A Student in Scotland

I think I can finally safely say I am over most of the Jet lag (Ha!). I woke up with a good nights rest and went to prepare some breakfast and green tea for myself and my roommate, Monica. We were out relatively early today, as Monica and I have a meeting at 9am with our program coordinator, to go over our finalized timetables. We were both excited and nervous on our walk to school this morning (Fun Fact: The sun really doesn’t come up here until around 9am). So, we have both learned to do most things in the dark lol! (Which also saves on electricity, thumbs up for sustainability).
 
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As we walked to the university (about a ten-minute walk from our flat), we shared our excitement and nerves regarding our upcoming semester at the University of the West of Scotland. Upon arrival, we met with our coordinator who happens to be from Greece (so he has both a Greek and Scottish accent mushed into an entirely different fraken-accent). He’s great. He was able to work out and give us our identical timetables and… guess what! We only have three classes (due to credit sizing conversion between Canada and the UK). This meaning, we only have classes on Wednesday mornings and Thursday’s. Giving us five extra days for exploring, study and whatever else we can get ourselves into, Woohoo!
 
After discussing enrolment and some paperwork; Monica and I were free for the rest of the day. I ended up buying a University sweater to show some UWS pride (and it’s a plus because it’s very warm!). We got hungry around 1pm, so we decided to go to “Malatso” (a cafe located near campus,  as they carry a vegan menu and have student discounts!).
 
I had a delicious vegan mini “Scottish breakfast”, it was very tasty! Monica also enjoyed a baked potato, which is a staple food here in Scotland. After eating, we explored the town of Paisley together and finally bought pillows for our flat!! Yay! (no more sleeping on my airplane neck pillow…lol). For the remainder of the afternoon, we took some photos together and explored the old churches in the area. The main attraction here in Paisley (the town we are staying in, near Glasgow), is “The Paisley Abbey”, which is an old church that dates back to the 12th century! It is so beautiful and we are so lucky as it can be seen from our flat window.
 
After finishing our exploring for the day, we visited Morrison’s (a UK grocery store), to do some food shopping and use their wifi. We are loving all the new and exciting products that are offered here. What an adventure it has been. When we got home, I made us some long-grain rice and vegetables for supper (alongside some trustee convenience store bananas! Which are surprisingly very good).
 
I finished packing my school bag for tomorrow and prepared myself for bed. I went to bed around 9pm. I know that seems early, but since it gets dark so early, we feel tired much quicker. Also, we did a ton of walking today.
 
Tomorrow marks the first official day of classes!! We are both so excited!
Love and Greeting from Bonnie Scotland!
 
You can continue to follow Monica and I’s adventures by following us on our Instagrams;
Melanie: @melanie_mueller5
Monica: @milamoniquemara

Zooplankton Identification Course on Seili Island (Finland) Sep 4-8, 2017

The journey to Finland started off with a frantic search for free wi-fi to access Google Maps to navigate my way from the airport near Helsinki, the capital, to the remote island of Seili, over 200 km away. This may not seem far but it was a feat due to two important factors: 1) September 1st marked the beginning of the off-season effectively reducing services on some bus routes and ferries and 2) many services such as restaurants, shops, ticket booths, are closed on Sundays. With adrenaline and some luck, I arrived safely on Seili a little past 5 in the afternoon.

The zooplankton identification course commenced bright and early on Monday morning, gradually picking up speed as I climb the steep learning curve. It was an amazing experience learning about these microscopic creatures but the most memorable experience was the evening the group spent enjoying the beach sauna. We all met up by the dormitories just before sunset and walked the scenic route which followed the shoreline to the sauna house located on a beach. I walked gingerly with the promise of post-sauna snacks of cider, sausage, and chocolate. When we arrived, the cabin looked very similar to a typical Canadian cottage, a quaint little log house with a chimney where the sauna room was connected to a large living room with a fireplace. However, the moment I walked into the sauna, I immediately understood how important sauna was to Finnish culture. All aspects of the facilities were impeccable, there is a tool for every need you could imagine: feet washing station to keep the interior dirt and mud-free, showers to cool off, towels to sit on the hot benches, baskets to keep clothes dry, ladles to pour water onto the furnace. I was the only non-Finn who partook in the sauna and put my swimsuit on , and to my surprise, was joined by the rest of the ladies, nude. They explained that amongst friends, it was completely normal to enjoy a sauna session with no swimsuit in Finland and that it was not a big deal to see each other naked. This expanded my worldview and forced myself to question why I am still self-conscious about my body while there existed this developed country where young and old alike enjoyed a cultural experience with absolutely zero judgment. This feeling of acceptance and well-being was reinforced further as we did the next logical thing following a steaming sauna: running to the shore for a cold dip into the Baltic Sea. 10/10 would do again.

