The Final Chapter (Belgium)

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Author: Phillip Owen-Scott
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

When I started this journey 4 months ago, I was a combination of anxious and excited to not only study in a new environment but also to experience all that was going to be offered. It was the first time I had ever been alone and not to point any fingers but a lot of people told me that it wasn’t going to be easy, especially since it was in a completely different continent. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the honesty of people telling me what it was going to be like instead of having someone tell me that “Everything was going to be great” or that “You’ll love it from the second you get there”. I’d much rather have someone tell me the truth than be disappointed. I kept going back to what Maurice Platero, one of my Seneca professors taught us about the culture shock curve and what was to be expected, and surprisingly enough it was exactly as stated (with some small differences). I had some moments when I thought “I’m in a different continent with nobody I know within at least 300km and I don’t even speak the native language. Nevertheless the confidence that you build from that makes almost anything look manageable, from meeting new people to climbing mount Everest, I’ve come out of this with the mentality that if a certain person can do it, why can’t I?

 With that in mind I set a bunch of goals/bucket list that I wanted to achieve while in Europe and made sure that up until the last day there, I would try to accomplish all of them. From going to Paris to visit family to eating chocolate on the channels with a friend we accomplished all of them. To some they might seem like not that difficult or “lame” goals but it was something that made my trip feel that much more accomplishing. I wanted to set out and build as many bridges as possible, so that going forward in life there would always be another opportunity to cross over that bridge.

 I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but travelling overseas gave me a better understanding of what many of the students at Seneca experience daily. They have to deal with a new place, new weather (usually freezing cold), new people, and new culture that they might not enjoy or even understand. I talked about all the things I loved about Belgium (and trust me there was a lot!), but there were down sides as well. The cost for starters was no laughing matter, the general public was not nearly as friendly as back home, and a lot of the comfort food from home didn’t exist in Ghent. I remember telling Clemens that the second I get home I’m going to run to the closest Timmy’s and grab myself a Double Double and breakfast sandwich. That all being said I came to understand the position a lot of my friends at Seneca were in, and going forward will try my best to help them feel welcome just to give them that extra bit of comfort.

 If you remember my previous blog, then you would remember the quote I used within it “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles”. Looking back at it, I feel sort of cheesy about using the line, but at the same time it holds quite amount of weight in my mind. The main goal I had when travelling was to learn as much as possible about people from other parts of the world, Americans, French, Bavarians, Dutch, Finnish, Germans, Spanish, Italians, Spanish, Basque and many others. I wanted to be a sponge that just absorbs as much about them as possible. I learned about places that was never known to me and heard about how they felt about different world situations. Their opinions of Trump (I won’t give you the colorful details), too what they thought about Canada and our trade agreement (CETA). Learning all this changed my view of so many things, politically or otherwise, and made me the person I am today. I’d like to think that because of these experiences with my friends that I’ve become more accustom to others and understanding of how the world works. It’s those experiences that I cherish the most and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Never be scared to try new things (Netherlands)

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Author: Amanda Cook
Program: Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

It’s my last week here in the Netherlands and the end is quickly approaching. Some of my roommates have begun to leave already and saying goodbye to them has definitely been the hardest part of my exchange. They all will be returning after Christmas to finish the last month of the semester however, I will be finishing mine from Canada as my Seneca semester will be starting in January.

With the end so near I have started to really reflect on my exchange and realize how blessed I was to have such amazing roommates, professors and support from Seneca. They all have allowed me to have an enjoyable and successful semester abroad. To anybody who may be even considering going abroad for an exchange ABSOLUTELY take the experience! You will learn a lot more than academics could ever teach you.

Some of the things that I have learned or improved on since arriving in the Netherlands would be how to interact and see the world through many cultures. I had class with Dutch students every day and got to know a lot about some of them, learning about what they do for fun, what they like to eat and their different religions and beliefs. Also by living in a flat with 7 different cultures other than my own with people with all the same interests as me but from different backgrounds you really get to see how accepting the world really is.

