New Heights

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Graduation Ceremony, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, British Columbia (June 2017)

I’m not sure what to say. Graduating from university with my second credential was a mixture of emotions that has left me jumping for joy.

I would describe my university career as if I have been hiking up a very tall mountain. There have been some strenuous patches of loose gravel where I felt like I was gripping on for dear life. There were moments of pure exhaustion and some filled with much needed rest. I had moments of pure elation and celebration, with my heart bursting with pride, joy, and happiness. I have learned so much both in the classroom and beyond the walls of this great post-secondary institution. I’ve made incredible friends from around the world who climbed most of the way, or all of the trail with me. I have travelled across North America and in Europe throughout my studies as well, which has given me the most amazing life experiences. As I stand here at the top of the mountain that I worked so hard to climb, I am incredibly grateful for every experience that has brought me here today. It is quite the view from up here – Wow! On my first day of university, I never would have guessed that I could push myself this far. And here I am, a completely different person than I was five years ago.

Thank you to my family, friends, mentors, professors, employers, and colleagues who helped me to reach this new height. Without your support, I would not be where I am today.

Now, I do believe it is time for another adventure! Cheers!

Happy Birthday To Me!

News, Study Abroad
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Birthday Girls! (Breda, The Netherlands, June 2016)

It was a great experience to celebrate my birthday abroad with friends from around the world. I felt the love from my friends and family back home, and I know that I’m simply blessed to know so many incredible human beings. My friend, Dominika, who is from Poland, also celebrated her birthday in the same week as I did. In this photo, we are holding gifts that we received. Each is a bottle of wine with glitter in it to look like a magical potion. I’m pretty sure it’s too beautiful (and fun to play with) to consume. This past year abroad has been the best I’ve ever had, and while I am grateful for all of the good times and bad times, I know that my twenty seventh year on this planet will have even more adventures, laughter, smiles, tough lessons, and hopefully, a few surprises as well.

Kings Day

Events, News, Study Abroad, Travel

On April 27th, 2016, the entire country will celebrate Kings Day. This is a public holiday, and most people do not have to work and many essential services have limited hours. The holiday is to celebrate the King’s birthday. Formerly, this holiday was celebrated as Queen’s Day, on the Queen’s birthday. This celebration is known to be one of the largest, most colourful festivals that takes place country wide.

Everyone wears lots of orange, the country’s national color, and adorns flags, and assorted memorabilia. A KoningsDag (Kings Day translated in Dutch) tradition is to buy second hand items in each city’s parks or city centre. In Breda, Valkenberg Park will be full of bartering and great finds throughout the day. Many, many, music festivals and large scale events take place throughout the entire country.

The royal celebrations were first held on August 31st, 1885 in honour of the birth of Queen Wilhelmina, and the Queen’s Day tradition was born. After Wilhelmina’s daughter (Juliana) succeeded to the throne in 1949, the day was changed to 30 April in accordance with the new Queen’s birthday.  When she became queen, the now Princess Beatrix chose to retain the day in honour of her mother but as of 2014, King’s Day is officially celebrated on April 27th (the King’s birthday). Every year, the royal entourage visits a town or municipality in the Netherlands as part of the celebrations. In 2016, they will visit Zwolle, in the province Overijssel. Often, in cities with water features, there is a gridlock of boats on the canals as many people take to their boats or tours to have a few drinks on the water.

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Kings Day in Amsterdam, 2015 (Source: Radio 538)

Originally, I was planning to attend the Kings Land festival in Amsterdam, though I decided to get a ticket (for only 20 euros!) with my friends to the 538 celebration in Breda. It will be a huge one day festival with sets from famous Breda artists, like Hardwell and Tiesto, as well as Armin Van Burren, Martin Garrix, Jessi Glynne, and Miss Montreal. I am beyond thrilled as I am planning to attend three music festivals this summer, and all of these big name artists will also be playing there. AND THIS TICKET WAS ONLY TWENTY EUROS. TWENTY EUROS, PEOPLE.

So, in advance, Fijne Konings Dag!

Easter Update

News, Study Abroad

This afternoon I celebrated Easter with some friends from Portugal, Curaco, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands. We enjoyed some delicious home cooked Italian food, a chicken and rice dish, perogies and sausage, and a heavenly cheesecake. I had a great Friday night enjoying the Dutch Street Art Awards in Amsterdam. I met many street artists from across the world and of course, The Netherlands. It was an amazing party and superbly planned awards show. Shout out to The London Police who won the Legend award and dedicated their win to a passionate artist who passed away last year. Thanks to Amsterdam Street Art for inviting me!