Lillian Ng
Environmental Technician Fast-Track ’17

My Flight to Finland

The flight to Finland was interesting. I had to make a stop over at Iceland and Norway. I chose to fly with Iceland Air. My flight didn’t leave Toronto on time. I was freaking out when it struck me that I might not make it in time to get on my transfer flight. There was a nice Canadian couple in their early 30s going to the UK to teach sitting beside me who assured me that everything will be okay. They had us go through security checks again. Iceland is the start of the Schengen Area.

Important lesson learned: REMOVE LAPTOPS FOR SEPARATE SCANNING

They ended up holding my transfer flight until I got on. Thank god. I was freaking out by then. I wasn’t sure what I would have to go through if I missed my plane. What would happen to my luggage? But everything worked out. I was the last person to get on the plane. I was sitting beside a Russian couple that didn’t speak English that well. There was plenty of time to get on to my final plane to Helsinki.

I ended up getting randomly selected for extra security check. I don’t like to be patted down but I accepted the fact that it was necessary for security reasons. The fellow was very helpful afterwards in directing me to where I needed to go for my final plane. The last plane to Helsinki, Finland was very small.

I had a very nice Swedish-speaking Fin in his mid 30s sitting beside me. We talked about a whole range of things from comparative politics and education policies to policies on immigration and integration of diversity. It was the most stimulating conversation I have had in a very long time. He was quite surprised when I told him I only think of myself as Canadian.

It was the first time I met a Swedish-speaking Finn. He felt they were more “open” and many ways better than the other Finns. As I met more Swedish-speaking Finns, I began to see that they saw themselves as more open and thus they were more open. The Chicken or the Egg?

I then asked around and found my way to the bus stop for inter-city travel. I got some help from a couple of Finnish students going to Turku. The just told me to follow them. I arrived in Turku a few hours later. I asked one of the Turku students to borrow their phone to call my tutors Pinja and Alice to pick me up and take me to my dorm. Tutors are students assigned to exchange students to help with the transition.

My initial impressions of Finland:

It is very similar to Canada. I was VERY DISAPPOINTED with the temperature. It was very warm in Finland. It was +5 degrees, which is a lot warmer than the -25 degrees in Toronto when I left and I was North of 60. So much for purchasing a Canada Goose jacket. The sun had already set at 3:30 PM which was very strange. Sunrise was at 9:30 AM.

Alice and Pinja were very nice. They got me to my place. Pinja had a car so that helped a lot. They gave me my keys and showed my around. We went to Hesburger (Finnish McDonalds) to get something to eat. We chatted for a bit and then Pinja dropped me off home. There was a tree at the dorm with shoes strung up on it. I thought it was vandalism, Pinja thought it was art.

That was my first day.

-Ragu

Berlin! (Last trip before the holidays)

It has been amazing here in Germany so far with all the traveling and parties.  I can’t believe Christmas is almost here, where has the time gone to. This is the last week for a lot of my friend because they are either headed back to their home countries to spend the holidays with their friends and family or because their study abroad semester is over (we had a choice to either finish our studies before the break or stay the full semester till end of January), and of course I decided to stay and travel a little more.  My most recent trip was to the capital of Germany, Berlin with ten other friends for 3 nights.

Our first stop was to the Berlin Wall.  We walk from one end of the wall to the other end (now, let’s remember that the wall collapsed about 25 years ago where the wall stretch from one end of the city to the other), so the part we walked was only about 1km long.  The art work on the wall was unique and has meaning.  The wall speaks for itself……

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The wall is divided into “East” side and “West” side, the majority of the art work is on the east side.

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Here you can see the split between the “east” and the “west” side.

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These are a few of the friends that experienced this adventure with me.  William is from France and is on the very left, Carlos is from Spain and he is in the very middle, Amine is the person beside Carlos and he is also from France, last but not least is Iacopo and he is from Italy.

For those of you who have been to Berlin, you would have noticed different traffic lights depending if you were in the east or west side of the city.

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Sometimes you may see a few of these….

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Next we are off to “Checkpoint Charlie”. This was the best known international border crossing.  Berliners were not allowed to use it; it was only for foreigners and diplomats.  This was the only place during the entire Cold War where there was a direct confrontation between the US and the Soviets.

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Reichstag was our next stop, this is one of their famous Berlin landmark.  We were not able to take the tour of the building due to the fact that we needed reservations 4 weeks ahead.  The scenery outside was nice but I wish I could have seen inside and walk all the way to the top.  The Reichstag is now a proud home of the German parliament.

