Life Is A One Time Offer

Inspiration, Travel
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Netherlands-Belgium Border (July 2016)

“Life is a one time offer. Use it well.” 
– Unknown

This weekend, I was able to check another item off my bucket list! I cycled from my city to a small village in Belgium called Meers. The round trip was close to 40 kilometres and I completed this in just a few hours. Best of all, the weather has been finally looking up as it did not rain all afternoon.

The Grand Finale

Study Abroad
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ITMC Graduation @ NHTV Breda University Of Applied Sciences (July 2016)

My year of studying abroad at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences has been one filled with many firsts. Along with making new friends, exploring new campuses, and cycling to university as a daily routine, I learned so many new concepts and valuable lessons. My academic focus was mostly on international marketing, customer relationship management, travel photography, arts based tourism, and different perspectives of the tourism industry.

I am excited to announce that I received the best grades of my academic career while studying here, with a 3.9 of 4.0 GPA and a weighted average of 8.8. In addition, my independent undergraduate research about mapping the street art culture of Amsterdam has received a lot of attention. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, focused on International Tourism Management and Consultancy on July 1st, 2016. As my family couldn’t be present, some of my great friends came to support me which made me very happy. I have been lucky to be surrounded by some pretty amazing people this year.

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ITMC Graduation @ NHTV Breda University Of Applied Sciences (July 2016)

I am very grateful and honoured to have been the first student from Thompson Rivers University to take place in the new double degree program with this internationally acclaimed Dutch university. I have nothing but great things to say about my experiences here, and I am looking forward to meeting the Dutch exchange students in the coming years, as well as following future TRU students’ journeys exploring this beautiful city.

In the future, I will be spending my summer here in Breda and travelling through the Netherlands and Belgium. After my return to Canada, I will be travelling throughout Vancouver Island with my parents before finishing my last year of my Bachelor of Tourism Management degree at Thompson Rivers University.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this academic journey. You are truly the best!

Drum Roll, Please…

Study Abroad
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NHTV Breda University Of Applied Sciences (June 2016)

I am delighted to announce that this afternoon I completed the final step in my undergraduate thesis research. I defended my thesis in a room with two external examiners present and my supervisor with whom I have worked closely on this project with. I was nothing short of nervous, and I had been stressing over this presentation for some time, however, I received very positive outcomes on this project. With one of the top marks, my written work was given a grade of 9.5 and my oral presentation was given a grade of 9, which averaged out to a solid 9. This is considered to be very high, as an average grade is a 7, and 10’s are extremely rare. I was in shock with a huge smile on my face when my supervisor told me this news! (The smile is permanently glued to my face now, of course!) All of the comments were very good and it was commented that my excitement for my topic really shined through in every word. That’s such a lovely compliment. Wow!

Overall, this has been a fascinating process for me, to independently research and make so many connections in Amsterdam’s underground realm of street art. I have not spent this much time (nearly six months) focusing on one project, but it was worth every moment of it. I could not have done this without the help of supportive friends and family members, and all of the incredible contacts I have met throughout my research.

I will post my thesis online in the near future, after one last final review, so that everyone may have a chance to download and read it. Many celebrations will be had throughout this week, including a graduation ceremony with my fellow International Tourism Management & Consultancy classmates. Exciting times are ahead!

The Breath Knocked Right Out Of You

Inspiration, Travel
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Valkenburg, The Netherlands (June 2016)

“Sometimes is knocks the breath right out of me, realizing how lucky I am to be here and alive with you. To be the one you feel safe with. To be the one whose ones you curl up into when its cold. To be the one whose mouth you drowsily kiss when you are half asleep in my  arms.” 
– Beau Taplin

Remembering & Celebrating The Fallen

Study Abroad, Travel

In The Netherlands, on May 4th, is a day called Dodenherdenking, which means ‘remembrance of the dead’. On this day, around the country, services are held and two minutes of silence are observed to commemorate all civilians and members of the armed forces who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak of World War Two. In Amsterdam, at the Dam Square Memorial, the King and Queen stood vigilant with thousands of on lookers to remember these brave souls.

