Turning 23 in MEXCIO: Week 3 in MEXICO CITY

Well apparently the time has finally come! How has 3 weeks passed so damn quickly? Despite it sadly being our last week in Mexico City, it was such an epic week that flashed by way too quickly!

6174569216_IMG_1750

Free Day

We were lucky that again on Monday we were granted a free day! It was perfectly timed because man did we need a breather (especially after our hectic weekend – click here to check out what we got up to). I decided to go on a solo mission to Soumaya, an incredible art gallery owned by Carlos Slim (one of the richest people in the world). I would absolutely recommend this gallery. Not only are the artworks in their world class – think Dalí, Renoir, Degas and Riviera, but the building itself is exquisite!

For the rest of the day we spent our time chilling and working on our presentations due at the end of the week.

We also went to a cute little cafe a block away from the hotel. It’s called A43 and has THE BEST mushroom burger I’ve ever had! Plus if you’re a fan of hot chocolates, this is your place!

IMG_7537IMG_7538

Cultural Visits

This week we didn’t have as many organised cultural visits, which meant we had more free time to pick and choose exactly what we wanted to do.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of us went to the Museum of Anthropology and were taken back thousands of years to the age of the Aztecs. It’s an enormous collection of recovered artefacts and is absolutely incredible!

IMG_7612IMG_7780

Wednesday was a really special day for me because…… I turned 23!!! WOO! Because of the time difference, I felt like my birthday actually lasted 2 days so there was a lot of celebrating to be done. In the afternoon a group of us went to Castillo Chapultepec. This beautiful old castle on a hill that overlooks this enormous city. So needless to say, I felt like a total princess!

That evening we went downtown to a cute Italian restaurant where we ate pizza and pasta and drank tequila. It was such a special way to spend my birthday and I’m so grateful that I was able to spend it with such incredible people.

IMG_7689IMG_77486176639488_IMG_2566

6176639488_IMG_2589IMG_7695

Professional Site Visits

This week we went to two houses/shelters that support refugees in the local community. The first was Cafe Min – a shelter mainly aimed at women and families. We were given a tour of the facility (which used to be an old school). There were several families with children there. Because of the language barrier, we just played with the children and had a pretty intense game of football (note – if you’re looking for donations to take to the refugees, a soccer ball is an instant hit). It was here that I met a young 14 year old girl, Maria. Her Mum had taken her and her two younger brothers (aged 9 and 4) across the border to escape the gang violence in their town in the North of Mexico. They were captured by US Border Force and put into detention. Their mother was deported back to Mexico. The children were put into foster care in the United States. The children were reunited with their mother a year later. Despite this, these children were so happy, enthusiastic and energetic about life. It was incredibly inspiring to meet such a beautiful young lady who was showing off her English skills by reading me Dr. Seuss.

6174642736_IMG_2430

On Wednesday we were scheduled to go to a detention centre, yet recent riots and violence in the centre resulted in our visit being cancelled. It was disappointing that we didn’t get the chance to visit the centre, yet it’s a very strong reminder of why we’re here studying. To seek asylum is a human right, yet across the world – particularly in Australia, we are punishing these vulnerable people for doing so. I hope to see a future without detention centres.

160118104820-01-nauru-children-827-super-169
Image Source

Class

This week we had our final presentations! My group presented on ‘Media, Othering and Human Rights.’ It’s definitely a topic that I’m very passionate about and it was great presenting to a group who all study different degrees and approached similar topics differently. I felt I really learnt a lot.

Graduation! 

Some people were flying out on Friday so naturally we decided to celebrate our graduation with everyone on Thursday night. We did some cute little awards, had a big family dinner and just enjoyed each others company. It was so lovely! My Mexican friend Victor and his friend Ricardo plus a few others from the group ended up going out to La Condesa to party! It was such a great night!

IMG_7700

IMG_7734IMG_7736IMG_7754

After we finished our presentations on Friday afternoon – we were done! We had a great celebratory lunch with our coordinators and enjoyed our time together! We were presented with our certificates of completion and that was it! That night it was another girls birthday so we all went out for our last supper together!

And with that week that’s a wrap of this incredible program! We’ve got a final essay due in 3 weeks about our topic of choice, but with all of the inspiration and motivation from this program, I’m on an absolute roll with it.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to go back into study in Australia. This study abroad experience gave me a real insight into this harsh world. It allowed me to experience and witness the real life repercussions of policy, action (or inaction) and things that we learn in textbooks. It was challenging, confronting, overwhelming, emotional, but most of all incredibly enriching. I’ve learnt more than I ever thought I would and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to study one of my main passions in Mexico City.

IMG_7236IMG_7032IMG_77726174596656_IMG_2371IMG_7450IMG_7451

Walking in the Shoes of a Refugee: MEXICO Week 2

Hola chicas! Cómo estás? As you can tell, my Spanish is going quite well! My stomach on the other hand, not quite. Our 2nd week in Mexico City has been equally full on as our first week (if you missed what happened, you can catch up here). We’ve learnt a lot, visited numerous museums and cultural sites and had one of the scariest nights of my life. Let’s have a look at what we got up to this week!

IMG_7772

Free Day

Woo! We finally got a day off which meant an epic sleep in. Most of us used this day to relax and reset ourselves in preparation for the crazy week ahead of us. I used this day to remember my time in Mexico City forever! I got a TATTOO! Victoria and I headed to ‘Soul Flower’ in La Condesa to get some ink. The guy who gave us our tattoo was so awesome! His name was Jorge and he was from Honduras. He owns his own tattoo shop in Costa Rica where he now lives, and is currently travelling around to tattoo conventions in Mexico and Guatemala. After everything I’ve learnt about Honduras, I was really glad to have a part of his story with me.

 

 

There seems to be a fair few birthdays this month! And this week we celebrated two! One Monday night we went out for tapas and lots of wine, making it the perfect way to wind down after our hectic first week.