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The following day we visited the Pergamonmuseum where they show case art, artifacts, sculpture, and architecture, some of the art were aged to be over 6000 years of age.  The museum were full of heritage but the one piece that stood out to me was the first a wooden stand from the Islamic Art Collection.  According to the museum, the first ever Quran was laid on top of it.

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Later on in the day we went to check out Altes Museum and Holocaust Memorial.

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The last stop we made on our trip was to the Brandenburger Tor.  This divided the two sides during the Cold War.  Now this gate represents German’s reunification where they now host festivals, concerts, and New Year’s Eve parties.  A little history lesson is to be told here.  Prussian emperors, Napoleon, and Hitler have all marched through gate.  US President Ronald Reagan once said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Two years later, the wall was history.

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This is all for Berlin, please stay tuned in for my next adventures.

My trip to Spain

I started my exciting journey to Spain on Sept 5. I will stay in the country for six months to learn business courses and Spanish. I hope to understand the economy and culture of Spain as well as other European countries, which will enrich my global business knowledge and improve cross-cultural communication skills. The experience definitely will make me closer to be a global citizen.

My itinerary was Beijing – Zurich -Palma de Mallorca-Bilbao. The flight from Beijing to Zurich left the airport on 1:50 AM. And the total travel time was about 20 hours.

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The Zurich airport is pretty big. I had to wait there for about five hours to take another flight to Palma de Mallorca. I went through the security check and the custom and got one entry stamp (no more at other airports). During the waiting time, I went outside of the airport to walk around in the shopping area and found some interesting things.

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The train to port A/B using the sound of animals as background music. Sounds funny : ) Image

Some special local food.

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The second stop is Palma de Mallorca in Spain. The place is an island with nice beaches.

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Some interesting things found in the airport-strange wall decorations and McDonald green.

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The last stop is Bilbal. And then take a bus to the university of Mondragon.

Travel tips: I did not find any open free Wifi at Beijing and above European airports. People may have to use a local phone number (or Passport) to get a code to use the free Wifi for a limited time,which is not very convenient.

Thanks for reading my post,

-Lin Cao

Denmark – Hungary: Budapest

Hello All,

This past weekend might have been the best weekend I have had so far. I really don’t remember the last time I had as much fun as I did this long weekend.

A couple of my friends (I think 30 total) planned a trip to Budapest, Hungary…and when I say planned it was one of my good friends György who you may remember also accompanied me to the Nurburgring. He planned the whole thing to a T, and we just followed and boy am I glad we did.

Making arrangements for 5 people is hard enough, but to plan transportation, lodging, food and amusement for 4 days is hard work but luckily György is the man to do it. He loves doing it but on the trip he quietly told me it was stressful at times and I can totally understand that and I really want to thank him for all what he did and what he does for us.

We left on Friday, taking a train to Malmo, Sweden and then arrived to Budapest. We had arranged for a bus company to take us to a famous buffet restaurant in Buda(the city is divided into 2 areas), where we had excellent meal and I think the best since I have come to Europe for only $13. This included unlimited wine, beer, champagne, and freshly squeezed juices(this was my poison of choice). It’s called trófea and I highly recommend you check it out if your ever in this city.

After a that great meal, we caught a tram to Margaret Island where we could walk off our meals and sit in the shade around the trees that had already blossomed.

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As the sung was setting, we caught another subway line to our hostel where some of stayed and some of us went on a night walk. They say if you haven’t seen Budapest at night, you haven’t seen the real Budapest and they were right. The city is so lively that even at 1 am there are more people on the streets then in 1 pm in Odense, Denmark. Image

Picture of our Hostel.

Over the next few days we saw parliament building, castles, a huge church and the worlds best marketplace as rated by the CNN.

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Market place that is measured at 10K M^2, many shops here mainly meat deli’s on the bottom and souvenir shops at the top. The prices in the souvenir shop magically drop when you speak Hungarian.

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I think George was telling us that this is the largest church in eastern Europe.

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Myself standing in front of the world’s most beautiful parliament building and 3rd largest in the world. 1000 people work here it’s like a small village inside with shops, hair salons, post offices and restaurants. We got a inside tour and I can say that the inside is even more beautiful then the outside, 100 kilograms of gold was used for some of the portions.

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We also did archery.

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Saw Hosok Square, a tribute to the Magyar Kings who defended Hungary from invasion for over 1000 years.

ImageOn the castle.

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Basically where every you looked you would see something amazing in Budapest. The temperature was perfect, the people were nice and I was surround with friend. It really was a amazing trip. I can post the 1000 more pictures I took but I don’t want to bring this site down.

