21 on Thursday and I can’t think of a more exciting way to celebrate!

On a more serious note, transitioning into this new life has been nothing short of difficult. I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the time change in more ways than just being tired; staying in contact with friends and family at home is more difficult than I imagined and I have found myself staying up really late at night in order to do so. Staying up is something that I never do and it’s royally messing me up! I’m also not a person who has experience interacting with people from all over the world in an entirely foreign place. It’s something I’m starting to get used to, but it’s a whole lot to take in this quickly.

To quote a previous post of mine: “It’s okay to be shy, it’s okay to be crazy and wild, and it’s okay to be who you want to be. Despite popular belief, you do not need to change who you are just because you’re ‘starting fresh’ at a new school. You will find your ‘people’.” Aside from Ana, Meena, and the handful of people we live with (who we’re slowly but surely becoming closer with), I have yet to find my ‘people’. I’ve never had a problem discovering who my ‘people’ are, but I suppose studying abroad and ‘travelling the world’ is more of a fairy tale in one’s mind than it is in reality. I have a feeling that maybe this difficulty is originating from my lack of campus involvement. I went from full-fledged immersion in campus activities to NOTHING. It’s also much more difficult to find clubs and activities here than it is at York and Glendon. To put it into perspective, I have seen nothing of a students’ union/student government at ULB o_O. To my fellow Glendonites and Yorkies reading this, we are so lucky to have such a streamlined extra-curricular program; never ever stop appreciating its awesomeness!

With that said, I may have found something that I will truly enjoy here at ULB. The campus’ Model United Nations team is world renowned; they achieved ‘Outstanding Delegation’ at National Model United Nations in New York this past year. ULB MUN involves the exact kinds of people that I love to work with, and I have no doubt in my mind that this is what I want to be involved with this year. However, selection for ULB MUN involves a heavy and competitive application process that scares me a little. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress on this front; hopefully I get to be a part of this awesome experience!

À bientôt! A post about my classes and academics at ULB will be up soon. 🙂

Wait, I’m actually going on an exchange?!

The idea of studying abroad has been in my mind for as long as I can remember. Maybe it was all of the French movies we watched throughout elementary and high school, or maybe I’ve just always been itching to travel to a far, far away place (I’ve never travelled Europe aside from going to Scotland when I was eight!) I came to Glendon in 2010 knowing that an exchange wasn’t even a question; not only because my parents have always been large advocates for it, but because it’s also a requirement of my International BA. Perfect! Now I have a real excuse to frolic around Europe for a year. 😉

There are obviously many other reasons why I chose to do an exchange. The first is because I was inspired to immerse myself further into French culture after having done the Explore program in Trois-Pistoles, Québec. I cannot even describe in real words how amazing that experience was, because real words wouldn’t do it justice. I’ll leave it to your imagination and trust that at some point in your scholarly career you’ll do the Explore program. There is absolutely nothing to lose except all communication in English (but seriously).
The other reason why I chose to do an exchange was because I’m studying to become an elementary school French teacher, which is not always the most inspiring kind of teacher to many students. That’s what I want to change in my future classroom. I hope to inspire my students to continue studying this beautiful language for the rest of their lives, and there is no better way to do so than to share with them my own experiences with the language. Instilling a sense of adventure and FUN into my students in the French classroom will be a much easier task if I have a year’s worth of full French-immersion adventures in the bag.

The exchange application. O M G. So. Exhausting. Looking back on it, though, the application really made us wrap our heads around what we were about to get ourselves into.
‘Do I have the money to do this?’
‘Will I be able to be away from home for a whole ten months?’
‘Will I adapt to the different culture thrown in my face the moment I land?’
If I could give one piece of advice to those who are thinking of applying to the exchange program in the coming years, it would be to START EARLY! Every student procrastinates and this is no exception. You do not want to find yourself scrambling to finish the night before the application is due! Another thing to note on this subject is that your professors are not as timely as you think they are; request references from them as early as you can so that they don’t leave you hanging.

“You have been selected to attend Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Belgique during your exchange.”
Probably the most beautiful words I had ever read in my life. I jumped a lot, cried a little, called my mom, then posted a status on Facebook, in that order. Even better, I’m going with two of my best friends at Glendon, Ana and Meena. This could not possibly get any better!

My reaction consisted of lots of this,

and a lot of this.

So here I am, in the process of preparing for my exchange between September 2013 and June 2014. Slowly but surely, it’s getting really real in my mind. I’M GOING TO EUROPE FOR A YEAR!

Today, I booked my flight. I honestly don’t think I’ve bragged about something so much in my entire life. It might be because my flight was dirt cheap, and has a two-day layover in Reykjavik, ICELAND.

Iceland. Whatever.

My parents have always wanted to take a family vacation to Iceland, so I’m just rubbing it in their faces at this point. (Love you Mum and Dad! (They’re totally reading this.))

We also booked our camping accommodations for Oktoberfest in Munich today! We’re going for my 21st birthday at the end of September, and I cannot think of a more fun way to celebrate.

Well, that’s all I got. You should bookmark this blog so that you can read about my life all year. Deal? Deal.

Until my next post! À bientôt!