Odense – 2019

I was luckily selected for a SIP to the Southern Denmark University. To be honest it was not what I expected… it was better. The program that I took was extremely interesting, it is called Engineering for Sustainability. Normally, conversations about climate change and where the world is heading tend to be a little pessimistic at times, but I was surprised to see all the positive aspects and solutions our Danish professors had to share. I left this course feeling optimistic and looking forward to supporting the cause.

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               The whole experience for me was a big challenge, but I would say it was a good one. The locals were all very friendly, and I was able to speak English with the majority. Whenever I was lost, there was always a kind Danish who would give me the most detailed instructions to my destination. Going from biking once a month to at least an hour or two every day was another interesting point. I found the fitness life I never had before!

My team for 10 days 🙂

               I found people to be very down to earth. It surprised me the way the city works, the way they shop, and how comfortable it feels to be there. A lot of the clothing stores that I saw where second-hand clothing stores in very good condition. The use of cars is definitely much less compared to what I see in Toronto and my home country Mexico. I paid attention to these kinds of details such as consumption and their lifestyle to be able to compare it to the one I am used to and my own ideas. This was also very related to my program since the course was centred on the way humans impact the environment.

               It was very nice to be surrounded by all the green spaces, I was even lucky enough to see deer and duck families. Eating out is also something that might not be as frequent in Denmark. I would see the locals mostly bringing something from home. On my accommodation, on the other hand, it was common for a group of friends to gather in order to cook something together and share.

               I loved getting to know another culture and being able to experience first hand the educational programs. Definitely, I learned a lot, and I feel grateful for this experience. It was an invaluable experience, I was able to manage my time, study, get to know the city, and connect with amazing people. I would not change this experience for anything.





AUG. 2019

I will share one of my favourite pictures for the end. Yuichi, Dimitri, Rita, Ahmed and Chloe, my five closest!




2019 SIP Nagoya

My Japan Experience


It still feels like a dream.

I can clearly remember the day when I know for sure that I am heading to Japan.

Feelings of excitement, joyfulness mixed with a hint of anxiousness.

Boom! A few months later, the departure day has come.

The Nagoya SIP will only last 19 days, I want to make the best out of it!

On the day of arrival, the first impression was the heatwave. Even though I spent my past 19 years growing up in Guangdong, China, I still couldn’t get used to the sweat and stickiness. Whatever, I said to myself, I will get used to it. The heat turned out to be the reason why I made up my mind not to come again in summer.

On the first day of the trip, I finally met my school group, along with a few other participants from other parts of Canada. There were 14 of us, and we were ready to write each other into our life stories.

In the first week of the trip, all of us got assigned to spend two nights with a local family. I was not unfamiliar with host families. I still kept in touch with my host family with whom I spent almost one year when I was exchanged in Europe during high school. This would be such a good chance to experience Japan in a real way, not the tourist way. My host family was so entertaining and caring. They didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Japanese. However, we could understand each other beyond where the language barrier stopped us. That was a very memorable weekend without culture shocks, except that they bought me tons of food to bring back to school. They were very nice and welcoming. We even went out again after the program to see firework during the Obon celebration. This had become a lifelong relationship that I wanted to maintain.

In the second week of the trip, everyone was busy learning more Japanese as well as Japanese culture. During the weekend, we went to Tokyo. Tokyo was a totally different city than Nagoya in my opinion. I had seen the huge “missing” Japanese population in Tokyo, but not in Nagoya. If I compared Oshawa to Nagoya, then Toronto was like Tokyo. In Tokyo, even though more people knew English, they were somewhat less eager to help while in Nagoya, people would come up to you even if they didn’t know much English. I still enjoyed Tokyo a lot, especially the Disneyland part. In Disneyland, the service was flawless. One of the staff even wanted to hold my garbage bag for me.

