Yesterday was the culmination of my five years at university: I was finally able to walk across the stage, only worrying about not tripping, and shake the President of UFV’s hand as my name was announced in the endless list of 2016 graduates.
That’s right, after five years of turmoil, sleepless nights, history and English papers, and multitudes of unfinished readings, I graduated university. It was a great moment – even if it only felt like a fleeting five seconds when I crossed the stage.
For some people, this seems a great accomplishment. For others, not so much. But here, let me put it into perspective…
Jumping from elementary to high school, and university immediately following, I have been attending institutionalized schooling for 18 consecutive years. That’s a lot of school! I did not take a year off between high school and university, and no gap years were taken during my degree. I have worked hard to get through university in one go – even if it took me a little longer than the average four years.
On top of all that schooling, I have been working one or two part time jobs since grade 8. Working these jobs, I was able to pay for half of my university schooling, including a semester in Ireland, and with the help of my parents, I am graduating with no debts from school. In today’s world, I feel like that is a huge accomplishment alone.
My university experience wasn’t like the ones you see in movies or on TV, or probably like many other students you know. I was the student who went to every class, except when extremely ill. I always handed in my assignments on time, I (usually) did my readings, and I wasn’t really involved in clubs or events on campus. My school was more the commuter school – or so I thought.
My semester abroad changed my perspective of who I could be and who I am. I decided that I wanted to meet more people, and become more involved – even if I only had a year left in my degree. So, that’s why I became more involved with study abroad and began writing articles for the school newspaper. It was great to have new experiences, meet other people who had similar interests like me. It was just too little too late! I wish I had found these out when I first started university, having a better opportunity to meet new people instead of striking of conversations with students in classes – students who you might not see again the entirety of your degree.
But to me, that’s not what’s important here. Despite not having the “ultimate university experience,” I still loved my time at university and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yesterday, I was really proud of myself when I got to walk across the stage in front of my family. I was excited to tell them and others that not only was I graduating, but I graduated with distinction (a GPA higher than 3.6) and outstanding achievement. I worked really hard to keep grades that I was proud of through my time at university, just like all my previous school years.
Of course, there are some people I love and miss who couldn’t be here to celebrate with me. My gramma was always proud of me when I brought report cards to her, excited to share my good grades, or to show her the grades I received on papers or midterms in university. I know she would be proud of me, like she always had. And as I went through graduation, I thought of my cousin who was supposed to start university at the same time as me, but never had the chance. And I thought of my great-aunt, who fostered my love of writing by being my pen pal for countless years. I know that they were all there in spirit, with me and watching as I crossed the stage, my inspiration.
Now, the question I find myself facing every time I tell someone I am now a graduate:
“So what’s next?” “What are you going to do now?” or some other form of the same words.
The honest answer: I don’t know. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I am not sure what I want to do career-wise. I know what I enjoy, and I know what I’m good at – hopefully I can find something that balances or brings together the two.
I was talking to a friend the other day about having a plan for the future, and wanting something so badly. He was saying that he has a plan to follow to finish school, find the job he wants, and start his life as an adult. It got me thinking about my life and where I am. When I was younger, even through high school, I always knew what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. Many people always told me that I’d be good at it, too. I did a lot to try to help that plan. Going through university, though, my mind started to consider this plan: was that really what I wanted to do? Almost every class I was in, there were so many students going into the teacher education programs – usually it was more than half the class. How was I ever going to compete with that many people, let alone find a job locally?
Plans have a way of changing – and we all know how change can be terrifying, debilitating. But sometimes, the change is for the better. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that perhaps the plan that you had made for yourself, isn’t the plan that will play out. Sometimes, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever other greater forces, have a bigger and better plan for you than you could imagine, and that’s what you need to follow instead. And even though you don’t know what it is or where it could go, you have to give up control and see where it takes you.
