Home sweet home

As of today, I have been back in Canada for a whole month. A lot has changed, but somethings feel like I never left. My family is still the same loving group of people I left over four months ago, and they continue to amaze me – not only with their feats and accomplishments, but also by their love and support. They’ve been excited about my adventures abroad since the moment I heard I got accepted to study in Lyon, and they continue to encourage me to do what I love and what makes me happy. 

School feels the same as ever, trekking across campus three days a week to attend my English and History classes; most of which I am really enjoying, with only two I have yet to find the passion for. The University friends I left behind in August all carried on with their Carleton days while I was away, but have thankfully welcomed me back into their lives as if I had been there the whole time.

When I’m immersed in my school life, it sometimes feels like I never left Carleton’s underground world for the little tabacco factory of a school in Lyon, France. I guess some things never change, no matter how long you are gone or how much an experience changes you. I still get to spend my Fridays running errands and lazing around the house with my mom. She’s still there to nag me and hug me whenever necessary. My sister and I still drive each other crazy but would be lost without each other. Chris and Jon are still the nerdy, protective older brothers I’ve relied on my entire life. Dad is still working his ass off trying to bring some law & order to this crazy world we live in, all the while finding time to worry about and love his four children.

And my friends, well, I would be a mess if not for them. Whether in Texas getting her drawl back, or in Vancouver enjoying her yoga and ocean-side views, or back in Lyon struggling to keep up with the circus that is France, or even right here in Ottawa (and surrounding cities) where I left them, waiting to welcome me back with open arms, ears and hearts. My friends bring me back down to earth when life gets overwhelming, or just remind me to laugh things off and enjoy life because we’re young and we still have so many more adventures to embark on together.

Not that I don’t ordinarily enjoy life to the fullest, but sometimes it’s hard to have to face the reality of life after living in an ignorantly blissful world while on exchange. So many questions run through my head everyday: what do I want to do with my life; am I making the right choices to make me happy in the future; should I be volunteering more; should I give yoga a second chance; what should I eat today, etc. Sure, some of them are easier to answer then others, but when they all start cramming their way into my head, they start to take their toll and life gets overwhelming all over again. I know that my time on exchange has changed me as a person, and even though I’m yet to fully understand how I’ve changed, I know that it has affected my life here in Ottawa. My mom has always said that everything happens for a reason, so whether or not I’ve decided if my changes are for the best, I know life will sort itself out and I’ll be back in the world finding new adventures for myself in no time. As for now, I’ve got fantastic friends (old and new) and family to help me get readjusted to my life here in Ottawa. And look at that, I’ve made it a month and I’m still pretty much in one piece – just a few battle wounds to prove I can make it through the rough patches. I’m excited for life, whatever it holds; hopefully I have more travelling in store for me, which means more stories for me to share with the world. But for today I have Uni readings to conquer and a sister to bother. 

Love to you all, xox, B. 

I fell in love with Ireland and didn’t want to let it go

At the Cliffs of Moher!

I know I’m overdue for a blog post, but time seems to be slipping away during my time on exchange, and I don’t know where the past two months have gone (I have officially been outside of Canada for two months as of today) or how I already only have 56 more days here. I have been keeping busy with travelling and school assignments lately, which has definitely made the time go by more quickly, which leaves me wanting to spend the little spare time I have with the amazing friends I have made here. I only have one more day of classes (today) before I on my fall semester break for a week of no classes, and lots of good food, friends and drinks on the beaches of Portugal and Spain. But before I get into that, I’ll try to quickly fill you all in on my life for the past few weeks.

I have been pretty busy with school for the past few weeks, which means that the few days where I am in Lyon, and not travelling elsewhere, I have either been in my apartment/the school library/cafes meeting with partners to work on school projects and assignments. I am now happy to say that I got my Contemporary Indian Society midterm and presentation over with yesterday morning, and I have completed and passed three french tests in the past three weeks. I have one assignment and a presentation the week I get back from holidays, but I am done the presentation already and I am not worried about the other assignment – planning on starting and finishing it tomorrow. It’s been a strange feeling having to actually be productive on homework in the past few weeks because the French Uni system is very different than back home, where I already would have written several midterms and essays and would likely be preparing to write another batch in a few weeks time. Here in Lyon we basically have one assignment and one final for each class, and I am already done the majority of them. I love the life of an exchange student! But no aspect of being an exchange students compares to the ability to travel to places I’ve only ever dreamed of visiting, and having them fill every expectation and more.

Standing at the edge!

I went to Dublin this past weekend, from Friday-Monday, and it was arguably one of the best weekends of my life, and definitely the most amazing places in the world that I have ever visited. I must point out that I don’t know how it rates in comparison to my cottage or Ottawa, but those aren’t places I visit, they are where I live and where my heart is, and most importantly where I call home.

