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!

Growth Happens In The Valleys

Inspiration, Study Abroad, Travel
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Eygelshoven, The Netherlands (June 2016)

“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” 
– Robin Sharma

Change is a beautiful thing. Really, it was a scary thing for me when I boarded a plane and moved to a country that I’ve never been to by myself last August. As my time is slowly winding down here, I can see such dramatic changes in who I am right now compared to who I was. It is a beautiful transformation to reflect upon. Now, not only am I totally content to not bathe for three days and go camping with people I’ve only just met… (see the post camping/music festival selfie from above), but I have learned how to love myself, make healthy choices in my lifestyle, find balance, look at everything from different points of view, and thrive in saying yes to new experiences. I’ve travelled, mostly alone, to ten different countries in the past ten months. I’ve seen beautiful works of art, both in museums and in the natural world, experienced many other cultures through food, language, art, landscapes, and mostly importantly, by meeting new people. When I first arrived in Amsterdam, I had never stayed in a hostel before. Looking back, I had no expectations on what was to come, but I am grateful for every moment and I wouldn’t change a single thing. Change, it’s a crazy, beautiful thing.

Video Blog – May 2016

Inspiration, Study Abroad, Travel

Instead of uploading photos and telling you about what I’ve been up to, I thought this time I would show you. In three minutes and forty two seconds, you will glimpse into a month of my adventures in Breda, Tilburg, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Den Hague, Kinderdijk, Gouda, Brussels, Sliema, Gozo, Valletta, Mdina, Rabat… and maybe a few other destinations.

“I had a dream so big and loud.
I jumped so high I touched the clouds.
I stretched my hands out to the sky.
We danced with monsters through the night.

I’m never going to look back. 
Whoa, I’m never going to give it up. 
No, please don’t wake me now.
This is going to be the best day of my life.”

Ultimate Guide To Celebrating Dutch Carnaval

Events, Study Abroad, Travel

Guys, you have probably heard of the carnival that is celebrated in Brazil every year. Well, just in case you haven’t heard… The Netherlands also is known to celebrate this holiday! And it’s like North America’s Halloween mixed with Dutch music, Thanksgiving and lots of partying. (Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this.)

Carnival in the Netherlands is called Carnaval, and its traditionally celebrated in the Catholic region of the Netherlands in the south around the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg. Carnaval starts on Sunday and follows through to Ash Wednesday. Although, most students use this holiday as a reason to party and will often party every single night of the year. In 2016, Carnaval falls on February 7th to 9th.

Everyone looks forward to Carnaval each year. There are some people who take a week off work and school simply to celebrate! Dutch Carnaval can be confusing for International students on exchange in the south of the Netherlands. It’s up to you to make this week incredible, by stepping up, committing to the Carnaval spirit and going all out. By wanting to make it the best carnival of your life you will easily find other Dutchies also wanting to do the same. You can decide to remain clueless and remain in your home city, from the outside, you won’t “get it or “understand it”, but don’t be this person, jump in and embrace it!

So, here are some tips that I have learned from my Dutch friends on how to make the most of Carnaval.

  1. Embrace Dutch Music!
    I try to love Dutch music, I really do. But it’s hard when I can’t understand a lot of Dutch and some of the beats come across as very ‘cheesy’. Nonetheless, buck up, smile, and start listening to Carnaval music in advance. Try to learn some of the words. Get familiar with some of the songs. Every club, cafe, pub, and place you go during this week will be playing this kind of music. If you haven’t been able to learn Dutch yet this is this a fun time to learn some of the lyrics, the locals will happily translate them for you. They might go something like: “Have sex with a bald guy” or “There is a horse in the hallway”. Really random lyrics that are either dubbed over a recent chart song or a rip off of a German classic with a Dutch twist.
  2. Dress Up!
    Carnaval is just like Halloween. Do not be lame and say that you are not dressing up. Every single person dresses up every night with different costumes. Imagine going to a music festival like Burning Man, where people put a lot of effort into how they look. It’s like that – or even, like a Halloween party. There will be plenty of sugar skulls, pretend police officers, pirates, and other great costumes all throughout the city centre. A lot of people wear onesies. The whole point of Dutch carnival is to become someone else, let yourself go and have a great time. This is why all Dutch people during carnival will dress up in crazy costumes, the more creative and home made the better.

3. Do Not Wear Clothes You Love!
This is important. Do not wear shoes that you like. The floors of every cafe will be thick with gooey used drink cups. The coat check lines will be long. Keep it simple and wear a jacket that you can live without if its lost and prepare for alcohol to be split all over you in the heat of the moment. Go with the flow and accept that this might happen at least once.

4. Taste Local Beer and Cuisine!
Yes, local beer is delicious – like Heineken, Amstel, Hertog Jam, and Grosch. The craft beer selection in The Netherlands is even better. But don’t forget to stop and eat every once in a while. Dutch snacks are so greasy, salty, and mouthwatering. They are also quick, cheap, and easy to find. Sample a Frikandel XXL special, Kaassouffle, krokets, and hopefully you can find a loempia van for some authentic tasty spring rolls.

5. Buy A Dutch Carnaval Scarf
If you can find a shop that sells these orange and green scarves, pick one up. Often if a local cafe or club is really full, you can still be allowed in by the bouncers if you are wearing one of these.

