Finding Good Friends

I have never considered myself to be the type of person that has a very large friend group. I generally get along with most people, but I have one or two very close friends. In the past few months, this has changed for me. I’m not sure if I have just never met people that I could be this close with, or if I’m just more committed to making friendships work (since they’re much harder as you grow up). Whatever the reason, I am grateful that it’s happened, because I could not imagine going through life without these people.

Whether it’s people I’ve known since kindergarten, for a couple of years, or just a few months, the people I am choosing to spend my time with, whether it’s through phone calls, text messages, hand written letters, or in person, are making me happy and challenging me to be a better friend and person.

I know I can text my friends at any point in the day and any one of them will listen to me complain about my usual problems, or celebrate with me when I have good news to share. I always feel bad for ranting about little problems or bragging about the good things that are happening in my life, but they challenge me to accept that it’s okay to be proud of yourself, or upset over things that probably don’t mean much in the long run.

I have friends that have similar interests to mine, or at least take interest in my passions because they know how important they are to me. It’s so refreshing to know that I can ramble on about my favourite TV shows or have a conversation about musical theatre without having to stop and answer questions. There is nothing like being surrounded by people who are as passionate as you, it’s an intoxicating feeling, and those conversations could go on for hours.

My friends support my dreams and hopes for the future. Throughout my life and to this day, people constantly tell me that my dream is unattainable, or that once I get my dream job I won’t really like it as much as I think. It’s so overwhelmingly wonderful to have friends who not only support my dreams, but push me to go for them, and would support me along every step of the way.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people in my life. I am constantly blown away by all of you, and I am smarter, more confident and happier for having you in my life. I only hope I can return the favour to each of you and be as good of a friend to you, as you are to me.

 

What I’ve Learned About Myself From Travelling

Fair warning, this blog may get a little cheesy because it is more on the personal side. I did a fair amount of research before coming abroad, and it seemed everywhere people were telling me that I was going to find myself, or Pinterest articles telling me that studying abroad would change my life forever. I didn’t think that was true, or maybe it was true for some people, but I didn’t think I was the type to ‘find myself’. But it happened, and I didn’t even realize. I learned a lot about culture and history while I was travelling, but I also learned a lot about myself. I feel like deep down, I knew all these things already, I just was never given the opportunity to show my talents because a situation never came up or someone didn’t think I could so someone else did instead.

I am a different person when I travel than I am back home. I love the person I am when I travel, I feel like I am really ‘me’. As strange as it sounds, the scariest thing I will encounter on the entire study abroad experience is going home. However irrational it may sound to some, I worry that when I get back to Ottawa I will lose some of that. In any case, this is something I don’t have to worry about for another couple days. It will just be another challenge for me to overcome I suppose.

I like to plan, in fact I think most of the fun of travelling lies in the planning. I’ve never been a ‘go with the flow’ type person, but I sure became one when I was travelling. It was probably one of the least stressful two weeks of my life. Once I accepted that not everything was going to go exactly according to plan (cue me walking to the airport because there’s no public transport or mixing up my flight times) the trip became a lot more fun. I didn’t get upset if I didn’t get to see one of the attractions, I would go to another one. I didn’t get frustrated if the line was way too long, I found a way to entertain myself and avoid the stress of everything not going according to my plan.

I hate getting lost, I hated it before I came abroad and I still hate it. Much like my obsession with planning, I will often refuse to go somewhere unless I have a clear idea of where it is, or I am going with someone who does. Now going on this trip did not make me realize that being lost isn’t really a huge deal, it’s just an adventure. I still don’t enjoy it and I would take photos of maps and directions before leaving, but it didn’t bother me as much as it used it. I was able to laugh it off most of this time when I realized I was lost and then quickly find my way back to where I should be. So not a complete turnaround, but I think it was a step towards finding a balance of control and spontaneity.