IMG_7293

Cultural Visits

This week we experienced A LOT of Mexican culture! Our first visit was on Tuesday afternoon to the Blue House (also known as the house of Friday Kahlo and Diego Rivera – two of the most renowned Mexican artists). If you haven’t already – watch the movie Frida on Netflix. It’s pretty much where I learnt the most about Frida and her life. Then getting to wander the corridors where she lived, see her artwork, her garden and bedroom was absolutely incredible!

After the Blue House, we went around the corner to visit the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was killed. For those of you who don’t know (don’t worry, I learnt this information at the house itself), Trotsky was a part of the Russian opposition government during the time of Stalin. When Stalin took power, it made Trotsky an enemy of the state so him and his wife fled to Mexico. They moved to Mexico because Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo supported the Mexican Communist party and thus their connection. After Kahlo and Trotsky had an affair, Trotsky moved to a different house. There was an attempted murder where one of Stalin’s guys stabbed him with an ice pick but he survived. He then appointed guards to his house and basically lived in a fortress. Yet that was no stopping Stalin as he was later killed by gunshot which sprayed his entire room. You can still see those bullet marks in the wall today. And there you go, some Russian history in the streets of Mexico City.

6241681760_IMG_20926241681760_IMG_21296241681760_IMG_2152IMG_73926241681760_IMG_2073

Tula

On Saturday we visited the archeological site of Tula. It’s funny because you almost get used to thinking ‘oh, another ancient pyramid.’ Nonetheless, we explored, climbed it and learnt about how in Tula, they forbid human sacrifice to the Gods, so it seems it was quite a progressive society.

6174642016_IMG_2264IMG_7502IMG_7501

Ballet

On Sunday night we were treated to a night at the ballet! A group of us, along with our professional tour guide, Arnaldo, headed downtown to the Opera House. This is an ABSOLUTE MUST for anyone going to Mexico City. It’s a mix of ballet and Mexican folk dance and it was simply stunning – we couldn’t wipe the smile off of our face!

6174596656_IMG_2371

Floating Markets

Sunday we went to the incredible Floating Markets. Think Venetian gondola meets Mexican fiesta! We all boarded the little boat with a few beers in hand and we floated through the canals and around markets. In all honesty, it’s a bit difficult to describe, so I made this vlog instead!

IMG_75046174596656_IMG_2318IMG_7500

Class

Class this week was equally as intensive. One of my favourite days was taught by an incredible woman, Frida Espinosa who spoke to us about gender, health and migration. I could really feel my previous thoughts and ideas being challenged, evolving and honestly learning a lot. It was such a great class because it’s a perspective that is not often taken in the discussion of migration.

Next week we also have presentations so we started working out what groups we wanted to be in and brainstorming some ideas.

we-can-do-it-poster-1393770492mjO

Professional Site Visits

The site visit on Friday to the Transit Migrant Shelter called Casa del Samaritano in Hidalgo, was definitely a group highlight. This shelter is located on the train line for migrants taking ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast – the notorious train that migrants are known for climbing onto). It is a safe place for them to have a warm meal, call their loved ones, get new clothing if needed, and then head back off on their journey.

The general consensus of our group was that we felt that we actually did something productive and useful to help these people. People helped in the kitchen, helped clean our some of the shelter and I was on phone duty. Helping the migrants dial their respective countries, where they could make a 3minute phone call. Despite the language barrier, we were still able to converse quite well and find out information about their lives and reasons why they were migrating. All of the migrants were males from Honduras, aged between 17 and 64. One young man, aged 22, had actually been living in Utah with his wife and two children when he was caught without documents and deported back to Honduras. So it was his second time attempting to cross the border.

As we were leaving so were the migrants as they headed along the train tracks. A train ripped by our bus and the migrants, when they started running. We saw one young man grab a ladder of a carriage and get pulled along until he could finally jump onto the carriage, leaving his new found friends behind and taking his chances on The Beast. The rest of the group continued walking along the train tracks. That is an image that is etched into my mind and I don’t think I could ever forget those brave young men.

IMG_7451IMG_7450

That evening we did one of the craziest things I’ve ever done in my entire life. At the Alberto Eco Park, they run simulation border crossings and we were signed up. We were forewarned to wear clothes that we didn’t mind getting dirty and sturdy shoes. At approximately 9:30pm, when it was pitch black, a man in a balaclava pulled up in his ute and started screaming at us to gather together. He called our names and we were led into the bush. And thus began the next 3.5hours of running, hiding from ‘border force,’ bandits, drug dealers, crossing swinging bridges, climbing through dark tunnels, trudging through thick mud, hiding in a group on the ground, accidentally falling into cacti, and worst of all, having blanks being shot at us. It was terrifying, thrilling, exciting, scary and an experience we’ll never forget.

We finished at about 1am where a man talked to us about why he decided to create this experience. He said he wanted people to physically attempt to walk a mile in a migrants shoes and at the end of the day, you know it’s not real and you can go back to your comfortable bed and sleep peacefully. These migrants and refugees do not have such privilege and there’s no escaping the reality of violence and fear. It was extremely touching and incredibly motivating to each of us. It reminded us why we were here studying immigration and made us all the more passionate and motivated to make a difference.

IMG_1869_slideshow
Image Source
IMG_1903_slideshow
Image Source

Week 2 was quite crazy indeed, but it was nothing short of incredible! I can’t believe we’re heading into our last week this week! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!

Tacos & Tequila: Week 1 In MEXICO CITY

Mexico, that country that speaks Spanish, is renowned for its tacos and tequila and apparently Trump doesn’t like people from there. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of Mexico before arriving and commencing my studies in its capital, Mexico City. So how did I end up here? Well you may recall that around this time last year, I was completing a short course in La Rochelle, France, with a company called AIM Overseas (you can read about my experiences in France here). And after having such a life changing and incredible experience in France, I looked into their programs to see how I can escape another Australian Winter.