I must say acknowledge that my heart is going out to every country in the world right now with the recent attacks in Brussels, Belgium. There have been multiple scares in The Netherlands, but everything is fine here. The Dam Square was lit up to support our neighbours, similar to when Paris events occurred in November. It is so tragic and just so awful that these kind of events are happening all the time across the world. Each time, I find myself in shock and I don’t know how to comprehend that as human beings we can treat each other this way. Also, of course, I am fine. I received some messages as friends and family were worried of my safety. Though Breda is close to the border, all is well here. This is a reminder, to treat your neighbours (and strangers) with kindness. We could all use it.

Quick Update From Amsterdam

News, Study Abroad, Travel

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Near Amsterdam Centraal (March 2016)

Hey everyone! I have been really busy completing lots of research in Amsterdam for my thesis this past week. I have met lots of talented street artists from around the world! Just a few days ago, I had the chance to watch The London Police at work on a mural in The Student Hotel Amsterdam City’s bike locker. While I intently watched them hard at work, I was able to interview them and have a great conversation. This was such an incredible experience that just left me high on life! As a self dubbed street art geek, I was so happy to be in the presence of such well known artists and to watch them create so freely. Words just can’t express how amazing an experience like this was for me. Basically, my past week has been full of meeting lots of great people and wandering throughout the streets and canals of Amsterdam searching for tags, stickers, throw ups, murals, and street art of all kinds. As you can imagine, I’m just loving life here in the Netherlands. Throughout the next few weeks of March, I will be travelling to London, spending time with friends, working on my thesis and attending the first ever Dutch Street Art Awards. AMAZING!

Sinterklaas Parade

News, Travel
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The Arrival of Sinterklaas (Breda, The Netherlands, December 2015)

Sinterklaas is a tradition that the Dutch celebrate dating back hundreds of years. This is a holiday that is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on December 5th (stay tuned for more!), which is also the night before Saint Nicholas Day. He is well known in territories of the former Dutch Empire, including Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

Sinterklaas is very similar to Santa Claus in North America, although he has a different story. He is a bishop who arrives on a boat from Spain with his helpers, Zwarte Peites (or Black Petes). Together, they distribute gifts and kruidnoten, small ginger cookies that are also sometimes covered in chocolate, throughout the country to all of the good boys and girls.

Today, Sinterklaas arrived in Breda! A big parade was held in the centre of the city, with his big arrival at the harbour by boat. There was plenty of live music, dancing, free giveaways, and great atmosphere. It started to rain, but my friends and I still loved every moment of waiting for a glimpse of Sinterklaas riding in on his white stallion. The parade was great and Zwart Petes threw kruidnoten into the crowd. Many children were there dressed as bishops and black petes.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the idea of black pete originates with the Dutch colonization in the Moors; however, this holiday tradition is not meant to be harmful to anyone in anyway. The United Nations even had a major discussion about in It is said that Sinterklaas’s helpers have black faces because they get so dirty while coming down the chimney. The holiday is full of good intentions, and while is a major topic of conversation for many, for me it’s just a different way of viewing North American Christmas traditions. When children grow up, Sinterklaas becomes a fictional character. One could truly argue that house elves, while fictional, also are slave labour after all! I feel that I am guest in this wonderful country and that it’s important to keep an open mind to new experiences. I definitely felt like a little kid again while enjoying this fun activity!

Read more here on this controversial topic if you are interested!

Glow Eindhoven

News, Travel

Glow is an annual light festival that occurs in the centre of the bustling innovative city of Eindhoven. This year was the 10th celebration of stunning lights, multi-media artwork, and video-mapping using buildings as a medium. My friends and I went to visit this great event on Friday, November 13th.

This is really one of those things you need to see with your own eyes. One of my favourite exhibits that I saw was at Stadhuisplien. Here, there was almost like an enormous cathedral created out of lights that was coordinated to music. While I was there, the song that played was the song of North Brabant, one of the southern provinces in the Netherlands. It was very beautiful!

Check out the video to see it in action!

In this video (below), you can see the exhibit at the “Diploia” exhibit at the Cathrina Church. This one was absolutely fantastic as it could be viewed with 3D glasses as well. Unreal!

For more information, visit GlowEindhoven.nl