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.
Environmental Technician Fast-Track ’17
“You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness.” This is a quote from a 13th-century Persian poet named Rumi. One defining moment for me when I arrived back to Canada from Pamplona, Spain back in June 2014 that I can resonate with this quote is getting rid of material things that I had accumulated but never let go of. Are they (material items) valuable then myself? Does it (material items) define who I am? There were so many questions going through my head and I would like to conclude one part of my personal experiences taking part in Centennial College GEO Language and Culture exchange in Pamplona, Spain on the Centennial College’s Global Experience blog.
Even my time in Pamplona, Spain translate well with this quote on my weekend back-packing trips. Having relied on whats in my back-pack was all I really needed to survive and live. What I bring out of these mini-trips were lessons and good memories and a great appreciation for my self-worth. While the majority of people were just waking up from their slumber or getting much needed sleep, I was ready and wide awake to start my day. What gave me a jot of energy to go outdoors, live in the moment, and discover more of Spain and ultimately some of myself are the pilgrims that carry their back-pack and hiking sticks early in the mornings while taking the path of the Camino de Santiago nearby the University of Navarra. The Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient pilgrims pathway that leads to St. James tomb that I had the opportunity to walk part of it.
Soon enough, I discovered the biggest reason to walk the path in the early mornings when the blazing scorching sun in the afternoons made walking the path slightly unbearable. It helps that the sights of olive groves, grape vineyards, and community gardens filled my eyes during the walk. To quench my thirst, each town had drinking fountains, with the spout pouring water out of a bronze lion’s mouth or some other creatures. Carrying my Camino de Santiago “passport” I entered each town searching for an Albergue, hostel in English, a bar, or a church to get a town’s stamp to officiate that I had been there (the town or the actual place). This was a great gem that I discovered of Spain after the coordinator mention it during my tour of the University of Navarra that I will one day come back to Spain and walk the whole path.
I am stoked and ready to walk the el Camino de Santiago on a beautiful Sunday morning, the walk to the mountain was an interesting one. There were towering straw bales along the path, sunflower seedlings sprouting and waiting for the hot summer sun of July, and small trinkets of tokens left by other pilgrims on sea shell markers. The blue and yellow depicts a seashell motif. The rays on the shell symbolizes different pathways that reflect to one single point, St. James tomb. I am holding the passport to collect stamps along the 500 mile path.
The countdown to the San Fermín festival! Me and my classmates are also standing in front of the shop called Kukuxumusu, flea kiss in Basque language, Pamplona-based clothing and product stores, selling many San Fermín items.
My classmates and I are standing in front of the town hall building in Pamplona.
First day of school, me and my classmates are standing in front of the entrance to University of Navarra, where I spend three weeks studying Spanish.
So, coming back to Canada, I donated three bags full of quality but slightly worn clothes, recycled magazines and paper clippings of quotes and typography that were my source of inspiration at that time, and utilize my letting go of attachment to items to devote my focus on my academic journey in Massage Therapy at Centennial College and getting more involved with Centennial College extracurricular activities.
September is right around the corner and Centennial College will soon have many school fairs, one of them are school services and what is offered to students. I made the right decision of taking a moment one day to talk to Pearl Vas, advisor of GEO International Mobility, at the GEO Language and Culture Program booth. The partnership of Centennial College and the University of Navarra have designed an unparalleled experience for students to discover Spain while studying Spanish in an immersive environment. This balance between academic and global experience defined me in many ways and taken my thinking to a worldwide view and learning outside the classroom then a one-dimensional view. With this said, if you are interested I encourage you to take a moment to talk to someone from the GEO booth, read about it on the global experience blog, or talk to past participants. The opportunities are endless at Centennial College and if something catches your eyes don’t hesitate, take that leap!
Massage Therapy Student at Centennial College
GEO Language and Culture Exchange Summer 2014 in Pamplona, Navarra, Spain
First off, my apologies for not doing a blog post earlier. The wi-fi was limited in Italy and I was busy soaking up every experience. Italy…Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was going to go Italy to learn Italian. Italy has always been one of my top destinations and I was saddened by the fact that I did not get to go there on my Eurotrip last year. This was because honestly what was there not to love about Italy? Pizza? My favourite. Gelato? Amazing. Pasta? Yes, please. Italian language? Bella! The people? So kind, and hospitable…
After reflecting on this trip and getting some much needed sleep once arriving back to Toronto, I am still reminiscing. There are certain aspects of the Italian culture that I will definitely take with me. It was known that Italians are very family oriented and it was so refreshing to witness this with my homestay family. Although their family was small, every meal around the dinner table was filled with vibrant conversation. Lunches and dinners were hearty and you can taste the love made with the prima, carne and dolce courses.