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And here’s the person that made it happen. Thank you George!

Written by: George

Copenhagen – Denmark

Last week I went to Copenhagen with ESN Odense, we had a great time. Our group split in two ways, you had a choice of either visiting castles or go see the monuments in Copenhagen and I chose to see the city.

ImageThis is the largest shopping street in the world(ref: guides), it spans over 2 km and has many expensive stores like Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Gucci etc..

ImageCountless courtyards like this throughout Denmark

ImageMyself on top of the “Round Tower”, the king of Denmark had this built in the 1700’s it provides you with a 360 deg. view of the entire city.(Sorry, I know you guys always see me in this jacket and ear muffs but the weather still warrants my wardrobe.)

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The Queens palace, this is by far the best building/place I have been in Denmark thus far. We saw the changing of the guards and behind this place there is a beautiful church.

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This is the monolithic church.

ImageHand painted dome was amazing.

ImageA picture from the tour boat we booked at Nyhaven, they also have really good coffee shops here and the great thing about the city is it’s littered with tourists.

ImageTo end off the two days we had in the city my friends and I went to the Copenhagen national museum to see a few exhibits, I particularly liked the viking history of Denmark.

Thank you for reading.

Written by: Hamza

“Life is lost in dreaming, dreaming is lost in becoming”

Dear Readers,

It’s been WAY too long since I have written and I feel terrible…I am truly caught up in living this experience and that has taken away from stopping to document it as much as I wanted or thought I would.

Side note: great job to the other bloggers whose posts inspired me to get back at it! I also loved reading about your experiences!

I am making my motto this week “just do it” instead of over thinking my posts too much.

Here’s a recap of February:

  • Valentines day/”El dia del amor y amistad” was a riot at school and really made me “feel young again”. You see, I’m an anxious person and I often worry too much about what other people think of me…Well I decided to embrace this day and be as silly as I wanted. Heck, I even got married…several times! In fake ceremonies of course, to raise money for our classroom fund for excursions and supplies. Our very own resident “DJ Eligio” played music, my classmates sold sweets and hosted marriage ceremonies, and I danced like crazy and had a blast!  
  • On February 27& 28 Conferencias de Jovenes Emprendedores UT Cancun hosted the 5th annual entrepreneurship conference to help our students see

    and hear first hand their stories of perseverance and triumph from many young entrepreneurs including UTC alumni.There was also an entrepreneurship competition among our students where one idea was selected to be brought into production.

  • Yasmin Campos also gave a marketing conference about how to become a successful entrepreneur. She hosted a Q&A session where I correctly answered and won a copy of her book El MedioCre Ido…un manual para dejar de ser tan pen…sativas. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       All in all, creative sparks were ignited, connections were made, business ventures begun and the belief to keep dreaming was affirmed. What resonated most with me was from the talk “El Club de los Fracasados” translation: “The Losers Club” where guest speaker Eduardo “Lalo” Sanchez Cetina lesson I took away was…and I can only attempt to translate he said:

Dreaming costs, it takes a dream, a plan, a goal, a time frame, risk, rejection, ridicule, failures and getting back up again time after time to try again and keep dreaming until you succeed.

Until next time,

Follow your dreams until they become your reality.

Written by: Mel

Best week in Finland so far

Hello all,

this last week i spent in Lapland, which is so far north in Finland i was technically in the arctic circle :).  its a group trip planned by the ESN here in Turku and it included things like: snowboarding, husky farm and husky sledding, snowmobile rides, reindeer farm, a day at the spa and most interestingly..the northern lights.  Aside from the nightly parties at the cottages we stayed in (which were amazing because the people i spent it with are some of the best people ive met here to date) we also had a few nights where we could see the northern lights light up the sky (photo attached) really a life changing trip and if ever in finland i recommend it to any and everyone.Image

Grundfos – Denmark

Hej,

So this week was quite relaxed I really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, there was a throat flu and cold that has been going around which I caught and I am free from and I went on a little trip but this weekend I spent on my bed relaxing as the rare sun was out and shining brightly in my room.

The little trip was to Grundfos World headquarters, Grundfos makes pumps and electric motors. Some of the best in the world, they are a market leader in making pumps and they have offices, factories and R&D facilities all around the world. They annual turn over is $4 Billion CAD. So it’s one of the biggest companies I have ever visited. It was a good visit, they showed us around the production facility and we met with two mechanical engineering managers who told us a little more about the future of the company and pumps they were designing in general.

Here are some pictures I took while I was there. ImageoImageImageImage

Thank you for reading,

Written by: Hamza