URBANIA, ITALY SIP August 2017 by Lina Safi

Ciao Ragazzi! My name is Lina Safi, and this past summer I traveled on Centennial College’s Summer International Program to Urbania, Italy in August of 2017. During this global experience, I gained many important life skills, including learning how to be independent while learning.

Prior to departure, I was very nervous about joining a group of other students whom I had never interacted with prior to the trip. There was a total of 19 of us, and I had only had a small orientation with half the group before meeting the rest for the first time at the airport in Rome.

Instagram: @_linasafi for more pictures.

However, everyone clicked immediately from the start. We were met at the airport by Enrico, our student support coordinator, and a bus driver who drove us approximately 5-6 hours from Rome to the small town of Urbania, where we were greeted and taken home by our host families. All of us were greeted very warmly, and the families were very loving and some of the most kind-hearted people I had ever met. We were also given times for breakfast and dinner, as well as our own set of keys.

The next day, we began school at Centro Studi Italiani, where our classes were from 8:50-4:30. That may seem like a typical Canadian school day, but in Italy, that school day also had a 2 hour break from 12:30-2:30pm. This was because Italians emphasize importance on the meals and “siesta” part of their day. Even the shops close during the mid-afternoon for a few hours!

We had two classes, language and culture. Centro Studi Italiani had also given us written material to use as textbooks and help improve our Italian education. We were also given a 2 week schedule dictating the days we had a change in routine, for excursions or special classes like cuisine, or ceramics.

In the ceramics class, we were taught how to really work with clay, and designed our own fish. In the cooking class, we made homemade gnocchi. One of my favourite activities during culture class was playing “Heads-Up!” in Italian.

In addition to these special classes, Centro Studi Italiani and Centennial College organized a variety of excursions for us to partake in.

Excursion #1: Province of Urbino

Excursion #2: Florence (FIRENZE)


Excursion #3: Venice (VENEZIA)

Excursion #4: Gubbio

Excursion #5: Rome (ROMA) / Vatican City (CITTA DE VATICANI)

It goes without saying, however, that our experience abroad could not have been so great without the help of the amazing Giovanni, Anna, Diletta, Gloria, and Enrico, who made sure that our time in Urbania was wonderful. I learned so much Italian and culture in a matter of just 2 weeks that I feel like a whole new person. Furthermore, I am forever grateful to Centennial College for giving me the privilege to experience such an incredible and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, where I not only learned and grew as an individual professionally and personally, but also made a family from halfway across the world. Grazie mille Centennial College e grazie mille a Centro Studi Italiani! Mi manchi.

#SaGe #SIPItalyUrbania #LearningAbroad #CentroStudiItaliani

Written by: Lina Safi

5 Things I Learnt About Yukata 浴衣


I always wonder and admire others from across the planet and was curious on what it is like growing up in another country, like Japan. But now I am living my dreams and in the SIP abroad Japan for the summertime. It’s the first time that the Nagoya Gakuin University in Japan have a partnership with Centennial College for this.  So, it’s exciting for me to be in Japan and in the first group of Centennial students to be part of this too!

One exciting planned activity from the program I tried was trying on a yukata for the first time and wearing it to the Atsuta Shrine.  Though I was curious on wearing one, it changed my perspective. It’s a lot of work. Here are 5 things I Learnt About yukata.

By: Sherry Ing, SIP Japan 2017 Participant

  1. During the summertime, there are many summer festival in Japan. A casual outfit that is worn by the people in Japan are ‘yukata’, during these festivals. They are a light cotton version of a kimono and are worn by everyone.
  2. There are many different types of obi ribbon 🎀 and how it is worn. In our experience, we worn a Tsuke obi. It was an interesting insight for me to wear a Tsuke obi, it is shorter and worn tight around the waist. When I taken a deep breath in, the obi sash would unwind itself and I had to have it readjusted again. Two people had to help me with it. The separate bow part is attached with a wire at the back of the obi. So, I had to make sure I don’t lean back on it when I sit in a chair with a back. Or it will go off centre from the back and you will have to readjust it.
  3. Geta (下駄) are wooden sandals worn without socks with the yukata. There are male and female version. The female version fits for smaller foot sizes only and for tinier foot. I have a wider foot, so part of my toes were outside of the small foot frame. Also, I bought Tabi socks with the geta. But, socks are worn for the colder season.
  4. You wear it with your undergarments. So, walking in the yukata, it takes small steps and movements, or everything will open up and undo itself. Also, you will sweat profusely, while trying to hold it all in.
  5. I wore a pink pattern with daisies. Usually, each person wears a different colour with a pattern that represents their age. Younger people wears brighter colour and bold motifs.
  6. Okay there is a sixth point in this.  It’s a lot of work! We had three people to learn from who skillfully tied the obi and wrapped the yukata on us. Walking in the yukata takes patience, but helps with the delicate movements.  Also, to sit down, it is recommended to sit with both legs to together and to the side or you will give out the wrong impression.


