Sage Global Experience-2018 New York Ad week!

By: Jane Kim- 3rd year Advertising and Marketing Communication Management Student.

The event I have been waiting for, since the first day as an Advertising student in Centennial College, has finally arrived. It was finally my turn to participate and enjoy the New York Ad Week of 2018.

New York Ad Week 2018 was held on Oct 1st to Oct 4th, normally it would be impossible to attend the event since it is held in the middle of our school year, however, because Ad Week was one of the optional criteria for Advertising students at Centennial College, number of students including myself were able to attend the event. In addition, thanks to Sage Global Experience, we were able to get our trip payment covered!

And so, the wonderful 5 days in the world’s capital for advertising began!

I was headed to New York on September 30th with 3 of my amazing fellow Advertising students in Centennial College. We were all very excited, but even more so myself, it had been more than 10 years since I last visited New York, which made the trip exceptionally exciting. We found an Airbnb in New Jersey, and when we first entered the apartment, we were amazed by how pretty and clean the suites were.

My favorite spot of our Airbnb living room



Now that our base camp for trip turned out to be a beautiful place, it was now time to enjoy New York City!  Our Airbnb was located in New Jersey, therefore, we had some travelling to do. First step was to ride the PATH train to World trade Center. We definitely had the “tourist” vibe, and we initially had trouble purchasing the PATH train tickets. Thankfully, one of the workers from the station taught us from A to Z on everything we needed to know. (He even gave us a free Path Pass for us to load! Thank you!). From the World trade Center, we rode the New York subway line to get to the famous Time Square. The Time Square that I remember from the memory as a little girl and the Time Square that I saw as a college student was drastically different. The Time Square that I saw in this trip was full of amazing performers and unique charms of individuals. And obviously, the advertisements in billboards were breathtaking. And while I was admiring at all the advertisement, I made a promise to myself, that one day I would have my own advertisement displayed right here.

Everywhere was bright and pretty -@Time Square

Oct 1st-  First day of New York Ad Week!

It was here! Our first day of Ad week. We all got ready early in the morning, and headed off to Lincoln Square Center on 66th street!

Exciting moment!

As we got in, there were tons of different brand vendors that provided opportunities to not only observe their ideas but also to taste, play, learn about their ideas.

Fun Experiences!

Top 4 Seminars from Ad week

Day 1: Marvel and the power of podcast in storytelling for brands

“Powerful Weapon is Silence”-Chris Bannon (Chief Content Officer of Stitcher)

This seminar was one of the most memorable seminars that I have been to. As marvel’s big fan myself, and also a big fan of podcasts and audio books, it was very interesting. The few key takeaways were that Marvel defines themselves as a storytelling community, and podcasting has been on the rise as a new form of storytelling in the last 10-20 years. Although my main concern regarding this idea was the fact that audios cant deliver Marvel’s famous graphics that illustrate character’s actions, it was very interesting for the team to utilize silence as one of the powerful tools in creating suspense and excitement. For example, in their Wolverine podcast, when the protagonist Logan is in the middle of an intense suspenseful scene, they will use nothing but silence to provide the tension that would normally be expressed through drawings in a comic book. According to the team, silence can provide audiences with different types of intensity and imagination. Also, it was also fascinating that there are about 12 layers of sound files to create a sniffing sound. This shows how much extreme details are put together for a creation of every Podcasts. For advertising, they tend to produce motion graphics for social media. Also, have incorporate about 2 pre-roll advertisement and 2 mid-roll advertisement during one episode of their podcasts.

Day 2: Memeology- The New Digital Language 

“Meme is way of communication that carries our ideas”-Joe Federer (Brand Strategy at REDDIT)

I enjoy watching memes around the internet, and would relate to some of them and often have a good laugh. The work behind creation of all these memes were very fascinating. They started the presentation with the origin of the word “Meme”. It came from Richard Dawkins’  book called “The Selfish Gene” and the book states that, “A meme is a basic unit of idea and gene is the basic unit of DNA”. Just simple white background with black bold words on a picture or screenshot of a scene from a movie can express many human expressions, which further more results in expressing human reactions,  or the entire situation and ideas. Meme looks very simple at a glance, however, there are so many psychology and details involved that bring people’s emotions together.


Day 3: The Jump with Will Smith: One Iconic Storytellers Journey of Reinvention & Connection

“Nothing is valuable than your gut”-Will Smith (Actor, producer)

Will Smith was an absolutely inspiring person, who showed his passion and love towards his life and his job.  He believed that creativity is always evolving at that even if you are a successful movie star, moving towards with the trend is always very important. He believes that people have to be in tune with current trends and ideas. For example, just few years ago, good trailer for a movie used to be very important, however nowadays, people’s reactions on social media tweeting about the movie became more important in promoting a film. He also talked about methods of storytelling, and he claims that high quality storytelling automatically leads to receiving large attention. Life lesson can simply come from storytelling. During the seminar, he told many inspiring stories, and three of my favorite was, “Nothing is valuable than your gut”, “Be a better you for everything”, and “Don’t run from the pain, that is the greatest story”. I can easily say that I learn the most in his presentation.