That’s when I came across their program taught at the University of La Salle in Mexico City titled ‘Immigrants, Human Rights & Mexican Society.’ Damn what a mouthful hey! Since I’m studying International Studies with Communications & Media Studies, I’ve always been fascinated, concerned and frustrated with current social and political perspectives towards migration, especially of refugees desperately trying to reach Australia. After finding out that I could receive a second OS Help Loan, I found myself being accepted into the program and on my way to Mexico City to study something that I’m deeply passionate about.

So here’s a look into what happened in our first week in Mexico City!

6176637728_IMG_2034
Taking in the view of a city of 22million

Arriving

Arriving in a new destination, particularly one you’ve never been to before and don’t speak the language, can be extremely daunting. Luckily, La Salle organises an airport pick up. So there was someone at the airport to greet me with a friendly ‘Hola!’ From there, I joined a crew of other students in my program and in the Public Health Program (another AIM Overseas program offered at La Salle), and we filed onto the bus to take us to our new homes. Our ‘Immigrants’ group is staying at a lovely hotel in the funky, safe and colourful neighbourhood called La Condesa. I met my roomie, Rosie from the University of Melbourne. She’s a red head too, so we came to the understanding that they matched us based on our hair colour – but we get along really well so AIM definitely did a great job.

Across our arrival weekend, I met the other students in the program from all different degrees and from universities all across Australia. This diversity, I could tell, would be extremely valuable when it comes to discussing such a complex topic of migration. And to top it off, everyone is like minded and passionate about the same thing as you, so it’s safe to say that everyone is pretty damn cool.

IMG_6998
The colours of La Condesa, our funky neighbourhood

Classes

On Monday morning we were escorted to the university so we could take notes on directions. Luckily La Salle is a quick 10-15minute walk away from the hotel. Monday was our Orientation day where we were given a tour of the university and neighbourhood, we discussed our schedule for the three weeks, took our photos for our student ID’s and had an awesome welcome lunch.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were quite intense days of classes. We covered everything from Contemporary Mexican Society, Mexico-US Migration Management and Human Rights and Legal Issues surrounding Migration. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon we had our crucial ‘Survival Spanish’ classes where we covered important topics like how to order a beer and make sure you don’t order the super spicy tacos! All of our classes have been taught by extremely passionate and inspiring professor’s making the long days of class very engaging, interesting and informative.

6176687408_IMG_1950
Some of the sites and colours you can expect to find downtown

Professional Site Visits

As much as this course is academic, it is equally practical where we get to immerse ourselves in the realities for many migrants and refugees arriving to Mexico. On Friday, we visited ‘Casa de los Amigos’ and ‘Casa Tochan’, both are houses providing support and accommodation for newly arrived migrants and refugees. At Casa de los Amigos, we were given a tour of their facilities and a presentation going through some of the services they provide these people. They receive migrants and refugees mostly from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, however when we visited they had several refugees from Somalia and Cameroon. It just goes to show that as long as there is conflict and danger, people will go to all lengths to find somewhere safe for themselves and their families.

6174569216_IMG_1738
Outside Casa de Los Amigos
6174569216_IMG_1749
Kindness is a universal language
IMG_7023
After our presentation from Casa de los Amigos

After Casa de los Amigos, we headed to Casa Tochan, a much smaller house, yet doing some pretty incredible things and making a real difference to those looking for support, shelter, food, services and kindness. At Casa Tochan, I met three Honduran refugees, aged 17, 19 and 22. They told us their stories (with the help from a translator) and it was an incredibly powerful, emotional and confronting experience. One of the young boys entire family had been murdered in Honduras and therefore, he was escaping out of fear of being next. It was all very raw and emotional, yet the part that I’ll never forget was when another girl on the program asked how they felt with us coming to visit Casa Tochan. They responded that they were so grateful because it makes them feel like there’s people out there that actually care about them and the situation they’re in. I must admit, I spent a lot of the afternoon wiping away tears from my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with their kindness, hope and strength. The reality of looking someone directly in the eye and creating a bond that transcends language, culture or class is an experience that can never be taken away and to those young boys that I had the absolute honour of meeting, I will never forget their bravery.

6176650448_IMG_1766
The mural painted in the common area at Casa Tochan
IMG_7032
Our group and awesome tour guides
IMG_7028
A mural on the street near Casa Touchan painted by migrants. This bird is the national bird of Honduras and it represents the freedom they’ve gained from spreading their wings.

Other Events

Friday afternoon we were treated to a salsa class, a fun way to lift spirits and get in a good work out. For anyone thinking that salsa is all about the skirts, you’re wrong. Be prepared to sweat!

This weekend was a hectic weekend of soaking up a lot of culture and history. On Saturday we headed to the famous Pyramids! Walking among thousands of years of history sure was memorable. On the way back to the city, we stopped at the Basilica de Guadalupe, the second most important Catholic religious site, the first being the Vatican.

IMG_7139
Rosie and I conquering the Sun Pyramid
IMG_7236
The Immigration group & Public Health group after galavanting all around the Pyramids.
IMG_7159
The 1st and 2nd Basilica de Guadalupe. Because of the ground it’s built on, the buildings are actually sinking, meaning that not many buildings are straight. But it sure adds character.

6174643536_IMG_1917

On Sunday we were completely immersed in the hustle and bustle of Mexico City and given a tour of downtown. We visited the Cathedral, the old palace with murals by Diego Rivera (OMG fan girl!) and Templo Mayor. To add to the craziness of downtown, there was also a really popular football match on where they had big screens everywhere!

6176687408_IMG_19396176687408_IMG_19636176687408_IMG_2020

6241772880_IMG_1696

One of my very good friends actually lives in Mexico City. His name is Victor and we met when he came to Wollongong on exchange in my first year. 3.5years later, he was showing me around his home town, complete with tacos, tequila and pulques. Being reunited with old friends is definitely one of the best things about travel and I’m so grateful that he’s been able to show me around such an incredible city.