By: Sherry Ing, SIP Japan 2017 Participant

My adventures in an unknown land – Oviedo, Spain


Hola, Buenos días.

I met my Spanish mother at the bus station when all we could understand each other were “Hola” to me and “Hello” to her. And that’s how my adventures in Oviedo began…


Oviedo is the capital city of the Principality of  Asturias in northern Spain. I got a chance to explore this city during the whole of August, I fell in the love with this small but neat and charming city.


It’s a historical city that founded more than a thousand years ago. And from those ancient buildings, we read history.

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Or, catch a glimpse of their wisdom in those statues…

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After class, drinking a cup of Sidra (Cider, alcoholic beverage made from apple ) may be a good idea.

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Or, seeing around just a few kilometres away from this lovely city…

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Or, how about dance?


By Xiuhua Wang, SIPs, Oviedo, Spain, 2016

7 Things I Dare You To Do While Studying Abroad

My classmate and I are in class playing a board game to help us practice our Spanish.  We are holding our list of items we needed to get, such as 1 kg of jamón and 1.5 kg of azucar.

No entiendo is a Spanish phrase I often say when I do not understand what the other person is saying to me while I am here in Spain as part of Centennial’s SIPs.  It is also the same phrase I hear from the other person as well.  In Oviedo, where I am doing my SIPs, I gain more Spanish because the majority of the people you interact with are locals.  One day, my homestay mom wanted to accompany me to places to help with translation.  But I kindly refused and thinking I could do it on my own.  Well, after being laughed at numerous times, receiving all kinds of facial expressions from the other person, and even one person stared at me blankly and walked away.  These are the kinds of reactions I received from the locals when we are not interacting with the same language, me with Spanglish, a word derived from English and Spanish, and the other person with Spanish.  But it is when you get out there to self improve on learning Spanish that these attitudes from people will result.  Its actual vale, okay in Spanish!  So, I hope to help you put your newly learn-ing language to functionality by daring you what I had dared myself to do.  I present to you 7 things I dare you to do while studying abroad in Oviedo.

  1. Sign up for a library card at the local library:  I am thankful that it is accessible to sign up for a library card in Oviedo, so I could borrow books to read on my break time at school and bus rides on school trips.  But, it was definitely a challenge when I tried this.  How will this help with your Spanish?  It will help you by giving the experience in signing forms and speaking…attempting Spanish.  There are common words that you can learn as well, such as nombre, apellidarse, and dirección: name, family name, and address.
  2. Ask 2o people in the first week of school, their name and where they are from..in Spanish:  ¿Como te llama? y ¿De donde eres? (You are asking for their name and the country they are from)  Encantado/a means nice to meet you. This will help you practice the basic introduction to others in Spanish and also making new friends 🙂
  3. Order tarrón helado:  I dare you to order something or this typical flavour known in Oviedo at the local ice cream shop. It is an almond ice cream and during the winter holiday, the tarrón fruit dessert is popular as a gift.  In general, I dare you to order food, because my first time ordering croissants, I ended up with 6 croissants and costing me more then what I intend.  The experience will help you practice numbers and ordering.  Such as when you enter the shop it is polite and typical to greet the people with buenas or hola, bueno días.  To order you could use me gusta… or necesito (I like and I need).
  4. Attend the festival de Verano:  During the summer month, the province will have summer festivals.  In Oviedo, the festival of summer offers free concerts in historical monuments, and discounted tickets to theatrical performances.  I had the chance to attend several musicals.  So, how will this help you?   I had to find the location of the place, so I practice my Spanish by asking for directions.  You could use hola, señor/a, donde es.  As well as, everyone I heard when I was in line or seated were speaking Spanish.  That way, I am immersing myself in listening to Spanish.
  5. Watch television:  The local channels offers news and local tv shows.  I found this helpful in learning Spanish because I start hearing repeated words and phrases, such as tambien, entonces, pero, and mañana. (also, so, but, and tomorrow).
  6. Wonder the streets:  I dare you to wander the local streets, read the street names, names of shops, and listen to people’s conversations.  This will help you be acquainted with some words and activate your hearing and seeing cues.
  7. Go out on a group trip 

!Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing

Massage Therapy student studying at the Universidad de Oviedo intensive Spanish classes as part of Centennial College’s SIPs this summer.