The following day, is known as Bevrijdingsdag, and is a national holiday to celebrate the end of the Nazi Germany occupation. The nation was liberated largely by the First Canadian Army, which included British I Corps, the first Polish Armoured Division, and in some areas, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops. Across the Netherlands, free public music festivals were held in honour of celebrating freedom. Most people do not have to go to work, and many are adorned in orange and the country’s national colours, red, white, and blue. Celebrations of big and small are all over the country, as in Utrecht, I saw thousands of people in line for a music festival and in Tilburg, I saw a group of friends who had sat outside on the street curb in lawn chairs drinking cold beverages. Later that night, I was cycling home from seeing a film, and I could hear the British anthem playing loudly on a sound system somewhere in the city centre, echoing over the sleeping rooftops.

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An Adorned War Memorial (Utrecht, May 2016)

In my opinion, it is really a beautiful contrast to see such somber thoughts moved to overwhelming joy over these two days. I’m moved, really, to love such a proud nation who have overcome so much since this time period. I am so proud to say that I am Canadian, and so please to spend time celebrating such a special occasion with a country that now call my second home.

As many of you may know, last December, I won a scholarship in honour of the Liberation. This is also another reason why I am so moved by this occasion, as over seventy years later, this incredible moment of history has affected my life in a way that I never thought possible.

Take a look at some iconic photos of Liberation day, be grateful for everything and everyone you have in your life in this present moment, and remember.

When This Adventure Ends

Study Abroad, Travel

Hallo vrienden!

I was inspired to make a short film about my life here in the Netherlands. You can see a bit about what my every day looks like, from my friends, to transportation, to festivals, studying, arts and culture, and other activities. Most of the footage used is from the city where I live (Breda), Amsterdam, Den Hague, Utrecht, and Den Bosch. Genieten!

“When this adventure ends, your next one will begin.”

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.

Mind Blown By Another Famous Dutch Artist

Inspiration, Travel

I had to run an errand in Den Hague today, so I made a quick side trip to the Escher Museum. This museum is inside of a former royal residence dating back to the eighteenth century. Queen Emma bought the stately house in 1896. She used it as a winter palace from March 1901 till her death in March 1934. It was used by four subsequent Dutch queens for their business offices, until Queen Beatrix moved the office to Paleis Noordeinde. The first and second floors have exhibitions showing the royal period of the palace, highlighting Queen Emma’s residence.

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Escher Museum in Den Hague (February, 2016)

The museum features a permanent display of a large number of woodcuts and lithographs by M.C. Escher, among them the world famous prints, Air and Water (birds become fish); Belvedere (the inside out of a Folly); Waterfall (where water seems to flow upwards); Drawing (two hands drawing each other). Escher in Het Paleis shows the early lovely Italian landscapes, the many mirror prints and a choice from the tesselation drawings, also the three versions of the Metamorphosis, from the first small one, to the third, of 7 meters. This one is shown in a circle. It underlines the new vision of the museum on the work of M.C. Escher. The third floor of the museum is dedicated to the Optical Illusion, besides the famous Escher Room in which grownups seem to be smaller than their children, one’s eyes will be tricked by multiple interactive displays (Source: Wikipedia).

I was completely mind blown by this museum. The quality of Escher’s work is simply stunning and I found myself thinking… “Wow, is that really a lithograph?!” Or “No way, that can’t be a wood block print…” I also visited the Maurithuis during my last visit to Den Hague and I have to say that the quality of the museums in the Royal City are simply OUTSTANDING. I would highly recommend adding this to your list of things to do while travelling through the Netherlands.

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!