Last week of the trip, all of us were busy working on assignments, presentations and the Kyoto trip. This trip was a bit different than the Tokyo one since everyone would be paired up with a Japanese student and decided the itinerary. My group decided to commence a slower itinerary which turned out to be a wise decision. I still remembered that on the first day of arrival, the Japanese teachers all said that Nagoya was considered the hottest place in Japan. However, before departure, they all said that Kyoto was hotter than Nagoya, which was very true. Usually, the temperature in Nagoya felt like 43, but in Kyoto, it felt like 46. I really had to come back sometime during autumn to experience the beauty of Kyoto, the summer was just miserable for me.

In all, during my 19 days of stay in Japan, I feel that most Japanese were very nice, to a point that it feels like unreal. However, thanks to the pre-study that is required before the program, I understand that this behaviour underlies a very important Japanese culture. Because most Japanese are considered to think or act the same, meaning that they have “telepathy ability” among people, therefore they niceness one experiences are very similar across Japan.

Everyone wanted something different from this trip. As for me, I wanted to learn some Japanese, as well as experiencing the renowned formality of how the Japanese function. It is so lucky for me that my wishes have all been fulfilled. I don’t experience anything other than my expectations since I am from a similar culture. However, this can still be quite a cultural shock to some of you especially on the diet and the weather part. Also, people may find establishing a real relationship with the Japanese challenging. Well, there is no such thing as a perfect precaution. We just need to step out of our comfort zones and get the experience rolling.

Jingyao Zhang


Salamanca – A Golden City Steeped in History and Education

This past July I had the pleasure of participating in a Short International Program (SIP) in Salamanca, Spain.

Salamanca is located in the community of Castile and Leon, in the north-west region of Spain.  I attended Spanish lessons in the morning at Universidad Pontifical de Salamanca, and I spent my afternoons and weekends sightseeing.



Spanish lessons consisted of the basics – counting (cero, Uno, dos, tres…), eating (yo como…), drinking (tu bebes…), days of the week (lunes, martes, miércoles…), months (Enero, Febrero, Marzo…), and colours (negro, Blanco, Naranja, Roza…).  Did you know that there are 27 letters in the Spanish alphabet?  The additional letter is between N and O and looks like this – ñ – and is used in words like “niño” and “niña”.
Even though our classes were 4 hours a day for 4 weeks, we learned quite a bit in that short period.  Everything from animals to different verbs to family members, we learned it.  During our last week was our final exam, graduation and grad party.  Graduation Day was absolutely one of my best days in Salamanca.



When I wasn’t learning in the classroom, I immersed myself in Spanish culture, which is its own education in and of itself.

My first week in Salamanca coincided with the 4th of July celebrations, and those of us that found our way to Plaza Mayor was fortunate enough to be serenaded by a mariachi band.  That weekend I rented a bike, grabbed a map and took off on my own Tour de Salamanca.  The city is small and compact with loads of bike trails, so it was very easy to navigate.  I rode along a Roman bridge, through Jesuit Parque that had a pond in the middle of the park, filled with swans and ducks.

That same week my flatmates and I went to a Flamenco show which was outstanding, and the rest of the audience must have agreed as shouts of “Ole!” and “Guapa!” came from the crowd.

Being the adventurous type, I took a bus from Salamanca to Saville – the capital of the Andalusia community one weekend.

First up was the Real Alcázar, which is Spanish for Royal Palace.  The palace is still the primary residence used by the royal family and certain rooms were closed to the public.  I have no words to describe just how drop-dead beautiful this palace was.  Gorgeous doesn’t even come close to describing its stunning beauty.  I could’ve spent all day there and still not see everything.  Everywhere you looked, there was an art to be found, even on the ceiling!  The palace is the perfect mixture of Christian and Arabic influences.  And if I was gobsmacked by the inside of the palace, I had a shock waiting for me on the outside.  Real Alcázar has not one, not two, but three gardens, the next one more beautiful than the last!