I have also learned a little bit of Dutch and a few sentences in Vietnamese, Turkish, Spanish and topped up my French. However, by being out of my element and comfort zone I believe I learned the most about myself. I learned to be more confident in myself and that I can really do whatever I put my mind to if I really want it such as, going to a foreign country not knowing anybody, not knowing what to expect and still having the time of my life. I learned you really do have some of the best times when you are out of your comfort zone. Never be scared to try new things.

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Naturally Croatian

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Author: Stephanie Rukavina
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Zagreb, Croatia

I cannot believe how quickly this semester has passed by. It seems like only yesterday that I arrived in Zagreb, all excited to explore the city and learn from my many new experiences. Now the semester is all but over, with exams next week and Christmas songs playing everywhere you go. Zagreb looks beautiful this time of the year, with large celebrations of Advent found in the Center. The parks are decorated in Christmas lights, and little evening markets selling all sorts of hot drinks, baked goods, and handmade ornaments. Living in Croatia for these 4 months has really made me appreciate the culture and traditions so much more. To be able to see all of this first hand is something I am very grateful for. Looking to my future now, I am certain that Croatia will be a big part of it. I have always wanted to have the option to do business with multiple countries in a career that will allow me to travel on a regular basis, and after studying abroad, I have become even more sure that this is what I want. I have gained a new appreciation of my roots, and I am prouder than ever to be Croatian.

I think the thing that surprised me most about studying abroad was just how natural everything would feel to me. I don’t feel as foreign as I first thought I would, and I feel very comfortable here as well, almost like I’ve been living in Croatia my whole life! I have gained a whole new sense of independence, which has also allowed me to travel to Budapest, Hungary for a weekend with a good friend that I made while studying abroad. Before this experience, if someone told me I would be so confident in my abilities and so independent that traveling to a new country, I wouldn’t have believed them. I would have been so worried about getting lost, or thinking of worst case scenarios that I may have not even attempted to go. But now, I wouldn’t even think about it twice, I’m more focused on the positive outcomes rather than the negative ones.

            Something I wish I had known before study abroad is that your experience is never going to be exactly like what you expect it to be. It can be way better or worse, and that all depends on you and how to treat the opportunities that arise. My advice to others is to be open to everything, sure, some things may not work out the way you planned for them to, but often times the best memories and stories come from the opportunities left up to chance.

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Was it worth it? (Belgium)

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Author: Clemens Snoeijer
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

When I tried summing up my experience, I couldn’t put it in a simple phrase until I came across a relatable quote. “Exchange isn’t a year in your life it’s a life in a year.” It shows how this experience was beyond just an event that occurred during the year, it was a life changing opportunity. When I was planning to study abroad, I had questioned if Belgium was really the right place for me. I had wanted to be close to my family, but still be able to go out of my comfort zone. When my plans had not worked out to study in Brazil or the Netherlands, I was again brought back to study at Artevelde University College in Ghent. Constantly, this opportunity came back into my plans of studying abroad, and I simply could not understand why. What did Belgium really have to offer for me? It did not seem like a lot. Clearly I was mistaken.

            In my previous blogs, I have mentioned about how mesmerized I was by the differences of Belgium, The Netherlands and Canada. How much Belgians differentiated from Canadians and the Dutch. It was more than expected. I was fortunate enough to have such a large group of exchange students with me at Artevelde. It brought me out of my comfort zone where I learned so much about other countries besides Belgium. I now had friends who I was able to explore with, and travel to new places with. Each of these new friends that I made, were able to support me through the challenges that I may have faced, while also helping me develop as an individual. My new friends were really the highlight of this beautiful experience.

            During the break, I had the opportunity to go see London and Amsterdam. These were beyond amazing trips that I got to spend with my close friends. The amount of sightseeing that we managed to do in such a short time frame was remarkable. I will never forget how sore my feet were from all the walking. After that experience, I thought: “who needs a gym when you can combine it with traveling?” London was similar and easily comparable to Canadian culture. I felt I was just back at home with a few European twists, an odd currency, and powerful English accents. Hostels and cheap buses were our main source of transportation making it possible to travel with a college budget. I strongly recommend visiting London and Amsterdam, as they both were rich in culture, and give you a unique experience. After all our adventures were finished, we were glad to be back in Ghent.

