You’re not bored, you’re boring.

On the way back from my most recent visit home, it began to dawn on me (and this wasn’t the first time) that though I often cite the benefits of living in such a large and diverse city as Toronto, I don’t feel I take advantage of them often enough. “There’s so much to do, I don’t end up doing anything” is how I decided to persuade my sister to consider moving to Hogtown.

While hiking with the family around Fanshawe Lake, I was reminded how much I loved being outdoors and just wandering around, yet never do. My mother must’ve been on the same wavelength, because at one point she asked me if I ever go to the trails near Glendon, and I guiltily replied that I hadn’t done so since I left residence (two years ago).

I always joke when giving tours and presentations that it’s possible to walk all the way to the waterfront from Glendon using those trails, but I never have because I’m too lazy. As I told my mother this detail, I silently reprimanded and promised myself to do it as soon as I could. 

And goal accomplished. Only went to Queen E exit, but you can continue all the way to the port lands.

Goal accomplished. Only went to Queen E exit, but you can continue all the way to the port lands.

Leaving the Glendon Campus on the trail...

Leaving the Glendon Campus on the trail.

2 hours and 40 minutes later (the scribble is where I got lost for 20mins)...

Only took about 2 hours and 40 minutes (the scribble is where I got lost for 20mins).

My father asked if I had any plans for the week as we drove down the highway and I described going to catch Tom à la ferme the next day at the InsideOUT Film Festival happening in Toronto. My friend Sarah had planned to see as many of the films as she could, and though I admired and envied her zeal, could not fit that kind of commitment into my schedule or budget. 

For some reason, in the silence following my lengthy vocalized adoration of Xavier Dolan’s filmmaking talent, out of the blue, I thought “Maybe this should be the week I FINALLY go to the AGO”. Yes, a combined 3 years of living in Toronto and not once have I stepped foot in the Art Gallery of Ontario (and only once did I go to the ROM – for about 15 minutes during Nuit Blanche). And that’s when it hit me: I’m not bored of my life or the things I do, I don’t need a change of scenery or anything. I’m just bloody boring, because of the lack of things I do. 

So, I just decided to start saying "Yes" whenever an opportunity arose, like last weekend. (Credit: Sarah Yu)

So, I just decided to start saying “Yes” whenever an opportunity arose, like last weekend. (Credit: Sarah Yu)

No wonder I could never write a decent description of myself for work or fill out an online dating profile. Sure, I love indian food, watching movies, and exercising serious self-control when there’s free coffee around – but what do I do with my spare time? Where do I go?

Previously, I’ve blamed the clash of my student budget and the cost of trying to go on new adventures every weekend. When I returned from exchange, I constantly groaned about the ridiculous prices for museums, galleries, and transportation, yet I should’ve been making the last year of having “student discounts” (petty as they are in a lot of places) worthwhile. Spoiler alert: I did not.

Now, I blame my ignorance. Doing things doesn’t have to kill a budget. There’s this great new thing called the internet where it’s possible to read about everything you can do in the city for free (BlogTO is THE best) or all the festivals happening over the summer. For the things that do cost money, there’s often discounted days of the week or memberships available, if you have the commitment to visit often enough to make it worthwhile (ahem, hello HotDocs cinema). 

Earlier this spring, I loudly boasted about the benefits of having a job with regular hours, living downtown, and my plans to explore the city as much as possible this summer during my off-time. I claimed I would spend every weekend in parks or the islands and only go to parties in the west end (to get to know the area better and to stop going to the same places I went for the past 4 years). May has just come to an end, and I can count on one hand the amount of my goals I’ve checked off the list. But this is going to change. 

I refuse to be bored and I’m not going to be boring. 

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All I am saying, is give Rez a chance…

One of my oft-repeated phrases when it comes to residence life has been that it makes getting involved and staying engaged on campus so much easier. Something I often tell parents when they approach me with concerns about residence living and security is that I’ve never lived anywhere where I’ve felt safer than at Glendon (Have you seen a horror movie before? The suburbs are scary).

I moved into residence in September 2010 and didn’t move off campus until July 2012, two months prior to leaving on exchange. I joke that when I moved out of my parents’ place, I never moved home again because I’m such a grateful and loving son (which isn’t entirely true – when I returned from France completely broke, my parents were generous enough to take me in again). But in all honesty, it was the academic and job opportunities I found on campus, rather than a refusal to return to London, that kept me living in residence over the summers.