I was able to pick up a language faster than I ever thought possible. I feel like I should point out, that I was nowhere close to being fluent in a language, but I was able to speak enough to get by. I feel like it’s become a running joke in my life that I have a strong French background, have taken French classes for 7 years and can still not speak the language very well. Basically all of my friends know it, and honestly it’s kind of a sour spot for me. I would love to be able to speak French, but I always thought that maybe languages weren’t for me. I guess once I was away from all the judgement and people knowing I couldn’t speak a language it became easier. I was able to pick up a few words in almost every city I was in, but when I was in Paris I barely spoke English outside my hostel. Granted all I needed to do was order food, ask for directions and make general small talk at museums and public transport, but I thought it was a huge accomplishment for me, and I am quite proud of myself.

This next one is a bit of a weird one. I’ve always been the type of person who loves to be alone, but also hates doing things alone. There have been way more occasions than I would like to admit that I have cancelled plans because I was the only one who was going to go. One of my biggest fears about going abroad is that I would have a hard time going out and doing things by myself. It wasn’t easy, but travelling solo doesn’t really give you much of a choice. Once I was outside and doing things I was excited about, it became really easy for me to want to go out, and by the end I was trying to find ways to go out without having other people come with me.

This was kind of a longer post, so thank you to anyone who read to the end! Like many of my posts, there are 100 more things I could add to this list, but I feel like these sum it up quite nicely. I really did learn a lot while I was travelling, and my goal is to take as much as I can of what I have learned and integrate it into my daily life back in Ottawa.

Things Not to Tell A Traveller

I knew going into this journey that a lot of people were going to be interested and want to talk with me about this. After I arrived I actually created an FAQ post so that I wasn’t answering the same questions over and over, and everyone would have access to them. However prepared I was for people wanting to talk and ask me questions, I was not ready to be bombarded with other people’s opinions and thoughts on how I should spend my trip. While I appreciate people wanting to talk and give me suggestions, please do not act like you are entitled to make decisions or comment on my decisions. I have created this handy little list of things not to tell me (or anyone else who may be traveling)!

Oh that place/thing is boring, you should really go see this

Again, I appreciate the suggestion, and maybe I will go see what you suggested, but why do you think you can tell me not to go see something I am interested in? If I think something is boring, I am most certainly not going to see it. Everything on my list is on the list for a reason, so please don’t tell me that something I want to see is boring or not worth it.

Oh enjoy it!

This is a really nit-picky thing, but when you hear it from a ton of people, multiple times a day, it gets on your nerves. I know you are just trying to express to me how much fun you want me to have, or something but this is kind of a redundant phrase. I know this is a phrase that people just say when they aren’t sure what else to say, but it makes it really awkward for me. What am I supposed to say to that? I mean obviously I am going to enjoy it or at least try to. Why on earth would I travel through Europe, or anywhere for that matter, and not try to enjoy myself? Please, just find something else to say.

I’m so upset you couldn’t do *blank*

You know what, I probably am as well. I didn’t get to see everything in every place I went to. There simply wasn’t enough time to go everywhere and see anything, so I had to pick and choose and fit in as much as was possible. So please don’t tell me how upset you are. And if you are telling me how sorry you are I couldn’t do something that was never on my list and was instead part of your agenda, don’t apologize. Just read number 1 because I really don’t want to hear it.

So these are fairly blunt, but sometimes these things need to be said. I know everybody means well, but at a certain point it does tend to get on your nerves, especially because travelling is not always the most relaxing experience! I am more than open to talking about my experience and sharing my stories and listening to other people’s stories, but please avoid the phrases above. There are so many more things I could put in this post, so maybe there will be a follow up post!

Is there anything that bothers you when you travel?

Making Friends

I used to be very shy. I would actually argue that I still am sometimes. Meeting new people turns me into this little ball of a high pitched voice, short responses and hiding as soon as I possibly can. Well being on exchange doesn’t exactly let me have the opportunity to do that. I have to put myself out there, and I have to talk to people – whether I like it or not.

Since coming here I have met a lot of people, and I genuinely like a lot of them and am becoming more comfortable around a small group of people. But until today I never felt like I was making real friendships. I have found that it is really easy for me to hide in my room and only interact with people when I need to. While I do love spending time in my room, it can get a little lonely at times. But today changed that for me.

To be honest, I was dreading today a little bit. I start class at 10:00 and I keep going until 17:00. I was not excited. My first class was taught by a guest who put us into groups where we had to work together. The task was fairly simple and one I have done before: name the tv or movie based on the theme song. I actually bonded with a lot of people over my lack of knowledge of popular UK television. Doctor Who wasn’t even on the list, I mean that’s not fair!

