Nearing the End – Part Two

Hej hej,

It is finally time to post my final blog as a CIE blogger. Before I get overly sentimental, let me fill you in on what I have been up two over the past several weeks.

Drawing of the common bream by Houghton.

Drawing of the common bream by Houghton.

In terms of school, I’m still attending class on a regular basis. Our current lectures have shifted away from water treatment, moving more toward the realm of river and lake restoration. This past week I found myself out on two excursions. The first was on Tuesday and took us to Höör and Hörby to witness biomanipulation in action! Everyone in class piled into little motor boats so that we could catch up to some small trawling vessels that were attempting to catch bream. In this particular lake, the bream are removed in order to maintain a habitat that favours pike perch. Before we left, the men working on the trawlers tossed us three huge bream to take home. Now, I should say that in Sweden bream is considered a ‘junk fish’. That is, it is often a fish that people would not eat. However, many of the fish species we currently consume were once considered junk fish as well. We eat them now because the species that were highly sought after have all been overfished. So, with this in mind I managed to convince some of my classmates to help me cook the bream. This bream eating party didn’t actually happen until Thursday, but I must say it was worth the wait. We ended up making a fish stew, as well as an American style fish fry using beer batter. Both were pretty phenomenal. The one draw back I suppose was that the bream was quite bony. However, the bones themselves were on the larger size, so picking them out was quick and easy.

Okay, enough about eating supposed junk fish, back to the excursions. Our second excursion took place Wednesday afternoon and evening. In the afternoon we broke up into small groups and were assigned a 400m section of river to habitat map. This is easier said than done. The river was not easily accessible, and my group found ourselves having to take turns touching the electric fences to see if they were operational. Thankfully, all our fences were off. All in all, we spent about three hours mapping this 400m stretch. It involved a lot of climbing, as well as a fair amount of sinking into what looked like solid ground, but in actuality was some kind of epic mud pit that deeply wanted to devour shoes. Later in the evening, when all the groups had reunited, we walked around in large patches of farmland listening to frog calls. This was actually super cool. We found a pond that was making quite a lot of commotion, and using our lights we were able to spot a few different species (below are photos of a few of the species we were hunting for). We eventually made it back to Lund shortly after midnight.

Spadefoot toad.

Spadefoot toad.

Fire bellied toad.

Fire bellied toad.

Great crested newt.

Great crested newt.

Hackeberga.

Häckeberga.

Now, as for my free time, well I’ve been up to the same old. A small group of us enjoyed a hike in Häckeberga one weekend. While on another weekend we did a cycle trip to Lomma again. More interestingly however, was celebrating Valborg. I’m still uncertain as to why and how Valborg came to be, but it was definitely a spectacle to behold. Basically, it consisted of every student in Lund coming down to the city park with loads of beer, food, and a picnic blanket. People began arriving as early as 8am to reserve their spot, and begin the partying. I arrived sometime around 10:30 and was completely overwhelmed by the huge amount of people already there. Quite frankly I had not even realized this many people even lived in Lund!

Häckeberga.

Häckeberga.

Passing the rapeseed fields while on route to Lomma.

Passing the rapeseed fields while on route to Lomma.

Action shot!

Action shot!

 

Picnic during Valborg.

Picnic during Valborg.

Where are you?

Valborg: Where are you?

Valborg, early afternoon.

Valborg: Early afternoon.

With my exchange experience coming to a close, I really feel the need to reiterate just how amazing these past nine months have been. Before leaving for Sweden, I felt as though my life back in Toronto was becoming too comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, but I was getting that itch to shake things up. What I love most about traveling and living abroad is that you never know what you’re going to experience, and thus, what you’re going to learn. The education I have received from Lund University has drastically increased my confidence in regard to my research abilities. This confidence lead me to apply for research positions, and now I’m happy to say that I will be spending the summer working for The Seagrass Ecosystem Research Lab in Miami, Florida. I would never have looked for this position had I not participated in the exchange program. On top of spending the summer in Miami, I am also in the process of searching for a UofT professor who can take me on as a 4th year project student.

On top of the exceptional education I have received, I also have to give credit to the phenomenal people I have met during my stay in Lund. I think many of these people do not realize just how much they have inspired me, and how they will stay with me as I carry onward to my next adventure. I can only hope that I manage to someday cross paths with these fine folks again. And of course my door, wherever that might be, will always be open for a friendly visit.