Residence living is a big decision for many students, and a no-brainer for many others. Coming from about 200km away to a new (and comparatively, huge) city, residence made complete sense for me. Yet, in my first year, I met folks from Toronto who had also decided to live on-campus as well. Whatever the distance, we all knew there was no better way to ensure a successful integration into campus life and community than making it your home in first year.

Check out Coeur de Lion Chronicles to see inside a newly renovated Wood Residence Room

This, of course, is not to say that living in residence will automatically lead to a more fulfilling and well-rounded university experience. You might run across posters advertising cool events on campus more often, and your floormate might try to convince you to join him at his next club meeting, but the choice to get involved is still yours to make. It’s still entirely possible to simply go back and forth between classes and your residence room without getting engaged in any extra-curriculars. The point is, you have a plethora of opportunities just steps away from your new home, but without a willingness to step out of your comfort zone and join in, that accessibility is squandered.

Dance away, but leave your room now and then…

So, what holds folks back from applying? Usually, it’s the cost. Residence can be quite an investment if you live within a commutable distance already. For me this past year, the cost of living downtown off-campus didn’t show me much savings compared to living on campus. Between groceries, rent, utilities, and my Metropass, what I’m saving financially from living on campus could easily be made up for in convenience and time saved. For folks who can live at home, this difference is substantially greater.

…it’s a lot to think about

Nonetheless, the application fee is low, and you can weigh the pros and cons of living on-campus while you await your room offer. Take into consideration the amount of time you’ll be commuting (time you could be using to get a part-time job or studying on campus), and the costs of commuting (transit, or gas and parking), and the extra planning required for traveling to campus while being prepared for any social events or spur-of-the-moment happenings.

As the application deadline draws closer, I have been encouraging anyone who is still unsure to simply apply and pay the small fee – it gives you more time to make your final decision. Not until you receive your room offer (and need to pay the $250 deposit) do you need to be sure of whether or not you’ll choose residence. If you need any more convincing, just check out what our other eAmbassadors have to say about ResLife, and then go ahead and fill out the application.

Give yourself some more time to consider it. Applying doesn’t hurt, but missing a great opportunity does. 

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Le Salon Coeur de Lion: What to know before you show

This isn’t just about picking your courses, this is everything and more to get you prepared for your first year.

When you arrive at Glendon (aim for 8:45!) for your enrolment appointment (avec ou sans vos parents – c’est vraiment à vous de décider s’ils vous accompagnent), you’ll be greeted by yours truly in the Lion’s Den. Nous commencerons la journée avec une présentation sur les aspects divers de la vie étudiante universitaire. You’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you need answered and get tons of resources to take home with you.

Evidently, I was not ready.

Evidently, I was not ready.

Following the first presentation, you’ll head next door to choose your courses, while your folks hang out with me in the Den for another presentation (and *free coffee* – who can say ‘No’ to that?). We’ll go more in-depth about their concerns regarding your transition to university life. Et bien sûr, ils auront l’occasion de me poser des questions sur les services financiers, la sécurité et ce que vous êtes en train de faire avec nos conseillers académiques dans la salle à côté.

What to bring? Du papier et un stylo, au cas où vous voulez prendre des notes. Most importantly, bring a smile to prepare for your student card photo!

Vrai ou faux: You need to come to you appointment knowing all the courses you want to choose, and your choices are permanent!

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Nos conseillers académiques vous expliqueront exactement quels cours sont requis, lesquels sont optionnels, et comment les choisir sur internet. No preparation required and you’ll leave your appointment with the know-how to modify to your course schedule if you change your mind.

Pour la majorité des étudiants, la première année universitaire est plutôt générale. We recommend taking a variety of courses to not only satisfy your requirements, but also to experience as much diversity as possible in case you decide later to change your major, add a major or minor, or add a certificate. Il y a énormément de flexibilité pour modifier votre diplôme et donc, il ne faut absolument pas être nerveux ni stressé!

But… what about that enrolment deposit?

If your appointment is before June 1st, you have until June 15th to pay your $300 deposit online. Après le 1er juin, vous avez jusqu’au 15 du mois suivant pour payer (ex. your appointment is the 10th of July, your payment is due the 15th of August). Je vous donnerai plus de renseignements dans le Salon Coeur de Lion sur comment payer les frais de scolarité.

Glendon Campus might be located in a forest in Toronto, but getting here is a whole lot easier than a muggle finding Hogwarts.

