And she’s back at ‘er

Well friends, it’s been over a year since I last spilled to you – and let me tell you, there have been a TON of developments in that time. 

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This is what I look like now!

 

I’ve been away from this blog because I took a much-needed break from school. I wanted to step away from my studies to make sure I was really doing what I was passionate about, and work to pay off some debt that I’d accumulated while living abroad. I wrote about my plans to take time off here.

This year was exhausting.

Most of the time, I was working 7 days a week. I worked my 9-5 job for a website called Travelzoo, but it didn’t stop there. Over the past year, I’ve worked at a café/whiskey bar on the Harbourfront and a cult taco joint in the Annex, as an Elf at the Christmas Market, and a Brand Ambassador at the Distillery’s first-ever light festival. I even thought it was a good idea to take an online course during this time, and occasionally stepped in as tour guide for the company I’ve worked for for 4 years.

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Light Fest 2017

With the exception of two weeks over Christmas, I didn’t really take breaks, and that really wore me down. I had a tough time keeping my room clean and my fridge stocked; even my (incredible and patient) roommates saw very little of me. Trust me, y’all: if you can, keep your weekends sacred. I’m not trying to glorify my busy, it was simply my reality at the time. I didn’t do it to seem important or needed, I did it because it felt financially necessary for me.

This year was refreshing.

Even though I was working myself to the bone, I was learning a million new skills. I gained experience in hospitality, sales, production, client relations, account management, web publishing, travel and tourism, event planning, public relations, and more. The jobs I held presented a new set of routines and expectations, and a completely different group of people. I’m a hands-on learner, so learning on the job and applying my skill set every day felt so much more fulfilling than simply talking about theory.

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It was also nice to have a break from thinking about grades and classes and credits and exams. Going through a lot of health issues in the past few years really derailed me academically, and I started to think I wasn’t smart or deserved a place in my university. I’m a high achiever who wasn’t really proud of how I was performing in school, and I became disinterested and lost motivation. Thinking about my grades gave me massive anxiety, and I finally had a chance to define myself by something other than transcripts, while learning new skills that built my confidence.

This year, it got personal.

Being away from school meant that I was away from my core social circle. Between that and the frantic busyness that comes from working all the time, I learned who my real friends were.

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Roommate friends

I quickly weeded out those peers that looked down on me for not sticking with school – I had no time for their condescending remarks about how easy my life must now be, or the insinuations that I wasn’t smart, determined, or a hard enough worker to stick with it. I knew in my heart that I simply needed to make sure I was doing what was required to achieve my own goals and find balance again.

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Restaurant friends

I became so grateful for the people that both encouraged and empowered me to take time and do my own thing. The ones that honestly cared about how I was faring in the corporate world, and reminded me to take care of myself. These were people who checked in when my health got thrown out of wack, and when my family was going through tough times. They were a mix of old and new faces, who would gladly boost me up when I felt lost and celebrate the little wins I had each day. I shook off the emotional vampires who tried to belittle me, and I learned that I would much rather live a balanced life than a prestigious one prescribed by someone else’s definition of success.

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*****

And so, I’m back on campus and returning to eAmbassador role yet again. I’m trying to always remain present and attentive in class, and continue to engage with the unique communities that will always exist here at Glendon. This time around, though, life is a little different. I’ve pressed the re-set button in my life, and I have a better sense of what my priorities are.

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 “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

 

Until next time,

– K

 

 

 

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Today, I woke up in a very different Europe.

For those of you who may be confused about what this “Brexit” thing is, or why the heck everyone is losing their cool over it – that’s totally cool and fair and I GET IT. Not everyone is captivated by world politics, nor are they easy to understand – our world systems are infinitely complex. I’ve been studying politics in Europe for the last 6 months, so in case you’d like to join the conversation, here’s a couple of things to know.

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If this is how you feel about the Brexit, I suggest you read on.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am by no means an expert, and I am aware there are several generalizations in this piece – I simply want to give an overview/summary of the referendum and its possible implications in Europe and the world at large.
The European Union is made up of 28 members states (countries). This union was started in the 50’s to create strong economic ties, so that it would enforce peaceful relations between historically warring states, namely Germany and France (at this point, we’re rebuilding from World War II – Europe is in total devastation). The strategy was/is that you won’t want to start a brawl with someone whose economy is interdependent with yours. Over the years, the union has become a powerful political entity that shares common economic structures, a common currency in 19 states (the Euro), cultural and social values – they even have a “Europe Day”, a theme song – all the bells and whistles.
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The EU map…as it was

An important thing to note is that Europe has a policy called Schengen – that means that within the Eurozone, europeans have the right to free movement of goods and people. This creates a borderless Europe (read: no customs checks or visa requirements for citizens), and a common economic market within the 28 member states.

You still with me? 

Good. 