            After London, we really started to enjoy what Ghent had to offer. We walked around the many different tourist attractions, tried out local restaurants, bars and clubs. I had easy courses without much work until the end of the semester, which made it possible to spend quality time with my friends. We visited Belgian cities, like Brussels and Namur. Namur really made me feel like I was in a different country, as everything was in French. Many of the residents living in Namur struggled with English, which made it hard to communicate. It brought out the little French I knew, same as in Brussels. Finally, we managed to book a flight from Brussels to Hamburg for a 10-euro return flight. This was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed. It may not have been my favorite city, but it was certainly educational, as it is Germany’s largest seaport. This was certainly a unique experience I was grateful of undergoing.

            We also hosted many exchange activities ourselves like the American and Canadian Thanksgivings, Basque Night, Christmas Markets, and the Goodbye Dinner. These moments were filled with great laughs and memories. They usually turned out to be the best nights in Ghent. They were filled with food, drinks and activities. America definitely won the Thanksgiving party, sorry to disappoint Canada. These activities were events like potlucks, where we all brought some food and snacks. The Spanish exchange students hosted the Basque Night, where we got a true taste of Basque, a region in the upper part of Spain. This was one of my favorite nights, as I just love Spanish culture. The Christmas Market was located in the heart of Ghent; where there were many vendors there selling Christmas oriented foods and goods. We enjoyed several nights drinking local drinks and foods. Finally, I hosted a goodbye dinner, as several students were not returning in January. I found a local Irish pub where we made reservations with 35+ students. They had set up a private room for us, where we could enjoy our last dinner together. This was an emotional but amazing end to the semester.

            In the last week, I had to complete my presentations and a few of my exams. After they were completed, I was still able to spend some quality time with my friends. These days have been beyond amazing but also have had an emotional twist. Many of my friends have become like family. We were all so unique but we got along so well. I built strong friendships and memories that will never be forgotten. A part of me will always be left in Ghent. I am sad to say goodbye and wish I could stay longer.

            After I celebrated the holidays with my family in the Netherlands, I went and explore Austria and saw my first mountain. I was curious to see the culture differences, and see the beauty of this country. I was beyond amazed, as anywhere I went I was surrounded by mountains. I stayed at my friend Georg’s house where his family welcomed me with open arms. The food was also beyond amazing, Backhendl being my ultimate favorite dish I tried during my exchange. After the New Year, I went back to Belgium to pack up my things, and sadly saying goodbye to my dearest friends before I returned back to the Netherlands to spend quality time with my family. It was certainly dreadful as I did not want to return back to Toronto.

It was not until I was on my flight before it sank in. My amazing journey had come to an end. I was not able to finish the term with them, as Canada starts their semester early in January. When I had landed, I remembered how large Canada was again. The highways were massive, and I forgot skyscrapers were surrounded all around me. It felt like I was re-experiencing Canada all over again. Luckily a good friend of mine picked me up from the airport so I did not have to take the public transportation. I remember I kept telling him “wow, Canada is so large.” I had to really re-adapt back to Canadian culture which was the biggest challenge.

            Lastly, to the exchange students I met in Belgium, I am grateful to have met every single one of you during this exchange. I have great memories with each one of you, where I will treasure each laughter, discussion, and tear we shared. You will certainly not be forgotten, and feel free to come see my in Canada, I’ll miss you.

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Goodbye for now,

Clemens

Time flies (Netherlands)

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Author: Amanda Cook
Program: Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

My time in the Netherlands has been flying by. Even though my departure date keeps creeping up, I have been trying not to think about it because I’m just not ready to leave (haha). This exchange has introduced me to so many wonderful cultures and people, and I have learned so much from them.