No matter whence (adv. From where, what origin) you come, you’ll need to get to the intersection of Bayview Avenue and Lawrence Avenue where the entrance to campus is located.

If you’re driving to campus from outside the city, check out the instructions on our website. Si vous avez des questions , n’hésitez pas à nous contacter. There is parking in the front of campus, mais comme d’habitude à Toronto, il faut payer.

Beaucoup d’étudiants prennent le TTC quand ils viennent au campus, et c’est vraiment une tâche facile. The most popular route is to come from Lawrence Station, and take either the 124 Sunnybrook bus or the 162 Lawrence-Donway. Tous les deux vont vous rendre au même arrêt devant l’entrée au campus. You can also check out the TTC Trip Planner to find a convenient route through the city.

When the stop “306 Lawrence Avenue: York University- Glendon Campus. Toronto French School” chimes, pull the yellow string and hop off. Tournez à gauche, et vous allez voir les arbres de Glendon sur l’autre côté du pont. Allez-y!

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Fresh off the bus and headed towards campus!

Enter at the front of the glass building (our Centre of Excellence), and head left. You’ll see our Lion’s Den banner hanging from the second floor, et vous auriez le choix de prendre l’ascenseur ou les escaliers. Once you’re up, the Den is just around the bend.

Enter the front doors...

Enter the front doors…

Take the stairs or elevator...

Take the stairs or elevator…

 

 

Turn left down the hall and the Den is the last door on the left!

Turn left down the hall and the Den is the last door on the left!

Note: The elevator may be out of service at some points during the summer. If you have accessibility concerns, don’t hesitate to email us or send me a personal message so we can give alternate directions to the Den or have someone meet you upon arrival!

The summer is long and there’s a lot to ponder, so keep in touch without having to wander.

Restez en contact! I’ll be keeping active on the Lion’s Den Facebook and Twitter accounts (#GL2018) with plenty of updates throughout the summer. Si vous n’êtes pas déjà membre du groupe GL2018 sur Facebook, joignez aussitôt que possible pour rencontrer les autres étudiants et nos ambassadeurs. If you have any questions or concerns about Glendon or your appointment, feel free to tag me (Drew!) when posting in the group for a quick response or send a personal message to the Facebook or Twitter. Naturellement, vous pourrez nous contacter par courriel aussi: lionsden@glendon.yorku.ca. 

À bientôt tout le monde!

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Why I took a year off (And why I might do it again!)

Awesome (accurate) cartoon via http://www.sarahandersenart.com/

Anyone familiar with me is aware of how indecisive I’ve always been. Though I’d love to tell you I’ve gotten better at making a choice and committing to it, I can’t. And if you were to see what it’s like trying, as a family, to decide on where to go for dinner whenever I visit my parents, you’d probably think it’s genetic.

I wasn’t the only student who decided to forgo heading off to university, nor was I the first in the family. My two older sisters had done the same, the eldest of whom had been in the double cohort of 2003. All three of us graduated and returned to our respective schools for one semester before taking the rest of the year to work (in my case, at that green mermaid coffee company). Despite most of my friends moving on to begin post-secondary studies, I felt no guilt following the precedent set by my siblings.

Many high school students begin twelfth grade not only unsure of what institutions they’ll apply to, but unsure of whether they even want to apply. I was no different. As university presentations began and my friends nervously discussed the application process, I realized I, among quite a few others, just wasn’t ready.

School has enough difficulties without even worrying about what to do afterwards.

Some decide they’re not ready to leave home, others haven’t prepared for how costly education can be, and some others just cannot decide what to study. I fell into the latter category, but also knew some extra cash wouldn’t hurt either. By midway through the last year of high school, I decided I wouldn’t even bother applying to universities. I was so certain I was uncertain, that I knew the added pressure of applying and possibly being admitted to universities would be unnecessary.

The lead singer of Vampire Weekend is epically good at Twitter

In the end, it turned out to be the best decision I made.Because I had turned a blind eye to the programs offered by different universities, and I only knew I wanted to continue my studies in French, I had naturally assumed if I was going to stay in Ontario, I would have little choice but to go to the University of Ottawa. It was in an economics class during my semester back at high school that a student teacher mentioned “some university in Toronto where you can study in French”. Curiosity piqued, I began to do my research, and the rest is history.