The language is very beautiful and although I found the classes a bit difficult during the grammar sessions, I was able to use my little knowledge of Spanish, Tagalog and French to help translate key words in my head to help me understand. I found myself learning a lot from my homestay family and it would actually help during the classes. Of course, the use of hand gestures always helps.
Giovanni, Director of Centro Studi Italiani said at the beginning, (which really stuck with me and helped me to prepare for any cultural shock that I would experience) something like you should be mindful that there will be some aspects of Italian culture that would be different than Canadian culture. This does not mean that one is better than the other, it is just different. No ifs, ands, or buts. It helped put things into perspective and made me more respectful of some of the differences that they had; such as having stores and some restaurants closed for a few hours in the middle of the day, so it was at first difficult to find lunch, but we were able to get by.
My goals and motivations for this trip were really to take in this experience. I had never stayed with a homestay family before and I did not really know what to expect before the trip. I went into this trip with an open mind and I think that it is one of the best ways of travelling. I had hoped to be able to have a fluent Italian conversation by the end of my trip, but alas, I think two weeks is not enough time to become fluent in a language. I am now able to ask basic questions such as “what is your name?” “how old are you?”, etc., which is a lot more than I knew prior to going to Italy. I feel that this trip made me appreciate the Italian language and culture much more now. Italy is so full of history and there are so many places to visit. Our day trips to Urbino, Venice, Florence, Gubbio and final weekend in Rome were amazing.
I would definitely recommend the Italy Language and Culture Exchange Program with Centennial College and Centro Studi Italiani. I met an amazing group of people and stayed with the sweetest homestay family. The dinners with the family is something that you cannot put a price tag on. The conversations and genuine interest of everyone at the table made the experience worthwhile. I would like to thank Centennial College for this opportunity as it is something that has defined my college experience and I feel that everyone needs to do an exchange program such as this at least once in their lives.
Sea life cannot be explained in one world. I was stunned and speechless when I went to the aquarium of La Rochelle.
Looking at its entrance its really awesome when you see the all new world inside it. Entrance was very innovative it looks like you are entering in to a submarine.
The way it has been planned and made its really unique.
Aquarium of La Rochelle is one of Europe’s largest private aquariums. It displays more than 12,000 animals of 600 different species. It is the most visited aquariums France. I cannot put in all the images that I took but I will share some of it, this is the thing you should not miss if you are in La Rochelle.
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.
My name is Kawoos Naserie from Centennial College on a student exchange program made possible by the GEO program, in Waterford, Ireland. Since my arrival in January 2014, I have been becoming accustomed to the lifestyle and culture that the Republic of Ireland has to offer. Waterford is a small city with a large number of international students from all over the world which include Brazilians, French, Spanish, North America as a whole of course and all parts of Asia so it is much like Toronto, Canada in a way but with an Irish twist. The country is rich with their own Irish history and culture that has no shortage of pubs and long beautiful scenery from large cliffs to beautiful green fields. I have traveled to towns like Cork, Dunmore East, Kilkenny and the most famous, the City of Dublin, home of the infamous Guinness Storehouse. It is true what they say, It really does taste different once you’ve had a fresh pint of the stout made famous all over the world.
I am only in my beginning stages of my travels within the Republic of Ireland and look forward to sharing more of my adventures with everyone soon. I’d love to see some suggestions or feel free to make some comments.
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.
This 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..
Countless courtyards like this throughout Denmark
Myself 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.)
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.
This is the monolithic church.
Hand painted dome was amazing.
A 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.
To 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.
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 overthinking my posts too much.
Here’s a recap of February:
Valentine’s 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 began 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.
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.
Hello again from Turku Finland. It has been a while since i last blogged because ive had some major projects and an exam this week and i spent the last week (our reading week) in Poland visiting a few cities and most interestingly Auschwitz. The days are getting longer here and it is no longer dark by 4pm which is really helping with productivity, no more being in bed at 6pm watching movies. As well the weather is getting slightly better which means more time spent outdoors with friends. This next week i again wont be able to blog because ill be spending 8 days in Lapland northern Finland where a group of 70 students will be staying in 4 large cabins at a ski resort called Levi. We also get the chance to go to a husky farm and experience dog sledding, and baby huskies recently bred. Even snowmobiling and meeting reindeer is all an option before we finally head home, but not before stopping at the Ice Castle (thats right an entire castle made out of ice). On an academic note the schoolwork really picked up rapidly and i spent many hours doing projects and studying, but after this next week it will fall back down until april when i have a couple more exams. So until then, Moi Moi.