IMG_7156
Victor and I

Well I honestly don’t know where times gone. 1 week down, 2 more to go. One thing I’m really realising is just how fortunate I am to be given such a unique opportunity of studying one of our century’s most complex and urgent movement of people, in a country that is so heavily involved in the process, whether it be sending, receiving or simply a transit for people, Mexico and immigration go hand in hand. In the 1 week I’ve been here, I’ve learnt more about Mexico City and Mexican Society than I have in my whole life and I’m quickly learning that there’s much more to this incredible place than tacos and tequila (yet still very important).

[You can follow my adventures on Instagram @aworldlyaddiction]

 

The Thing No One Tells You About EXCHANGE

So somehow time has flown so quickly that it’s been 3 months since I had to say au revoir to Montreal and finish up my exchange (if you missed what I got up to – you can check it out here). So now uni has started (we’re somehow in Week 4?!), life back in Wollongong is in full motion and exchange feels somewhat of a dream.

Everyone always talks about how amazing exchange is. How it’s the best time of their life. How you’re going to make friends for life, drink too much, see wonders of the world, get your Instagram popping and how it’s going to change your freakin life! And all of this is true, and these are just some of the many reasons that I encourage everyone to seek the opportunity to study abroad and travel.

But in all honesty, I wasn’t prepared for the complete confusion, doubt and insecurity I faced at home and within myself when I returned to Australia. I’ve heard about reverse culture shock before, and I’ve lived away from home before and I knew something like this was coming… but it still smacked me in the face.

Whilst I know the following thoughts are natural and silly, at the time I was dealing with these thoughts, the stress and anxiety was real. My biggest fear was surround my friends.

Was I going to lose my friends that I’d just made in Montreal? Would they still be interested in my life back in Australia? Would they make time to talk to me? Would I make time to talk to them? Would my friends back home accept the new me? Would they even notice that I’ve changed? Would I even have my old friends back home? 

These (thankfully) were all dealt with and overcome when I saw my friends back in Australia again and I was overcome with happiness, gratitude and joy. Plus, being able to FaceTime and Snapchat my friends back in Montreal, it reassured me that these friendships are strong and real. And it actually made me appreciate them even more – the fact that they care about my life over here and they’re willing to put in the effort to keep in touch and keep the friendship alive.

My other concern was about my identity and personality, leaving me asking ‘who am I?’ I slowly saw myself, my ideas and my values change over the course of the time that I was away. I was exposed to problems and issues I’d never heard of, listened to stories of strength, injustice and survival, changed my core values, altered my ideas… all that cheesy stuff associated with going through a life changing experience. And you’re determined to hold on to it all, bring it all to your life back home and just be a freakin awesome changed woman.

But the reality is that you start to adjust back to your old life, old routine and old ways, and you can’t help but let some of those ideas go. You almost get trapped in between 2 versions of yourself, and you’re not really sure which one is the real you, or the one you want to move forward it. I guess everyone has these types of identity crises throughout their lives, but it’s especially apparent when you return from an adventure overseas.

So how do I move forward? Where do we go from here?

I think I’ll continue to romanticise my exchange, always giving me fun, beautiful and exciting memories to look back on. But my goal is to channel that feeling. The feeling that anything is possible, that anyone can be a friend, that your day could take you anywhere and that life is freakin beautiful. And I just need to accept that not everyone shares these ideas, but I can’t hold back who I am or what I want. I’ve got to remember to be fierce and do what sets my soul and heart on fire… chase and create that feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Travel Depression: It’s Real and It SUCKS


They say the hardest thing about travelling is coming back home…

It’s been exactly 1 month since leaving Montreal – how the hell has that happened? If you speak to Time, please tell him he’s working a bit too quickly lately, because damn has time absolutely escaped me. I guess travelling around the States for 2 weeks helped (if you missed it you can check out my videos from America here). Upon being back in Australia I’ve been equally busy. Seeing friends, family, getting back to work, finding a house, and finally sleeping in my own bed (luxury!), I’ve been busy enough to distract me from the void in my stomach. But now that routine is finally starting to kick in, I’m slowly but surely hitting that inevitable wall of post travel depression.

Post Travel Depression, I argue, is a real and genuine thing that overcomes you a few weeks after returning from overseas. And the worst thing is, that you’re never really prepared for it. No matter if you’re a seasoned traveller or a first timer, I promise that it will still hit you as hard every time. You come back from your holiday (or in my case, exchange) and you’re like a minor celebrity. You walk around, see everyone you know, everyone’s asking about your trip, your pictures, if you met any cute boys… and you’re ecstatic.

img_1110

Did That Really Happen?

But then a week passes by, you start working again, then another week passes by, and you’re hanging out at your old bar, then a few more days pass by and it’s honestly like you’ve never left. Everything you’ve experienced, just feels like a dream. But how could it be a dream? It was one of the best experiences of your life! And slowly but surely, you slip right back into your old life, and you start sinking.

Change

I think the worst part is when you feel that you’ve changed, grown and had your mind and eyes well and truly blown. You’ve basically created a new version of you whilst on your travels, but the people you know and love back home, can’t see it. Sure they may notice little things, that you’ve put on some weight from all those baguettes, or picked up a weird accent, but at the end of the day, they’ll never truly understand. And that contributes towards the ‘dreamlike’ feeling of your experience, it kind of leaves you questioning if it really happened, and you feel yourself loosing a part of person you created overseas. And that feeling…. it’s incredibly horrible.

img_1107

Missing Out

It’s even worse when some sort of major event or occasion happens where you were living or travelling, and you get an overwhelming feeling of missing out. For example, not long after I left Montreal, there was a festival called IglooFest. And if the name itself isn’t enough to sell you, all of my friends went. OK, so that wasn’t the end of the world, missing an awesome festival. But what really hit me in the feels, was when it was my best friends 22nd birthday. You see snapchats, Instagrams, Facebook posts and you just know, deep in your heart, that everyone is having an amazing time, and that you’re really missing out on something special.