Once again, I’m feeling the same uncertainty, much to the chagrin of my parents. Though I’ve considered various options for graduate studies, law school, another degree, or college, I can’t seem to make a decision. With the cost of education not getting any lower, I know if I’m going to continue my studies, I need to wait for some certainty to come back. Perhaps I’ll take a year off and teach abroad or seek work opportunities, or perhaps I’ll reapply to begin another degree at Glendon (deadline isn’t until August!), but it’s sure I won’t act until I’m confident.

An Ask from our tumblr page, glendoncampus.tumblr.com

An Ask from our tumblr page, glendoncampus.tumblr.com

For high school students who may be feeling this uncertainty as well, it’s good to keep in mind that whether you have yet to apply, or whether you’ve applied and been admitted, you can put this decision off and not worry. Folks love to say that once you take a year off, the likelihood of you ever going off to school will drop off. This isn’t true. If you’re ready to go and it’s the right decision for you, you’ll go. If you’ve already been admitted, and are having second thoughts, you can consider deferring your acceptance for a semester or a year, and join us on campus when you’re ready.

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An unofficial requirement.

“I study political science….” I respond with reluctance, quite aware of what questions were to follow.

“How are you liking it? Are you thinking of doing the MPIA as well?”

And to be honest, the past couple of years have left me feeling quite ambivalent towards my discipline. Despite quite enjoying my legal or political philosophy classes, among a few others, I often felt out of place.

“Well, there’s a lot I like and some not so much. I mean, I’ve never really felt like I fit in with a lot of my friends in the program because I never wanted to join a political party or anything. I like theory, international law… but I’m not sure what else… Maybe I didn’t explore enough options or something.”

“Have you ever thought about policy? Maybe that would suit you…”

I bit my lip. Studying policy is definitely something I’d been aware of, but not something I quite understood.

– – – – – – Several weeks later – – – – – –

I skim my emails, paying little attention, listening to a voice at the back of my head exclaim, “I’m on holidays, I don’t care”. I notice my European Integration professor had sent out our syllabus for the semester. I glance over it and sigh. Despite being excited for the course, I was left craving variety since having studied the EU while on exchange at SciencesPo. I continue to skim.

Further down the list was an email announcing the introduction of a public policy course with the chair of the Political Science department, Ian Roberge. The course had just been introduced as the result of a student vote between several options, a method I’d never before seen but thoroughly supported. Why, if a department intended to give a new course and couldn’t decide on the topic, shouldn’t student input be taken into account?

– – – – – – Second day of the term – – – – – –

“If you’re still unsure of what you want to take, come check it out. He’s an awesome professor and the chair of the department. How have you never had class with him before?” I was sitting in the GCSU office, groaning about the anxiety of scheduling my final semester at Glendon. After some hesitation, I decided to sit in on the first Public Policy Research seminar with a friend-of-a-friend… just to see what it was all about.

As Prof Roberge explained the syllabus, my worry turned to curiosity to excitement. At the mention of a 1000-word research paper to be done every week, I cringed at first but soon realized it was no more work than any other lecture, it was simply spread out rather than having a 10 000-word paper due all on one day. We would discuss a case study each week related to an issue in policy-making (thus far, topics from post-secondary education, to healthcare, to public bike-sharing programs), choose a topic from a brainstorming session, and get started on our papers, before presenting them the following week with our findings. For me, variety is the spice of any course.

As an added bonus, and much to my surprise and satisfaction, Prof Roberge informed us our exams would be done orally. Yet another practice I’ve never encountered (outside of a language course) at Glendon. I had gotten used to oral exams at SciencesPo, and much preferred them to traditional 3-hour written essays.  For me, this was it. I couldn’t think of a course I’d ever taken designed like this one. The workload would take some time to get used to, but in the end, was exactly what I needed.

To finish off the first half of the class, each of the students (there was only about 10 of us) introduced themselves and why they had come. I explained that though I wasn’t enrolled in the class, I was interested in learning more about public policy, and echoed what others had already said: we had no interest in playing party politics. Prof Roberge joked that he was certain I would rush out at the end of class to enrol. No need, I thought. By the time we had finished introductions, I had already enrolled online on my iPod and slipped it back in my pocket as we paused for a break.

“Besides, you can’t officially graduate from Political Science at Glendon without taking a class with me, the department chair!”

One last requirement fulfilled.

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Work in Progress (1/2)

The nine months ended six months ago. Still in France, I once jokingly described to a friend over coffee the nine months we had spent on exchange were the pregnancy in which we developed before going home, reborn.