Tack så mycket Sverige! It’s been a slice.

Abby

The Last Little Bit

Hey all,

Congrats on being done exams! I myself have just handed it all my work at KCL in London… but I’m still here for 7 weeks! There’s really no reason for me to be here except for the fact that I’m paying my residence fees until the end of June, so I thought I might as well live in London for the time being. I’m also planning on traveling quite a bit more while I’m still in Europe. But before I look forward to the next weeks and adventures to come, I thought I’d look back on my favourite memories from my time abroad so far.

From meeting my flatmates to discovering London, to experiencing Christmas time here and having a proper English roast and afternoon tea, to taking an impromptu trip to Amsterdam, to visiting Dublin and Berlin and Paris, to going to Platform 9 and 3/4 and meeting Rupert Grint, to seeing more plays than I can count, and to being in a play myself. I can’t believe how much has happened in such a short span of time. I’m actually worried that next year will be boring compared to this one, but I guess there’s no point thinking about that now.

Leisure aside, my courses at King’s College London were interesting and engaging. I was very impressed with all of my professors and the standard of education here. I wouldn’t say the classes were taught that differently but studying English literature in England has its advantages… for example, in first semester I had classes at the Globe Theatre. I may be happy to be done with my coursework now, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my classes.

Now, all that’s left to do is frolic around sunny London and go traveling. So far, I have plans to visit Lyon in France, Edinburgh and Isle of Skye in Scotland, Lisbon and Setubal in Portugal, and Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon in England. I’m sure it will be a whirlwind!

It feels weird saying goodbye to this blog now, but I do want to say thank you to those people who have read these posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and they’re brought you some sort of insight. And I definitely hope that they’ve inspired you to think about studying abroad, whether it’s for a summer course, a semester, or a year.

Thanks again for reading! Cheerio! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

-Veronika

 

A Reflection

Am I already writing my final blog for this semester? It seems like yesterday I just wrote my first blog in September when I talked about my excitement and expectations for my upcoming year abroad in Berlin. Because of the Centre for International Experience at U of T, I was given the amazing opportunity to blog for the first time in my life. I am happy I made that decision back in 2013. Blogging gives me the opportunity to reflect upon my experiences and think exactly about all I have done and what I have seen.

I am happy with what I have accomplished and how I have contributed to all the student blogs. From moving here in the summer, to the festivities at Oktoberfest, to dealing with the German bureaucracy, to explaining how the university system works, to my trip to Hamburg, to the differences between Canada and Germany, to the Christmas season, to the major sights, scenes and history of Berlin, to my trip to Poland and the UK….. I have tried to document and share as much as possible about what life is like here.

BMW World in Munich- Lucas and I checking out a sports car

BMW World in Munich- Lucas and I checking out a sports car

Not much has happened the past two weeks. The highlight would be a trip down to Munich with my friend from Toronto who was still with me. We did a walking tour of the city and saw all the main attractions. The BMW World and BMW museum were amazing. All the latest technology is displayed and the museum took us through the history of one of the best auto makers in the world. I would highly recommend a visit there.

The Olympia Park, Munich

The Olympia Park, Munich

In front of the Bavarian Victory Gate in Munich

In front of the Bavarian Victory Gate in Munich

A soccer game in Berlin was also seen. The Berlin team, Hertha BSC, plays in the German Bundesliga, the national German soccer league. They play in the Olympia Stadium, the same place where the 1936 Olympic Games were held. It is massive with a total capacity of 75,000 people. For Easter, I met some friends and we had an outdoor BBQ at the Tempelhof Airfield. This is a massive, abandoned airfield located just south of the city center. It was the location where the Berlin Airlift in 1948 took place, when American and British cargo planes delivered thousands of tons of food and supplies to West Berlin. Today, it is a gigantic park where hundreds of people go to walk, have picnics, BBQs, run, play sports, cycle or simply walk the dog. It is an amazing use of free space within the city.