My second class was actually the first lecture we were having so I was a little nervous about having to meet a new group all over again. While I was walking there, I passed a teacher who leads one of my lectures and one of my seminars. She recognized me and stopped to say hi and ask how I was doing because she remembered that I was an exchange student. That was amazing. It turns out, she was teaching this class as well. She likes to start a new class by having everyone share a bit about themselves. I dreaded this the first time she had done it, but this time it was fun because she already knew me and she knew what kind of questions to ask so that it wasn’t awkward (mainly: weather here versus weather in Canada). A lot of the students in the class had just returned from exchange so we all shared stories for a bit. The best part was that people were actually interested in listening to me talk about my life. One girl stayed after class and asked if we could go for coffee sometime. She said she would love to hear more about Canada and she could even show me around Glasgow. That was amazing, and I am really looking forward to making plans with her.

I was excited for my last class, with the same teacher I mentioned above. I spent a lot of time before class talking with a few of the girls beside me, one of them even knew the town I grew up in! It’s a pretty small town so even up in Ottawa some people don’t know where it is. We’re working on an experiment in that class, and I really like the girls in my group. There is another group doing the same topic as us, so we spent most of the class together running the experiment ourselves and taking turns putting our hands in ice water. After we had finished, we had some time left so we all sat and talked about our travel experiences (one girl had just come from exchange in Holland and another had travelled to Thailand not long ago). It was nice to sit with a group of girls and just chat like I might do at home with my friends. It was also the first time I really noticed a difference in the way they speak. Not so much the accents, but the actual language being used to express different things. It was awesome but kind of hard to follow at times…

The cherry on top of the cake was running into people that I knew on the way home. One of the girls from my flat was going for a run and she said she had knocked on my door before she left and was upset that I wasn’t there. This is such a random thing, but it makes such a difference when you are new somewhere. I remember the first time at Carleton I ran into someone in the tunnels. It makes you feel like you are starting to get to know a place and the people in it.

So for the first time today, I felt like I was really fitting in here. It’s not like I have been miserable since coming here, I actually haven’t been hit with the homesickness yet. In fact the closest I’ve come to wanting to go home is when I talk to people from work – I kind of miss my job. But 23 days into this adventure and I feel like I am starting to make real friends as opposed to the people you hang out with out of convenience. And that feels pretty damn good.

Politics

I am not embarrassed to admit that I know next to nothing about politics. I barely understand the politics of my own country, let alone the politics of any other country. Actually, I might know more about the American government than I do about my own.

Now I may not know a lot about politics, but I really love discussing them, and back home one of my favourite things to do when my friends and I got together was listen to them have discussions about world politics. I have a lot of brilliant friends who have an incredible amount of knowledge on these things, and they all have great ideas and opinions. I also have a lot of opinions, but they are not as well thought out or based in as much logic as most peoples.

I still miss those discussions with my friends, and they are one of the things I am most looking forward to when I get back, but as it turns out, the people here aren’t that different. On more than one occasion, we have sat down and talked about the politics around the world.

I have met people from all over the world (including Kenya, Australia, Namibia, Yemen, India and Hong Kong). They all come from such interesting cultures, and they know a lot about their respective governments. They have taught me so much about all the issues they are having with their governments and in their countries and I think that it is incredible how involved they all are.

It is one thing to sit in Canada with my Canadian friends and talk about global politics, but it is an incredible experience to sit with people who live in these countries and experience the hardships that they are going through.

The Little Things

I was prepared to experience culture shock when I moved to Scotland. But it hasn’t exactly happened the way I thought. In many ways, Glasgow is similar to Ottawa. I am not shocked by the different accents, or even that they drive on the wrong side of the road. Although not knowing how to cross the road has been slightly problematic. There are many little things that make me realize exactly how different my new life is.

Light Switches

In Ontario, we flip our light switches up to turn them on, but it is the opposite here. On the bright side, the word ON is printed at the top, so when you do turn it on, it tells you.

Street Signs

I miss road signs. Some roads have signs on the buildings on the corner telling you which street it is, but a lot of the smaller ones don’t. Surprisingly, I have managed not to get lost yet. I don’t know how anyone gets around this city.