Rosy walls, Wedding Bells, Mountain Peaks, Cowbells, Vibrant Hues…Buen Días!

I went on a school field trip to Picos de Europa, a national park in northern Spain.  There were never-ending peaks of mountains and cows roaming the hills.

It’s my third week studying Spanish at the University of Oviedo as part of Centennial College’s SIPs, and I just finished the weekend off with a school trip to Covadonga, Picos de Europa, and Congas de Onís.  These trips show the history of Asturias according to my professor and locals.  Our first stop was the Congas de Onís, which had the Puente Romano.  It is a bridge built in the medieval times from the reign of Alfonso XI of Castille and Leon.  In the middle of the reconstructed bridge, hangs the Victoria Cross, which relates to the battle of Covadonga.  On our way to Picos de Europa, a national park on the Northern coast of Spain, we had to stop for passing cows, that lived in these mountains.  The cowbells rang in the background, as I hiked up and down the paved path along these mountain peaks.  Beyond these islands were lakes, Ercina and Enol, that glowed with a deep blue hue.  It was quite a magnificent view!  What I also saw and learn was that it was a site for mining.

Lucky day for my school, we witnessed part of a wedding ceremony.  In the picture, you can see the four musicians, the bagpipe is a traditional instrument you will hear in Asturias.

Covadonga was our next location, and it has a history that relates to religions; Christianity and Muslim.  I am not versed in history, but before choosing the SIPs, I researched Oviedo and found this part interesting.  On train and bus rides in Spain, each region and city I pass by, I start noticing geographical, cultural and religious influences.  On another note, I had a chance to see the elegantly dressed guests of a wedding in the rosie wall, Basilica of Santa María la Real of Covadonga.  The traditional bagpipe was played.  According to my professor, it is custom for Spanish wedding guests to gift about 150€ each when they do accept their invites.  I guess I will be sending my best wishes to any future Spanish weddings.

¡Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing, currently enjoying the Spanish course in Centennial College’s SIPs at the University of Oviedo this summer.


What am I up to this summer break?  I am excited to say that I am doing a Centennial College summer international program at the University of Oviedo in the province of Asturias in Spain.  It is where I will be spending the next three weeks learning Spanish.  Often, the first week can be nerve-racking, not knowing anyone yet, the new time shift, and unfamiliar customs.  That’s why it’s important to try these 3 things in the first week of your summer international program in Spain that can help you transition smoothly to the new setting.

A cage of the pan, it displayed their bread that was sliced evenly and served with our pinchos.
A cage of the pan, it displayed their bread that was sliced evenly and served with our pinchos.


In the first week, I had my first epic welcoming party and sipped Sidra from an interesting technique.  This is an event you do not want to miss out on your first week in the Universidad de Oviedo intensive Spanish course.  This is where you can meet some of your classmates in a social setting and also try something new. What is an espicha?  It is a festive, social event in Asturia and Sidra is usually consumed at the local sidrería, such as Tierra Astur, in which you would not have a difficult time finding in Oviedo.  Sidra is a cider and is a popular alcoholic beverage in Asturias, that is made from fermented apple juices.  The person usually pours it from a height so the Sidra becomes foamy and sparkling.  As well as, it is drunk in a short amount of time, as it will get warm.  A 1/2 inch residue of the Sidra is left at the bottom of the drinking glass, so to rinse and clean it out.

2. SIDRA:  

The video above shows me making my first attempt at pouring the Sidra from the large wooden barrel.  This is a must-try when in your first week in Oviedo, Spain.  I and others had the same feelings when we hesitate to try this technique.  We were worried about it getting all over ourselves, spill it everywhere or it might pour the wrong way. To my surprise, it was not what I thought, I only had some Sidra on my hands, but was easy to clean up.  The night finished off with traditional music, usually, the bagpipe musical instrument is played, along with singing, and dancing.  They also served a tasting of a walnut dessert.