Day 4: The Value of Activating Brave

“Important to go from marketing operator to company collaborator”- Clayton Ruebensaal (Global brand Management and design of American Express)

Lack of clarity in brand activation has always been a problem, and that was the one thing that consumers have always wanted fixed. To do that, the process of solving problems inside the company needed to change significantly. Aligning operation and marketing was the key. Also, the company had to go from marketers to company collaborator. To build a good brand, changing how the company works is most important step to take. That is the new way to activate the brand. This seminar had more real life information, that made us as a future advertisers to really get ready for what is expected in the industry today. The things that they said were not all magical, but rather very real. And I believe that this seminar was what I really needed to hear before getting myself into the real world work environment.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Night Walk at Central Park

The streets of New York was beautiful and also very busy. Everywhere I look, I wanted to take a photo, and cherish the moment. The landscapes and buildings were very interesting. The two memorable places that I went was, The METS, and Central Park. I am never usually interested in museums but The Metropolitan Museum changed my perspective. It was beautiful, and fascinating. I absolutely want to go back, and look at all the items displayed thoroughly. The night walk at the Central Park was absolutely amazing as well. I was bitten by a lot of Mosquito, but still, the feeling of walking in a forest in the middle of one of the greatest cities on earth made it all worthwhile. It was like an Oasis inside a busy city. It was relaxing and it gave me time to rest my mind, and just take in the nature.


Thanks to SAGE Centennial and Advertising Community of Centennial College, I was able to experience so much from New York, and learn many inspiring lessons that have changed my thoughts about work and life. If it was not for this opportunity, I would have been missing out on so much aspects of my career. This was my first trip as a grown up, and I was able to appreciate its every moment. If I could recommend this trip to others, it would take me days to explain why an opportunity like this would be one of the greatest decisions for anyone to make.

My Trip to New York City for Ad Week 2018

Written By: Brienna Monture

IMG_0434.jpgTime Square, NYC

The Start Of My Adventure

As a third year Advertising and Marketing student from Centennial College, I had the exciting opportunity to go to New York Ad Week 2018 on behalf of the Sage Global Experience program. Best decision I could have made! I attended the most interesting conferences, learned what’s affecting the industry, networked with so many industry professionals and had lots of time to explore the big city.

New York City is full of so many creative people and our Airbnb host was obviously one of them. Our place was one of the cutest, Pinterest inspired places I have ever been too. I loved it! It was completely affordable and worth the extra travel time.


The Conference Sessions

Meme-ology 101

“If meme is the unit of of idea, then language is the equation.” – Kenny Gold

This conference was incredibly interesting and entertaining. The speakers spoke about the culture of Memes and how they are the “doppelgängers” of our feelings. They spoke of memes in not only a obvious way, but technical way and really gave us insight to why people connect with it and how brands can genuinely connect with their audiences. This is why it’s become part of our culture of language. Joe Federer mentioned that “self deprecating humour is a large part of meme culture.” Katherine O’Brien talked about how memes relate to social currency and the value of community that the culture of memes gives. This conference really gave me a lot of insight about the future of utilizing popular trends like memes in the industry and how it can be used effectively.


Marvel – Power of Podcast

“Podcasting is long form storytelling. Wolverine is a man of few words and it takes a lot to get anything out of him. Internal monologues give the listeners that.” – Chris Bannon

This conference focused on Marvel moving into the Podcast world. It was interesting to hear why the big brand decided to move to the Podcast realm and how it was succeeding.  We also got to hear about how they are selling ads into Podcasts and the thoughts behind it. Daniel Fink described the success of the Wolverine podcast interestingly by describing the hook. “I don’t think it’s the murder that’s hooking everyone, it’s the suspence. Silence is used to replace and create tension that captivates listeners.” We got to hear a short clip of the podcast and it was amazing. After that I considered downloading the Podcast.


The Jump with Will Smith

“A constant confrontation with fear helps create creativity.” – Will Smith

This was one of my absolute favourite conferences because it was lead by the famous actor Will Smith. He spoke about his new Youtube channel and how he is creating success for himself. He gave us advice to “use the stories that are already inside you as creative inspiration. Your pain is such a rich tool to connect with creativity.” He also spoke about how the path for success has changed and how we can get ahead by “finding the current, and staying in-tune with that current.”