About a month and a half ago, my dad helped me get a job through his company. The day after my last exam, I began work full time as a technical writer. It’s been an interesting change to the type of work I’m used to. I’ve enjoyed learning a new kind of writing and process, and using different computer programs. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day…
Basically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but I don’t think I necessarily need to decide right now. I just want to be happy – and if that means that I need to try out different jobs and careers, then that’s what I’ll do.
Anyways, CONGRATULATIONS to all other graduates of 2016 – whether you are graduating preschool, kindergarten, grade 7, high school, or university! Good luck, go for your dreams, and for fellow university grads, remember: you don’t need to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life in this moment. It’s alright to try different kinds of jobs, have multiple jobs, have non-paying jobs to eventually get to where you need to be – at least, that’s what I tell myself (awkward laughter).
And last update, as mentioned in previous posts, my blog posts might get fewer unless I have more adventures to tell you about in the next little bit. Hopefully some climbing and hiking and things, maybe a little travel like before.
May the road rise up to meet ya
Happy Easter everyone!
You would think that not writing on here would be because I have been incredibly busy, and I would have lots to write about. In fact, I have been quite busy – but not with anything too interesting… I have mostly been consumed by work and school.
I want this blog to not just be about my life, but to be about adventures, travel, living life to the fullest. And at this moment, I don’t feel like any of those are my life.
So, for now, I may be away for a little bit. BUT – I am going to be back very soon with some adventures, I hope. I have some plans for some adventures and travels in the near future and I am excited to write about them.
For anyone still even looking at this page, thanks for sticking around and being patient with me. Life has its ups and downs, and after the amazing adventures I had last year, this year has been a little bit of a down so far. It has been an entire year since I was living in Ireland, having perhaps the best 6 months of my life. It’s been hard being home and not going on adventures like before – but I hope that will change very soon…
So for now: May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – for anyone interested, I’m going to put a link to the articles I have written for the UFV Cascade under my Links tab!
“You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.” – Pinterest
I knew that it would be hard coming home after 7 months away. I always knew. But I wasn’t sure how it would be exactly, just as I hadn’t been sure what it would be like to go abroad.
After being a little too stressed through the first few weeks of school, I made a big decision. Instead of stressing myself out this semester by taking a full course load, I chose, instead, to drop a class. What does this mean? Well, I will now have to take one more semester… I won’t be graduating in December, but in June instead.
And this is okay.
For my own sanity, this was a good move. With my two jobs and the courses I’m already taking, I have been quite busy. But I love my classes and jobs. Coaching again is the best – my athletes are so motivated and I am incredibly excited for this upcoming season! The climbing gym is doing well, with exciting things coming up. And I just published my first official post as editor of the UFV Study Abroad Blog, a post about my adventure. (EDIT: Sadly in 2022 that page was removed!) I will also be writing stories for other students as well. Check my Facebook or Twitter or something for updates!)
With an extra semester, I will be able to take some more interesting classes hopefully, and sort out exactly what I would like to do after I graduate.
The other day, I was watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, in which Rory expertly described what it is like for a student graduating from university: ‘it’s like standing on a cliff, looking into an abyss of fog. You can’t see anything ahead of you and you have no idea where to go. This is the first time in your life that nothing is planned for you and you don’t know what is coming next.’
I know that I am not the only person that feels this way, which makes me feel a thousand times better. Not knowing is terrifying yet exhilarating. You just have to hope that something will come for you, that is just what you’ve been looking for.
Right now I have few goals: to graduate, to find a job that I don’t hate, and to go back to Europe in two years. Keep it simple.
As for all of this political debate happening and the refugee crisis, I am not going to voice my opinion.
Finally, for those of you who know me well, I’ve lost a few people now who were important to me. Four years ago, at the end of September, I lost my cousin. It was incredibly unexpected and she was too young. It was hard on all of our family, but especially my aunt. It still hurts, but we know that she is watching over us, and I know that she was with me on all my adventures in Europe, taking it all in with me. Losing her was really difficult, and I didn’t like to talk about it much. This year, both my Gramma and her sister, my great aunt, passed away. I was close with both of them and it was really hard again. Being home without my Gramma has been really hard – she would have wanted to see everything I brought home, heard all my stories. I am glad that I got to skype with her before she passed, while I was away.