And I guess that’s something that we just have to come to accept and deal with. You can’t be everywhere at the same time (unless we make MAJOR advancements in technology asap). And we can’t always do everything we want to do. Reality strikes, your visas up, your exchange is over, your return flight is booked and you’ve got things to do. This doesn’t mean you have to be boring, but it does mean that physical barriers exist and at the end of the day, if you can’t be there in person, I’m sure you’re there in spirit (drinking all the spirits at the party whilst killing it at beer pong).

img_1104

Expression and Communication

The best way to deal with these feelings, is to get it out there. Society almost expects people who return from travel, to always be happy and rejuvenated. But by talking about how you’re feeling, and spreading the word of the honestly shit feelings you experience when returning, then you’ll get a lot more support, love and kindness.

And keep in contact with your friends you’ve met overseas. Give them a random FaceTime, send them a card, Snapchat them your day, write them a message and tell them that you’re having a rough time and that you miss them. I assure you that your friends will be missing you too. The most important thing to remember is that the friends you meet whilst on exchange or travelling aren’t just going to disappear. In fact, I think you’ll cross paths sooner than you expect.

img_3485

Your Next Adventure

Whilst everyone will experience this post travel depression differently and adjust at different rates and in different ways, I promise you, you’ll get through it. Soon enough you’ll be planning your next trip and starting your next adventure. The most important thing to remember is that travel and adventure is not just an action, it’s a mindset. So keep positive, live with purpose and accept and respect your feelings. You’ve gotta look after yourself, so that you can adjust to life back home, whilst planning your next adventure so you can do it all again.

img_0763

10 THINGS TO DO IN MONTRÉAL

So you’re going to Montreal? LUCKY YOU! Is there room in your suitcase? Can I come? On the off chance that you said no, and you’re going without me (rude), here’s my ultimate list of thing to do, see and drink in Montreal.

Like all good things in life, Montreal is full of extremes and the unexpected. Summer is hot hot hot. Humidity central. And Winter… Ice Ice Baby. It’s so cold that your nose hairs freeze outside. And fall is simply splendid. The trees explode with colour and make for some pretty popping Instagram pics. Regardless of when you visit, keep in mind that this will ultimately determine what you do and when you do it. Because you ain’t going to be walking the streets of Montreal for hours on end in freezing rain (I know this because we tried and I swear our veins were starting to freeze up). OK – so now I’m done being weather woman, here’s my ultimate list of things to do in Montreal!

img_8652

 

1. Mont-Royal.

This is my number 1 thing to do in Montreal, and once you do it you’ll see why. There’s not many cities in the world where you can feel like you’re lost in the woods when you’re actually just on a mountain in the middle of the city. You can do this in all seasons and it’s still just as magical. Mont-Royal was designed by the same guy that designed New York’s Central Park (that dude knew his parks). Not only is the walk up easy and beautiful, but the top hosts some of the best views in all of Montreal (plus it’s FREE). If you’ve got a few hours, definitely explore the rest of the mountain. There’s a beautiful old cemetery, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph and Beaver Lake (which you can go ice skating on in Winter).

img_9209

img_0694

img_2320

2. Vieux-Port (Old Port).

This is the heart of culture in Montreal. Home to Basilica Notre Dame (Paris’ Notre-Dame’s little sister), Rue Saint-Paul (Montreal’s oldest street), and access to the Saint Laurence River, this is a place you simply cannot miss. In Summer there are markets, stalls and lots of street performers and buskers to keep you entertained whilst you soak up some sunshine on a Terrace. Exploring old port, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were lost in a little European town.

img_2208

img_9157 

3. Le Plateau.

This is for all you coffee lover, hipsters out there. The Plateau is an area of Montreal, kinda the equivalent of Newtown in Sydney, but French. Yea – I’ll let that sink in. And this is where I used to live so I think I’ve earned the right to say I know the Plateau pretty well. You can get off at metro station Mont Royal and explore Avenue Mont-Royal. You’ll find some beautiful little cafes, thrift stores, restaurants and houses. The architecture in the Plateau is really something special and you can feel the buzz and vibe in the air. You haven’t been to Montreal unless you dip your toes in the hipster hood of the Plateau.

img_2215

4. Parc La Fontaine.

This is one of my favourite parks in Montreal. There’s squirrels galore and you’ll see dogs running about like crazy. Summer is beautiful as you can sit under a tree and watch the fountain bubble over the pond. Winter is extra special because it honestly looks like something from a fairytale. If you can get your hands on a toboggan, you won’t regret unleashing your inner child and slipping and sliding down the hills. It’s located on Rue Rachel near Mont Royal Metro.

img_1819

5. La Banquise.

The best thing about travelling is trying new food, we all know this. And if you go to Quebec, especially Montreal, you need to try their specialty, Poutine. La Banquaise definitely has some of the cities best poutine. Whilst people will tell you poutine is just chips, gravy and cheese… it’s so much more than that. My favourite is called La Boogooloo, fries, gravy, cheese, pulled port, sour cream and cabbage… OMG, it’s bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about it. It’s right around the corner from Parc La Fontaine on Rue Rachel, so once you’ve finished exploring, you can stuff your face with Poutine. Make sure you look after your food baby accordingly.

img_9067

6. L’avenue.

Speaking of food babies… make sure you go to this renowned brunch restaurant on an empty stomach. Wait times, similarly to La Banquise can reach 45 minutes, but I assure you it’s worth it. After taking 15 minutes looking through the menu and finally deciding what to devour, make sure you check out the bathroom. Just do it. Again, I assure you you’ll leave that place waddling down the street.

Check out Ben Brown’s vlog from when he was in Montreal and go to experience the extravagance of L’avenue. 

 

7. The Gay Village.

One of the best things about Montreal is it’s liberal thinking, love and acceptance. They have an amazing gay village, right near Berri UQAM Metro. In Summer there were beautiful decorations lining the street that was closed off for pedestrians to stroll along. If you’re looking for some gay nightclubs, then this place has you sorted!