At some point, across the ocean, between the cheese and coffee, the cigarettes and wine, I had a period of, what one might call, existential depression. How cliché it is, to be reading Sartre in France and trying to comprehend your own meaninglessness, and what, if any, meaning can be derived from that.

One evening, while my visiting parents slept in a hotel a street away, I asked a friend the question I had contemplated during any moment of silence between strides in the sunshine of a coastal town. Life is inherently meaningless, thus one must give their life meaning through their actions, yet if one finds they cannot do so, is suicide justified? She and I, over hand-rolled cigarettes and lager, decided that it isn’t. That the journey is never ending.

A typical evening with Drew and Val.

A typical evening with Drew and Val.

Through her gentle Italian accent, she succeeded in convincing me that our aspirations have a point. The world around us may be absurd, yet we are still a part of it. We’re so privileged simply to be able to take the time to think about and discuss these ideas, and we came to a conclusion not dissimilar from that of Sartre. We ought to take responsibility for our behaviour, and any consequences which arise from it, and this duty extends much further beyond our own being.

Everything has been figured out, except how to live. – Sartre

I resolved to live better when I came home. Better, in health and mind, by my own terms. I imitated the lists I had once written during a summer when I was filled with the idealistic optimism of the nineteen-sixties counterculture with which my sixteen year-old self had been so enamoured.

Coming home, however, brought along a series of foreseeable difficulties in my effort to make such an upheaval of change in my habits and way of living. Settling back down into the familiarity of home was not what I would describe as particularly difficult, and yet, it felt impossible to all of a sudden put the fruits of my self-reflection into practice.

I had been unrealistically optimistic. To think one can alter their lifestyle to suddenly drop a number of bad habits in exchange for good ones so simply is childish. Such change certainly does not come overnight, and thinking that a plane ride to another continent is going to help the transition is certainly foolish.

moving hemingway

Instead, I felt guilty and shamed myself for every day I smoked a cigarette and didn’t exercise, or spent time mindlessly clicking through internet pages rather than read and write. I would blame the physical exhaustion of my summer job, or being home and reverting to the immaturity and irresponsibility of the teenager I was when I first left, or simply no longer being able to understand why I had been so adamant about wanting to change in the first place. Now, I only blame myself.

tumblr_mmr5hzzadU1souejbo1_500As the summer begin to come to a close, I began to understand the necessity of understanding that change in a person is a slow process, needing time and careful thought. Being overwhelmed by putting too many ideas into practice at once is an easy path to failure, and leads to the vicious cycle I went through. It’s a humbling truth to finally accept that sometimes life really does need to be taken one step at a time. Even when you thought you already understood the journey doesn’t end, to realize life is an endless state and labour of becoming, and not simply being, can be dispiriting.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams.
For if dreams go,
Life is a barren field
Covered with snow.

– Langston Hughes

Once more, I resolved to invoke the change I wished to see, just as I was readying myself for my return to Toronto and Glendon life.

lost thoreau

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Timeline of a Voyage Home.

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18h00  – I’m at the university to print my boarding pass, do online check in and say final goodbyes to some of my closest friends. The day has been a bit slow, trying to tie up loose ends and make sure that I’ve packed everything, while recovering from the huge dinner and party last night. Seven of us had come together for a dinner beginning with camembert and bread, salmon for some, and comté with an italian honey and walnut mixture, as well as a delicious salad composed of lettuce, apple, onion, and walnuts with a homemade dressing. Dinner was an amazing mushroom and onion risotto, and for desert, a tiramisu flavour ice cream. All was complete with plenty of wine and accompanied by Vampire Weekend and Santana.  The night out was an apartment party with most of the remaining exchange students. Goodbyes and overindulgence.

18h50   – One of my best friends accompanied me to the train station in Rennes and has just left. I hate saying goodbye. It’s similar when I hear someone I know has died. I feel very little in the moment, just empty. It’s not until later that I realize what has happened, and then it’s too late.

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19h03  – Train departs the station, and the empty feeling is in my head. Earlier I was thinking about how strange it will be to be home. Now, I have difficulty to think of anything but the moment I’m in.

19h43 – A scenario just played out in my head of where I could go for fountain pen ink back home and how I would ask someone. Random hypothetical daydream of no importance. Out of nowhere, my stomach sinks and I feel the weight of leaving again. It’s gone, and unfortunately so is any focus I might have had on what I was trying to work on.