The Social Evolution

“Use the grey area to go somewhere you never went. That’s how you evolve and create better, more authentic content.” – Mick Petesky

The conference talked about the evolution of social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Linked In and Twitter and how they are used differently to appeal to their audience. They talked which platforms work better for specific target groups, when to release creative control and what you need to develop organic and shareable content. Nicole Brenton discussed how “branded content is more authentic and is better received when creative control is relaxed.” This was interesting to learn the success of the social giants and how brands adapt to each.


Some of the Perks

On top of learning a bunch of information about industry issues, the future of advertising and ways to succeed, there was tons of free give aways and vendor’s handing out food, branded items, games and information. This was a great way to interact with brands and clients and gain exclusive information on what new things are coming to the market.




After attending a few interesting conferences each day, we spent the rest of the day site seeing, exploring and eating.

The MET was one of my favourite experiences and was an absolute must go for me. My favourite part was seeing the Heavenly bodies exhibit. This exhibit featured the work of famous designers that were raised with Roman Catholic religion and how it inspired and influenced them in the fashion world. Another exhibit I loved was the Greek and Roman Art exhibit, it showcased so many statues and the stories behind them which was so interesting to learn about. I could have spent all day there.




Central Park
Anyone who has ever heard of New York City, has heard of Central Park. It’s the best place to get away from the rush of the city directly in the downtown core. I love how there’s a place in the middle of all the chaos to have some peace and quiet. The atmosphere completely changes and it’s absolutely beautiful.



Strolling through the City
New York City is huge and just walking through the streets you just feel a sense of belonging. It’s not hard to understand why so many people dream about life in the big city. It has an indescribable culture and is so beautiful.


My Overall Experience

New York City was unforgettable. It was my first time ever in the city and it certainly won’t be my last. The Sage Global Experience Program has given me an exciting adventure to end my three year journey with Centennial College, with some of the people I have been friends with since my first day. I got to learn more about the industry and issues that are currently affecting it. I have met a lot of contacts, brands and clients that I will work with and now I can fully prepare for my future in the industry.



My Global Experience – New York Advertising Week (2018)

Written by: Lauren Clancy

At the beginning of October, I was given the chance to travel to New York for Advertising Week through Centennial College’s SaGE Program. As an advertising student, AdWeek is a great opportunity to explore a new city, network with industry professionals, and learn more about industry issues.

Seminar Highlights

Over the course of four days, I attended eight seminars that I thought would best address where advertising was headed in the future. I wanted to learn about the issues that would impact my career when I graduated.

Day One

“One of our most powerful weapons was silence.”
-Daniel Fink, Executive Director at Marvel Entertainment

The most interesting seminar I attended on the first day was “Marvel and the Power of Podcast Storytelling for Brands.” After learning about the rise of podcasts in class, I wanted to understand how podcasts will soon become part of advertising communications platforms. Executive Director for Marvel Entertainment, Daniel Fink, discussed the creation of Wolverine: The Long Night. He addressed the struggle of turning X-Men’s Wolverine from an action-based character into an intriguing audio-based storyteller. For Daniel Fink, “one of our most powerful weapons was silence.” By refusing to give the audience information for a few seconds Marvel discovered how to make podcasts compelling. I think it is important that brands also learn how to build tension and intrigue to keep consumers interested in an audio-based medium. What struck me most was the realization that the rise of podcasts will mean brands will also soon need an audio identity, which will add a new level of intricacy for advertisers.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 2.00.10 AM

Day Two

“The format of your message is just as important as the message itself.”
-Joe Federer, Brand Strategist at Reddit

On the second day, my favourite seminar was “Memeology 101: The New Language of Cultural Ideas.” Brand Strategist for Reddit, Joe Federer, considered how brands could use the format of a meme and alter the content to reach young consumers in a more relatable way. He stressed, “The format of your message is just as important as the message itself.” The panel discussed how advertisers must understand that an image overlaid with text can be more culturally powerful than a Tweet. What I found most interesting was that the challenge for advertisers is to use memes organically. Memes are often based on current events and cannot be planned in advance. In an industry where planning is critical, it will be interesting to see how we will learn to recognize the potential for memes as they arise and jump on them quickly.