Ayuntamiento de Oviedo is the city hall of Oviedo, where the municipality decisions are made.  It’s one of the places you can go inside with your school group.  The meeting table is where the council communicates with each other in order to make important decisions on the municipal level.

Hasta luego!

Sherry Ing

Centennial College Massage Therapy Student

Summer International Program 2016 Oviedo, Spain

Habitat for Humanity – GCELE TEAM YUKON!

I cannot begin to describe how amazing my experience with Habitat for Humanity Yukon has been. I’ll admit while filling out the GCELE form, Yukon was my last choice. I was a little disappointed when I saw the congratulation email saying I had been chosen to join the team going to Yukon as opposed to China or Costa Rica. I remember thinking to myself, “Ugh. Yukon? It’s in Canada, it’s going to be so boring.” Boy was I wrong. The staff members and other students were such a blast to be with, I would not have wanted this trip to be any other way.

Before the trip, there had been several meetings for everyone to get to know each other. My initial thoughts about the group were that we were all pretty shy and that getting comfortable with each other would take a long time. Also, my perspective on Yukon, and the trip in general, was very limited. I thought that the families we would be helping would be of native descent, I thought we would be staying in tents or a run-down lodge and I thought we would be eating at McDonald’s every day. To say the least, I was pretty ignorant.

First group photo!
First group photo!

Many things surprised me once we were in Yukon.

  1. I didn’t have to sleep in a tent! The Yukon Inn was much more than what I had anticipated. The beds were soft, there was never a lack of hot water in the showers and not one bug or roach in sight! The television actually had good cable too! hotel
  2. I also didn’t eat McDonald’s for 8 days! I remember google mapping the Yukon Inn and noticing the McDonald’s across the street thinking I’d have to eat Big Mac’s and french fries every day. There were so many different places to eat at that every dinner was at a new restaurant. Also, the Yukon Inn had such a wide variety of breakfast that you could honestly order something new every morning.
    First breakfast together!

    Antionette’s (this was SO good)
  3. The families that would live in the duplex home we were building were not what I had pictured. I had expected people of native descent (tanned skin, long, dark hair, custom clothing). Meeting Jeff, Tanya and Brendan made me realize that there aren’t just natives who live in Whitehorse and that there are different types of poverty. GCELE – Team Yukon!
  4. I used more than just a hammer! I was genuinely surprised when we got to use a table saw, a Sawzall, an electric mitre saw, a nail gun, etc. Habitat for Humanity trusted a bunch of college students, who aren’t even studying construction, to build a house… Thankfully we had patient leaders (Jean-Marc, Jerome, Nico, Brendan and Stu) to help guide us the entire time. 8
  5. We lifted 600+ lbs of wood! It’s amazing what teamwork can do. I never thought that I’d have to lift roof trusses, or even being able to lift them at all. 1Roof
  6. Bannock (specifically Shawana’s bannock) is to die for.

    Look at that bannock!
    Look at that bannock!

This once in a lifetime experience has given me a broader perspective on life. It has shown me what teamwork can do. It has introduced me to some amazing people I would have never talked to on my own. It has given me a better understanding of charity vs. social justice, and that more of the latter should be done. It has taught me to keep my mind open and not be so judgemental and narrow-minded. Thank you Centennial and Habitat for Humanity for giving me this opportunity!

Team Yukon!
Team Yukon!
Whitehorse, Yukon will forever have our heart!

– Kristina Maniacup

Below is a short video I put together highlighting our trip. And by short I mean 19 minutes… ENJOY!

Finding A Voice and Becoming a Leader

It took me a while to find my voice in Nicaragua. In a group of 23 leaders, it was difficult to feel like I had a say or could sway an opinion. We had a few group members who were obviously born to be leaders; They had strong, confident and inclusive personalities that made everyone feel heard. I have always found that when no one is willing to step up and take a lead, I will happily take on the role. However, with so many people eager to fill that position, I was finding it hard to speak up. Throughout the week I began to remember that I was chosen to take part in this GCELE for a reason.  I grew more confident as the week went on, and began to feel more comfortable speaking up and working as a leader. I remembered that I am a good public speaker, and fortunately, I had plenty of opportunities to use that sIMG_5499kill on this trip. It was very rewarding to collaborate with all of the unique and inspiring personalities involved with this GCELE, and we all had a chance to merge as leaders throughout the week. Despite all of our different leadership styles, we worked together and taught our health initiatives successfully. Not only were we able to help a community, we were also able to grow as a group and as individuals.