IMG_9423.JPG

8. Jean-Talon Markets.

Fresh food and produce your thing? Make sure you don’t miss these incredible markets! Again, ensure you’re got an empty stomach and follow your noses. Are you noticing a trend here? Yes, I love food. Yes, Montreal has f*cking good food!

cbfed9cf2b9e7c80b9434e032ae8858c
Source

9. Boulevard Saint Laurent.

Think murals, street art, thrift shops, clubs, restaurants… the hub of nightlife in Montreal. Any good night out in Montreal starts and ends here. You’ll want to make sure you’re looking pretty flashy and jump in line pretty early for a lot of clubs, or you may find yourself just partying in the street. When you’re stumbling from the club at 4am, make sure you stumble by ‘Two Chow’ or ‘Toodles,’ $2 noodles. You’ll be devouring them in seconds and it will make the walk home much more entertaining.

img_0983

img_8613img_9567

10. Sundays.

Sundays in Montreal are honestly perfection. Especially in Summer. To enjoy your Sunday afternoon you can either go to Picnique Electronique or Tam Tams. The Jean Drapeau park with the theme park. Sadly I didn’t make it to this place, but hey, you’ve gotta have something to go back for. You take the yellow line from Berri UQAM and jump off on the island. My friend told me they built this island from all of the dirt from building the metro (thanks Rosa), and decided to put a theme park on it. In Summer it hosts an EDM event every Sunday afternoon called Picnique-Eletronique. And if you go in Winter, you can go to check out the view of the city, I’m told it’s pretty spectacular.

piknic-electronik
Source

And to shake things up, you can spend your Sunday afternoon at this free unofficial community event called Tam Tams. Held in Mont Royal Parc near the big statue, every Sunday afternoon whilst it’s warm, you’ll see hundreds of people playing drums, Frisbee, hacky sac, and smoking weed. Montreal is pretty relaxed on smoking weed, especially at this event. Whether you smoke or not, it’s an incredible sight to see, people coming together to celebrate music, their community, friendship and good times.

img_8773
Tam Tams

So they’re my top 10 things to do in Montreal. There are sooooo many more, but that should keep you busy for now. Two pieces of advice, brush up on your French, and engage with locals. The locals of Montreal are so lovely and kind (and know how to drink), so to get the full Montreal experience, make sure you have a chat with some locals at a bar.

Well, get on out there! Montreal is waiting for you. Wait, I still need to get in your suitcase!!!!

 

Did I Achieve My New Years Resolutions for 2016?

For anyone that knows me, I love making lists, writing my goals down and using it as inspiration to work towards achieving them. That’s why I always make New Years Resolutions and set myself goals for the year. And as 2016 sadly comes to an end, and I start trying to make sense of and work out the complications I’ve already got of 2017, it’s led me to wonder what’s in store for me. But I don’t just believe in letting fate happen. I believe in encountering fate, then telling it exactly what you want to do so you can achieve your goals. So, here were my goals and my New Years Resolutions for 2016 and my thoughts and reactions on some of the challenges I set myself.

You can see my original post of 16 Things I Want To Achieve in 2016 HERE

img_0151

1. Watch less TV shows, read more books

I’d say this one is somewhat accomplished. I don’t think I necessarily stopped watching TV shows. I just found more time to read and instead of watching TV shows, I made the transition to the wide world of YouTube.

2. Limit my coffee spending.

DID NOT HAPPEN AT ALL… maybe I need to buy a coffee machine?

3. Buy my lunch a max of once a week.

ALSO DID NO HAPPEN! In Australia I was good.

And this is probably the point where I should address that this year was split into two parts… Australia and exchange life. Obviously exchange life isn’t ‘reality’ where I have a job and responsibilities so it therefore impacted my ability to achieve these goals. None the less… I ended up buying food out a lot… oops.

IMG_7014

4. Be a vegetarian. 

I did this in Australia. I quickly discovered that when travelling and staying with friends and family overseas, it’s very difficult to maintain this diet. So I just decided that whilst travelling, I’d ditch the veggo diet. However, the only time I eat meat is when I eat out. I eat vegetarian at home and buy tofu as a source of protein over meat.

5. Ride my bike more often.

Yes in Australia. Yes in France. No in Canada. Sadly I didn’t have access to a bike in Montreal… and to be honest, I think I’d be a bit scared to ride my bike around the streets of Montreal. Drivers here are kinda mental. But I’m soooo looking forward to going home so I can ride my beautiful bike absolutely everywhere.

6. Maintain and improve my French.

Oui, absolutement. After a month of intensive French study in La Rochelle, and 6 months in Quebec, I think I’ve managed to improve my French skills.

img_7859

7. TRAVEL! 

This one was kind of cheating because I knew I’d be doing a lot of this on exchange. I’ve been lucky enough to travel around France, Spain, Iceland, Canada (Montreal, Quebec, Toronto, Kingston, Niagara Falls) and the US (DC, Boston, New York – and soon to be California) and I’m so freakin grateful and happy that I had the opportunity to do so much travel during this time.

8. Volunteer.

I did volunteer at the beginning of this year but as soon as I started travelling and moved to Montreal that totally died off. Definitely something that I want to get involved with in 2017.

9. You can’t play hard until you’ve worked harder.

This was all about doing well at uni and I think I managed to do this in Australia and in Montreal. With 2 Distinctions and a HD at UOW for Autumn, and getting the top mark in my mid term for one of my classes at Concordia. I think I’ve deserved those beers.

10. Try something new

I experienced lots of new things, but I don’t think I really tried something new. I guess my intention with this goal was to really put myself out there and try a pole dancing class, learn to play a song on piano, a skill or something just completely out of the ordinary. I did try a lot of new things, but I’m all about pushing myself so I’m going to leave this unachieved and I’ll definitely be carrying this with me into the new year.

img_3807

11. Say Yes!

Absolutely smashed this one. There’d be nights where I’d be in bed, winding down for the evening, and then suddenly get a message from a friend inviting me out. It’s really easy to make excuses. In fact I think I realised just how hesitant I can be to making plans. Exchange definitely encouraged me to put myself out there and say yes to opportunities and I’m so grateful for that experience.

