Why I Decided to Study Abroad

3.1% of Canadian students choose to study abroad. 

Let that sink in. Honestly, it’s kind of super gross. I went to college after a quick stint as a receptionist. All I wanted was to go back to Europe, but post-secondary is one of those things I thought I really needed. I also wanted to get behind the rope at museums and cultural sites and thought, “Yes, I shall be an archeologist.” I didn’t even know how to spell archeologist. I had never seen Indiana Jones (still haven’t). Imagine my bewilderment when I was walking down the steps from my rude awakening about what archeology really is i.e a physical anthropology lecture, and saw a big sign: “Study Abroad in Europe”.

The program was offered by the college and for four months I’d tour around Rome, Florence, Venice, Lucerne, Paris, and London. The museums would be my classroom and I would be one with Art History (which is a hella lot closer to what I thought archeology was). This was March. The program included a textbook reading and small classroom component in August, and in September I was off.

I loved the learning. There’s something magical about looking at a painting in real life, at the  real time and hearing about it. Also, little tidbits like this:

That’s some graffiti by Michelangelo. Who knows that other than an art history professor?

I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t all sitting at cafe’s in Venice and shopping in London. I had some hard days- I was very ill at the start of the trip in Rome and didn’t find a social group. Everyone was quite clique-y and I kind of got lost in the shuffle. I was told in Florence that everyone thought I was a horrible know it all – a side effect of being to sick to party and actually doing the assignments. Luckily my solo traveller heart kicked in and I still had a great time.

Even with the little social fejula I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I grew so much as a learner and a traveller. I learned that social whatever’s didn’t matter as much which has helped me through pretty much every single interaction I’ve had with humans since- especially when I’ve travelled. I’ve learned that if you need to absorb information try looking at it in a more active, realistic way.

Also, I learned that travel isn’t something I can just “get out of my system”.

I did my field school through Langara College, where I was going. The credits are pretty universally transferrable, and they do some continuing ed programs if you just want to take a trip with none of the work. Almost all universities have an international office if you’re not wanting to do the whole tour thing, but instead just want to do a full on exchange. My cousin did one in Milan and literally talked his way backstage at the Versace runway show. Magic.

Some I haven’t been on, but have been wanderlusting pretty hard on:

  • Sea|mester  You spend the amount of time on a yacht learning how to sail, getting your PADI, and taking classes like Marine Biology. Also, they get the most pun points.
  • Where There Be Dragons  These look so beautifully curated. If you read reviews you’ll be just… I don’t even know. I want to go. I wish I had known about these earlier.
  • Kalu Yala You live in an eco town in the middle of the jungle. This is so far in my wheelhouse it hurts.
  • Semester at Sea This is one of the most well known study abroad programs. Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela were guest lecturers. This program is actually bananas. Block off like 2 hours for the website because that’s seriously how long I took forgetting I was doing a blog post.

If you’ve been on any of these, let me know! I love first hand accounts. Also, you’re probably super cool.

And, if you’re rich as and are all like “damn, I want to drop some cash right now!” I’ll gladly let you fund me on some educational adventure. 😉

Why I Decided to Study Abroad

Guest Post by Tom from Something Pagan

I first met Sandy about two years ago in Bruges whilst backpacking Europe, and she is without a doubt one of my favourite people I’ve ever met. So when she sent me a Facebook message yesterday and asked if I’d like to write a guest post for her blog, I naturally said yes. She didn’t even have to pose it as a question, there is a handful of people in my life that, whatever they ask of me the answer will always be yes. I’m currently in Canada on a working holiday visa. I first applied for the visa for a bird, she was a yank and I English, and America being impossibly difficult to legally emigrate to, Canada seemed the best option. That relationship didn’t work out, and I’d abandoned my plans for Canada, until I checked the exchange rate and sent off some applications for a few jobs in Alberta, and figured “what have I got to lose?” So here I am, having now been here for a week, staying with family in Cambridge, Ontario and starting a job in Banff, Alberta this Friday. I’ve traveled a few times before, but this trip is a whole other kind of adventure. For a start, my visa is two years, so it will be the longest I’ve ever been away from home, secondly I’m here to work, not just to blow all my money on booze. The biggest difference between this trip and all those in the past, is that I don’t see this as a youth hosteling, backpacking type trip. I just got back from Toronto where I stayed in a hotel as opposed to a hostel for the first time whilst outside the UK alone. I’ve always been a fan of hosteling, but I think I’ve grown out of the whole hostel culture. My main problem with hostels is that you fall into a routine where you’ll only ever associate with other backpackers, and while I’ve found some of the coolest people I’ve ever met in hostels, I’ve also met some of the most obnoxious arse holes, and I didn’t want to spend two days listening to some basic bitch, hippie dipshit that thinks they’re some sort of Indiana Jones type adventurer because they got fucked up on Molly at a full moon party in Thailand last summer. It was weird though, when I first arrived, I checked in and set my stuff down in my room and I realised that I was now in a city of over two and a half million people, and I didn’t know a single one of them. I ended up meeting some of the most amazing people over the next two nights, only an insignificantly small amount of the two and a half million in Toronto, but an incredibly significant amount of the however many people I’ve met throughout my 24 years on this earth. I was glad that I’d made the decision to avoid a hostel in the end, and I think I’ll continue to do so where ever I can afford it. Don’t get me wrong, hostels certainly have their advantages, especially for solo travellers, but being the sort of person that will happily sit in a bar alone and talk to every person that sits beside me, I don’t feel I need hostels to meet people. I think the best part of traveling is forcing yourself to step out of your comfort zone, and being alone in a foreign city certainly does that. I’m staying in a hostel for a night in Calgary, but I think it may be my last, unless ever absolutely necessary. My days of youth hosteling are most definitely behind me, but my days of traveling are only just beginning.
 Check out Tom’s writing at https://somethingpagan.wordpress.com/
Guest Post by Tom from Something Pagan