21h15 – Train has arrived and I’m now staring down a teenager in the metro who isn’t doing a good job of hiding that he would like to pickpocket me. That’s the trick. Recognize them and make them feel uncomfortably aware that you’re aware of them. Naturally, it’s also pouring rain in Paris. Super end to this little voyage.

23h30 – I’m in an Irish pub not only to say farewell to several of my friends who live in Paris but also to meet a few new people. “How does it feel to be leaving in… 9 hours?!?” Numb.

4h35 – The suffering I’m willing to put up with for a cheap flight.

Truth.

Truth.

5h45 – Finally in the Roissybus on the way to the airport. My flight leaves in 3 hours and the trajectory for the bus is about an hour to my terminal. My stomach is turning and and I’m nervous. It’s really happening now… and I’m being paranoid about my flight.

6h50 – Wow. I didn’t expect there to be so many people here this early in the morning. I wonder where that huge, crowded lineup is heading.

1 min later…

Oh, sh*t.

2 mins later…

Whoever came up with online check in and being able to print a boarding pass from home is a bloody genius. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful for having planned ahead. Other than some book shuffling (1.5 kilo from one bag to another), my luggage was good to go.

7h15 – Seems I’ve completely lost my ability to be ridiculously efficient when passing security. That was embarrassing.

7h30 – Ballentine’s or Johnny Walker Red Label ? Decisions, decisions. At least if I spend enough time mulling over this duty-free decision, I won’t have much time to think about the moment. Finally, instead of being unable to think about anything but the moment, now it feels I should avoid it at all costs.

7h45 – They definitely said on the website that there was a smoking room somewhere in here…. Disappointing. And I’m starving.

You said it, Belmondo.

You said it, Belmondo.

8h25 – They have begun the boarding and though I’m generally relaxed and calm about flying there’s still one thing that ends up annoying me.The people, before their seat row has been called, who insist on standing in front of the airline employees who check your ticket. It drives me nuts, We’re all going to the same place, the plane isn’t going to leave without you, chill it out. And for some reason we’re taking a shuttle bus to the plane. Ça change un peu.

8h45 – When I checked in I asked to switch for a window seat. Not only did an old man take the seat but the window isn’t lined up so it’s useless. And I’m right beside the toilets. I lied. I don’t love flying unless I get what I want. And once I can’t have my window, away from the toilet, nor can I sleep, I may just use the rest of my euros to deplete  the stock of…

And as I was writing that, an older French woman came up to say that I was in her seat. Turns out that the man next to me was lost and in my seat. I win!

9h22  – We take off. Interesting fact that I learned a few months ago I would like to share (regardless of whether or not it’s true) but it turns out that the reason you can’t have electronic devices turned on during the take off or landing of a plane is because those are the times in which an accident is most likely to occur. In this case, they want to ensure they have your full and undivided attention when instructions might need to be given, rather than you just keep continuing to play Angry Birds.

 

10h12  – Somewhere over England or Wales. Really hungry. I filled out my customs paper and as per usually, just threw down a random number. I mean, after 9 months, who cares how much I’m bringing back. I think I earned it.

14h00 – Have been sleeping and listening to music for the past while. I feel fine about going home, I suppose. I can’t tell if I’m handling it well or if I’m still not getting it. In any case, I’m watching the episode of FRIENDS when Joey wants to learn French, but I’m watching it in French because I wanted to see what language he would be learning. Spanish. We’re almost over Newfoundland.

15h38/9h38 – I don’t know whether to use Paris time or Toronto time. We’re somewhere over the Saint Lawrence basin and as I stare at the map screen telling me that rests only an hour and a half until we land and I see where I am, it finally feels really real. And thoughts flash back through snapshots in my memory of these past few weeks and forward to once again being on the 401 highway seeing the CN Tower in the distance on the way home. Everything feels heavy and sick. I can’t stop wondering about how life will move on from here. Whether I’ll see many of the amazing people I’ve met, ever again. Whether I’ll ever have the opportunity to go back. I was super lucky and privileged to have this experience.

exchange students

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Last weekend was the Last Weekend.

I finished my final exam yesterday*, certain it wouldn’t go well. Fortunately, I proved myself wrong and walked out with a goofy grin and a pleasant high. Though, over a short time, my thoughts began to turn once again to my departure later this week. But they also turned back, to how I spent my last several days.