The United Kingdom held a referendum (country-wide vote) yesterday (June 23, 2016) on whether to remain a part of the European Union. This was dubbed the Brexit (Britain’s exit). The whole kerfuffle generally boils down to current nationalist sentiments in Britain – some Britons believe that the UK is putting more into the EU than they are getting out of it, some take issue with positions in the EU not being democratically elected, some feel that the institutions of the European Union (ex. the European Parliament, the Commission, the Council and all of their many branches) infringed on the sovereignty of Westminster (sovereignty: right of a country to self govern within its own borders without interference by other states, Westminster: the UK’s parliament). The thing to note here is that no matter which way the referendum turned, there would always be issues that needed resolving. 
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The Union Jack or the EU drapeau? Voters thought it must be one over the other

British Prime Minister David Cameron promised in 2013 that if elected, he would hold a referendum to appease the people. Cameron was in the “Remain” camp, believing that the UK would be stronger, safer, and more stable if part of a united Europe – he even promised to make a deal with the European Union that would make it more appealing for the United Kingdom to stay.
Cameron made a little bit of a mess, however, as he never believed that the results would be as they were: 51.9 % in favour of the UK leaving the EU.
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There were generally two types of voters in the referendum – under 30’s and university educated voters tended to be in the REMAIN camp, while seniors (baby boomers) and less educated people tended towards LEAVE. At 70%, this was the highest voter turn-out since 1997 

Got that?

What does this mean for the United Kingdom?

The UK = England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland.
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Since it officially takes 2 years for a state to leave the EU, nothing will happen drastically or overnight. However, these are some possible/probable outcomes:

 

  • There were a few areas that came out as strongholds to REMAIN in the EU. These were Scotland, Northern Ireland, and parts of England like London.
  • Scotland will likely hold an independence referendum and decide whether or not to leave the UK. They have held one before in 2014, which ultimately resulted in them staying. However, now that they are no longer connected to the EU and being ‘taken out against their will‘, this union could disintegrate.
  • Northern Ireland has seen a ton of conflict since the declaration of the Irish Republic in 1922, and have only *really* had peace for 14 years. There are generally two groups in NI: Irish catholics, who wish to be reunited with the rest of the Republic, and Protestants who wish to keep their ties to Britain. There is still a physical barrier wall between these two groups in cities like Belfast, and a certain religious apartheid continues to exist. Northern Ireland also receives “peace payments” from the European Union. To enact a stronger border and divide the country even further will probably push them to a referendum as well, or Northern Ireland’s borders may not be included in the “New UK”. Read more here.
  • Life in the United Kingdom will change. Border control, passports, visas, working relationships, and life changes – things could get very complicated for those trying to come and go. I’ll admit, I’m not so educated on this one and the changes have yet to be announced. The beauty of the UK being an EU member state is that many people used Britain as a gateway to the rest of Europe – 27 other countries and a wide market to trade in. We can already see changes, as the British Pound has dropped to it’s lowest value in decades as investors scramble.

What does this mean for the EU?

  • Many people are worried that this will pave the way for other states to leave, and that this is the “beginning of the end” of the EU. Sure, the EU isn’t a perfect system, but I don’t think we’ll see the demise of it drastically soon. Just listen to President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker’s speech this afternoon, and then this great comeback!
  • Scotland will possibly try to join the EU, but it is likely that Spain will veto their membership (they do not like the idea of Scotland being recognized as an independent state, as their own region of Catalonia has a lot of separatist movements).
  • The results have yet to be rolled out and seen – the UK is technically a member until 2018, but we hope that their leaving doesn’t destabilize this unique political/social/economic structure.

 

What does this mean for countries like Canada, and the rest of the world?

  • Canada has a lot invested in British markets (yoooo Commonwealth, represent!). Since the pound is dropping, our investments and our markets may too. It’s also possible that we will see the rise of a strong US dollar – making it more expensive for travel across the border.
  • Make no mistake, this is part of the rise of the far right nationalists. The Leave campaign used a lot of xenophobic fear mongering about ‘border security’ – this is all linked to the European Union’s response to the migration crisis (though that’s a story for another day). One of the leaders of the Leave campaign, Nigel Farage, has been compared to Donald Trump (read here and also here). There are euroskeptic, Trump-type figures across Europe as well. America, and the rest of the world, should watching and taking notes.

There is going to be a lot of change in the world very very soon, so let’s brace ourselves to go through some growing pains. Thanks for engaging by reading, responding, and keeping your awareness up!

DFTBA,

– K

The life of a lab rat: my RMP experience

Now that I’m across the ocean, I’m meeting a lot of new people and there is always the obligatory “Where are you from/what are you studying/what do you want to do with your life?” conversations.

And then of course, when I tell people I go to a small liberal arts college (where the large lecture halls here in Belgium could probably accommodate all of our first year students), they usually can’t relate – and often question why I chose to go there.

