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).
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.


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.


~the Emerald island~ By: Kawoos Naserie

Hello Everyone!

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.



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.)


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.

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


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.

Hockey and a short clip

Hej Everyone,

This week I went to a hockey game Odense Bulldogs vs. Esbjerg EsB, it was very interesting to see how people play “European Ice Hockey”. I say that because it’s quite different how we play, maybe this was just how it’s played in Denmark but I found it to be more aggressive and less skillful, in that they were missing simple passes and seemed to skate slower. Also usually the whole line changed as opposed to changing player individuality.


This week I also prepared a little time lapse video of how I get to school on my bike, now I love this exchange program but as you’ll see. Denmark gets very little sun, it’s usually a shade of gray outside. Even though it’s colder in Canada right now, you guys get a full helping on Vitamin D. It may be a little darker in the video but that’s how it is here and I can’t wait for more sunlight hours.

Also the Circus was in town, I didn’t have time to check it out but there was a small display at the city mall so below is a little clip of a performer doing bike tricks.

Thank you for reading,

Written by: Hamza N

Fastelavn and War Ships – Denmark

Hej Everyone,

One of the reasons I chose to come to Denmark is by statistics the Danes are one of the happiest people in the world. I wanted to come to see why they were so happy, I am a firm believer in “Do what makes you happy, and do it for the rest of your life” concept. I came here to see if I could take some of this happiness away with me. I asked one of my group members in a class who is Danish, why he believes the Danes are so happy. He said “I am a 46 year old man, with a wife and three small children. The reason why I am happy is because I went back to school which I am being paid for, I can still support my wife who works and children and not have to worry about making a abundance for putting my children through school if they wish to go” I basically have translated this to he can do what makes him happy and do it for the rest of his life.

I was at a shopping center the other day and I saw these children dressed up costumes hitting a barrel with a stick. The barrel contained candy, it was like a costume themed birthday party at a store also known as the Nordic Halloween. This special day is called Fastelavn in Danish and it happens 7 weeks before Easter Sunday. Traditionally, they use to have a black cat in the barrel and knock the cat out of the barrel with sticks to safeguard themselves against evil. The child who knocked the cat out was crowned “Queen of Cats” and the child who broke the entire barrel after the cat was removed was crowned “King of Cats”. Now however they use candy and this holiday is very much enjoyed by small children.


The other day I went with my Danish friend to purchase a used microwave because my apartment didn’t have one and I finally had to get one after tirelessly cooking fresh food everyday.  On the way to the sellers house, my friend gave me a tour of the city the out skirts and it was quite nice of him but I had to tell him to pull over when I saw this.


This is a Dutch(Royal Netherlands Navy) off-shore petrol vessel, I have never seen a operating armed ship before and the sight of those 76mm Rapid Cannons was scary but interesting at the same time. Odense has a rich history in ship building and my friend told me that every summer they have a weekend where ships like this come from all over Europe and even Russia.


Also here is a cool video about the University of Southern Denmark.

Thanks for reading,

Written by: Hamza