Olympia Stadium, Berlin

Olympia Stadium, Berlin

Tempelhof Airfield

Tempelhof Airfield

I would like to say one more thing about writing blogs and about my year abroad in general. I am really starting to see who I am, what I want, and where I come from. After reflecting on all the things I have done, I know what it means to come from Canada. I know I will miss my time here in Germany and all the friends I have met, but it all needs to eventually come to an end. I will never forget the experiences and great times I had overseas. I still have one more semester to complete and it goes until about July or August. Until then, I must focus on learning German and continue to enjoy Berlin and all the new experiences that will come my way. I plan to travel as well a bit more. I know the time will go by way too fast.

I want to thank the Centre for International Experience for giving me the chance to blog. I had a blast and as I said, I learned so much about what I am doing here through my personal reflections. To all my readers, I hope you enjoyed reading my posts. Hopefully you were able to learn something. Please feel free to contact me if any of you have any questions, I would be more than glad to help :)

I wish you all the best and the utmost success in the future! Take care and Auf Wiedersehen!

The Non-Conclusion

I guess this is my last entry. I guess this is the one where I’m supposed to wrap things up in a deep, comprehensive look back at my experience. I guess I’m then supposed to talk about the priceless lessons I’ve learned and how my life has changed and how I now see the world in a different way, and then I guess I’m supposed to give some words of encouragement for future exchange students and then finish it off with a Tumblr-worthy inspirational quote about travel and life, and experiences and dreams and all those wonderful flowery things. But I don’t want to.

I might just be the biggest buzzkill in the world, but I have my reasons. Apart from the fact that I try to avoid clichés, the main reason I want to skip the typical final-post conventions is that for me, doing so would mean mentally putting a close to this experience.

I still have almost six weeks left to spend here, so I hate the idea of considering this the end. I’ve still got six weeks left of struggling though Spanish conversations. Six weeks of sightseeing in the most culture-rich city I’ve ever laid eyes on. Six more weeks of partying, studying and building friendships with locals and other exchange students from all over the world.

Still, if I were to allow myself a quick glace back over this exchange, my glass-half-empty brain would highlight all of the things I didn’t do. It would remind me of the neighborhoods I haven’t seen, the foods I haven’t tried and the people I haven’t met. Madrid is the kind of city in which there is so much going on that no matter how much you do, you always feel you haven’t done enough.

That’s all okay, because I’ve still got six weeks. Six more weeks that I plan to make the most out of, because I know I’ll never have another experience like this ever again. I don’t want to close the book until I’ve finished writing the story.

Jonny K

Last Post – but first, let me take a…

Hey all,

One month to go in the semester, and things are starting to wrap up. The past two weeks have featured a lot of concluding events and traditions for seniors, which I have been able to take part in as a senior myself. Definitely the coolest happening was last Saturday, which was a combo day for Holi and Bacchanal. I had never celebrated Holi before, and it was something else – paint everywhere. I quickly rushed back to my room to shower, and then headed to Bacchanal, a free concert for all students on the steps of Low Library (try doing that for our 50000+ students at Robarts U of T). This year Bacchanal featured the Chainsmokers and Lupe Fiasco, as well as some local artists. The word Bacchanal comes from the Roman god Bacchus, the god of wine, so it was naturally a pretty rowdy event.

IMG_2184

The Show Goes On

Chainsmokers #selfie

Chainsmokers
#selfie

I was also in Washington DC, with this year’s group of Killam Fellows. It was a great event, that featured museums and monuments, a visit to the world-famous Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Washington Nationals home opener. More than this though, it was a chance to reunite with those I had met in September, and to reflect on our experiences on the other side of the Canada-US border.

At the Nats Home Opener

At the Nats Home Opener

And so, the perfect segue into my final thought about my time here.

While I was at the Newseum in DC (one of the most original and interesting museums I’ve ever been to), I came across an old copy of the American Constitution (from the 18th century). IMG_2036This treasured document is still taught, memorized and analyzed today. Who knows the beginning of the Canadian Constitution? Some of you probably do, but it hardly has the same significance as it does in the States.

Why is that? In my opinion, it stems from one of the more insightful things I’ve heard here: America was not founded with any inherent spatial constraints, or official social barriers to entry – it is based on an idea. Space is finite and determined, while ideas are interpretable and infinite. Belief in the ‘American’ idea – an idea that exists independent of economic performance – is the fuel that keeps America’s image going strong. While in Canada we see, to the south, a declining hegemon, saddled by debt and falling behind, over here America has never been stronger. There is definitely the belief that as long as America ‘sticks to the script,’ it will prevail.