Since I am living in a flat with people from all over the world we decided that it would be nice to have family dinners where each person picks a day and cooks dinner from their own country. Thus, we have had Canadian thanksgiving, Turkish, Finnish, and Spanish dinners, as well as hosted game nights with all of our roommates. It is very interesting to be able to taste the different ways countries cook and to see what they eat on a normal day.

I recently had the opportunity to go to Brussels, Belgium for the day and explore the city and its Christmas markets. They happened to have a whole Quebec area at their Christmas market, and I was able to show some of my friends authentic poutine which they have never even heard about before. The city was absolutely beautiful and it was filled with some of the friendliest people that I have ever met.

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I am very lucky to be here in Europe for the Christmas season as each little city has its own Christmas market which is all very different and beautiful. Although there is no snow here, the markets help you get into the Christmas spirit!

Even though my town of Utrecht is fairly small and unknown when people think of the Netherlands, there is a lot of things to do here. Utrecht hosts smaller bands from all over the world, fun festivals, markets and events regularly. I had the opportunity to go check out a small Australian band which was amazing as well as the weekend market where you can go to get almost anything you can think of such as, clothes, food, bike accessories, and more!

Although my time is coming to an end here in the Netherlands I am very grateful for the experience and for all of the people I have met and I cannot wait to come back and visit!

Friends along the Way (Belgium)

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Author: Phillip Owen-Scott
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

Tim Cahill says that “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” and this is something that I truly believe in. One of the best parts about travelling overseas was most of the people in Artevelde are in the same boat as you, away from their family and friends. Now, that might not sound so pleasant but it also means that a majority of the people there also have the same drive for adventure as you and aren’t shy to make new friends or share experiences with one another. Many of the people in our program were multi-lingual and in my eyes much more talented than most of the mono-lingual English speaking North Americans but I found them wanting to know as much about us as possible. They looked at me as this person who came from some mystery land that they had never been too and wanted to find out as much as they could. Ironically enough I felt that Europe was a much more interesting place than anything back home but I happily obliged.

 If you follow the blogs, then you know that another student named Clemens is also in Ghent studying and we’ve become great friends over the last few months. Though we’d meet only a few months prior and we’d been friends with a great deal of others, I find myself enjoying the time I spend with him more than anyone else. One of my fondest memories is when he planned a Canadian Thanksgiving that involved cooking for 12+ people and went through the time/cost to prepare this whole elaborate event just too make others happy. We enjoyed mounds of food as well as party games and sharing stories with one another about back home. At the time, I was very sick and not feeling very upbeat but that one night made all of us feel slightly closer to home.

 One of my most memorable friends was a Bavarian man named Tobi. He’s a thin, short guy who has the humor you’d expect from a German, but was one of the most down to earth, and genuine people I’ve ever met. Whenever we’d have a conversation you knew that he gave 100% of his attention to you and would always have a great point to make towards any statement made. He’s never lied and will without a doubt tells you that you’re wrong if he felt it was needed to be said. His honesty isn’t outdone by his generosity that was given to anyone that was in need of help. We hold these poker nights every week and he would always come on time with beer to share with everyone, but of course would talk about how “Bavarian beer was the greatest” and “Belgian’s just can’t make beer as good as Bavaria”. This would be me with some groans and eye rolling but it was the thought that counted.

 One of my favourite things to do is both Tobi, Clemens and I share a Monday morning class at 8 in the morning (which we all looooooove…). The second week of classes we came up with the idea of going to breakfast and coffee since double doubles don’t exist in Belgium. This ended up becoming a recurring plan and we soon found a sandwich shop that was just near our campus were for 6-8 Euros you could enjoy a foot-long sandwich with your choice of coffee. We would spend hours chatting about our weekends, who we saw, where we went, what we did, as well as talking about current events and what was going on back home. We went there so often that the man who ran the shop knew us and remembered our order responding with “The usual” as we would sit down. He would make this small chocolate covered marshmallow and ask us if they were good enough to sell. By far though the funniest moment was after he would give us our food and drink he would respond with a brisk “You’re Welcome” before any of us could thank him for our meal.