Brands

Grocery shopping has never been so hard for me. I love doing groceries, but the first time I was walking around Tesco, I walked out with pasta and butter because I didn’t know what anything else was. I have brands in Canada that I like and that I consistently buy, and having to try new brands is not really my favourite pastime.

Late Lunch

I don’t know if this is a European thing in general, or just this city, but everyone eats lunch so late. I’m used to eating around 12:00, but a lot of my friends wait until 1:30 to eat, and lunch is their largest meal of the day.

Birds. 

They are everywhere, and they do not care if there are humans around. I have been closer to birds here than I ever have, and it’s a little uncomfortable. They’re on every street just walking around, and people feed them, which means more come. Since windows don’t have screens here, they could literally be in my room if I opened my window.

‘Crisps’

They are quite literally made from potatoes. I’m sure North American chips have some potato products in them, but these are just sliced potatoes and I respect that. Even if the Salt and Vinegar ones taste like drinking a bottle of vinegar.

Bread Tags

Bread tags don’t exist here in my experience. There are little plastic strips that stick together that go around the bread bag. I never thought I would miss bread tags.

Thickness of Objects

Okay, let’s all be mature, but everything is thicker over here. From the keys to the coins, it is all a lot thicker and heavier than it is in Canada. My wallet has become so much heavier because of the weight of the coins

There are many things that make life different here, but these are the ones that really stood out to me during my first couple days.

If there is anything you guys would like me to write about in regards to my exchange, let me know!

Change

This time last year my life was very different. I was working at a job I didn’t like, I wasn’t happy with my program at school, and I wasn’t happy with the choices I was making friends wise. I was very happy, don’t get me wrong! I think I needed to be out of the situation to realize how much better my life could have been.

A year later I am starting to make my program work for me, I am working at a job that I absolutely adore, I have learned who my true friends are, and I am leaving for a semester in Scotland in 2 days.

Seeing that I am leaving so soon and starting a new chapter in my life, I wanted to do something drastic to celebrate. I wanted to change my appearance to match the way I am feel, and what better what to do that than with hair?

I have been dying my hair since I was in grade nine, so changing a colour wasn’t exactly the drastic change I was looking for. One thing I have always shied away from was cutting my hair. I have had long hair as long as I can remember and it was never cut shorter than an inch below my shoulders.

I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting my hair for a while now, and I figured that this was a major change in my life and I was ready to do it. For those who may not know, I work at a hair salon, so advice on cuts and styles was not hard to come by. We decided on a cut that rests at my collar bones and I waited about a week from the day we decided until the actual appointment to make sure I could do it.

While ultimately this is just a hair cut, hair is important to how we feel about ourselves (as horrible and materialistic as that may sound). I wanted to represent the changes in my life I felt I was going through and so I documented the transformation!

The before picture!

The before picture!

Going in I thought I would be really nervous, but I was really excited. We ended up changing the colour as well, to something that would be striking, but easily maintainable while I was away for an extended period. I’m sure there are fantastic hair stylists in Scotland, but I have grown attached to my staff here in Ottawa, so I am not going to get it touched up while I am away.

This is happening!

This is happening!

It took about 30 seconds for my hair to be gone. My hair grows pretty quickly, but it took a lot longer than 30 seconds to get this long.

The colour was the easy part. Like I said, changing my hair colour is nothing new to me, so this was a breeze.

The hair dye is in!

The hair dye is in!

We touched up the cut a bit, since we just chopped at my ponytails, and then threw some curls in it for a nice style.

After!

After!

I love this cut. I was smiling the whole time, and everyone (myself included was surprised). I feel like I look a lot older and more sophisticated and for someone in her twenties who looks like she’s sixteen, this was a huge thing for me.

It is weird for me to have short hair, it hasn’t been this short in over a decade. While I think I will miss being able to put my hair in a bun or doing fancy updos, those aren’t things I do everyday so I think I will be okay. Hair grows and I can enjoy it short for now, and when it grows out, who knows what I will do with it next!

Sometimes making a change is just what you need to realize that it’s not that big of a deal and life goes on. Sometimes making a change makes you realize just how far you have come.