When I graduated high school, I was lucky enough to have good grades and enough community involvement and leadership experience to get into all of the programs I applied to. I could have chosen to go anywhere! All of my choices seemed viable, and were really great options for me – each school and program had it’s own perks that made deciding on ONE very confusing and difficult.

While I chose Glendon for many reasons, there was a really cool opportunity that really stood out for me and helped to define my first few years of my undergrad.

It’s called the Research Mentorship Program, and I set my sights on being a candidate pretty early in the game.

See, RMP is very unique and an AMAZING way to apply classroom learning to hands-on research in academia. It creates a forum for:

  • certain professors to hire students as research assistants to aide in the execution of many different tasks
  • students as early as 1st year to be a part of the research process and discover more about the everyday investigative work that shapes what they will learn about their chosen field of study WHILE being paid fairly for their contributions.

Once my application was reviewed and approved, I eagerly awaited to find out more about who my mentoring professor would be. I was incredibly grateful to be paired with political science professor Francis Garon.

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I took this photo from the York website, I swear

I’m an Anglophone, and Garon is a native French-speaker from Québec, so right away our research relationship was intensely bilingual. I was really grateful to have a mentor who encouraged me to speak French, and helped me get comfortable with my fluency. Of course, we also mastered the art of Franglais and that of word-inventing.

When it came to the research job, I had a lot of different tasks. I catalogued a lot (and somehow managed to teach myself how to use a spreadsheet), ran literature reviews, analyzed interviews, and colour-coordinated so many things. I was also surprised and humbled to be a part of the brainstorming process when deciding where to go next with the research.

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I also usually brought candy to our morning meetings…that’s brain food, right?

We used qualitative and quantitative methods to study the management of the settlement of immigrants in Western cultures. We questioned EVERYTHING; What kinds of administrative and cultural aid does one receive from organizations, charities, and the government? How are immigrants perceived when they arrive, and during their integration into a community? How are communities changed?

One of the most frustrating parts of our research also turned out to be one of my favourites. We spent months brainstorming up a matrix system to link one’s privilege (race, language, gender, age, class) and one’s ability to participate in deliberative democracy. During this period, we threw all caution to the wind and wrote on nearly any paper we could find (including receipts, napkins, and paper bags) with hot pink highlighter. I still have this smorgasbord in a folder somewhere…

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How I look during brainstorming sessions

Looking back on it, I am so grateful to have had the chance to connect with this program – it shaped my academic and life goals a lot. I learned that I require a lot of patience when it comes spreadsheets and paper work. I can write a comprehensive literature review, which has been super helpful in my upper years.

Being a part of Professor Garon’s work and the inspiring mentorship I received were invaluable for me as an undergraduate student. He is an incredible mind who cares a ton about both his students and his work, like many other Glendon professors I know.

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I have since realized that while I like learning about the academic side of organization and community management, I would much rather be on the ground and in the thick of it. I hope to take the theory I learned from him and invest it in my future goal of working with immigrants in changing communities.

Much lab rat love and DFTBA,

  • K

Little bit of loving: #GLAmour

Well friends, take cover: Valentine’s Day is upon us.

‘Tis the season for over-priced chocolate, newly-released rom-coms and declarations of adoration for lovers, friends, and family..also Netflix and cats.

After fumbling around for the majority of my dateable years, it turns out this is the first Valentine’s of my entire life that I am in a committed relationship. (You can all gasp now, trust me – I’m as shocked as you are).

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But this hallowed 14th of février, I shan’t be writing a letter to my weirdo. Frankly, it’s too mushy of a gesture even for me, and if I want my non-celebrating man to stick around I should probably avoid professing my love for him on the internet.

Instead, I’ll be writing a lil’ note to someone who actually doesn’t get a lot of my affection.

Me.

In the spirit of the #GLAmour challenge, I’ll be writing a valentine to myself. Oh sweet baby Jesus, here goes nothing

Dearest Kier,

Let’s start this off by admitting that writing this is hella awkward. You are your own toughest critic and to give yourself props in cyberspace is just bass-ackwards and belly up for you.

I mean seriously though, you don’t toot your own horn very much…anymore.

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When did that change? When did you start becoming cynical and self-doubting? When did your insecurities start to present themselves in self-deprecating humour? How did those jokes become entrenched in your repertoire, when did you snuggle into them like a second skin and get real damn comfortable with ’em? Was it because you realized if you told the joke, then the world would be laughing with you, rather than at you?

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I mean sure, you do talk a lot. When you’re nervous, it’s total word vomit. And you can often find lots of distractions before getting a task done, if you’re determined enough 😉 . You’ve been to a gym 3 times, and since 3 times is the charm you’ve vowed to never go back. You’re incredibly messy in your own spaces. You don’t get the top grades anymore, and you seem to be muddling through the forest of life without a map. And you NEVER seem to remember to add an extra 10 minutes to the Google Maps estimate anyways, so really, you’re damned if you do or damned if you don’t.