– Amy Mepham, Nicaragua 2015

Into The Mountains

I was told this would be the trip of a lifetime. A trip unlike any I’d experienced before. I believed every word. I just don’t think I understood the weight of those words until driving back to our hotel one evening. Through the valley and up the mountain; passing livestock, children walking home from school, women carrying large woven baskets on their backs through the fields and people grouped together squatting by the roadside.

During our time in the mountains we experienced a world so unlike our own. On our first day we hiked (uphill I might add) to a small village, home to one of the Fu Hui girls. We had the opportunity to not only see where she comes from and how her grandmother lives, but what she endures regularly to get home.

With eyes wide open and a deeper understanding of life in Butuo, we carried out our next few days. We visited different schools where we had the opportunity to interact with the incredible children of Fu Hui. We shared games, songs, crafts and held workshops. In return they shared their dreams, inspiration and genuine kindness.

We headed back to the city, every last one of us feeling motivated and changed in some way. We were excited to meet the girls we would be running our empowerment camp with, knowing we wouldn’t have to say goodbye that day.

The camp turned out to be a bigger success than I could have imagined. The girls were eager and excited to learn. I can’t explain the feeling I got watching the girls put their newfound knowledge to use and knowing we had taught them something. We formed bonds with these girls that will not soon be broken, and had the pleasure of taking them into the city and sharing some exciting ‘firsts’. For everything we taught them, they taught us something in return.

I don’t think the empowerment camp would have had such a deep impact on not only the girls, but on us, had we not ventured to Butuo and learned about Yi culture. Seeing how far these girls had come continued to inspire me day after day. So, what did I learn? Stay tuned.

-Kirstie Keys

Welcoming us into their home on our home visit
Welcoming us into their home on our home visit
Our hike back down the mountain
Our hike back down the mountain
Learning traditional Yi dance
Learning traditional Yi dance
Showing off the puppets we made
Showing off the puppets we made
Beautiful faces in Butuo
Beautiful faces in Butuo
Children on their walk home from school
Children on their walk home from school
Sharing our dreams
Sharing our dreams
Our last day in Butuo
Our last day in Butuo
Team three at Torch Square
Team three at Torch Square


GCELE China 2015 took me to Butuo County, in Sichuan Province – China.

It started with a very bumpy 4.5 hour ride through a dirt road to get there. It was totally worthy. While in the mountain, we had our first contact with the Fu Hui children. First thing, we went hiking up hill for an hour, this is when I realized that I’m not in shape and I shouldn’t complain about my commute to college ever, as some of these kids walk for hours everyday to get to school, we witnessed small children walking on the side of road in the middle of nowhere in uniforms and their backpacks.

There, we had a home visit to one of the girls, we found her grandmother outside of the house, she walked to the house and used her key on the lock. Yes, a lock, no matter how much or how little one might have, there is a sense of belonging and ownership, that need of protection over your home. Coming from a Latin American country and previous volunteer work, I’ve seen poverty at first hand before. However, I had not seen such low living conditions, ever. It was heartbreaking, to say the least. Yet, this girl had a smile for us at every glance. To me, as a friend said during a reflection session, it was not an eye opener, but a reminder to refocus priorities and be grateful.

While visiting the schools, we had a chance to see the children and girls in their everyday environment. Everyday, they shared part of themselves and their culture with us, without any restriction nor fear, they gave us all they had and then some, they surprised us their strong views, the way expressed and saw themselves. Moreover, their excitement, their smiles and their happiness, that broke any language barrier we had. Sharing those few days with them and seeing such joy in them… It was priceless.


Hiking – Butuo County
Home Visit with Fu Hui Education Foundation – Butuo County.
Yi Traditional Dance – Butuo County.
With the Fu Hui girls after workshops – Butuo County.
Fu Hui Children – Butuo County.
Fu Hui School Class Photo – Butuo County.
During games with the Fu Hui children – Butuo County.
Saying goodbye to the Fu Hui children – Butuo County.
Kirstie Keys - china GCELE 132
Faces of Butuo – Butuo County.
New friends – Butuo County.
Fu Hui girls – Butuo County.
During arts and crafts with the Fu Hui Children – Butuo County.
Class Photo – Butuo County.
Fu Hui Children – Butuo County.

Continue reading “MY TIME IN THE MOUNTAINS: Priceless!!”