I left Friday afternoon, and had to fly solo because Preeti (a friend I met in classes and who also happens to be from Canada) couldn’t get a flight out until later in the evening. On my way to the airport, I found myself thinking about the way I present myself while travelling, and how I inadvertently feel self-conscious about who I am and who I’m trying to be.

There is a fine line between struggling to feel like you belong in a new city, and the desire to still represent and advocate the place that you come from. I noticed this on my way to the Lyon airport from my little apartment in a very residential district of the city. I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb with my big Canadian flag sewn on my bag, and I felt the desire to inform everyone around me that, while I am undoubtedly a proud Canadian, I am also a resident of Lyon, and will continue to be for the next two months.
Once off the public transport, I ran into a fellow Lyon III student who approached me not because he recognized me as a classmate, but because, as a fellow Canadian, he wanted to tell me how much he liked the flag badge proudly displayed on my bag. So then I felt guilty for being ashamed of my flag back near my apartment, because I love being Canadian, as I have recently mentioned, I realize how much I take for granted while living in Canada that I now miss. It’s also nice to be Canadian because not only do people around the world seem to appreciate meeting Canadians, but fellow Canadians love being Canadian too. All this to say, I’ve realized that it’s nice to identify myself as a Canadian among a sea of Europeans, but also to be able to identify with the few other Canadians that I meet along the way.

By the time I had finished this internal debate with myself, I was off the Rhonexpress and waiting for my flight to Dublin! I was taken aback when I first stepped onto the plane and was met with a very friendly and accent-ridden stewardess, who greeted not only with a smile, but in english! It had been so long since I had heard spoken by someone in the service industry, that I instantly felt like I was back at home, and knew it was a good sign for the rest of my trip.

I found my hostel easily enough, and was content beyond belief to be surrounded by Irish people, who were not only ten times more friendly than the people I have become accustomed to meeting along my travels in France, but who had the most beautiful accents that my heart would just melt the instant anyone opened their mouth. I think it’s the Irish in me, but I was in heaven this weekend. I choose to identify with whatever percentage of Irish culture I have in my family because I am drawn to everything it is about, from its history and its stories to its food, music and art. I’ve said it already, and I’ll say it again: I fell in love with Ireland, and I am counting down the days until I can visit it again.

Saturday Preeti and I borded a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, which lasted from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, but I swear I could’ve stayed for longer if only it meant I could see more of Ireland. We drove along the beautiful countryside and stopped every hour or so to see the architecture, quaint villages and natural beauty Ireland has to offer. The cliffs themselves were beyond anything I had ever imagined. I felt so small and insignificant in comparison to their size and majesty, which is always a humbling feeling. I took over 300 pictures this weekend, and a large majority are of the cliffs. Of course none of them can really capture the essence of the cliffs, but hopefully they will provide me with a good enough picture to fuel my memory. I took a few pictures standing as close to the edge as I could, which I know will freak my mother out, but you know what they say: live life on the edge! 😉

Cliffs of Moher

After our tour, Preeti and I headed to a pub for some delicious pub grub, which we of course washed down with a pint. We spent the rest of our evening in the “Temple Bar” area, moving between the various bars and pubs, meeting beyond friendly (in a good way, not a creepy way) people from all over Europe. We also had the great fortune of being shown how to party the Irish way because we met Leah, a very happy and gregarious girl from Limerick who was staying in our hostel room for the night. She asked what we were doing for the night, so I suggest she join us since we had no specific plans. It was a perfect evening of live music, impromptu air bands, arm wrestling, cider chugging and many many laughs. I didn’t want the evening to end. But Sunday showed us there was still lots to see and love about Ireland.

Sunday we toured around Dublin. My favourite part of the day was seeing Trinity College, which made me fall in love with Ireland all over again. The campus is beautiful, and I instantly had the desire to study there and be immersed in Irish life for semesters at the time. Upon hearing this, my mother said “Omg, my world traveller will never stay home”- but I swear once the travel bug bites, there’s no letting it go.
We had lunch (and a pint) at Ireland’s oldest pub, “The Brazen Head”. I decided to eat like the Irish, and left the pub feeling uncomfortably full after a fish cake starter and Guinness stew which came served in a giant yorkshire, complete with mashed potatoes and dense soda bread. But believe me, it was worth the tummy ache – so delicious! We traipsed along Grafton street, enjoying the window shopping and talented street performers, not to mention a leprechaun sighting or two! After our routy evening Saturday night, we spent Sunday at a pub near our hostel, and were in bed by 11:00 at the latest.

We said a sad farewell on Monday morning, and had to face reality once we had safely landed back in Lyon. I had a french test tuesday and my Indian Society presentation and midterm wednesday, all of which went well and are finally over and done with! Now I have a week of no classes to look forward to, and am looking forward to starting a new set of adventures Sunday night when I fly off to Lisbon, Portugal with five amazing girls. It should be amazing!

Miss and love you all,

xox, B.