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But all these quirky faults aside, if you don’t love yourself, who will?
At the end of the day, you’re stuck with you. Might as well snuggle up with that reality, and give yourself some credit.

For starters, you’re an upstanding citizen. You pay your bills, abide by the law, and engage in the community by volunteering your time and resources. Tick off those boxes, girlfriend!

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You’re a kind person. You’ll happily hold doors for people, give them directions, or help them carry awkward and heavy loads. You’ll always donate to the street musician, and share a smile with strangers…even if eye contact is scoffed at in the big city…

You’re a good friend. You are honest and generous in your relationships. “What’s mine is yours.” is extended to everyone you meet. You are loyal beyond measure, and feel so fulfilled when lifting others up.

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You love your family. They may get under your skin sometimes, but there is nothing you wouldn’t do to support them or bring a smile to your face. They are a huge part of your identity, and you of theirs. Keep them close!

You are emotional in the very best of ways. You love hard, and want to hug people tight enough that their sorrows and joys become your own. You are a nurturer, a provider, always gentle, yet intensely reliable. You feel things deeply – the highs and lows, and those core emotions drive you forward every day. THAT IS SO AWESOME!

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You are smart. Intelligence isn’t solely determined by a test, so don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t come out on top. You are a problem-solver, a communicator, an innovator. Do not sell that brain of yours short!

You have talents. Even when your confidence is shaky, you ultimately have some awesome gifts. You can ski like a boss and climb like a spider monkey. You are an expressive musician with an ability to share emotions in ways many others can’t. You are a hilarious and entertaining tour guide, helping create memories for hundreds of people every year. You cook awesome food, so your friends and family never go hungry. You’re a weird dancer, but hey – always good for a laugh at parties! Oh and people are still reading this blog, so your writing must not be awful!

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Truth be told, you’ve been going through a lot. Life has thrown you some curveballs in many areas of your life. But you crack jokes to ease the tension and worry of those around you, and plug on because this is your reality, and you will not let these challenges paralyze you. That is admirable – now work hard and plug on, champ!

Above all, you are hopeful. Optimistic, and yet reasonably realistic about your future. Even when your days are less than sunny, you get up and face the days. You have goals and dreams, and have made quite the impact in your 21 years. Your intentions are good and your integrity is top-notch. You have ambitions to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and have dedicated much of your life to doing so already!

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Kiera, you are learning to care for yourself and listen closely to your intuition. Start being mindful of the ways you define yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk yourself up sometimes! You will turn the stumbles into dancing and become more resilient every day. Stop stressing about the blunders in the past, and for goodness’ sake don’t fret over blunders yet to come. All anyone can ask of you is your best – so remain present in your life and give it all you’ve got! You’ve got this.

All things told, I’m pretty damn proud to be you. 

Kudos, chicka.

With love and brutal honesty,

  • K

 

The most exciting and terrifying email I’ve ever received

Three days ago, I opened my inbox to find a particular e-mail that I had been waiting not-so-patiently to receive.

There, with a simple click of my mouse, sat my information package for my exchange session in Belgium next semester. Cool, right?!

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As I read through the package and learned that I had three months before I was expected at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, a number of thoughts ran through my head. In all honesty, I was pretty mixed up in my emotions.

At first, a HUGE wave of relief came over me – apparently, European schools do things very last minute, and for MONTHS I had been worrying that I’d been forgotten or rejected from the program. I finally knew when I would start my classes, and what kinds of things I should be doing to prepare for my departure. Yaaaaaay, progress!

The second thing to happen was, “Oh, crap.” when I thought of all the things I’d have to wrap up at Glendon before I left. I still have my classes and other commitments to follow through on (including some oh-so-lovely paperwork…yuck), and a lot of money to earn to fund my future travels.

Thirdly, a sense of total panic overcame me. I was moving halfway around the world. Across an ocean. To a country I’ve never visited. With people I dont know and who sure as hell don’t know me. On my own. What if something happened medically (a very real concern for someone who is chronically ill)? What if something drastic and awful happened at home while I was away? What if I couldn’t tough out the rain 200 out of 365 days of the year? (Clearly, Belgium is a wet country)

And fourthly, I felt an indescribable sense of premature homesickness.

Leaving Canada means leaving my tight-knit family for 6 months.

Leaving Canada means being separated from friends and colleagues who have become my family in Toronto.

Leaving Canada means a questionable turn in my new relationship.

Leaving Canada means moving out of an apartment with roommates and a neighbourhood that I absolutely love.

Leaving Canada means throwing caution – and routine – to the wind.

Are you overwhelmed yet? Because I sure as hell am.

After telling myself not to panic…and then COMPLETELY ignoring my own advice, I tried to turn my thoughts around.