Up next was Plaza España (Spain Square) which was walking distance from Real Alcázar.  Also another piece of stunning architecture, that was relatively quite new compared to Real Alcázar.  Plaza España was built in the 1800s for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair.  It is a semi-circular park with a large and beautiful water fountain in the middle and a pond that surrounds it.  You can rent rowboats that take you around the pond and under gorgeous bridges.  While exploring Plaza España I ran into impromptu Flamenco dancers and singer.  I ended my day with tapas and a well-deserved sangria.

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My final weekend in Spain was by far, the best of my entire trip! Our school organized weekend trips for my classmates and me so that we could practice our Spanish.  On Saturday my classmates and I went to Segovia to see the Roman Aqueduct, Alcázar of Segovia, and Segovia Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful.  Alcázar of Segovia is now used as a war museum and had a very pretty garden in the shape of a maze. 20180721_111923

After lunch, we made our way to Avila, which was only a short bus ride away from Segovia.  Avila is famous for its medieval wall, which provides beautiful views of nearby cathedrals and the town.  On Sunday, some of my classmates and I went on one of the school-organized weekly beach trips to playa Suances.  Suances is a 3.5-hour drive north of Salamanca and it was the best 35 euros I’ve ever spent.  The beaches were spectacular, clean and not over-crowded, the ocean wasn’t cold, and the weather was hot, hot, hot!


What I’m going to miss about Spain and Salamanca particularly is the manana lifestyle and siestas (seriously). I’m definitely going to miss the food, the beautiful architecture, the gorgeous beaches, and going to bed every night to this view.


If you get a chance to participate in a SIP, I highly recommend it!
You won’t regret it!

Ouida Shiers – SIP, Salamanca, Spain

Want to experience a SIP yourself?

Pamplona, Spain – My Global Experience – August 29th, 2018

I  had a great experience learning Spanish again in beautiful Pamplona, Spain, at the University of Navarra. This was my first Global Experience through Centennial College, for which I am so happy and grateful that I was one of many students selected to represent Centennial College and Canada.  On Orientation day, the first day, we were given an overview of the program and what to expect. – which was  a very intense 2 week program. The professors were all very warm and welcoming. This was what impressed me the most – the warmth of the people – just like the August weather,  proud of their culture and history, coupled with a very cool lifestyle. Very relaxed and stress free one.  This is what i like – the Spaniards  enjoy siesta everyday, which most likely contributes to their happy disposition.

The architecture is amazing, one to behold, particularly the many cathedrals where you can  also visit the museums which is very cool indeed, and the many castles, to behold,  which makes the architecture so unique and historic. To leave you breathless and in awe.

our of  As was very noporud of their coola cool culrue , which was very impressive. It was as though we  impressive way how the program was e were divided up into our propesective classes and asked to describe ourselves in aobut 2-3 paragrpahs. Vast beauty and greneyr.  on our first field trip to  i was azamed at the vast moutnas adn greenery of this northern town Continue reading “Pamplona, Spain – My Global Experience – August 29th, 2018”

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 commonplace 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 flocks to entertainment such as Kabuki 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 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 bodyguards, serving the emperor and in turn, the Japanese way, so it makes sense that they would willingly sacrifice themselves if it was in some way 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 same 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 lacquerware 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 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 ‘takedown’ 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 at 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 are 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


Introduction: Why Japan?

Hello all! Welcome to my blog. I cannot wait to share all of my experiences here with you about my time in Japan. First I would like to say a big thank you to Centennial College and Nagoya Gakuin University for giving me this amazing opportunity.

So why did I choose Japan? Here are some of the many reasons below:

  1. I have always been interested in Japan’s culture
  2. I love eating Japanese food
  3. I loved the idea of being able to represent my school in a different country
  4. I wanted to experience “school life” in Japan
  5. I have always enjoyed anime, specifically anime related to Studio Ghibli, and thought it would be cool to learn more about it in Japan
  6. Japan has many beautiful aspects (Gardens, shrines, castles, other historical features) that I wanted to see and experience in personbetter one of me.jpgAbove is a photo taken at the first shine I got to experience while in Japan. The Hanazono Jinja shrine was absolutely breathtaking.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy my blog/vlog! I have many things to share and hope to answer any questions that anyone has! 🙂

Food in Japan

When I was preparing for my trip to Japan, a thought came to my mind. Yes, I loved eating Japanese food. However, I still consider myself to be a picky eater. I was nervous that the food wouldn’t come to my liking, or that I wouldn’t be willing to try new foods.