Screen Shot 2018-10-09 at 2.04.38 AM

Day Three

“Just because your movie was ranked number one that week doesn’t mean it was a good movie. There may have just not been any good movies out that week.”
-Will Smith

Personally, the most memorable seminar of all of AdWeek was “The Jump with Will Smith: One Iconic Storyteller’s Journey of Reinvention and Connection.” Will Smith discussed the recent launch of his YouTube channel and the lessons he learned from producing engaging content. He realized that metrics are not always the most important factor. He related this insight back to his film career, stating, “Just because your movie was ranked number one that week doesn’t mean it was a good movie. There may have just not been any good movies out that week.” I found this relatable to advertising because we will need to not just look at numbers. Rather, we need to also consider what people are saying about the ads and the brands. Just because people had exposure to an ad doesn’t mean they bought a product or viewed the ad favourably. Overall, I was impressed by Will Smith’s insight and charisma and I think he made a very interesting presentation about how to be a good storyteller.


Day Four

“Time spent on stories will pass time spent on feed.”
– Nicolò Brentan, Head of Sales at MakeMeReach

On the last day, the seminar that stood out most to me was “The Social Evolution.” While most advertising students are aware of digital becoming more impactful than traditional media, it was interesting to see how things are changing even within social media. According to Nicolò Brentan, Head of Sales at MakeMeReach, “time spent on stories will pass time spent on feed.” The reason for this shift is because stories feel more natural and authentic to consumers than carefully planned posts. I think it was important to understand that prioritizing social media alone will not be enough in the near future. Consumers are now shifting their focus from permanent posts to temporary stories which changes how advertisers can best reach consumers. As someone entering the industry, it will be important to recognize these trends and understand how to capitalize on them.

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Admidst the flurry of attendees rushing between seminars were vendors showcasing new technology, and offering treats and prizes. I loved that there was always something new and exciting to see and try at AdWeek.




In addition to attending AdWeek seminars, we also had the opportunity to explore Manhattan. It was surreal to experience a place in person that you always see in movies. While we explored many of New York’s notable locations and restaurants, my most memorable experiences were going to Times Square and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).

Times Square
The first night my classmates and I arrived in New York, we decided to travel to the most iconic place in Manhattan, Times Square. The streets may have been busy with people but the buildings were even busier with ads. It was hard to know where to look with the flashing lights, giant billboards, and noise. I do not think there is a better place for an advertising student to get a sense of the impact of the industry than Times Square.


The Met
With the exception of the seminars, my favourite experience from the trip was going to The Met. As a self-identified history buff, seeing a massive collection of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artifacts made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. One of my favourite exhibits was a reconstructed Egyptian temple that dominated an entire room. I am so thankful that we made time to go to The Met and I believe that any person, no matter his or her interest in history, can find something there that astounds them.


The Takeaway

Overall, travelling to New York for AdWeek was an amazing experience. Over the course of the conference, I was able to gain further insight into topics I was previously mindful of. Yet, I was surprused that I also become aware of upcoming industry issues that I was not previously aware of but should investigate further since they will impact my career. Centennial’s SaGE Program has afforded me professional growth and the ability to travel with my classmates to a place I have always wanted to visit.


Thank you SaGE for an unforgettable Global Experience!


What I Learned in Japan


Japan was absolutely beautiful. I can’t say it enough. It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and unequivocally awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just the raw nature of ginko trees and ocean views that drew me in, but the culture itself; the grace of so many experiences – tea ceremonies, local cuisine, coffee, temples and shrines. I experienced all of this alongside several unique lectures, each describing a specific area of Japanese culture.


I’ve thought a lot about the two extreme elements of Kabuki theatre. All at the same time it is both, incredibly strict and precise, having very specific and concrete rules and ways that are absolute, but it is also an extreme form of Sakari Ba, The Business of Having Fun. This term is described in Japan’s Cultural Code Words by Boye Lafayette De Mente. This type of duality is common in Japanese culture from what I’ve seen and learned so far, it’s polarized into the homogenous, serious side that is common place and the lively, eccentric side that is saved for moments of release, where entertainment is necessary and the extreme is admired. I’ve even seen already the difference in the local Japanese students that I’ve met, who are serious and studious but also enjoy having fun with a drink to ‘blow off steam’ from stressful student lives that later become stressful careers. It seems that many Japanese flock to entertainment such as Kabuki in order to do this same thing, escape from the precise nature of their daily lives for a more eccentric expression of Japanese culture.


One of the aspects that I found to be very interesting to me was the way of the Samurai, who killed themselves in public displays in order to die with honour. This idea stands out to me as related to the cultural code word, Akiramenai, meaning ‘Do or Die’. The book, describes this as “incidents in which the persons involved chose to die—often by their own hand—although their predicaments were not life-threatening, or even desperate from the Western viewpoint”. Samurai were described as being like body guards, serving the emperor and in turn, the Japanese way, so it makes sense that they would willingly sacrifice themselves if it was in someway for the well-being of the country. While this was common in Feudal Japan, this has been decreasing significantly, making way for a less obvious display of honour. “Instead of dashing straight up a mountain they want to climb, the Japanese way is to circle it slowly, gradually working their way to the top. That way, nobody pays much attention to what they are doing.”

