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. 🙂

2 days in Iceland, and I have a lot to say about it

I can’t not write a massively long post about my layover in Iceland. It lasted exactly 50 hours and it was AHHHH-MAZING. My first stop after my four hour wait at the airport was Blue Lagoon. Can’t say I wasn’t massively excited for this! Check it out:

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I swam around for an hour or so, and although I never wanted to get out because it was SO cold outside, there’s only so much swimming that one can do my themselves before they get really bored! A warning to readers who are thinking about tripping it to Iceland and going to Blue Lagoon: DO NOT PUT YOUR HAIR IN THE WATER. It’s been five days since I swam and my hair is a disaster: frizzy, dry, broken, horrendous. I’ve been treating it like crazy, but it hasn’t gotten much better yet! That aside, Blue Lagoon was breathtaking and such a relaxing experience.

I also spent a good chunk of my time in Iceland on a tour through the ‘Golden Circle’, hitting up the biggest natural landmarks that Iceland has to offer!

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Selfie at the Gulfoss Waterfall- video here: http://instagram.com/p/eIKmzYjBPY/

The North American and European tectonic plates!

The North American and European tectonic plates!

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Strokkur Geyser- video here: http://instagram.com/p/eILC2xjBAC/

My favourite photo from the trip

My favourite photo from the trip

When I wasn’t being a massive tourist, I would walk around downtown and drool over the unbelievably beautiful ($$$$) clothes in shop windows and attempt to take artsy photos:

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There was an awesome graffiti park behind my apartment; granted this photo doesn’t do their artistic skills justice, but Icelandics seem to feel strongly about this kind of messaging

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The last thing I expected to see in downtown Reykjavik, but it turns out that they’re a very socialist/forward-thinking/accepting population on the whole

There's some phenomenal modern architecture to counter the cute and colourful old buildings scattered around!

There’s some phenomenal modern architecture to counter the cute and colourful old buildings scattered around!

It’s interesting, travelling alone: I found myself eating and drinking by myself in restaurants, chatting with middle-aged couples from all over the world about my aspirations and my year abroad. A year ago I could have never imagined myself having the courage to do anything like this without anyone there with me, but now I just want to re-live those two days over and over. Every single person I’ve spoken with about this trip, I’ve told them that I would move to Iceland in a heartbeat! The country is nothing short of visionary, especially when it comes to their passion for green initiatives. All of their heat and power comes from geothermal sources, meaning that it is generated and stored in the earth without the use of hot water tanks and other technologies that we use in North America. To put it into perspective a bit more, our tour guide (who lives in a 100m2 apartment with heated floors) pays $40 US per month on utilities. WHAT. EVEN.

In general, Iceland thinks in a very forward manner; far more forward than we do here in Canada in the US. Without doing any research, one would have no idea what this country has in store for them. Seriously though, I would move there. Tomorrow.

So, I’ll finish it off with the very first piece of media I saw/read when I arrived in Iceland. I WANT MARKETING LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN IN CANADA. That is all.

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Zoomed in on the text: “Origins of this saying are slightly obscure. Was its inception fuelled by the desire for glorious summer during the darkness and discontent of winter? The absence of vegetation in the seemingly endless black lava fields and lifeless sandbanks? Or blissful ignorance of existence of radiating plutonium? Who knows. But since it’s an old proverb, it must be true.”

Post about my first week in Brussels is soon to come! À bientôt!