12. Be thankful, and show it.

One of the biggest things I learnt this year was just how privileged I am and I never want to take this privilege for granted. I want people to know how much I appreciate their friendship, their kindness and love. Actually, I don’t want them to know it, I want them to feel it. That I’m completely grateful for everything that has happened this year and nothing has passed by unnoticed.

13. Couchsurf.

Maybe next year.

screenshot-2016-09-14-12-35-35

14. Eat. Sleep. Blog. Repeat. 

Mmmm kind of. Whilst I may not have been blogging as much as I would have liked, I launched my YouTube channel and have been making videos every week. I’ve also written content for Twenty Something Humans and Thought Catalog which has been an incredible experience and something I definitely want to continue into the future.

15. Stop comparing myself/Stop with the negative thoughts.

Everyone has insecurities and has periods where they feel down about themselves. This is something that I’ve wanted to combat this year because being negative is not productive or helpful to anyone, in any situation. So I’ve really been focusing on loving myself and owning my flaws. This has pushed me in a really positive direction and I feel that I’ve grown so much as a person because of it. YAY progress!

16. Own It!

Hells yea I ‘owned it.’ I feel that this carries on from my last point, to love myself, accept myself with my flaws and strengths. I’m really proud of everything that I’ve achieve this year. From improving my French, moving to Canada and putting myself out there to make such amazing friendships and connections with incredible people! I feel like I’ve been able to re-evaluate my values, goals and ambitions to work towards what I really want to achieve and who I want to be in life.

So… do New Years Resolutions work? I achieved 9 of 16 goals so yep – I think that counts as mission accomplished! I’m already thinking about things I want to achieve next year so stay tuned for more!

13767359_1049047118510126_6650748756170412168_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Survive Christmas Away From Home

So you’ve got an epic trip planned for the summer break. Firstly, WOOO! You’re going to be travelling, adventuring, meeting new people and learning about this big and beautiful world. Unless you’re on a Contiki trip, in which case you’ll be binge drinking your way around Europe. Good luck! Secondly, you’re going to be travelling or binge drinking on Christmas! WOOO-WAIT-WHAT?! And being a twenty something human, you realise that you’re not quite prepared to spend Christmas away from your family, friends and home. You’re in that awkward phase of being independent and wanting to create your own new traditions, experiences and badass memories. But at the same time you also want your Mum to cook you food, do your laundry and watch The Grinch with your little cousins whilst digesting your food baby.

Well luckily for you, this year will be my second Christmas overseas, so I think I know a thing or two about surviving that jolly time of year where it’s apparently socially acceptable to wear candy cane earrings and play Christmas carols for the entire month of December.

tumblr_mx73xeSuhP1soalt8o6_500.gif

Make Plans

The first time I spent Christmas away from home was when I was 19 and living in London. My housemates and I cooked a huge feast and got ridiculously drunk. We bought a little Christmas tree and decorated it with tinsel and beer bottle caps, classy I know. I was lucky I got to spend that Christmas with such dear friends. But wherever it is you find yourself, whether it be a hostel, a hotel, a tent or a flight… make some epic plans. Do something wild, or crazy or out of the ordinary. Not only will it keep you busy and your mind occupied, but you’ll then remember that wild time you did a nudie run in Switzerland, made a giant snowman in Canada, or swam through a waterfall in Indonesia on Christmas, for the rest of your life.

Buy Alcohol… lots of alcohol

Ok, I’m not going to lie, alcohol definitely helped me through that Christmas in London. If you put a group of young Australians together, with no parental or adult supervision, you’ve got a recipe for a wild day and night. Honestly… alcohol… enough said.

source.gif

Plan a Secret Santa

Secret Santas aren’t just for middle aged ladies working at your local grocery store. Secret Santa is the cheapest and easiest way to recreate Santa’s visit to your house. You don’t even have to go through the stress of organizing who has who as a Secret Santa. Just plan for everyone to bring a gift, chuck it under your Christmas tree, and after a few drinks when someone rightfully puts on a Santa hat and beard, the gifts can be randomly distributed. Plus, you don’t have to put out milk and cookies for Santa. Those cookies have your name on it.

 Embrace local culture

Did you know that in San Francisco and New York City, they hold an event called ‘SantaCon’ where everyone dresses up as Santa Claus and takes to the streets to partake in an epic pub crawl? Or that in Ukraine they add spider webs to their Christmas trees? And did you know that in Japan, there’s lines out the doors for KFC on Christmas day? Yes… KFC! Christmas means different things to different people across the world, it may be a day to celebrate with friends and family, a day to eat, a day to rest or just another ordinary day. Wherever you are in the world, get amongst the local culture to celebrate Christmas the way the locals do!

ukrainian-spider-web-ornament-big_extralarge700_id-1775522
Enter a caption

So Merry Christmas wherever you are in the world. If it’s filled with laughter, alcohol and inappropriate gifts, you’ve done Christmas right.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: NOVEMBER 16

Oh damn it’s all becoming a bit too real. November is over which means only a few more weeks until Christmas, then after that I’ll be packing up my life here in Montreal and travelling around the West coast of America, before heading back home in January. I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet! But before I get ahead of myself…. let’s recap on the amazing month that was November!

Montreal Adventures

This month was the month to really embrace the beauty of Montreal. And with my dear friends, I think I’ve accomplished that. I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends to come and visit for a few nights. You can check out what we got up to below!

A Night Out At Reggies

OK so this isn’t exactly something new (I kinda go to Reggies every week). But this time I happened to bring my camera. Despite the fact that we’re missing my girl EVA (next time) – these photos are of beautiful people that I’m lucky enough to call my friends here in Montreal.

BOSTON

I was lucky enough to go the the States again this month, and this time it was Boston! What an awesome city! I honestly had such an amazing time with amazing people – check out the video to see Boston in it’s full glory.

Flicks

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of a good documentary. And Netflix has been DELIVERING! The Hunting Ground is a must watch for everyone, particularly university students. It sadly reflects deep seeded issues with the university as an institution and the unequal treatment of men and women.