But now I have three people watching over me, with my Papa who was already gone. And I know that they are all proud of me.
And now this post got a lot more serious than I had planned. Hopefully, though, you know me a little better now. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. But I’m moving forward.
“Time won’t make you forget, it’ll make you grow and understand things…” – Pinterest
May the road rise up to meet ya
What every writer dreads – writer’s block. It has finally hit. I am having a hard time sitting down to write for this blog now that I am home. When you’re not travelling every day, you are sometimes hard pressed to find inspiration.
So you make your own.
The past few weeks have been endless attempts to find adventure in my own backyard – hanging out with friends and exploring my home.
I’ve done more hikes, some outdoor climbing, built forts, played with my dog, and begun to get my life in order. School is just around the corner. Literally. I start on Wednesday. I’m excited but terrified to start my final semester. It’s going to be an interesting semester. I’m taking 2 history classes – one is on theory and perspective of the past, while the other focuses entirely on the Holocaust. Both are going to be super interesting, especially after my Epic Euro Trip adventures. I’m also taking an anthropology class on religions around the world, and a media and communications class about Canada.
With all these classes and working, I’m going to be quite busy.
Which brings me to some other news: I got a new job! I’m very excited to say that I will be working as a blog editor for the Study Abroad office at my university. It is the best of both worlds – writing and editing a blog about something that is very special to me. I’m looking forward to being in touch with other students who have studied abroad or are right now, and to encounter other institutions that my university is partnered with. Once it’s up and running, I will definitely tweet a link or something.
Over the next little while, I’m not entirely sure what will happen with this blog. I really want to continue it, but with no travelling or adventuring during school, posts may be further and farther in between. I imagine that I will probably be posting about once a month if I am able to.
For now, I’m going to focus on school and my two jobs, trying to keep busy. Hopefully, I will be able to save up enough money for a trip after graduation or another Euro Trip soon. Once the travel bug bites, it tends to stick pretty close.
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts.
Goodbyes are always hard. But a place is only as good as the people in it.
Well, my time in Waterford has come to an end. I won’t be living in Ireland anymore, within walking distance of all my friends and everything else. No more Irish wind or crazy Irish weather. (Except for when it follows me to other cities and countries.)
These months have flown by, but I think that’s a good thing. Talking to some friends, we agreed that we were busy and (almost) always having a great time. I had so many amazing experiences and I now have memories to last me a lifetime. Not only have I lived halfway across the world from my home, but I have travelled a country as best I could and have even ventured into Europe for my first time.
I have seen castles, cliffs, ancient forts, big and small cities, towns, national parks, amazing coastlines, and famous views and areas. I experienced Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, and the sea of green which consumes it in madness. I’ve tried typical Irish food and have now come to love beer. I spent my birthday away from home for the first time, surrounded by new friends. I travelled to cities in Ireland with people I had known for merely a few weeks.
I experienced the actual European continent for the first time with great friends. I couldn’t have asked for better trip mates or a better trip. We have so many great laughs and memories from that trip, even with the ups and downs of travelling. But, in my opinion, we really grew closer from that adventure and the experiences. I hope to stay in contact and see all of you again very soon.
Of course, my roommate and friend from home definitely helped make things smoother and easier. I can’t imagine how either of us would have survived without the other. There’s always that worry when you are going to be living or travelling with someone you don’t know very well – but we clicked right from the beginning. And I’m so grateful for all of our laughs and talks and walks and trips and 1am too-tired-to-think-so-it-just-becomes-laughing nights. I’m excited for more trips and memories.
