Well everyone, I have returned to Kamloops, British Columbia and I have begun my last year of university to complete my double degree in Tourism Management at Thompson Rivers University. This will be my last video blog for a while, as the most excitement I will have over the next few months will be drinking coffee, hiking in the Thompson Okanagan, late night study sessions, and catching up with friends and family. The past month was filled with a mix of emotions, exciting adventures, and fantastic memories. It began by celebrating a dear friend’s birthday in a small village of the Netherlands, and ended by hiking through Cape Scott Provincial Park, along with an exploration of Vancouver Island all the way from the bottom to the top. All I can say, is thank you dear world, for the beautiful memories. It’s already time for a new adventure!
“I urge you to travel. As far and as much as possible. Work ridiculous shifts to save your money. Go without the latest IPhone. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Find out how other people live and realize that the world is much bigger than the town that you live in. And when you come home, home may still be the same. Yes, you may have to go back to your same old job. But something in your mind will have changed. And that my dear, changes everything.”
“Money is all right. But once you have it, you realize that it is not the be all and end all.”
– Alan Sugar
“Wherever you are, be all there.”
– Jim Elliot
I have been fascinated by the beautiful church of Breda since I first saw it. It is stunning at all times of day and night. It stands proudly in the bright sun and even on gloomy, cloud filled days. I can even see from the window of my flat which is a treat. Today, I finally climbed to the top of the tower of Grote Kerk. I have been meaning to do this for many months, and I was waiting for the perfect day; though with a lack of time and a lack of sunny afternoons, now proved to be a good as time as any.
The tower is 320 feet in height and it is the fifth tallest church tower of the Netherlands. It was built in the late-gothic style as a church and city tower between 1468 and 1509. The main purposes of the tower in this time were to indicate special moments and events for the church through bell ringing, indicate the time, and give alarm in times of fire and war to citizens of the area. There are 287 steps up to the look out point. In clear weather, one can see as far as Antwerp and Rotterdam.
The views from the look out gallery were stunning. It was great to see my beautiful city of Breda from another angle. I’m still very in love with this quaint, Dutch town and I will be sad to say goodbye when the time comes.
(For those who may be wondering, it costs five euros for a guided tour to climb the tower. For more information, click here.)
“Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive.”
– Jenna Kutcher
“Exchange isn’t a year of your life, it is your life in one year.”
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.
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!
“My life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned, and that’s okay.”
– Rachel Wolchin
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!
Well, June has been another month of exciting adventures to say the least! A lot of miserable rain, incredible live music (such as Paul McCartney and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers), numerous birthday celebrations, camping, getting lost a few times, and exploring new cities in the far south of Holland and Germany.
“Take me to the docks, there’s a ship without a name there,
And it is sailing to the middle of the sea.
The water there is deeper than anything you’ve ever seen…
Jump right in and swim until you’re free.
I will remember your face,
‘Cause I am still in love with that place.
But when the stars are the only things we share…
Will you be there?
Money came like rain to your hands while you were waiting,
For that cold long promise to appear.
People in the churches started singing above their hands,
They say, “My God is a good God and He cares”.
I’ve got a plan, I’ve got an atlas in my hands.
I’m gonna turn when I listen to the lessons I’ve learned.
I’ve got a plan, I’ve got an atlas in my hands.
I’m gonna turn when I listen to the lessons I’ve learned.”
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
Kings Day is by far one of the best days to be in The Netherlands!
I was lucky and one of my very best friends surprised me with a gift for my first of hopefully many Kings Days to come. In the gift was assorted silly clothing to wear, all orange of course, orange tinted sunglasses, a crown, balloons, chalk, and tasty Dutch treats. For breakfast, we had a puff pasty filled with slaagroom called tompauce. These are decorated with orange icing especially for this holiday. Fun fact, there is a 600% increase in sales of tompauce on this holiday compared to any other day. I shared much of my candy and sweets with my room mates as well, and we decorated our flat with orange balloons.
The holiday is a celebration for the Kings Birthday, and all throughout the country there are city wide parties with a sea of people dressed in orange. As I mentioned before, I went to the 538 KoningsDag festival which amazing beyond my expectations. But in the city centre there were multiple free stages that people could enjoy and the terraces of many restaurants were open.
The weather was not the best, with some rain, some hail, and some cold wind. But that didn’t stop anyone from having an amazing time! I had so much fun spending time with my friends and dancing the entire day away. Artists like Martin Garrix, Tiesto, and Hardwell perform all over the country with multiple shows. Martin Garrix performed around one o’clock, and unfortunately we missed him as we were waiting in line. After his set, he was off into his helicopter for another set in Amsterdam. Unreal!
I was the most excited to see Armin Van Burren during this festival as I had not seen him before. His music was great, and he played one of my favourite songs by Alan Walker called Faded. The ultimate highlight was seeing Tiesto and Hardwell (both Breda born Djs) perform at the same time during a rainstorm. Easily 20,000 people dressed in orange were moshing and thrashing to heavy beats, and cheering in the rain. Seriously, that’s a moment to remember! I am so grateful to be living in a country where there is such a prominent festival and electronic dance music culture. This REALLY is my kind of place!
There truly is no party like a Kings Day party!