The Planning of a Trip Crossing Canada Part 1: The dream and inception

In Paris I met two awesome guys who were just beginning their travelling (One of them is a writer. Check out his road stories here). They walked places because they were scared of the metro, so we drank with them, explained the system, our views on life… all the wonderfulness that I call travel friend magic. While they were talking about their trip and asking for advice and such, and they said, “one day we’ll be as wise as you”. It was weird, because I don’t think of myself as wise, and I’m pretty sure my liver’s with me on this one. But I guess I do sort of have a handle on this. A lot of the time I get asked to help people I’ve met with their trip planning process and it tends to go as smoothly as a trip can. So, I’m going to plan my next big trip. I’ll write about every part of the process.

Life just gets better when there’s a trip in the works.

The first question: Where?

I plan trips, look at trips, revolve around trips all the time. I need a constant supply of dreaming or else I get really, really depressed. This makes where the hardest question. Where do I commit to? In high school it was Europe. I love Europe. It calls my heart. But, I think on this trip I need to do something different. I think it might be a Canadian thing, but I’m big on knowing my ancestry- I know how my Nonno and Nonna came to Canada, and how their ancestors ended up in Italy. I know my dad’s a mix of English, Irish, and Scottish. If you go far back enough you’ll hit French and Dutch. I curse that part for making me the tallest person ever. I love knowing exactly what parts of the world make me, me. Seriously, that genetic testing thing rings all my bells. I would die of happiness if I’m part Neanderthal. Can you really know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re from?

My Mother had a dream of packing up a car and driving across Canada with a map on the roof. I don’t know about doing that now, though my dad has delusions involving Vespa’s and teardrop trailers. No thank you. However, the cross Canada idea is a good one. How can I see other places and not appreciate where I live? Also, it’s super awkward when people are like,
“Oh! I love Canada! I did this, this, this and this.” Now, due to having family back east and a Mother who loves the dickens out of Canadian history I’ve seen more of Canada than a lot of people I know, but my response is usually, “I watch tv in sweatpants.” So, this next big trip? Let’s do some Canada.

The second question: Basic Logistics.

How do we get around? I’d love to rent an RV, but I’d need friends. Most of my friends think the idea of me in an RV 24/7 is a little… unfavourable. Thanks guys. Plus, while I have a sabbatical option for my job others can’t commit to a full however long that would take. I need a trip where it can be a “meet for a leg of it” option. Then I thought of it. Via Rail.

They have unlimited rail packages. Coast to coast by train. Including stops to Churchill- one in the summer for belugas and one in fall for polar bears. All the other appendages too, but polar bears and belugas get special mention because they’re freakin’ BELUGA WHALES AND POLAR BEARS!

The third: Broach it with friends.

I do this every trip. So far no one’s come with me. But, I did pop a little “hey guys, I’m doing this next summer! Who wants to come along?” into the group chat. Like I mentioned, this style is perfect for people to come on a leg or two.

Fourth: The dreaming.

I have a whole year. I need to get an idea of what I want to do and how much things cost.