 Even though I was able to travel all over Europe and visit numerous ancient cities or iconic landscapes I find myself enjoying and relishing those moments the most.

The Clash of the Cultures (Croatia)

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Author: Stephanie Rukavina
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Zagreb, Croatia

            The experiences in Croatia are never-ending. Since my arrival I have seen so much and experienced quite a few festivals and events that I didn’t know even existed. One of my favorite things about Zagreb is the stands that can be found throughout the center of the city. When I first arrived here, the stands were selling freshly roasted corn on the cob, popcorn, and even some sweets. It was common to see these stands on every corner! Now that the season has changed, the corn has been replaced with roasted chestnuts, and let me tell you, they smell amazing! Zagreb seems to have a large focus on local and organic food, as there is several outdoor farmers market that work every day and sell a variety of goods grown or created by local farmers. I have gone to these markets a few times now, and every time I’m greeted by everyone’s friendly smiles.

While all these experiences have been amazing, I have faced some minor challenges. While many study abroad students may agree that language was probably the biggest challenge they faced when moving to a new country, the same cannot be said about me since I am fluent in the Croatian language. My biggest challenge was leaning to manage my time, and understanding how the public transport system works. In Croatia, the culture is more relaxed, slow paced lifestyle. This is sometimes reflected on the public transport system. I have had multiple times where I am late to class because I missed my bus because it came too early, or where the bus was too late. I have learned to always leave extra time to get to class, because you never know what kind of delays you’ll face. Another challenge I faced was homesickness. I missed my family back in Canada a lot, especially my mom and my sister. I feel like I haven’t seen them in such a long time (other then our Skype sessions). And even though my dad and grandma were closer here in Croatia (about two hours driving), I still missed them like crazy as well! Just like anything, some days passed very quickly, but others I had homesickness like crazy, making this a difficult challenge.

            For other students who are also facing these challenges or worried about these challenges if they study abroad, my advice to you is not to stress with it. With all of the Skype calls and messaging, you’ll never fall out of touch with your family. It’s completely normal and expected for you to miss them, but you’ll survive! Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity, and any challenges you face will be tiny in comparison to what you would gain from this experience. It’s worth it, trust me!

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Becoming a Belgian

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Author: Clemens Snoeijer
Program: Business Administration – International Business
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

When one plans to study abroad, you envision a way of how everything is going to work out. But as soon as you get to that country and start experiencing the culture, you begin to realize it’s the complete opposite of what you had first imagined. This was the case for me when I arrived in Belgium.

When I first arrived in Ghent, I was excited to meet all the different people living in Ghent. My first attempt of meeting new people and adjusting to my new temporary home was going out to the tourist locations. As an extrovert, this seemed like the easiest way to try and make new friends, but I was certainly mistaken. When I made an attempt to talk to Belgians in the area, it became obvious that the people were simply not interested in having a conversation with me. Many of these conversations were small talk or being flatly ignored. Did I really pick the wrong location to study abroad? I really didn’t feel welcomed from the people of Belgium. I was worried this was going to be a long five months abroad. But I was not ready to give up just yet.

In September, when the Erasmus orientation week started, there were many other students that were studying abroad for the first time as well. These fellow classmates were just as eager to make new friends, like I was. After the welcome session and campus tours, all students studying abroad were welcomed to a meet and greet lunch, where I met many of my current friends. We decided to find a local café near the campus; we all took the time to get to know everyone more personally. After that, the week was filled with many social activities where we got to know each other more personally.

After having settled in and having made new friends, I began working on the academic aspect of this exchange. My first class of the day is at 8:15am, but because I do not live the near campus, I had to wake up at 6:30am to get ready for my session. Even though I was super tired, I was relieved to know that this class and many other classes were only one and a half hours, which was different compared to the three-hour classes at Seneca.

The organizational structure has been a little confusing; however, I have slowly adjusted to it. There have been times where my professors did not arrive on time. This might have to do with the fact that they may be teaching different classes at other campuses scattered over the city. If they are driving, parking a car, bike or even a motorcycle, it becomes difficult since there is nowhere to park it.