6. Have Fun!
There is usually lots of great activities and events going on in each and every city in the South. Scout out what’s going on online or download the local city’s app with an agenda. There are often parades throughout the centre. Also, there is a ceremony where the Carnival celebrations start after the mayor symbolically hands over the key to the city to Prince Carnival. For three days, the Carnival Prince has control of the city and, together with his subjects, celebrates the temporary establishment of their Kingdom of Fools. Merrymakers make their way from pub to pub and greet Prince Carnival with three cheers of “Alaaf”. Also, it’s said that if you haven’t kissed at least one person during Carnaval then it wasn’t a Carnaval after all.

HBO Intro Festival

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

Well, I was told that the HBO Intro Festival would be great, but it certainly exceeded all of my expectations! For one night, the City of Breda and collective sponsors, host an annual open air music festival for all of the new (and returning) students during the first week of classes. There were four stages scattered throughout the centre with a variety of promotional businesses, food from local restaurants, and open bars. And the best part was that the entrance was completely free! Alcohol was flowing freely and guests were allowed to bring in their own drinks provided they put it in plastic containers at the security gates. The stages all closed by 23:00, as guests normally go to nearby clubs to continue the party. The festival even hosted five different after parties at popular clubs like De Boulevard, Proost, and Coyote Bar.

It was so much fun to listen to the awesome music and watch thousands of people having an incredible experience. I was lucky enough to meet a new friend who rents a flat above the Main Stage. The view from up there was incredible! I was thrilled to see the festival from awesome heights and sit in the window frame high above the action. During the last fifteen minutes of performances at the Main Stage, the famous DJ Hardwell made an appearance and everyone went absolutely wild! On my way home, I caught a few minutes of a video mapping project being projected upon Kasteel Van Breda. I must say, it is incredible to see so much arts, culture, and social experiences always available in such a beautiful city. I’m falling in love with Breda!

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.

Day Two

Study Abroad, Travel
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My First Purchase… Groceries!

Today was a day full of learning and patience. I knew I was going to have to be patient in learning a new language, the layout of a new city, and those every day tasks that one would normally not bash an eyelash at. I have now learned that I can be even more patient than I ever thought I could be, and even more grateful for the kindness of strangers.

For example, when I took the train in from Amsterdam to Breda, I had purchased the wrong kind of ticket. Instead of asking me to leave the train, the ticket checker guided me through the steps to get a new ticket at the next stop. When I was rushing to catch a train with two bags of luggage and a coffee in hand, a stranger helped me take a bag down three flights of stairs. The escalator was broken at the time and my bags kept falling down everywhere in frustration. I figured out how to use the city bus service in Breda, only because a kind bus driver pointed out the stops and let me know which stop is closest to my apartment. I found my way into the city with the guidance of a generous new friend who walked with me to my destination. I also was given a lift by a family from Luxembourg to my new apartment after picking up my keys. Without this random act of kindness, it would have been an hour and a half walk with my luggage.

If there is one thing I learned today, it is to remain calm and when opportunities present themselves, to say thank you! It was very rainy here in Breda. I achieved some big accomplishments, including grocery shopping, unpacking my room, signing my  apartment lease, visiting the student service desk at my school (yay, money!) and finding my way into the city centre for the first time. Tomorrow will consist of trying to find the nearest Ikea for household supplies and purchasing a bicycle… and exploring this new, wonderful city.

Every moment so far, I have found amazement by how big and beautiful our world is. And the Netherlands is so small… even smaller than I imagined. Today, every second was an adventure – no  matter how little the task.

Day One

Study Abroad, Travel
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Dam Square, Amsterdam (August 2015)

It is official! I have arrived on Netherlands soil, safe and sound. The flight over was incredible, as I could see Hudson’s Bay with ice flows, Baffin Island, and so much of the wilderness of Quebec. I also could see huge icebergs (which were pretty tiny from my view of 40,000 feet), and the not very green Greenland. Just outside of Amsterdam, the sun was coming up over the North Sea. All I could see was enormous, modern, white windmills on the ocean. I wish I could have taken a photograph – it was insanely beautiful. After grabbing my luggage and navigating my way to the hostel on Google Maps, I had to learn how to use the train system. Overall, it was not too bad for being in mostly Dutch. I missed a few trains going in my direction at first; but they come often.

The hostel I’m staying at is for all girls. I’m trying to break myself in to sleeping in a room full of strangers. It is actually quite nice, with lots of art on the walls. It is the only “all female” hostel in Dam. I made a lot of headway today, as I came across the Sex Museum. It was very affordable. I also came across the National Monument, a cheese shop (thought of you Jacquie!) and many other neat little stores and cafes. I am adjusting to the traffic flow, as I almost was hit by a cyclist while crossing the street. That was my own fault for feeling so jet lagged at the time. Luckily, I came across Sail Amsterdam, the Tall Ship celebration. Many beautiful tall ships were docked along the harbor. I followed the heavy flow of foot traffic and saw a large parade of boats, ships, and even a military ship. I didn’t manage to snap any photos of the tall ships, though you must believe me when I say they are incredible. That was about it for me today. I went to sleep early to adjust to the time change. I am very excited for the new adventures ahead. Thanks for reading!