America has almost always been at war since its creation. Oftentimes, these wars are said to come about from economic motivations – in Iraq for example. But more than this, I believe, is the need to have the American idea triumph over opposing ideologies, whether that opponent is ‘Communism,’ or the even more vague ‘Terror’ – often taken to refer to Islamic fundamentalism. So, as the centrifugal forces of gerrymandering, China scaring, climate change, healthcare and the like lead to the increased polarization of adversarial doctrines, is America soon to be at war with itself? Hyperbolic yes, but seems to follow.

What does this say about ‘America’s Hat’ to the north: Canada! Well, the most important thing I think it says is how different Canada, and Canadian culture, is to American. If the most important aspect of America are its ideals, we should look at this as a point of difference. While I don’t believe that Canada has different ideals than America, it is the value that we are willing to place on ideals that differs. Canada is a younger country, prone to large shifts in thinking to suit our times. We are unafraid to confront important policy issues, and heck we were even willing to have the vote on Quebec sovereignty – twice (meanwhile clashing ideas in America have led to war)! Because there is less of an a priori value placed on our initial ideals, we are more open to change. In America, the word ‘freedom’ is an automatic trump card. Play that, and the other side is automatically placed far on the defensive. In Canada, the introduction of new controversial ideas does not stifle the conversation, it creates one. Nowadays, we see a tension in the US, between whether or not we want to stick to the causes of the system – hoping for good effects – or look at the effects of the current system, and address the root causes to produce better ones; healthcare is an example of this. Seems like a pretty fundamental difference to me.

I am so thankful to the Killam Fellowship, the CIE and the IR/History/Polisci departments for their support of my exchange. Going abroad in the last semester is risky, and without the help of those mentioned I would not have been able to keep everything on track. Also, thank you to Victoria College, Trinity College and CIE for their generous financial support, also making my time at Columbia possible. All experiences are memorable (that’s what makes them memories), but I believe this exchange will be a particularly important shaper of the person I will be in the future.

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Signing off – all the best, and thanks for reading!

Sam

O Canada: The Unofficial Guide to Homesickness

Homesickness is inevitable. It doesn’t matter how many amazing people you meet on your exchange. It doesn’t matter how many incredible things you see. It doesn’t matter how much fun you’re having or how busy you keep. If you’re away from home for long enough, you will get homesick.

It took about 7 months out here for me to start feeling it. No, it didn’t hit me like a freight train knocking me into a pit of depression. No, I didn’t lock myself in my room, turn the thermostat to below 0 and then cry tears of maple syrup while carving the national anthem into my wall.

The homesickness is pretty subtle, but it’s there, despite how much I’m enjoying this experience. It’s actually much less about Canada itself than it is about the people there that I left behind. I think the fact that I already go to university across the country from most of my friends and family has prepared me a bit and kept me from from experiencing the worst effects of homesickness. However, it hasn’t made me immune.

Symptoms                 

Here are few behaviors that are usually telltale signs of homesickness.

1. Talking about your country – A lot

Talking too much and too frequently about where you’re from, especially through comparisons, not only shows how much you miss home, but it also makes you sound ethnocentric and unwilling to adapt. Imagine having a foreigner visits your country and in every conversation they throw in a comment like “Yea that’s nice and all, but there I’m from we have…”

2. Too much Facebook

This is a problem for us no matter where we are, but being across the world only accentuates that FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) we feel when seeing pictures our friends having fun doing all the things that we should be there with them doing.

3. Negativity

Luckily, this is one I’ve hardly experienced at all. There’s too much here that I enjoy for me to feel any bitterness whatsoever. However, I do have a couple exchange friends who are not happy at all and they’re just counting days until they get to go home.

Treatments

There is no cure except coming back, but there are a few treatments that might help the symptoms.

1. Keeping in touch –Facebook creeping only makes you feel worse, but actually talking to people from back home is one of the best things anyone can do when they’re homesick

2. Doing what you did before

Although it’s recommendable to adapt to your exchange country as much as possible, it helps to maintain some aspects of your pre-exchange routines. Doing so reminds yourself that things aren’t so different. I still play basketball, watch mostly the same shows and have PB&J sandwiches every morning, no matter how weird they consider that here.