Already, I happily look back through my journal and pictures to see the many memories and friends I have made. I am the luckiest person to have met these wonderful people, and to have had such amazing experiences. I cannot even begin to describe in words the positive effects this has had on my life. I learned to live on my own, and deal with whatever comes. It was definitely a learning and growing experience not having any kind of safety net nearby. I was able to discover who I truly am and who I want to be. It was a necessary step towards figuring out what I truly want from life – happiness.
I know it might sound odd to some people, but these past 5 months were truly some of the happiest and most memorable of my life. I was able to gain so much from the experience. I was surrounded by different people and cultures who truly affected me, and people who inspired me to examine myself and my life. I had some serious conversations with some people, sharing life stories in a non-judgmental atmosphere, while the majority of time was just experiencing life, new things, and having fun.
So many people asked me “Why Ireland?” and I never had an easy answer. I think after this experience, I can easily say the cheesiest thing that comes to mind: Ireland actually picked me. Ireland and its quirky ways seemed to be exactly what I needed in my life. I didn’t feel stressed at school, I was going out and doing new things constantly – it was a contrast from my life at home. And I loved it. I really hope I don’t lose any of the things Ireland gave me, but I guess it’s an excuse to visit Ireland frequently to maintain them.
To all my fellow international/ERASMUS students from Waterford, it was a pleasure getting to know you and living this adventure with you! I am thankful for the laughs, the parties, the crazy adventures, and the amazing friendships which have formed from this experience. I wish all of you luck in your futures, and cannot wait to see you again – weather it’s in Canada or your home countries, or maybe even Ireland again!
I honestly don’t think there is anything else I can say, but a certain quote comes to mind that completely sums up my mindset at the close of this adventure:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.
Well, honestly not a lot has happened since I last wrote here. I will highlight a few things but try to keep this one short.
Over the past week and a bit, my friend Kirstin and I have been doing a lot of planning for our trip which will be happening very soon. If I haven’t mentioned it, or you don’t know, Kirstin and my brother will be coming to Ireland at the end of May. I will then show them some of my favourite places before we set out to travel Europe for a whole month!
It’s quite daunting, but I couldn’t be more excited. We are going to see so many amazing places and have wonderful experiences together. I know that it will be great. Taking it in steps of planning definitely makes it much easier as well. So far, we have all our places planned, and plane tickets bought to travel between quite a few countries. Then we will take trains and buses for the rest.
On Sunday May 3rd, quite a bit happened. It was my friend, Carlos’ birthday. So, the day before, I had helped a few of my friends to bake a cake for him. For his birthday, he cooked a lot of Spanish food and invited a large group of us over to his apartment. We ate and hung out for a while, and it was a lot of fun! The food he made was delicious, and the cake was a huge success.
I ended up being late to the party however, as my friend, Alexis, was coming to Waterford! After a little mix up, I found Alexis at the bus station. We walked back to my apartment catching up on everything that had gone on in the months we hadn’t seen each other. It was really nice to see a familiar face from home.
Alexis and I went to Carlos’ for a bit, before she headed back to my apartment to sleep, as jet lag sucks. I went back to the party after making sure she was settled, and hung out with everyone. Then, a few of us helped Carlos clean the apartment afterwards. It was a lot of fun!
The next morning, May 4th (or Star Wars Day), Alexis and I got up and walked to city center for an Irish breakfast along the Quay. It was delicious. We wandered down the Quay and ended up going into Reginald’s Tower. I had already been through it, but decided to go through again with Alexis. It has so much history throughout it! We walked part way to WIT before giving up – it was a long walk and she didn’t really need to see my campus.
So, we went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Tramore. Some of my friends were going to be there, so after we walked along the beach and took lots of pictures, we met up with Nathan. We ate lunch while some friends finished surfing. Yes, surfing! It was fun to watch them. (You can see pics and read about it on Brittany’s blog if you’d like.)