Arriving in Belgium means attending a university that is world-renowned, and smack-dab in the centre of EU territory. Think of all the cool perspectives and insights I’ll gain on international matters!

Arriving in Belgium means I’m living and learning in French – a language and culture that has always ignited my curiosity and passion. Oh man, can you imagine how much better my understanding and communication of the language will be?

Arriving in Belgium means discovering a new city, neighbourhood, and community. I get excited thinking of how I’ll get to learn a new transit system and explore different quartiers and the shops, restaurants, local culture, and people that will soon be familiar to me.

Arriving in Belgium means my insatiable sense of wanderlust will FINALLY be explored. I’ve got Europe at my doorstep, baby! Bring on the unique food, stunning photo ops, incredible people, and unforgettable adventures!

Arriving in Belgium means six months to discover a new part of myself. All the world’s a stage! Ain’t that right, Shakespeare?

I've been ready for this since I was given a suitcase on my seventh birthday!

I’ve been ready for this since I was given a suitcase on my seventh birthday!

It’s going to be a rough three months, I know. I’m going to be an emotional roller coaster (early apologies to all those who come in close contact with me). I will have some tough decisions and plans to make. I will undoubtably be running around like a chicken with my head cut off applying for a visa, finding a place to live, buying the cheapest possible airfare, and ticking off every insurance box that I can.

Yo, exchange life! Hit me with your best shot.

With adventuresome worries and excitement,

DFTBA,

K

“Get ANGRY!” – tips from a chronically ill super hippy feminist warrior

So maybe you looked at the title of this post and, despite ALL THE OTHER WORDS IN THE TITLE, you saw ‘feminist’ and thought, “oh dear GOD, not the F word again!”

BUT HEAR ME OUT! While I think it’s the coolest thing EVER, I will not brand you with a capital F and make you carry it around like a scarlet letter – only you can make that choice, and no amount of me preaching on a soap box is going to change that.

I assure you this is a very different type of post.

You see, feminism saved my academic career.

I was having a tough time in school last year – a much tougher time than I let anyone know. I have always identified myself as “the smart girl”. I loved to learn, and I was passionately curious about the world around me – you can bet I was the one who scored 100% in participation, because I was the queen of questions. I got excited about learning because, for the most part, it came easily to me.

I was probably more annoying than Hermione, let’s be real

This past year was different. I was dealing with a whole slew of medical issues, including memory loss and severe fatigue.  All of a sudden, I couldn’t process what profs were saying. A question would be asked of me, and I would forget it before I ever had the chance to answer. I could barely keep my eyes open during lectures – that was, if I even made it out of bed for class. I couldn’t seem to think critically, unless it came to criticizing myself. I was so disappointed and ashamed – where did my drive go? Where were all my bright ideas and conscientious comments? I felt that I had lost my Smart Girl identity, not to mention any motivation I had left.

I experienced a downward spiral, finding myself at rock bottom and thinking there was no way I could get back in the game. Once we figured out the medical crap, my confidence was still sitting morbidly at the bottom of the proverbial trash can. I felt no sense of direction or purpose, and the thought of being back in a lecture hall was absolutely terrifying to me. I BEGGED my parents to let me take time off school.

They assured me that my education was NOT just about getting good grades, but was about my holistic experience. They reminded me that I was not a sum of my failures nor my successes, and that going through the rough patches taught me life lessons that were just as important as ones I was learning in the classroom. They also promised to support me no matter what (thanks for that, creators of me!).

Thanks, parents ❤

So I reluctantly enrolled in courses, not really paying too much attention . I knew I had to satisfy degree requirements, but that gave me a ton of anxiety…I’d done poorly in the previous semesters, who knew how I’d do this time around? So, I did what all great procrastinators do – avoided it like the plague.

I filled my schedule instead with courses that sounded cool. I ended up selecting a range of courses that covered topics I was interested in – like how we write and analyze women’s and gender history, or how women and families affect refugee and migration patterns. I took some courses in French, and even forced myself to sign up for economics (because if I’m gonna kick butt in the world one day, I should PROBABLY have some basic understanding of how money works in the big scheme of things….maybe? Right? Tell me I’m not making the biggest mistake ever…)

And WHADDYA KNOW!?! I like where I’m at. My classes are really frickin’ awesome. My profs are all incredibly different from each other (I am going to write a fangirl post about one of them, just you wait!), and I’m totally LOVING the material.

Wanna know why?

Every day I walk into the classroom, we talk about issues. Nit-picky issues, big conundrums, and the constant bullsh*t that plagues us as a society every day. I’m engaged because I’m so. damn. pissed. off! Being passionately angry lights my brain and curiosity on fire.

It’s not just that I want to fix things – I want to know why a problem is there. So I’ve decided to look at my university experience as a series of questions that my overly-curious self will seek to answer.