Also, I am obsessed with travel books. I’m a writer, I’m obsessed with books in general. (side story, one time my friend Heahter and I were at a bar and she saw a guy she thought was hella hot so I struck up a conversation and he was like, “I’m a writer.” So naturally I was all, “what are you reading?!” and he just went, “I don’t read.” Heather and I looked at each other like wtf even is this guy? Writers read.) Upon further investigation I found Rough Guides is due for a new edition of their Canada book- it will arrive in my mailbox on June 23rd.

I love guidebooks, and I like Rough Guides. I find them laid out well, and they tend to hide the super history in the back so if you want it you can get it but it doesn’t like assault you with info you need to sift through.

Guidebooks are all well and good, but if I’m going to see some historical stuff, I want a good handle on it. And I need credits. So my course options are Canadian History to 1867, Post- Confederation Canadian History, and History of British Columbia. I shall take them, learn, and bother everyone around me.

Now I let it simmer. The next step is a budget and savings plan, but I like to save that for when my excitement is at peak. Right now I’m going to ride that sweet, sweet, trip anticipation high.

PS: Any suggestions/stories are much appreciated!

The Planning of a Trip Crossing Canada Part 1: The dream and inception

Big-Time Beauty Day!

Whoo! For obvious reasons I’ve been doing a lot of books and travel lately. I think it’s time for some superficial, super fun time! Here’s all the makeup stuff I love that I haven’t talked about yet. Also, if you need a gift for anyone who likes makeup this is your jam.

Just a disclaimer though, I’m not a beautician, makeup artist, or hair stylist. I’m using this based off what works on my slightly acne prone combination skin and fine, drugstore coloured hair.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellaire Water

For those of you who don’t know what micellaire water is welcome to my life before The third time I went to France. Basically, in the 1910’s (Edwardian era? Any history buffs in the house to tell me what the term is?) The Parisian water was super gross. It still remains quite hard, which is amazing for your hair but sadly super bad for your skin. Thus micellaire water was invented. It’s basically tiny oil molecules suspended in soft water. Because chemistry is a thing like attracts like and all the oil in your skin wants to party with the oil in the micelles. You pop some on a cotton pad and go to town. This stuff is no rinse, so even if you’re super tired, feeling super lazy, or trying to get to bed after an ill advised attempt to see if tequila doesn’t bother you anymore (spoiler: it does. it always does) you can take your makeup off. And feel hella french, which is always the goal. I used to think you can only get Bioderma brand in France- and I’m quite loyal to it as I find other brands tend to be a bit too oily- but you can totally get it at Shoppers.

Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese

This stuff is another pharmacy in France find that I figured out way to late you can get in Canada. You can get it at Shoppers, and their beauty store Murale, as well as at the Nuxe website. This stuff does have a scent to it, but it fades quick and I love the scent so much. I use it on my face, hair and body. Even though I feel criminally wasteful using stuff this expensive as a body lotion what it does to my skin is so worth it. I have really ashy skin and this just does everything to make it not bad. It also absorbs super quick unlike bio oil, so you don’t have to hang out in a towel for 30 minutes after you put it on. It doesn’t change makeup colours when you use it on your face. It can get super intense if you put it on your hair though. Literally one drop too much and it’s like you swam in a pot of crisco.

Literally anything by Lollipops, specifically this lipstick

Lollipops is a Parisian makeup brand that is breaking my heart with it’s amazingness. I got this at Monoprix. At least I think it’s this one. The red I got looks darker, but it could be some weird computer screen thing. It’s a moisturizing matte, and the colour is a great pretty neutral red. The quality is amazing, it’s long lasting and has amazing colour payoff for a pretty reasonable price. They need them here. Now.

Forea Luna Mini

This is one for people who, like me, love the crap out of exfoliating. I’ve used this for a few months now and it’s almost paid for itself since I don’t buy literally every scrub I see. I had always wanted a clarisonic, but couldn’t justify the cost of the replacement heads all the time. Plus, I’ve heard tons of reports that it’s pretty intense. I have hardy but fair skin that shows redness kind of easily. With this my face feels exfoliated and fresh but never tight or raw. It’s completely waterproof so you can use it in the shower and makes the cheap face wash feel like a million bucks. I tend to use it once or twice a week to deep clean all the gunk out.

Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover

This stuff is amazing. The glitter one is amazing too. I don’t know how I used to do the whole cotton pad thing. Literally just stick your finger in it and voila. Nail polish gone. It also smells pretty alright too. Note: watch for cuts on your fingers. Ouch.

Beauty Blender

I finally broke down and got one. If you haven’t heard of the Beauty Blender before then you’re missing out on life a little bit. It’s a tiny sponge that you saturate with water and use to put on foundation. It doesn’t sop up product the way a sponge or brush does and the result is really dewy and pretty. Highly recommend.