Local Cuisine

Despite all the incredible traditions and elements that we learned, I think my biggest take away came when we were told to not just experience the food, but also the entire environment of the restaurant that is curated for patrons. The term Itadakemasu/gochisoh sama meaning ‘Thanks for the Hospitality’, describes the atmosphere of Japanese restaurants in comparison to that of other cultures. Specifically, the book paints a picture; “There is a precise etiquette for sitting, serving and being served, and eating,… as restrained and stylized as the food served… The essence of Japanese food is small portions, artistically shaped, and served on china and lacquer ware that is conspicuous for its beauty.”

I thought this idea was beautifully captured in the way that the instructor  discussed the culture of eating in Japan. It’s not enough just to have Japanese food; You have to take a break from your life in order to experience the entire food culture and really understand all that Japan’s local cuisine has to offer.


Something that I noticed very quickly in the karate lesson was the strict, precise nature of the art. You must always move your body in the order of 右 then左 in practice and the craft itself is a combination of subtle strength and discipline. This idea is expressed through the term The Three Doors to Success, which are described as “receiving the right teaching, dedicating oneself to the teaching, and applying one’s own ingenuity to what is learned from the teachings.” This is something that I was immediately drawn to when watching my classmates repeat specific instructions for a variety of ‘take down’ techniques that are a combination of self-defence and precision attacks. Listening to the sensei is not the only important thing, and doing so will not guarantee any amount of success, it is up to the student to listen to the sensei and  absorb his teachings, dedicating time and effort while bringing your own self fully into each movement. Karate isn’t just about moving your body appropriately, it is also about foresight and focus so that you can see your opponent clearly and use that to gain the upper hand.


I found this lecture to be one that resonated very strongly with me. I found that a good portion of this lesson focused on the process and complexity of sake as well as the variety of available sake. I was so surprised that every single prefecture had sake breweries and that each area brewed unique sakes that complimented the tastes of the local food. For me, this really made sense as a way to gather people when Sakiko-sama told us the story about how she spent quality time with her father over sake. I realized in that moment that sake isn’t just a way to bring people together, but it’s a beverage that can be enjoyed by all people regardless of taste because there is so many varieties. It truly is a way to bring every single person together. The term Sakura Zensen, Cherry Blossom Culture relates to a similar idea, that much in the way sake is used to bring people together and connect them, cherry blossoms have a similar appeal. “Millions of people gathered in cherry tree groves and along the banks of streams and rivers flanked by the trees to view the blossoms, drink sake, eat picnic foods, sing, compose poetry, and otherwise enjoy themselves.” Just like sake, cherry blossoms are a way to gather and connect people who may seem very different. Both have a long history with Japan.



NGU, Nagoya, Japan



Global Experience Belgium!

From June 30 – July 14 I took part in the Alcohol and Beverage Capstone Project at the Artevelde University College in Ghent, Belgium.

This project was to create a marketing strategy for Ærø Brewery located in Denmark to enter successfully in Belgium’s Alcohol and Beverage market.


The program was a mix of Denmark, Belgium and Canadian students using all of our different educational backgrounds to apply it to marketing to make this organic beer line succeed in Belgium.


I started to learn that Belgium looked at beer as a culture and they enjoyed local beer products. There were many different types of beers to taste and we got the opportunity to see how beer was produced from Dorval, De Halve Maan, Gruut (local breweries). A small group of students had an opportunity to visit the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.764aea3d-83da-4294-abcf-ec9a90be763e



I loved seeing how beer was more to individuals than just being a liquor, but rather, it brought people together given the fact that it was allowed and sold everywhere. I loved how beer had so many different types to enjoy and was loved by everyone differently. In the midst of learning about beer in Belgium, I also got to know the students better that were on the trip as the week progressed. The trip was filled with diverse students from different part of the world which made the trip more inviting to learn about different cultures and ethics.



I left with two favourite things Duvel beer and Bitterballen.



I would like to thank Centennial College Sage department for giving students the opportunity to interview and be selected for a journey to change their global understanding and be able to grow the students skillset.  I had a wonderful time in Belgium and truly believe international experience is an asset to any individual living in a diverse community and wanting to become part of a worldwide business network.