What links can be made between education, poverty and food security? Why are racism/sexism/classism/ableism so rampant and pervasive in our day to day lives? Why do some historians deny that “women’s history” exists – HELLLOOOO WE’VE BEEN PRESENT FOR THE ENTIRE EXISTENCE OF THE HUMAN RACE! How can we work to support people in refugee circumstances, when they often come last on the list for access to healthcare and other valuable infrastructural resources? How do we as a state recognize and enforce international law when there’s an absence of an international authority?

I’ve loved exploring these queries over the last few weeks, and I hope to continue doing so. I’ve found that I make the connection from academic inquiry to passion by viewing the issues through a feminist lens. My drive for social justice and equality is what keeps me centred enough to do my readings and assignments and participate fully in class. Not to mention my day to day feminist practices keep my confidence and health up. Yay, #SelfCare!

SO if you find yourself lacking the enthusiasm you need to push forward, be that in school or elsewhere – find what makes you angry. Get passionate. Get pissed. Get invested in whatever it is that sparks a fire in you that makes you want to keep fighting for answers and solutions and outcomes. This is what you’re supposed to do – this is what will prompt you to be committed!

Until next time, I’m gonna keep feministing the crap out of my courses. Oh, and for the record? Smart girl is back, and she’s killin’ it.

DFTBA,

-K

A place to call home

Since moving to Toronto in the fall of 2013, I’ve been itching to put down some roots here in the city.

As bittersweet as it is moving away from the town I grew up in, my life is here now: many of my friends, my extended family, my jobs, my education, my doctors…you get the jist. While it was tough at first to tell my family that I wasn’t going to be joining them back home for the summer, I knew that concept would be easier once I had a place to live locked down.

The Mission:

Find the most awesome apartment possible – with a few stipulations…

It had to be safe.

I’m an independent person and I like to come and go from my home as I please. I’m also a 21 year old female, and while I try to be safe and alert at all times, I definitely wanted to feel secure in my neighbourhood. I am in the big city after all! (This is not to say that Toronto is not safe, but every place has it’s seedier streets).

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It had to be cheap.

I’m a student, enough said! I’m very lucky that my parents help to support me in putting a roof over my head, but I didn’t want their wallets or mine to suffer in financing Casa de Kiera. I needed something affordable so I could save us all some financial pain, and sock away money for my exchange next year.

You will be this excited once you hit college, too.
You will be this excited once you hit college, too.

It had to have good people.

I knew I needed to live with at least one other roommate – someone who would make note of whether or not I made it home at night, someone to have the spare key if I got locked out, someone to make sure I wasn’t wasting away in my room during the hell that is finals season. Above all, I wanted someone I could get along with so we could spend time together! It was also important to me that I have a reliable landlord who would help me out should anything go wrong.

Wanted: a roommate to Netflix with.

It had to be walkable.

I have no car, and even if I did, I would NEVER want to drive in Toronto (So many signs, so little parking!). In my first year, I read Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City” for my International Geography class. It touched on some things that I already knew – like the fact that neighbourhoods where errands and activities could be accomplished on foot were more desirable. But I also learned about the impact pedestrianism and public transit have on the safety and vibrancy of a community. These things all led me to look up Walkability Scores for every place I was interested in.

The Process

Let me tell you, apartment hunting is an all-new level of Purgatory. Combining the above factors in a balanced way on a market with high turnover rates can be exhausting and really disappointing, but I knew that I didn’t have much of a choice. It was either find a place in Toronto and keep a job and a lifestyle that I loved, or head home.

All too often, the apartment buildings would be too expensive, and the cheap ones wouldn’t be very clean (Check bed bug registry before you rent – no matter where you rent). Basement suites were often grungy and dark, and the best finds were too far from any major transit lines or vibrant neighbourhoods. Some newly renovated places were in areas we didn’t feel comfortable in, and don’t even get me started on the Craigslist scams!

RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG

RED FLAG RED FLAG RED FLAG

The Result

Thankfully, after nearly two months of searching, I am now the proud renter of a basement suite near Pape Station.

I’m moving in with my gem of a roommate, Ceilidh, who’s also a student at Glendon. We clicked pretty quickly after answering each others’ ads on a student Facebook page, and with two singers living together, our place will be lively!

HOUSE HUNTING SUCCESS!

We were SO relieved to have had an awesome realtor who accommodated every question and even held the place for us while we made our decision. We have a fantastic couple upstairs as our landlords, who measured the place with us and offered to change light fixtures, let us move in early, and gave us detailed instructions on how everything works.

The apartment is bright, clean, and modern – we can’t wait to decorate it together! This space will be ours for the next 12 months – we can’t wait to make memories in our new home!

***Stay tuned for move in woes – did I mention that I have no upper body strength? I imagine move-in day will go a little something like this…

Much homemaker love and DFTBA,

– K

The world could potentially be my oyster…

As an iBA (international bachelor of arts) student, I’m required to spend at least one semester abroad as part of my degree. 