Friday evening. I remember standing outside of residence and I smoked a cigarette while gazing at the nearly-full moon on the horizon, though the sky was still brightly lit. Reflecting on the fact that there was exactly one week remaining before my flight, I was also waiting to hear from some friends regarding our plans to go to the last organized party of the year.

Later that night, in Parc de Gayeulles with half of the students from Sciencespo, I promised myself and my friends that I wasn’t going to be drinking much and that I would be leaving early. The music was loud and we talked and laughed and time passed too quickly. Hours passed, the crowd had become fewer, and more dense. I said my goodbye to several people, whose presence I realize I had not appreciated enough over the year. I stumbled into some of my closest friends, wandering through the crowd, tears pouring down their faces. Some could be comforted with a hug, while certain others were inconsolable. Tempers, my own included, would flare and soften in minutes from the combination of stress, alcohol, and a few badly chosen words. By the end of the night, as I left the house party where we ended up, it did seem that a peace and calm had been found.

Saturday was in Normandy. I found Honfleur to have one of the most beautiful centers of almost anywhere I’ve visited in France. As the sun set over Le Havre, my friends and I drove over the Pont de Normandie. I sat in the backseat staring, silent. I felt the others sensed something was wrong, but nothing was. Perhaps they realized why, remembering their own exchanges and the polarization of feelings and moods that washes over you near the end. We arrived at the grand hotel and casino in Cabourg, where I sipped a drink quietly while watching a band perform covers of classic rock songs. Everything in the moment felt correct. Almost serendipitous.

I found myself looking out over the English Channel, under the now-full moon, when we arrived back in Lion-sur-Mer where we stayed.  The following afternoon, I found myself in the water. I had reluctantly agreed to join a friend of mine in going in, telling myself that this was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. People on the beach in coats and blankets may have thought us strange as we trotted through the sand in bathing suits. We had planned to run into the water, but instead had to wade through at knee depth among rocks to reach a shallower and sandy spot to begin running. The water felt ice cold. I ran in and fell into the water and as I felt the frigid shock of the water, there was this feeling of cleansing, I suppose. I had forgotten about the saltiness of the ocean until I tasted the water on my lips. It was a moment when I could forget all else and just feel that everything is as it should be.

*I began to write this post on Tuesday, but didn’t find myself able to complete it until today

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Dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.

Today was Spring. Yesterday was spring too, technically. Today however, was the warmest and sunniest day I believe we’ve seen since… probably October. To celebrate, I thought I might write a bit of a rambling post to go along with the fantastic mood I’m in.

I didn't have to see her today to notice she was ecstatic with today's weather.

I didn’t have to see her today to notice she was ecstatic with today’s weather. (Sorry about the lack of editing skills here)

Spring began March 20th and that will probably be ingrained in my memory forever. A italian friend of mine wouldn’t stop talking for two weeks about how excited she was for it before it came and then, when it finally did, how disappointed she was that it wasn’t magically sunnier out every day!

(I think today made up for most everyone’s antipathy with the recent weather however.)

We had planned to put together a special event to celebrate the coming of Spring, but since it had rained that weekend, we postponed and made plans for Easter weekend. The two of us and another friend got together and planned a special meal of Melanzane alla Parmigiana (eggplant parmesan). In the end, we spent almost the entire weekend together, as most of our other friends were off on their own adventures.

Whenever my italian friend cooks for me, my eyes water from sheer joy.

Whenever my italian friend cooks for me, my eyes water from sheer joy.

We also made a cake, and bought a bottle of Spanish champagne-type stuff...

We also made a cake, and bought a bottle of Spanish champagne-type stuff…

... Which was a questionable idea.

… Which was a questionable idea.

But, as I mentioned, today was really a day to celebrate. Unfortunately, I woke up today after a night out that didn’t end spectacularly well and, despite the sunshine, was not really planning to go anywhere. I resigned myself to rocking out to Zeppelin and trying to get myself to do some of the work that’s been piling up lately.

…. Until I received an invitation to head off to the park with some friends.

I didn't take many pictures. This is not an accurate reflection of the park population.

I didn’t take many pictures. This is not an accurate reflection of the park population.

We lay out under the sun with what seemed like hundreds of other people (mostly students) in the park, enjoyed some ice cream, and did our best not to think of all the work we have to finish before our holidays begin. After a few hours, it was time to head back, and I was practically bouncing off the sidewalk with a vitamin D overdose.