3. Create a bit of Home

Meet people from your back home. Make some food from back home. I’ve been on the hunt for gravy for a long time, and after coming to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist in Spain (they don’t even have a word for it), I had to make it on my own. I was finally able to make some sweet, calorie-dripping poutine for an international potluck.

20140307_211106

Canada = Calories

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Pretty much the only other Canadian in Madrid (happens to also be from U of T)

As for my prognosis, I think I’ll be fine. Like I said, I absolutely love it here, and I’m even starting to consider coming back next year for an internship. But man do I miss Canada, as I’m sure any exchange student misses home too.

Until next time,

Jonathan K

England, Ireland and Scotland

Red telephone box in London

Red telephone box in London

Abbey Road

Abbey Road

For the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to travel across the English Channel to the huge, more or less, island of the UK. I planned this trip with Lucas, a friend of mine from Canada. We both agreed to meet up at London’s Heathrow airport. I flew in from Berlin and he came all the way from Toronto. We saw various different cities and many great experiences were had.

View of the Thames River

View of the Thames River

Lucas and I in front of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Lucas and I in front of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

The first leg of the trip started in the massive city of London. First, we saw of course all the sights that tourists must see: the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and so on. We even went to see Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and then took a trip to Abbey Road looking like goofs as we were tried to imitate the Beatles album cover. One night we attended an Arsenal soccer game. It was my first ever soccer game and it was very entertaining. The crowd was packed with fans cheering chants and going crazy.

Arsenal soccer game

Arsenal soccer game

There was one shock to me with going to London for the first time (or the entire UK for that matter): driving on the left side of the road. I remember staring at the traffic at one busy intersection, trying to grasp such a foreign concept. On one occasion, I almost got simultaneously hit by a car and then a street cyclist. They actually paint on the streets at crossing points: “LOOK RIGHT”. I guess this is for all the new people like myself to the city who are simply not used to such rules of the road.

A must for those new to the traffic rules

A must for those new to the traffic rules

Our travels then took us north to Manchester. After about 4 hours in the bus, we arrived in this industrial city. Firstly, there was already a change in the dialect. The people became harder to understand, even though they were speaking English. We walked around the city, looking at famous landmarks and buildings. Also, from the people we had spoken to, they were all fans of the Manchester soccer team and they did not like other football clubs. They made that very clear with us.

Liverpool was our next destination. This was my favourite city of our whole trip. It is a port city, so there was an amazing waterfront. Even worse than Manchester, the people here were almost impossible for me to understand. Numerous times we had to ask some individuals to please repeat themselves as we had no clue what they were trying to say. The Beatles came from Liverpool and hence we had to visit the Beatles museum. It was a great experience, taking us through the history of one of the greatest bands ever.

The Beatles Museum in Liverpool

The Beatles Museum in Liverpool

To change up our mode of travel, we took an 8 hour ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. We were pleasantly surprised with the whole experience. We expected it to be simply a wooden bench and a loud engine while we were trapped for the whole trip within a metal hull. Instead, it was quite luxurious! There was a great on-board restaurant, a cinema, sleeping cabins, lounges and cafés. It didn’t even seem like we were on a ship, as the engine was so quiet.

The ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. Liverpool city skyline in the background

The ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. Liverpool city skyline in the background

Belfast was a cool city. There is a great history and it is similar to parts of Toronto. Kind of like Queen Street West. We saw the Queen’s University, the harbour, an old jail and we were even there when the Belfast Film Festival was taking place. We saw a very strange movie and I am still trying to figure out what it was about exactly. It was probably the worst movie I have ever seen in my life. It was called “The Distance”. Look it up and try to watch it if you can.

The Scottish Highlands- breathtaking

The Scottish Highlands- breathtaking

The last city on our list was Edinburgh, in Scotland. Comprising of a central castle on top of a hill, many old and beautiful buildings, parks, a rich history and Scottish accents, Edinburgh is a great city. One night, we did a haunted tour into one of the ancient vaults underneath the old city. It was quite creepy. The highlight of our stay was a 12 hour bus tour of the Scottish Highlands. We went all the way up to the northern part of Scotland and it was beautiful. There were mountains, rolling hills, lakes and little villages. We even saw the famous Loch Ness Lake where the mysterious monster is supposed to live.