Last week, the process for exchanges opened upWOOHOO! York International and the Glendon Exchange department came to present us with the application process, requirements, and the possible locations and schools we could study at. 

Needless to say, I’ve spent many hours day dreaming since.

I am equal parts excited and terrified

I am equal parts excited and terrified

The Dream:

Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium), starting September 2015

I could see myself living here, couldn't you?

I could see myself living here, couldn’t you?

(other possibilities include Institut d’Études Politiques de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, France) and MICEFA – Mission Interuniversitaire de Coordination des Echanges Franco-Americains (Paris, France)

I visited Strasbourg 4 years ago, and fell in love

I visited Strasbourg 4 years ago, and fell in love

I could also live in the most romantic city in the world...the possibilities!

I could also live in the most romantic city in the world…the possibilities!

The Plan:

Maintain a 6.0 GPA (B or 70% average), acquire two academic reference letters, and succeed in a French proficiency interview.

I'll be hitting the books from now on!

I’ll be hitting the books from now on!

The Motivation:

Without a nod to the restless, anywhere-but-here, wanderlust-stricken travel bug that I’ve caught…

I’d be able to study what I love in a different environment and from a totally different perspective. Just imagine what politics and world issues mean to a European class compared to a North-American one!

…Not to mention I’d be living and studying in my second language, with a whole new dialect and accent than I’m used to. On top of that, a new culture to adapt to! Can’t you see it? CHAMELEON KIERA: The Europe Years

I hope to make new friends overseas and strengthen old friendships in the process. I have a ton of friends in France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands that I’ve met over the years that I hope to see again, and as for my Canadian friends – nothing tests a friendship like a year of Skype-dates between different timezones!

So many places, so little time!

So many places, so little time!

I have to go through the application process before Christmas break, but I won’t know the final results until the end of this school year. Until then, it’s up to me to prepare my butt off! If that means sticking a map of Belgium on my laptop to motivate me to study harder, so be it. On my study breaks I will reward myself by looking at apartments with my possible future roommate. I will save my pennies to buy a new camera to capture my future adventures…

This time next year I could be writing to you from across the Atlantic…until then, dreams be dreams.

DFTBA,

– K

P.S. A lot of my Glendon friends have been on exchange or are currently overseas themselves! Check out their blogs below.

Gillian was a student at ULB in Brussels last year! http://gillianwassgl.wordpress.com/category/exchange-2/.

Michelle was on exchange to Ireland… http://michellekgl.wordpress.com/category/exchange/

Elizabeth partook in an exchange to Strasbourg. http://elizabethbgl.wordpress.com/category/exchange/

Jen is currently spending her days in Middelberg, in the Netherlands! http://jennifercgl.wordpress.com

 

Small school, big safety net

I am the classic “Oh Em GEE it’s September, school is starting and I couldn’t be happier” type of nerd…

I love new possibilities, opportunities, knowledge, and friends. I always, without fail, look forward to the first week of classes.

However, my first week back at Glendon did not go as smoothly as I would have hoped. It was chaotic and nerve-wracking, and yours truly was being a class-act flopshow.

Starting university, I had always intended to be a double major in International Studies and Political Science. However, being the-girl-who-wears-many-hats, the thought of committing and specializing in two things suddenly felt overwhelming to me and self-doubt started to rear it’s ugly head.

“What if I just had a major? Should I do a certificate? God forbid I want to study neuroscience….”

Me, in MLP form

Myself embodied in My Little Pony form

In short, I had major FOMO (fear of missing out), people.

By the numbers…

4. The times I had dinner on my roommate’s floor, wondering what the heck I was going to do with my degree/life.

6. The amount of timetable changes I made within that week.

3. The number of times I called home, where my all-too-supportive and lovely parents told me that as long as I graduated, the rest was up to me and they would be proud.

28. That’s how many times I played Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. Adorable awkward dancing? Sassy, can-do attitude? TOTAL FREAKING EARWORM?! Check check check.

I’m now in week 3 of my studies and doing much better. Why? Because being a Glendon student saved my sorry, confused butt. Being at a small school meant that I had immediate, personalized, one-on-one sensitivity and support.

help1

I chose to see the head of the Political Science department, Dr. Ian Roberge, and Professor Francis Garon about my future in the program. Not only they super supportive and always looking out for my best interests, but during our conversations I realized I really do still love Poli Sci – I love the balance of power, the causes of conflict and conditions of peace. I undoubtedly still adore my work as a Research Assistant in the field, and my volunteer work with other political and activism groups.

politics-word-cloud

When figuring out how my timetable should reflect my revised goals, I went to see Erica, an academic advisor with a contagious smile and a calming attitude. She helped me check off degree requirements while still preparing me for my international exchange and giving me some wiggle room to add electives or specializations.