Written by: Maegan. S 
The Business School - Business Administration- Entrepreneurship

Nagoya, Japan SIP

It’s been more than half a year since returning from the Summer International Program in Nagoya, Japan, but I still remember vividly so many of the wonderful experiences I had. One of my favorites is the kimono workshop Nagoya Gakuin University put together for us. One of the local student’s family ran a kimono shop, and they were kind enough to bring some yukata in for us to try, even helping us to put them on properly!

yukata 2

Even before leaving Canada, trying on a kimono/yukata (and maybe even buying one!) was towards the top of my to-do list for Japan, I mean, who hasn’t heard of a kimono before? A yukata is akin to a lightweight kimono, usually made out of a single layer of cotton and is much easier to wear than a kimono which has many different layers. Yukata are popular to wear during summer festivals since they are much more breathable. After arriving in Japan and seeing the prices, I knew that I would not be able to afford one, but I had hoped to at least be able to try one on and get a picture. When we arrived at the university and were given our program schedule, I was so excited to see that there would be a workshop towards the end of the program!

On the day of, we were separated into 2 rooms: one for the males and one for the females. As soon as we walked through the doors, we could see all of the yukata laid out on the desks, and we all scrambled to choose one. I was immediately drawn to a dark blue one that had a purple and pink obi (the belt). Obi can come either as just a cloth strip or pre-tied into a bow. All of the ones that were brought in for the workshop were pre-tied to make it easier to put on.

yukata 1

The ladies there helped us into our yukata (otherwise we would have been completely lost on how to put them on!) They had even brought geta (wooden sandals) for us to wear!


After we finished dressing, we were given the choice whether we wanted to go to a nearby shrine while wearing the yukata. I, of course, said yes – I did not want to take the yukata off yet after finally being able to put one on! Geta are known for being hard and uncomfortable to walk in (you’re walking basically on a block of wood) so the university called several taxis to take us to the shrine.

Now, the shrine is definitely one of the things that makes this experience so memorable.

The taxis took us to the Atsuta Shrine where we took tons of pictures at the shrine entrance.

shrine 4

As we walked through the shrine grounds, we noticed there was quite a commotion around a certain tree. Tons of locals had their phones pointed upwards and were talking excitedly to one another.

tree 1

It took us a while to figure out what everyone was looking at, but then we saw it. Can’t figure it out? Take a closer look at the centre of the picture.

tree 2

Yes, that is a snake in the tree. From what we gathered from the locals, the snake can usually be found around the base of the tree, and we were very lucky to see it in the tree. I didn’t even know snakes went in trees.

Besides the snake, the shrine itself was beautiful, and we got the opportunity to take tons of pictures on the shrine grounds before taking the taxis back to the university.

shrine 3

All in all, I had a great yukata experience and I hope to get to buy one when I go back to Japan someday, hopefully soon.

~ Joyce Lok

Food Security in Cuba – An Introduction

By: Gun Chong Yang, Nursing Student

GCELE: Pathways to Community Food Security in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba

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My name is Gun, but you can call me Chino because that was my nickname during my time on this Global Citizenship and Equity Learning Experience. Along with 14 other students and staff members of Centennial College, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to the humble city of Sancti Spíritus, tucked away in the heart of the island country of Cuba, to learn about food security and permaculture.

Food security can be defined as having access to affordable, nutritious, and sustainable foods or food resources. Food insecurity, as one could probably imagine, is the opposite of that. When we think of food insecurity, we tend to conjure up images of impoverished children living in war-torn countries and poor, undeveloped nations. On this trip, however, we were taught to re-imagine and reflect on those images not from a political & economic perspective, but through a socio-cultural lens.

Cuba has gone through an incredible amount of social, political, economic, and cultural growth and transformation within the last 30 years. This is the result of an economic crisis, known as the “Special Period”, that began in the late 1980s due to a halt to the import of oil, food, and other goods from the Soviet Union. With their economy already damaged by the trade embargo set by the United States in the 1960s, the effects of this crisis were felt all over the country.

During the Special Period, Cubans all around the country had to ration their food supplies and limit the use of any fossil fuel-dependent machinery due to their lack of oil. Many farmers suffered greatly because they could not use their large tractors or harvesters and could not easily transport the goods that they produced any more. This also meant that urban communities began to see a decrease in accessibility to foods as well. People were becoming hungry and increasingly reliant on the government for support. Cuba was in need of a solution that would provide food security to its citizens during this vulnerable time.

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Luckily, a few teams of Australian volunteers came and shared with the Cubans a new method of sustainable farming that could be easily integrated into the lives of citizens, both urban and rural, and was seen by the Cuban government as a method to combat the increasing amounts of hunger and poverty that were beginning to spread throughout the country. This new agriculture vision was known as “permaculture”.

Permaculture is the combination of 3 words; permanent, agriculture, and culture. It is a system of beliefs that revolves around the development of sustainable agricultural systems that closely resemble natural ecosystems.