Garfield without Garfield

Garfield without Garfield

To be honest, the day was somewhat bittersweet. As the days get warmer and longer, and exams creep nearer, we’re reminded again and again that our time left together is limited. On the other hand, today was also a teasing reminder of sweet summers back home and having beers on the back patio with the family. A point has been reached where thinking about going home brings a conflicted sense of guilt. Ready to go home, not ready to say goodbye; Wanting the school year and work to end, but knowing that everyone will scatter to the winds once it does.

"Pierrot le Fou" - Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

“Pierrot le Fou” – Jean-Luc Godard, 1965

There’s not much we can do now except turn up the music and soak in these moments.

At last the sun is shining, The clouds of blue roll by,
With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes.

– The Battle of Evermore, Led Zeppelin

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It’s not the culture difference, it’s your own disorganization. Or is it ?

I returned to the library not more than a half-hour ago in a frustrated huff after yet another (attempted) visit to the Centre de Mobilité internationale. I walked in, dropped my bag and coat on a chair, and turned to a German friend of mine. “I need coffee. Coming?” It was less asking a  question than an exclamation that I needed to rant.

I had planned to return to the CMI today after I received an email informing me to come retrieve my new récépissé this week. I decided Wednesday would be ideal due to my class schedule and I jotted down the opening hours of the centre.

After having lunch today, I began walking to the centre. Considering the weather had been unusually bright and sunny, I wasn’t at all annoyed by taking this time out of my day to make the journey downtown. As I approached the Centre, just a few minutes before 1pm, a strange sense of foreboding came over me. Was I sure it opened at one… or was it one-thirty ?

No matter, I thought as I stopped on a bridge over the Vilaine river, I have it written in my agenda. I pull out my agenda and, to my dismay and frustration, realize that I was in fact a half-hour too early. Disappointed and not wanting to head all the way back to school or to sit on the side of the road for a half-hour, I paced around until I realized that I needed to pick up some cards from a store downtown.

10 minutes later, I found myself approaching Place de Bretagne and an excellent shop specializing in cards, notebooks, pens, and the like. As I approached, it slowly dawned on me that this was not turning out to be a lucky day. The shop was closed.

Resolving to do something productive and not get too discouraged before heading back to the CMI, I turned the corner and found another store where I found precisely what I had hoped to find. My purchase complete and the sun beating ahead, I headed back along the river to the CMI, concentrating on getting myself back into a mood that was worthy of the weather.

Think! This may be one of the last times you’ll have to come here, everything is coming together, I told myself as I climbed the stairs to the office. I quickly rehearsed what I would say to the receptionist as I reached out and grabbed the door handle.

*Clunk* I may have pulled it about 2 millimetres before the lock slammed into the side of its hole in the doorframe. You’ve got to be kidding me. I blink slowly and look towards the hours posted beside the door. Yep, it’s open after one-thirty, and it’s almost two right now….

…and it’s closed on Wednesdays. I wanted to jump into the river.

After I returned to the library and began telling my story, I realized two things. First, as I explained to my friend, I have begun to understand why there’s a stereotype abut Western Europeans being efficient and organized. You can’t simply do a random ‘drop-in’ at most places, even if invited, unless you know the weekly schedule of said place.

“In Canada, it’s not like that! Unlike here, for example, banks are open 6 days a week and they don’t close for a bloody lunch break! You can just run errands with your only worry being that you might have to line up to wait!”

She laughed. “Oh, I don’t believe you… I’ll see if that’s true when I go over there.”

The second realization that had come to mind was about the email I had been sent. I racked my brain and, though I knew the opening hours had been listed there, I was sure there was no mention of Wednesday being special for any reason. Naturally, I went back to check this out.

Votre récépissé est disponible au CMI, merci de venir le récupérer  pendant les heures d’ouverture : Du lundi au vendredi de 9h30 à 12h30 ou de 13h30 à 17h00.

No mention, and yet, I still feel like this is my fault. Oh well. Somehow I’m sure this is a lesson learned, and one day I’ll figure out what exactly that lesson might be. I got some exercise, profited from the sunshine, and ran a necessary errand. Despite it all taking a ridiculous amount of time, I’m past it.

And, in an excellent example of pathetic fallacy for your protagonist here, whilst I was writing this post, the weather changed from sunny to raining, and now the sun is shining again. This has been quite a normal day… weather-wise.

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