Financial services also helped a ton – they made sure that I wasn’t penalized for dropping any courses or adding new ones, and that I could rest assured that my fees were paid and I was financially sound to continue my studies.

Every penny counts when you're a student - Glendon Financial Services knows that, and will make sure you're on the right track to getting the most bang for your buck

Every penny counts when you’re a student – Glendon Financial Services knows that, and will make sure you’re on the right track to getting the most bang for your buck

If I hadn’t been at Glendon, having an academic identity crisis would have been totally overwhelming. I was so lucky to be in a place where people from all walks of life had my back, lead me towards invaluable resources, and were supportive of my questioning of my future. My experience was a positive one, which I don’t think I ever could have expected such a great result. Small school, big love ❤

DFTBA,

– K

A letter to my first year self

Dear me,

It’s late August, and you’re about to move into your dorm room. The van (or big purple box on wheels, as you call it) is packed, the family is nostalgic. You see the bright light coming from your window, and you know your next big adventure is starting. You have this weird attachment to the smell of fall; it means change is coming. Everything is steeped in potential and chance, these next months are yours to shape however you see fit. That being said, there are some things you should know…

Go to your 9 am class. It’s worth it. Green tea will help ease the pain of early wake up times.

morning

Get to know your profs and ask questions along the way – they’ll be more willing to help you as the year goes on.

You will soon realize your siblings are the best friends you’ll ever have. You’ll also still want your mommy at 20 years old, and your dad will drive to see you – just ask.

fam

Not everyone is going to like you. You can’t change that. That doesn’t mean you should be anything less than courteous in return – kill it with kindness, girl. You teach people how to treat you.

Set up your residence phone right away so you have a Toronto number, or else the delivery guys will glare at you for having a 613 area code and your food will possibly disappear.

 

Weekends scream take-out!

Weekends scream take-out!

You will have to be brave and strong at times, because you’re living on your own and some tough stuff is headed your way…but there’s no need to be a martyr. Know the difference. It’s okay to say that you’re not okay.

Call your grandparents more often. They love you lots, give great advice, and know you better than you think. Plus, the more you visit, the more chocolate brownies are likely to appear in your diet.

You will meet people who will change your perspective, show you new experiences. New friends will challenge you, giving you the courage and inspiration to try umpteen new things.

 

Some of the amazing people I met in first year!

Some of the amazing people I met in first year!

It’s okay to measure how well you’re doing on the treadmill by how many 80’s power ballads you get through. Just remember to save “Eye of the Tiger” for going back up the stairs to campus!

Just a heads up – you will get your heart stomped on. Don’t let it shake you, timing is everything! Trust the process…and keep trusting people. Everything is an experience.

aquamarine

You will bust your ankle this year, just by walking…because let’s be honest, your nickname ain’t Murphy’s Law for nothing. USE THE DAMN CRUTCHES.

Never put your student card in your back pocket – you will flush it down the toilet more than once. Explaining this to Student Services will be embarrassing and will not decrease the replacement fee.

Your Don can be the best resource – don’t be afraid to knock on her door and tell her when you’re less than fine.

Residence life! E House Hilliard :)

Residence life! E House Hilliard 🙂

Add a super dorky key chain to your lanyard so everyone will know who the keys belong to when you (inevitably) drop them in the lecture hall.

You think you have it figured out. You think you know what you want to do with your life. Newsflash: you will change your mind 4 times before the end of the year.

You will soon learn that you have nothing figured out. Spend your time collecting experiences, not blueprints for how the next years of your life will play out. With a little creativity, you’ll be making your own opportunities.

Taking two new friends who didn't understand baseball to a Jays game was certainly an experience!

Taking two new friends who didn’t understand baseball to a Jays game was certainly an experience!

I know you’re crazy competitive with yourself right now – it’s okay to be mediocre for a while. Take a chill pill.                                                                                                                                        

You will get an A on the paper you cried over in the library. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Remember to pace your efforts, breathe deeply, do your best.

Wash your pub night stamp off your hand before you go to sleep or it will end up on your forehead the next morning.

TAME pub night

TAME pub night

Do your dishes. And your laundry. File your paperwork. Put lids on things. Empty your garbage. You’re a messy person, admit it – then deal.

The nachos at The Underground will sustain your soul (and stomach) – get hooked on them early.

Thank your lucky stars you’re going to Glendon, because you will score the sweetest summer gig, and it will require you to work en français!

"I'm a tour guide!" Atop Mt. Royal, Montréal.

“I’m a tour guide!” Mt. Royal, Montréal.

It’s okay to have roots and wings. You can love where you’re from AND be excited about where you’re going! You will have the greatest assortment of people beside you at every step of the way. You are loved and valued and cared about. Don’t ever doubt that.

Keep an open mind and heart, and the rest will fall into place.

DFTBA,

– K