We came back to the apartment, and while Alexis slept and Brit studied, I did the dishes and made dinner. Later, Alexis and I met up with Anna, Eva, Nathan and Sarah to go to Katty Barry’s pub for a pint and some live Irish music. It was a lot of fun! It was my last chance to hang out with Eva before she left for Germany, so I really liked going out with them.
On Tuesday, Alexis and I ended up starting later than planned and missed the first bus to Dublin. Instead, we got a hot drink and bite to eat in city centre, before relaxing in the giant book store. Then we caught the bus and were on our way to Dublin!
We found our hostel, which had been recommended by my friend, and checked in. It was a cool hostel, and just across the river from Temple Bar and the main attractions. We decided to look for food, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant for a burrito called Pablo Picante – on Cinco de Mayo! It wasn’t even planned, but it was a really good burrito and we ate in Temple Bar.
We walked to Dublin Castle and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its park, before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool! We got to learn how they make Guinness, and I got to drink a pint of Guinness while overlooking the entire city of Dublin. It was a great experience! I will probably learn to pour a pint when I go back at the end of the month.
After wandering back through the city, we tried to decide where we would go next. We finally decided to just go straight for dinner at a pub which Carlos had recommended. So, we got dinner and spent the evening at O’Neill’s. The food was delicious – I had an Irish beef and Guinness stew and it was so good! Then we grabbed some beers and relaxed watching the football (soccer) game before the live Irish band and dancers came on to perform. They were really good and it was interesting to see! (I have no photos of this because my phone had died…)
After a packed couple of days, we were both pretty tired. However, Alexis had to get up the next morning to catch a bus to her ferry for the UK. I got up to say goodbye before we parted ways. I ended up hanging out in Dublin for part of the day, shopping and wandering, before catching a bus back home. Needless to say, I was pretty tired and slept pretty well after I Skyped my family.
On Friday, I had my first exam here in Ireland. It was a very odd experience for me. Usually, anything within the academic world stresses me out a lot. But, here, with everything being so relaxed, I was not super worried at all. I studied the few days before, and felt pretty prepared. It was interesting that being an international student, I had no idea what I was doing – but the Irish didn’t seem to know much more than me either. They seemed just as lost. Luckily, the few Irish lads I know, knew exactly what to do.
Walking back from my exam, it rained ridiculously hard. By the time I reached home, I was absolutely sopping wet. My jeans were completely soaked through, and my socks were squishing in my boots. I quickly changed before walking with Bruna to meet Brittany and Evelyn at a small restaurant close by. We went to a little diner (Rockin’ Joe’s) for lunch where we ordered a ton of food! I was so full, but it was delicious and totally worth it – a burger, fries and onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake! It was fun to hang out with the girls before Evelyn was leaving to go back home.
That night, a group of us got together to hang out, play some games, and say goodbye to Evelyn. It was great fun, but really sad as it became all too real that our time here is ending. There were tears and lots of hugs. After some people left, I ended up chatting with a couple friends until really late into the night. We talked about everything: gossip, politics, our lives, reasons we studied abroad, cultural differences. It was so great! A few of us stayed up almost all night just talking about everything. It was so great to have a conversation and really connect with people who I have known for only a few months. We have so much in common, and found out that we really understood each other.
On Saturday, after getting up quite late, Brittany and I met up with Anna, Nathan, and Sarah to go to city centre. We went to Blackfriars, a coffee shop, after wandering around Penny’s, the clothing store (kinda like Forever 21). It was great to relax, drink some tea and coffee, and just chat!
Later, we all decided to pitch in and split Chinese food for dinner. Again, we had a great time just hanging out together. I feel like we all get along really well, and I sincerely hope that we can stay close and in touch over the next while – until we meet again for a reunion. 😉
Honestly, although not a lot happened this week, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and just life in general. Goodbyes are hard – but for me, not saying goodbye to these wonderful people is even harder. And if you lads are reading this, get ready for a post that will make us all tear up coming in the future.
“I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” – Pinterest quote.
May the road rise up to meet ya