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Another thing I often wonder is where the assignment layouts are? I miss having the expectations clearly outlined, where compared to here in Belgium, the assignments are extremely vague of what is expected of you. After finally getting adjusted to the classes and what is expected of me, I finally began adjusting to the different teaching approaches that each professor has. Without a doubt, I can admit that Marketing is one of my favourite classes so far that I am taking at Artevelde. The professor is so interactive and has many memorable examples. This probably explains why I can never find a seat in the classroom. I always think that it is the survival of the fittest for a chair as almost every student goes to her class. My least favourite class would have to be Innovation and Change. Even though I am not required to take this class, I wanted to take the class to spend time with the friends that I have made here in Belgium. Overall though, I have really enjoyed the atmosphere here at Artevelde so far. For anyone that is looking to do a future exchange, I would highly recommend this school.

When I have free time after going to class and doing my homework, I have been enjoying the social component as well. Since coming to Belgium, I have been extremely lucky to have friends who are very ambitious and outgoing, like myself. Every single person in our friend group is unique in their own special way, including different personalities and interests, which works out perfectly. I feel like this has to do with us all being from different countries and I am always so interested in having to hear about their experiences of coming to Belgium and hearing how different Belgium is to their hometown. This has been such a great opportunity to learn more about the world from other people.

Since making new friends and starting my education here in Belgium, I have had the chance to visit Bruges a small city near Ghent. Went on a school trip to Walibi (an amusement park in the French region of Belgium), visited many different bars and cafés, went out for dinner at different local Ghent restaurants, toured around Amsterdam and London and much more! A few friends from our group have also been able to find a gym that we like and have started working out several times a week. I’ve begun adjusting to the kind of lifestyle that Europeans have and have realized that they are focused on their appearances. They are also the kind of people that enjoy having a healthy lifestyle.

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Now, having had the chance to meet a few Belgians, I will have to admit that these people are not as cold as I first thought they were. Compared to the Dutch culture, I’ve learned that Belgians are not as open minded. When I say that, I mean that Belgian people need more time to warm up to you. Talking in an elevator isn’t something you can do, like we do in Canada. Greeting someone on the street only towards the people you know is considered appropriate or considered normal for Belgian culture.

I think if there was one thing that I had to share with those of you who are happening to be reading my experiences here in Belgium, it is to never expect a country to have the same social traits. I believe that the Netherlands and Belgium have a few things in common, but they are still very different countries. The Dutch dialect has probably been the biggest challenge I had to face. If they are not from the Ghent region, they have strong accents. Sometimes speaking English is just much more preferred.

I am very excited to discover more of the culture differences that the Belgian culture has and what the cultural differences are between The Netherlands, Canada and Belgium. I am definitely going to be trying to live more like a Belgian, and experience all the things that the true Belgian culture has, and that’s by living like a true Belg.

My Second Month in the Netherlands

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Author: Amanda Cook
Program: Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

I have now officially been gone from Canada for two and a half months, received my Dutch resident permit, finished my first block of school, and visited two other countries as well as multiple Dutch cities. Life in the Netherlands has been nothing but absolutely amazing!!

The city that I am living in Utrecht is centrally located, so it takes no longer than an hour to get to any major city in the Netherlands. I have had the opportunity to go and visit the city of Gouda which is known for its cheese and inventing the Stroopwafel. I also visited Rotterdam and Amsterdam. Rotterdam is known for having the tallest building in the Netherlands and its modern architecture with the famous cube houses. Amsterdam is known for the red light district and its canals. Each city is so different from one another that no matter which city you decide to visit there is always something new to see.

I have also had the opportunity to travel to Munich, Germany for its annual Oktoberfest. The festival draws millions of people each year, both locals and tourists. Most people dress up in the traditional “dirndl” or “lederhosen” to explore the fair. There are carnival rides everywhere, snack stands, and of course, the famous tents with traditional German music playing inside. This is a festival that I would recommend to everyone to experience once in their lifetime!