Living Proof Style Extender

I’m obsessed with face primer so when I saw hair primer I got stupid excited. This stuff does exactly what it says it does. My hair doesn’t get dirty as fast, and it’s a godsend in rainy Vancouver. It also smells amazing. Everything you want in a bottle.

The Original Make Up Eraser

You know the scene in Mulan where she takes off her makeup with a towel and it’s just not there and you’re all “I call the most bullshit.” I take that back because she definitely used this towel.

Tangle Teezer

I have fine hair. Every so often I’ll find a little dreadlock in the top of it and I used to wonder if I should just go with it. Then I remember that I just don’t have enough hair for that and spend painful hours with a comb trying to get them out. Enter Tangle Teezer. It’s magic. It plows through knots and you can use it on wet hair. It’s also great for travel because you don’t have to worry about a brush handle breaking off. Trust me, it’s devastating.

Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey

This stuff is amazing for early mornings and late nights. It goes on sheer but you can build up the colour. It’s great if you tend to be really crap at putting on lipstick. Also, I swear, my friends have tried it too and this looks good on everyone.

London Brush Company Debut Brush Set

I got these brushes and IMATS and I’m in love with them. They make makeup better, and they feel amazing on your face. So soft! I also got the brush shampoo and I’m literally growing clary sage so I can smell it all the time.



Big-Time Beauty Day!

Some Thoughts On My First AirBnB

I’m back! My trip was amazing, and I need to live in Europe. Clearly. My heart is there. For such a short trip- the shortest amount of time I’ve ever been in Europe for- it sure gave me a LOT to process.

We all know I’m a hostel devotee. I love the social atmosphere, I love that it kind of forces you out during the day, and I even weirdly love being in the same room as randoms. It bonds you, and I feel comforted knowing if I die in my sleep I won’t need to wait for someone to smell me. So, when one of the friends I went on this trip with suggested an AirBnB I was…. meh. It was a lot more expensive than hostels we were looking at in the area, and what? we were going to stay in the same apartment? All the time? However, I don’t like to discount things before I try them, so I went along with it. We ended up in a place in Hammersmith in London. The location was good- zone 2 on the tube map. The place was nice. I’d definitely love living in that apartment. However, I couldn’t get over my nagging issues.

First off, it was kind of boring. Luckily I ended up catching up with English friends. If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have had a night out at all. There weren’t many pubs around (super disappointed in that actually. The English are supposed to be the pub people. Have they given the title to the Irish?) and as a result I definitely spent way more time sitting at home at night than I would have otherwise. Also, since there was no mild rustling in the morning of other people we ended up sleeping in wayyyyyyy to late. I felt myself getting comfortable in the way I do when I’m at home. Instead of wanting to do things I wanted to indulge in the jetlag and cosy up. It was cold outside and UK netflix has RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Another thing that got me was the advertising vs. the real thing. We were told there was a bed and a pull out. The pull out was actually a chaise lounge. There was supposed to be a dishwasher. It was broken. The price included towels and linen. Apparently that was a typo and meant towel. There was a cleaning fee. On the intro sheet they still asked that we clean. Most of this stuff was the fault of the actual place we stayed, so okay. Fine.

I think what got me the most is the parallels I see between London and Vancouver. Vancouver is in the midst of a huge housing crisis. There’s tons of units and houses just left empty. (The city of Vancouver is doing a survey on this here. If you live here I urge you to take it.) Some of the people that do own homes or units are putting theirs on AirBnB instead of renting them because it’s a lot more profitable. Tourism is important and it does a lot to help the economy of the place, but so does having places available to rent for the people who live there. When supply is so little rent becomes astronomically unaffordable to the citizens who have to live on a meagre minimum wage. I couldn’t figure out if the place we were staying was somebody’s home, or if they had just styled it to look like it so they wouldn’t be criticized. There was a lot indicating the latter.

Would I stay in an AirBnB again? I can’t think of many reasons why I would. If I was alone or on another trip with friends I’d pick a hostel every time. If I was going with my boyfriend I can’t reason out why I’d pay the same price I would for the luxury of a hotel to stay in an apartment. The only time I can think of where an AirBnB might be my preferred option is if I was on a trip with my extended family. I understand why some people might like them, but overall the experience was pretty…. honestly quite guilt ridden. I think I could get behind it more if people used for their place when they were away instead of making it this weird backdoor hotel market. I mean, if you’re paying hotel prices then get me clean sheets every day and a chocolate on my pillow please.

Some Thoughts On My First AirBnB