The Efteling Experience

Travel
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Efteling (October 2015)

I have been dreaming of going to Efteling the moment I read about it in Lonely Planet’s Guide. This theme park is nothing short of amazing, and truly can be defined as the “Dutch version of Disneyland”. A group of ten friends who live in my building and I ventured to the park, which is about forty five minutes away by train and bus. Efteling has an aurora of magic; every structure looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. Everywhere one goes, there is beautiful music playing – even along empty pathways. All of the attractions are based from Dutch folk lore, such as the Fairyland which has a Dutch version of many popular fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty.

Among many of the amazing rides, one of my favourites was The Baron. It is a new roller coaster that simulates a rich man sending his miners down into haunted gold mines. I went on this ride by myself and I sat in the front row! It was exhilarating, as at part of the ride, I hung from a very high drop looking down into the misty, underground mine. It was a scary, yet exhilarating experience.

What I really enjoyed about this park is that every aspect of the park is a well thought out experience. Even the ATMs (as you can see in a photo above) were pre-planned and this one was displayed as a magical steampunk contraption. Though the line for a ride may be over an hour, there was always so much to look at along the way. For example, in one of the rides, the line trails through a haunted house with beautiful “old” rooms, trinkets, and a theme of ancient ships. All of the food is typical Dutch, and so very greasy! For lunch I ate fries with mayonnaise (my favorite snack) and a cheese croquet.

One of my most favorite moments was riding a roller coaster called The Python. The park was nearly closed and the line was quite short. The ride simulates a snake’s body and twirls and swirls with many gut-wrenching moves; but first, it drags you up to the highest point of the amusement park. The sun was going down at this time and we had the most beautiful view of the surrounding area.

I heard a quote the other day that went something like this, “There is a sunrise and a sunset every day. It is your choice to choose to be there for it. You can choose to put yourself in the way of beauty.” So my friends, I hope that no matter where you are in the world, you take notice of this amazing life that you have, and even if it is just for a moment, get out there and experience something beautiful.

Sunday Funday

Study Abroad, Travel
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Mediterranean Dinner (Breda, The Netherlands, September 2015)

 The term ‘sunday funday’ rang true today, as after a relaxing morning, I joined my friend at a festival in Valkenberg Park. The entire park was transformed with a “grassroots” kind of atmosphere. The layout, stage design, and co-creation based artwork. This was the second day of the festival. Last night as I was coming home from the train station, I saw many boats in the canal as a form of a parade. It was quite dark out and the boats were illuminated with colourful lights and energetic people dancing to a different beat upon each boat. There were hundreds of people wrapped around the canals watching, dancing, and participating in the fun. Today, I had a chance to walk around the festival grounds and listen to a variety of music. Most of the music was in the Dutch dialect, but I enjoyed an energetic punk rock band call The Deaf. They are a self proclaimed speed beat band from Den Hague and were a lot of fun! There was another stage themed after the board game Candy Land with DJs playing electronic dance music and another stage in the centre of the park with more of a low key rock kind of groove. I heard from a friend that were was a silent disco party the night before as well. Maja and I tried a delicious treat called Poffertjes, which is like a small pancake with icing sugar and butter on it – YUM!

Later on, I joined many friends in the lounge of our building to cook a large, and very delicious, Mediterranean dinner. It was really lovely to spend time with friends, cooking (and dancing) in the communal kitchen together.

Street Art

Study Abroad, Travel
Street Art in Breda's City Centre

Street Art By Brazilian Artist, Cranio (Breda, The Netherlands, August 2015)

I have to say I’m loving the culture here in the Netherlands – especially, the historical buildings and the large amounts of art in public spaces. When I was driving around the south a few days ago, I saw lots of art in the centre of roundabouts and along the highway. I hope Canada can learn a few lessons from this beautiful country. For example, back in Kamloops, we have a piece of artwork in one of our roundabouts. It has not been well received and often locals have comments about it. Roundabouts are being used more and more in Canada’s urban development. Wherever I go by train, there is plenty of well done graffiti along the concrete walls of city centers. It is simply amazing.