A few weeks after Oktoberfest, I took a weekend trip to Prague, Czech Republic. This city absolutely captured my heart. Prague boasts multiple types of architecture such as, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque era buildings all which make for a stunning city. Prague is known for its bridges, the John Lennon wall, its castle, and also for hosting a replica of the Eiffel tower. The city is divided by a large river that has a famous bridge across it called the Charles Bridge. It has many statues placed across it and some legends say they bring luck if you touch them.

Life in the Netherlands has not been all travel, on the contrary, the level of difficulty of the education is much higher than in Canada and has kept me quite busy studying. Here the school year is divided into four blocks which are all 8 weeks of classes then exams. I have just finished block A, and found it quite rushed because you still are expected to learn the same amount of information as in Canada but in half of the time. School has given me the opportunity to meet other exchange students as well as many Dutch friends.

I am very grateful for all of the opportunities that studying in the Netherlands has provided me and love every minute of it!

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I don’t like to say goodbye (Germany)

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Author: Catherine Camara
Program: International Business
Study Abroad Location: Bavaria, Germany

I don’t like to say goodbye, nor have I had the bittersweet chance of saying goodbye to so many influential and important people at one time. I use the word bittersweet heavily as saying goodbye was one of the saddest things I have ever had to do, but I love that these six months abroad could bring such joy and wonder into life. The end of your semester is another influential part of your experience here. On your own you will have to manage passing all exams, packing up, moving out, saying goodbye to your abroad family and arriving back at home (in one piece).

So you did it. You made it through all your exams with confidence and now you are well on your way to closing on a fabulous 6 months. After exams finish, you will feel like a 200kg weight has somehow been lifted from your shoulders; only to be placed on your heart once you realize what the end of exams actually means. You’re done here. It’s over. This incredible life you have been sharing with the amazing friends you’ve made is coming to an end. The exciting feeling of being on your own, free, and alive is turning into an anxious and unsure knot in your stomach.

In the last month I came to realize how important my friends were, how much I had seen, and how much my time here has inspired me. During the last two weeks my friends and I tried to spend as much time together as we could. Since exams were over we seized each day into night. A lot of us had bought t-shirts or German flags so that we can all sign and write stories as our own memory of our time here. We would wake each other up for breakfast, spend days at the lake, playing sports, swimming and plan trips for August on our way home. We kept ourselves busy with each other and made the most of our last moments.

Despite making plans to reunite in the distant future we knew what the ugly truth was, it was never going to be the same. There will never be a time in our life where we will all be together again at Wiley in Neu-Ulm, 21 years old and soaking up life for all it has. This for me was the hardest part.

Moving out was made quite seamless for international exchange students. Your representative at your University abroad will provide you with a checklist of tasks you must complete with appropriate signatures before you officially leave the country. If you plan on leaving as soon as exams finish like I did; you may have to request your checklist ahead of time and plan ahead. Some of these tasks include:

– Appointment with your landlord
– Check out at the residency office
– Return your student card
– Clean your apartment (It should look like the day you moved in)
– Don’t forget to say Goodbye (Teachers, friends, neighbors. It’s important)

After some tears, best wishes and many “see you later” (no goodbyes) I was out of Germany after 6 crazy, beautiful months. I highly suggest making use of your trip home and seeing as many other countries as your wallet will allow. Fortunately, my friend Chloe and I were able to meet in Munich and travel for 6 weeks before returning home. We hit countries like Croatia, Bosnia, Spain and Portugal. This was a great idea to help ease myself into returning home. It gave me something to be excited for while I was finishing exams.

The best advice I can give to anyone may sound unoriginal and over used but I cannot over express how organic these words are: Take every opportunity that comes your way. Experience everything and make use of your time here. Be spontaneous and creative. Save as much money as you can before your exchange, work hard and then spend it all on the experience. It’s truly your world to explore. This is not a time for regrets.

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Safe Travels,
Catherine Gago Da Camara