Natural ecosystems, like the earth, are considered to be self-sufficient. This means that they require little to no maintenance in order to proliferate on their own. There exists cycle in nature that all organic material can enter to be broken down into the basic building blocks of life; carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. New plants can use the products of that breakdown, combined with the seemingly limitless amount of energy from the sun, to supplement their own growth. This happens on a large scale all over the planet and seems to have worked so far in creating massive, self-sufficient ecosystems (think large rainforests!), so therefore by integrating these biochemical laws of nature in their own farms, permaculture farmers have been able to produce a large quantity of healthy and sustainable vegetation.

A lot of the food that we eat comes from monoculture farms; farms that only produce a specific crop (e.g. orange farms). Monoculture farming definitely has its benefits, but it is not a sustainable method of farming. They reduce biodiversity, make it harder to recycle nutrients, and often rely heavily on chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Permaculture is a different take on the typical monoculture farming that we see today. One of its concepts involves incorporating a wide variety of plants and using them in a way to maximize each plant’s individual development. This is almost identical to the First Nations’ “Three Sisters” concept, where corn, beans, and squash are grown together because each crop has a unique characteristic that provides a benefit to the other two, maximizing their growth potential.

On  the third day of our trip, we planted banana circles at a farm named “Lo Real Maravillosa”. Banana circles are another type of system of crops like the ones described earlier. By planting banana & papaya trees and sweet potato roots in a circular mound with a pile of compost in the center, the circles act as great natural composters, abundant sources of food, and storage sites for greywater or rain.


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Another concept that is a part of permaculture is the idea of producing no waste. Many of the foods and waste products that we simply throw away today have huge amounts of energy and nutrients left over that can be re-purposed. The whole idea of composting is to break waste down into dirt that is enriched by the nutrients that were trapped in the waste before. By composting kitchen scraps and food wastes and turning them into dirt, farmers can save money on fertilizer and produce better yields of healthier and tastier crop.

I remember visiting a man named Edison’s farm and noticing that the ground we were walking on was covered in something that wasn’t dirt. He told us that they were rice husks; waste products from a local rice mill. Edison made a deal where he would take all their waste and use it on his farm. The rice husks would naturally degrade and the nutrients trapped in them would return to the soil, thereby enriching and protecting his soil.

Even human waste can be re-used. For this reason, almost all of the farms that we visited had composting toilets, or dry toilets that collected our waste products, which were added to compost to help make nutrient-rich fertilizer through the bacterial breakdown process. Human waste also contains a lot of bacteria that, during the composting process, produces methane gas, which was used to power some of their stoves.

The final permaculture concept that I will talk about is setting limits and sharing the surplus. Many of the farms that we visited did not only produce food for themselves, but made an excess that helped to feed the rest of their communities. They also sold some of their crops in the local markets. By taking only as much as they need for themselves and ensuring that there is enough for others as well, then there will continue to be enough for all in the future.

This trip taught me extremely valuable knowledge on food security, the country of Cuba, and permaculture. I will definitely apply this knowledge in my future career as a nursing student and I am very grateful for the new perspective I’ve been given on agriculture and food. Thank you, Centennial College, for this amazing opportunity. Sancti Spíritus, I’ll be back!




My Experience in Cuba 2017

My trip to Cuba, Varadero was a trip of a lifetime! As I look back at this experience, I am incredibly grateful to Centennial College to have given me this opportunity. Before my departure to Cuba, I was very nervous but excited to be going to a country I’ve never been before. Although my GCELE group had a lot of meetings provided by our leaders to prepare us for this experience, it is completely different from when you are there. Arriving at the Juan Gomez airport in Varadero, I was already in love with Cuba, especially at how hot it was compared to Toronto. We took a school bus to where we were staying; Casa Del Carino, our home for the next ten days, it was beautiful place with an incredible view of the beach in the background.

The school bus we took to Casa Del Carino

On the second day, we visited two local farms. The first farm was a developing farm called Rosy farm the owners were a very loving couple and were generous to allow us to explore their land. The second farm was more developed with a lot of different crops and animals. An interesting part of this farm was the farmer had invented a solution without the use of chemicals called EM. This solution could be utilized for many things, but one thing that amazed me about it was he used it in his bunny cages, and there were no bad odours from the rabbit’s cages at all!




The Jardines Bellmar was the farm we worked on for the duration of our trip, and let me tell you it was a lot of hard work! Being in the hot sun, cutting down trees and weeds with machetes was something I’ve never done before. But for Roberto and Cusa the couple who own the farm, I give them a lot of credit to be able to do that every day and without so much help. Working on the farm, it made me reflect and take a look at how much effort and hard work goes into the food that is put on my plate every day.