Once I arrived in Japan, this fear left very quickly. Almost every food that I tried, was absolutely amazing. I even had the guts to try new things such as squid and matcha soup. Below are some of my most memorable meals. For any future travellers, I really recommend you try the ramen, sushi, Izakaya, and shaved ice (I tried matcha and strawberry flavours).

The last photo of the steak dinner was a lovely lunch provided by Nagoya Gakuin University. A big thank you again for treating us to this spectacular meal!

food omghahaIzakiya


The last photo of the steak dinner was a lovely lunch provided by Nagoya Gakuin University. A big thank you again for treating us to this spectacular meal!

Activities through the University

Below is a photo was taken of all the SIP students, the university tutors, TA’s, and others involved in making this amazing experience happen! This photo was taken in the i-lounge, which is a hot spot at the university to meet new people, get help with homework, and to relax!


The university had many things planned for us throughout our SIP. Here are a few things that we did (this is only a few of the MANY things that we got to do):

  1. Kimono experience at the Shirotori Garden

During this experience, we were able to choose patterns for a kimono that we would like to wear. The school had experts come in to dress us in the kimono in a proper manner. After, we took a walk through the beautiful Shirotori garden. The school gave us the option to purchase our kimonos after, which was discounted to a very reasonable price! Almost every student bought theirs to take home!

group tuffz


cxkimono group

2. Visit the Toyota commemorative museum


3. Karate Class

The University brought in a highly trained Karate instructor for us to learn from. Two young boys who had black belts also came in to demonstrate. It was an amazing experience, and I would love to learn more karate in the future!


4. Shibori Workshop

During our Shibori experience, we had the option of many different patterns and colours. Before the workshop, our group had a walking tour of different shops that created and sold shibori. shibori.jpg

5. Homestay experience

Let me tell you… This was one of the most amazing experiences I have from this program. Homestay experience allows you to live with a family for two nights. You get to experience what it is actually like to live in a home as a Japanese citizen. My homestay was absolutely amazing. I got to experience Osu, Sakae, and one of the oldest and largest castles in Japan.


6. Kawaii Monster Cafe

This was another special treat from Nagoya Gakuin University. It was such a cool experience.

monsterkawaiimore monsterfood



Orientation, class, and dorm life

The first photo is taken from the 4th floor in one of the buildings on campus.


Our orientation gave us information on classes, tutors, assignments, and a walking tour of the whole school. It was very informative and gave us a chance to ask any questions that we had about the program. orientation

One aspect that I love about this program, is that we got paired up with tutors that could help us if we ever needed it. Below are some photos with some of the amazing tutors we got to work with.


Before starting classes, I was extremely nervous that I would fall behind. Luckily, classes started from the basics of the Japanese language and worked up from there. I can confidently say that each class was informative and fun! The classes definitely helped me with being able to survive basic conversations to survive in Japan.

school stuffclass

If I can give any piece of advice towards living in the dorms, it is to go out and meet people! I met so many people, including locals and other international students, whom I plan to keep in contact with for the rest of my life.



Explore and have fun!

Something that I decided to do when I got accepted for this SIP, was to fly into Tokyo a few days early to adapt to the time change, and to explore more! I also stayed for a few extra days after the SIP ended to see a few more sites.

Akihabara, Tokyo.


Hanozono Jinja Shrine, Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Hanazono shrineshrine

Jingu, Nagoya.


Studio Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Tokyo.

Ghibli museum


Pokemon Centre, Tokyo.


Owl Cafe, Tokyo.


Cat Cafe, Tokyo.

Cat cafeCat cafe part 2

Inyuyama Castle, Aichi Prefecture.