Loch Ness Didn't catch a glimpse of the monster

Loch Ness
Didn’t catch a glimpse of the monster

Well, that was about my experience travelling to the UK. Much was seen, many kilometres were travelled, and now we are back in Berlin. I will show Lucas the main sights in the capital of Germany. Thus far, he is really enjoying the city. For me, my second semester starts next week. I had enough of a break- time to learn again! :) It is hard to believe that all of you back home are now writing exams and I am just starting. Just another difference I guess between the two university systems.

Final Thoughts

Paris

How does one begin to conclude the end of something incredible?

In all my blog posts, I have tried very hard not to romanticize Paris or the exchange experience. But I think the time for critique and for the cynicism so in vogue with intellectuals is over. Paris simply is. It exists for our interpretation. I will try to assign descriptors, but any attempt will inevitably fall short.

As much as the time for critique has passed, it is not yet time for critical reflection. With one week of class remaining, and two weeks left in France, I can barely start to describe the incredible things I have experienced this month, not to mention offer an insightful reflection on my entire experience. With more time and distance, I would be able to extract the themes, the lessons, the threads that will shape this experience into some sort of coherent dialogue. For now, I can only endeavour to sort through a jumbled mix of sadness, denial and deep gratitude.

View of Montmartre & Le Figaro

View of Montmartre & Le Figaro

It is difficult not to become somewhat teary-eyed when attending my last classes. Time seems to have contracted with the start of my last month in France until every day, every hour has become saturated with feeling. Everything is more meaningful. Every little detail has become precious and new. As much as time seems to pass so much faster, Paris seems to have been distilled to a series of intricate instances – the smell of fresh bread from the bakery downstairs, the snatches of fast conversation, the cool bite of the wind, the press of people as I mutter pardon while hurrying to class.

It is also incredibly difficult to contemplate the end of such an incredible journey. And my time in Paris is very much a journey in learning about the world, about people, and most importantly, about myself. I could have learned the same had I stayed in Toronto, but I would not have learned as quickly, as powerfully, or as pleasantly as I have now.

I started my study at University of Toronto with the decision to go study abroad. In many ways, and perhaps paradoxically, going on exchange was a safe choice for me. Sure, I will be living in a foreign country, learning a foreign language, and accustoming myself to a foreign culture, but it was something for which I had years to mentally prepare. But for all my plans and ideas, this experience went far beyond what I had expected.

It has challenged me. And it has changed me.

My experience has not always been positive, but it has always forced me to be honest with myself. It has forced me to re-evaluate my priorities and my values. I am endlessly frustrated with the administration at Sciences Po, but I am infinitely grateful for the people I have met. These people, so incredibly diverse even after having lived in Toronto for the better part of my life, are the pillars of my time in Paris. We have stumbled through the streets of Paris, awed and lost together. We have explored the countryside and other countries together, always eager to look for something new, something meaningful and something that strikes our fancy. I have had provocative and ruminating conversations in cafes, hunched over the tiny cups of espresso, emulating those great literary figures in bygone days. I have butchered and reconstructed my French, and realized that for all the political and cultural differences between us, we all shared the same worries and the same dreams.

I think this exchange has given me a personal experience with the commonality of humanity, which is infinitely more precious and hopeful than any of my classes on the economy or on defence and security.

Giverny - Monet's water lilly garden

Giverny – Monet’s water lilly garden

Exchange is not the only opportunity out there to experience the world. But these opportunities do not come easily. There is a often quoted sentence from Hemingway.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

It is an apt statement. Paris is cruel and infinitely kind towards her children. And as her child, even for a few short months, I will always carry a part of her with me.

I would extend this quote to all exchange experiences. No matter where you go for your exchange, if you open yourself, the city, the people, and the culture will stay with you.

People have different things to which they are striving, different things they desire. Exchange was mine. And it may very well be yours. Good luck to every one of you on your personal journeys.

Au revoir, et à bientôt. 

Grace Gao

 

Should you have any questions, or just want to talk, you can reach me at my utmail address.

Nearing the End – Part One

Hej hej!