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”
– Salvador Dali
My friend and I had an excellent day trip to Figueres in the third week of April. We visited the Dali Museum, which was absolutely exquisite. We were lost inside the building and made jokes that it was probably Dali’s twisted sense of humour. After a lovely lunch on the terrace of a restaurant, we hiked around the Castello Sant Ferran. The walk offered amazing panoramic views of the small city and the surrounding farmlands. The castle dates back five hundred years or so, and is said to be the largest fortress in all of Europe. After a short trip to Spain, I headed back to the sub-arctic (though spring-like) climate of the Netherlands!
“Every time you have to go,
I shut my mind and you know.
I’ll be lying right by your side
– George Ezra
I spent an amazing few days with my best friend in her new home of Barcelona. While we completed many exciting activities, my favourite stories include being surprised with tickets to hear classical music at Palau De Musica Catalunya (the second most beautiful building I’ve ever seen next to the Sagrada Familia), sunburning my entire backside after I fell asleep on Barceloneta Beach, and enjoying so much incredible street art and murals in the Sants neighborhood.
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.
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!
“Be in love with your life. Every minute of it.”
– Jack Kerouac
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
– Mark Jenkins
“He who is outside his door has the hardest part of his journey behind him.”
– Dutch Proverb
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”
– Anthony Bourdain
As I wrote about before, Carnaval is celebrated all across the south of the Netherlands in early February. It is such a fun time for all ages! In each city, I think the celebration looks a little bit different and I’m told that the farther south one goes, the more intense the celebrations become.
On the last day of Carnaval in Breda, the Prince of Carnaval returned “the key to the city” to the mayor, and everyone celebrated by listening to the Carnaval music one last time in the main market square. There is a fun song and dance called the Polonaise which looks like the Conga to me. Every time this song played every single person, literally hundreds of people, started dancing in a conga line and singing along. Afterwards, the giant paper dolls were taken down from their perch at the top of city hall and hoisted upon a wooden bed. The wooden bed was paraded through the city centre with a marching band that played a light, fun version of the death march. Once the parade reached the harbour, the wooden dolls were attached to a floating crane and set afire. After a few minutes, fireworks exploded over the nearby castle. And that my friends, was how I spent the last wonderful day of Carnaval!
And here is some more footage from Carnaval. The costumes, the music, the language, the cultural shifts, the atmosphere… Drink it all in, ’cause it’s really amazing to experience! And as is said for five days a year, here in this lovely country, ALAAF!
The beautiful thing about living in Breda is that the location of the city is so close to many major destinations. For example, this past Saturday I took a train (for 16 euros!) to Antwerp in just under an hour.
I had an excellent day travelling by myself and I visited two museums, shopped, and did some sight seeing. Ruben’s House is a museum dedicated to a famous Belgian artist, Peter Paul Ruben, where he actually spent most of his life. The Museum Aan Stroom was a fabulous museum about the Belgian culture, history, stories of power and war, and oddities. I loved that there was an entire exhibit dedicated to the culture of tattoos and body piercings from around the world. On the top floor of the museum was a great look out of the entire city. It was just lovely! Other highlights included seeing the Kasteel Steen (with the peeping tom statue), City Hall, and many shops that sold delicious Belgian beer and chocolate.
Of course, I had to sample a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce and whipped cream! Delicious!
Though I have been working on my thesis for the past few weeks, I have mostly been reading a lot of academic articles and books to expand my knowledge on the subject of street art. Today I ventured to Amsterdam to interview an employee of a street art gallery and document several pieces in the city centrum. It felt great to accomplish something outside of a library setting and to meet artists in the industry. I was thrilled with this progress.
I also made some stops at a few places I have been wanting to visit, including Rembrandt’s house. He lived and worked in this home for over twenty years, and taught thousands of pupils in this space. It was fascinating to see this in real life. If you don’t know me that well, I love Rembrandt so much that I named my cat after him. True story.
I stopped into Oosterkerk and Westerkerk which are two beautiful churches dating back a few hundred years. And funnily enough, I learned about the history of tulips in Holland at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum. (It smelled so amazing inside – if you can only imagine!)
All in all, I had a fabulous day exploring one of my favourite cities.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Now that Sinterklaas, Christmas, and the holidays are slowly winding down, everyone is looking to the approaching New Year. It is a time for personal reflection and most people set out resolutions for the upcoming year to become a better person, loose a few pounds of holiday fat, or to complete something on their bucket list.
Looking back, my 2015 can be described as full. Full of personal achievements, hard work, exploration, delightful conversations, amazing connections, a little bit of anxiety and learning new limits. Simply put, it is full of beautiful memories. If I could speak to myself who was bringing in 2015 at a friend’s house with my favourite people, I wouldn’t have believed myself when I said that I’d be where I am now, living alone in a foreign country.
One thing I do not do at this time of year is make resolutions. I try not to live by regrets and I think that if something needs to be changed in my life, there is no time like the present. Something that I have done for a few years now is instead of resolutions, I choose a word that I would like to define my year by. In 2015, my word was EXPERIENCE. And look where that got me!
This year, my word will be similar and have a broad context to learn more about who I am and who I’d like to be, and of course, where I’d like to go next.
1a: to investigate, study, or analyze
1b to become familiar with by testing or experimenting
2: to travel over (new territory) for adventure or discovery
3: to examine especially for diagnostic purposes
After a bit of research on the internet, I found that many people have been doing this all around the world. You can check out One Word 365 or My One Word for more information and online, social communities. According to an article by Fast Company, there are three steps to help you pick out your word. And it may not be an easy choice.
So think about.
What is your word for 2016?