Cuban food!
Hut on the farm made from organic materials
Roberto (In red) & Cusa (In green)


My grade 8 student (Ian) & I


Being in Cuba was a memorable experience for me. I was able to meet amazing, loving people, from Roberto and Cusa to the fabulous ladies who cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for all of us every day to the grade eight students who worked with us on the farm.  At times the media can portray Cuba in a negative way and before coming here, I had some of those negative images and stereotypes within me. But after ten days of being in Cuba, I honestly believe how the media portrays Cuba to be untrue. Although they may not be the richest people, they are rich with love, family, and culture and that is something that radiates in every single Cuban. Cuba is a beautiful place that I definitely plan on visiting again…. Viva Cuba!



Off the grid for 10 days

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GCELE Cuba, Varadero

May 2017

Written By: Alison Spice

            Mission: Go unplugged for 10 days. That means no internet, no emails, no social media, no calls and no text messages. Do you accept the challenge? “Hmmm ahh, I guess so. YES! Challenge accepted.” Alison replied, with quivering uncertainty in her voice. Would you have taken the same challenge? Most wouldn’t.  At first, I was scared. The first two days I felt incomplete and bare. I felt like something was missing. I wasn’t able to look at my Facebook when I had a minute or two to pass by. I wasn’t able to check my numerous emails. But, in reality the reason I was so reluctant to give up my phone; was the fact that my phone made me feel safe and secure. I feel complete, I feel connected and I feel safe having my phone in hand.


Having no phone meant more conversations, more adventures, more sleep and more thinking. It was refreshing. I was no longer being controlled by my phone. I didn’t have to look at my phone each time the screen lit up with a notification or a sound “blinged” to see who or what was just texted. I connected with people face to face not from screen to screen.  I got to know people.  I went for evening walks. Not having a phone opened my eyes to just how consumed I have become to this piece of technology. It made me realize the importance of human connections. To actually listen to our friends and families instead of listening with one ear while navigating the latest “status update” on Facebook.


Besides my reality of having no phone, my days where hot, sweaty and tiring. Some days were spend clearing fields with a machete for fruit trees to be planted or helping with the construction of a compost toilet. Each day was a new adventure. I remember the day I ate a hot pepper even though it was green. Thinking it wouldn’t be too spicy. Boy, was I wrong! It was CRAZY hot! At least 10 times hotter than the seeds of a jalapeno. Yes that HOT! My face became instantly flushed and my eyes began to swell up with tears. And to think people complain about the Cuban food being so bland. I only have a picture of the hot pepper not of my face after eating a green one. Wow, to think what would have happened if I too a bit of the red one?!!


I had the most amazing fresh fruits and vegetables I have ever had in my entire life. The Cuban food had its own unique flare. I developed and new-found appreciation for the food that reached my plate each day.


These were all new experiences that I would not have had the opportunity to do here in Canada. The wealth of knowledge I now have from this “once in a life time experience” is unmeasurable. Then, what is the next step. What do I take from this experience?


To step back. To embrace life. To give back. To teach others the importance of permaculture and the importance of spending time with family. At the end of the day we never have enough time. Time goes by too fast. That is why time is priceless.


United With the Great Leaders of Today

By Sharrmini C., GCELE Jamaica 2016

Volunteering at the Power to Be International in Negril, Jamaica was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had, especially because it was my first experience interacting with kids in a camp environment. I was so excited to teach, motivate and empower the kids, the minute I landed in Jamaica.


But there was one particular valuable experience I have had with two campers in my class. After lunch time, I was supervising the girls’ dance group when one of the campers confronted another and said that she couldn’t accept her in the dance group. There was a rush of thoughts going through my head – How do I solve this conflict? Should I comfort the camper, whose feelings just got hurt, first? I decided to comfort the camper and then give a talk about inclusion to the girl, who confronted the camper. As I was teaching a lesson to the girl, I asked “How would you feel if she didn’t want you to be part of the dance group?” The girl responded “I don’t care if [she] didn’t want me to be in her group”. I was expecting her to say something completely opposite of her response. I figured the inclusion talk didn’t work so, I decided to ask for help from a staff member about the situation. When the staff member and I went back to the girls’ group, we saw all the girls smiling, laughing and practicing the dance and they were acting as if a conflict had never even happened. The camper who confronted another came to tell me she apologized to the girl for not including her in the dance group.

I was there to teach and motivate the kids, but I was also there to learn and grow with them. Despite the conflict, I’ve learned that unity is one of the most important concepts of being a great leader. Unity helps one another grow as individuals and learn from each other. A leader who unites people to accomplish a goal and to resolve an issue is a great leader. A great leader who unites people together brings success to the team. When the kids got together to finish their dance routine after the conflict, they taught me about unity and how to be a great leader. This particular experience has showed me that we must not resent each other after a conflict has occurred but to unite and to become a better leader every day.