13th absolutely blew my mind! I think this is compulsory viewing for every single human being. It shines a very ugly light on the American ‘justice’ system whilst highlighting the huge issues of racism, inequality and corrupt institutions that plague America. I was in tears by the end of the film, and after the election of Donald Trump, who’s racist words echo throughout a very powerful section of the film, I’m scared and fearful for those who are already subject to such inequality. #blacklivesmatter

Lovesick

Yep – I’ve done another binge watch of a Netflix series but this one has left me feeling love, loved and…. lovesick. It’s light hearted, classic British romantic humour and it just made me so happy to watch. 10/10 would recommend.

headerimage-lovesick-saison-1-20160818-qs

Tunes

This song! I don’t know how I missed this when it was released but damn this song get’s me so pumped and makes me so happy! It makes me incredibly excited to be back in the sunshine, at the beach with some great friends!

Tom Odell, I will forever love you. I’ve been listening to all of his music lately, but this is just a great cover that I’ve had on repeat for the past few weeks. As someone in the comments described, Matt Healy (the lead singer of the 1975) is like a cigarette and Tom Odell, he’s like a smooth whisky with a vintage cigar.

Bloggers & Vloggers

JacksGap

This channel is INCREDIBLE! It’s soooo inspiring and has definitely given me direction and motivation of where I would want to take my channel, career and life. I love them because they combine creative and quality content with a meaningful message and for that, I absolutley applaud them!

Screenshot 2016-11-25 14.25.45.png

kayla briët 

This girl is ridiculously talented! I was lucky enough to see her premiere her short film called ‘Smoke That Travels’ and is one of the most incredible films I’ve ever seen. She write and producers her own music, she’s an incredible story teller and again, creates extremely meaningful and important content. I’m incredibly inspired by her and she’s definitely someone the YouTube community should embrace and support.

Screenshot 2016-11-25 14.33.47.png

Reads

After being lucky enough to see Chris Hadfield speak at Buffer Fest (you can see the video here), I was inspired to read his book. And it’s just as amazing as him! It’s interesting, light hearted, but filled with some very important life lessons that anyone can relate to and learn from. I can’t wait to give it to my brother, who’s fascinated with science and space!

91ft2ulmotl

Quote

This month, as you have already seen, I’ve been very grateful for the friendships I’ve made. I haven’t been worried about travel, boys, school… my main focus has been these friendships. Dedicating quality time, going out and doing something fun and different, and just appreciating every opportunity I have to spend time with them. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little sentimental because I know I’m leaving soon (let’s not mention it just yet), but it’s such a rare time in my life where I have zero responsibilities and I get to dictate my days. And I guess despite all of the crazy times we’ve had, they’ve stood by me and made my experience here absolutely unforgettable. You know who you are…

Screenshot 2016-11-25 16.02.23.png

OK so that wraps up November! There’s sooooooo much in store for December that I can’t even really think about it right now, but stay tuned because it’s going to be amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

google5d5294a3a2629431.html

 

I Don’t Know What I Want To Do After University: And I’m OK With That

So I’m about to finish my 3rd year of university, with only a year to go until that glorious graduation day. So it’s common that I get asked what my plans are for when I do graduate. And of course, I’m OK with people asking me this. I’ve got big dreams and big plans. But people give me a somewhat unsatisfied look when I can’t give them the name of a profession. Like somehow that doesn’t align with their idea of what my degree leads to or their expectation of me. I usually sit there trying to defend myself and the fact that I don’t know what I want to do, but that’s a good thing etc… but I can see it in their eyes. They think I’m delusional.

So this has prompted me to realise and accept the following…

The truth is, I don’t know what I want to do after I graduate, and I’m happy about that.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 8.28.52 pm

What ideas do I have?

Well let me name a few to get us started.

I’m considering doing honours (thesis). Taking a year off to work. Taking time off to travelVolunteering for an NGO. Applying for a graduate program. Doing my Masters. Doing my Masters overseas. Start my own business. Become involved in politics. Be a foreign correspondent. Be a freelance content creator. 

I have no shortage of ideas. But I feel like I shouldn’t be narrow on my focus or goals. That I shouldn’t discount anything just yet, because who know’s where life will take you. Or should I say, where I’m going to navigate my life.

The reality is, I’m only 22 years old. Some people at my age know exactly what they want to do in life and that’s fantastic, and I support that! But I feel that where I am right now in my life, it’s basically impossible for me to be sure which direction I want to go in. There’s endless possibilities out there. They say that young generations are going to switch careers multiple times during our work life anyway. At my age right now, I value life experience and the skills and lessons I’ve learnt outside of a classroom, more than pursuing a traditional lifestyle of finding a job, husband and settling down. Ain’t nothing settling down around here anytime soon.

I think the most frustrating thing is that the people who ask you this question, are usually the people who know you the least. You’ve usually just met and they’re making awkward small talk, which I hate. So when someone doubts my ability, accomplishments or ambitions, it’s extremely frustrating. Because they’re making an immediate judgement and assumption from our first meeting. Not cool.

11988416_1182375478444132_4760330503989665202_n

So what can we do about this?

Instead of people asking ‘what you want to do when you graduate’, or ‘what career do you want’… let’s ask something more meaningful. Maybe we can ask them what goals they have? Does what they do make them happy? Where do you see your goals taking you? What’s your biggest dream?

I also think that’s it’s dangerous to put so much pressure on young people. I think society perceives us as invincible, but I feel kind of the opposite at the moment. I feel vulnerable and susceptible to societies expectations but I feel strong in my determination to make something of myself and make myself proud.

I think that by asking these sorts of questions and being encouraging and nurturing of people’s ideas and dreams is the way forward. Questions and conversations that mean something to people. I believe that by moving away from the traditional conversations, we can adapt and change our conversations and belief in others to one that is nurturing, inquisitive and encouraging to ensure we leave a conversation inspired and not judged.

[If you’re still unsure what I’m talking about… check out this amazing TED Talk below, explaining why she, and many others don’t have one true calling – and that’s a good thing!]