I imagine at this moment many of my friends back at UofT are practicing some form of extreme studying in preparation for their upcoming exams. I however, am sitting comfortably at my desk, drinking coffee, while enjoying the incoming rays. Since classes are taken sequentially here, I only ever have a maximum of one exam at a certain time. However, some professors choose to forgo the exam altogether, in favour of written assignments and oral presentations. For me, by the time I am finished my studies here in Lund, I will only have written two exams for the entire academic year. Okay, yes, I’m totally bragging right now, but if you want something to feel better about then perhaps you can take solace in the fact that my final course only finishes June 5th. That is, I’m in class for minimum one additional month longer than the average UofT student. Although this may seem like a cruel fate for many of you, I actually don’t mind it. As I have been saying throughout my year of blogging, academic life is way less stressful here. I think the Swedes have a much better balance between work/academics and personal life than what we experience as students back home. Plus, with the extended academic year, this means I get to stay in Sweden longer! I am quite pleased about this because the days are getting longer, brighter, and warmer all the time. The sunlight crept past my curtains around 6am this morning, while last night I was enjoying the sunset around 8pm. After a fairly long and dark winter, it would be disappointing not to experience the Swedish spring and summer.

This past Friday my class had an excursion to the Helsingborg waste treatment facility, which was quite interesting. I had not been to one of these facilities since grade school, and although it can be easy to dismiss such an excursion as unpleasant because of the fact that it deals with wastewater, it really is such an important community service that residents should probably have a basic understanding of. This particular facility is special in regard to their process for separating phosphorous from the water. That is, they use a biological separation process instead of the more common chemical separation process. We finished the tour of the water treatment facility around noon and headed back to Lund by train. Once arriving, a group of us decided to go for a final fika (coffee + treat) before saying goodbye for the Easter holidays (that’s right, I have an entire week off, none of this silly long weekend business). Luckily for me, many of the international students are sticking around Lund and Malmö during this holiday, which means I’ll have some peeps around to plan some hikes with.

Friday night I found myself visiting some friends in Malmö. Although Malmö is much smaller than Toronto (~300,000 residents) it does remind me slightly of home. This is where you see lots of small scale food vendors, cafés that make good coffee (a true rarity), bars that sell cheap(ish) beer, and hipsters with their fixed gear bikes (sorry Salle).

Saturday brought with it some beautiful weather, so a small group of us biked to Lomma, a nearby coastal town. We bought some bread, cheese, and other assorted snacks and then head to the beach. Although it was sunny, the wind kept things a bit on the chilly side. Meaning, coats and scarves were required.

So this is going to be my last post for a while. It is actually suppose to be the final post, but since I’m not finished until June, I’m hoping the CIE will let me fit in one additional blog entry to summarize my final month abroad.

Until then!

Abby

Skiing in Val Thorens

Hi again!

I’m writing this from Toronto where I’ve been spending my break living in Robarts along with everyone else.

It’s funny to think that just a week ago, I was skiing in sunny France. Actually, it’s sad, not funny. My friends and I were looking forward to our ski trip for months, and now it’s done and I don’t know where the time has gone! I guess all that’s left to do is reminisce.

I had never been skiing in actual mountains before. The view was beautiful… but also blinding. You couldn’t leave indoors without sunglasses or goggles on. The weather was perfect, if not too warm. Every day we’d eat lunch on a rock and just hang out in the sun.

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It was cloudy and windy just one day, and because of that, many of the slopes were shut down. As someone that’s used to skiing in Canada, it was a bit funny.

Skiing was admittedly difficult. My friends were used to skiing in the mountains so they were better than me and I struggled to keep up. I still managed to have fun, though, and not kill myself, which is always good. And the mountains were gorgeous!

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Unfortunately, it was a ski trip organized by a student committee so the accommodation wasn’t great. The walls were so thin it felt like there were constantly people in our room. What can you do. Luckily, we didn’t spend much time there. We were too busy, between the slopes and student events at night.

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Outdoor club

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Bundled up on the slopes

From hearing stories from my friends who are also studying abroad, it seems like going skiing is some sort of rite of passage, something you have to do while on exchange. I’m not sure that that’s true, but I sure did enjoy myself!

It was nice to have a short break before delving into my final essays. If you need me to find me, I’ll be crying over my computer at the library.

Good luck everyone!

– Veronika