Holidays in Canada

In North America, Christmas is a huge thing. People celebrate it bigger and more extensive. Right after Halloween, they start with Christmas songs in the stores, Christmas decorations on the houses, and Christmas lights in every tree. But the biggest difference is how they celebrate it. As a Swiss, I am used to celebrating Christmas in the evening. To be more specific, in my family, we spend Christmas Eve together with my grandparents and my cousins. We eat dinner together, sing Christmas songs, and unwrap presents. On the actual Christmas day, it’s just my parents and me. We eat “Fondue Chinoise” and unwrap our presents.

Here in Canada, it was totally different. Christmas Eve is not such a big thing as it is in Switzerland. We just stayed at home watched a bunch of Christmas movies, had sushi for dinner and unwrapped one present. The first thing we did the next morning was opening the stockings. (For those who don’t know what this is: It is the socks that are filled with presents.) After we opened the stockings, we had a big breakfast with everything you could think of. It was delicious! And finally, after our breakfast, we started to open all of our presents. I’ve never seen so many presents before. I’m not going to list all my presents here because it simply would be too much, but I’m really happy with what I got. In the evening Paola, the twin sister of Mariana, my Mexican host sister, and Tsubomi, her Japanese host sister, came over for dinner. We had turkey, which is apparently a tradition to eat on Christmas day. After the dinner, Mariana, Paola, Tsubomi and I watched a couple of movies until we were so tired that we all decided to go to bed.

New Year’s Eve wasn’t really spectacular. Since I’m not 19 yet, I couldn’t go to a real party, but at least I enjoyed the night with my friends and we watched the firework in the Victoria harbor.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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Seattle!

On the 18th and 19th November I had the awesome opportunity to participate in a trip to Seattle. It was for the international students only and I could meet new people. The first day we were there, we went shopping in the Marysville Outlet Village, which is a huge outlet shopping mall. The stores had up to 70% off from their original prices. It was awesome and I came home with tons of new stuff, mostly clothes.

We spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express hotel, which even had a pool.
The next day, we did a bit of Sightseeing. First I went up the Space Needle and then a friend and I visited the EMP (Experience Music Project), which is basically a rock music museum. For me as a huge fan of rock music, the museum was an awesome experience. But don’t think it is just a boring museum where you just look at everything. As the name already says it is focused on experience. That means you can try out instruments, you can pretend you’re a band and perform a song in front of
a fake audience or you can take pictures dressed up as different bands.
Before we had to go home again, we had some time to explore Seattle downtown on our own. I was at the Hard Rock Cafe and bought their basic Sweatshirt with the city name on it.

It was a great trip and I definitely want to go back to Seattle to see more of this cool city.

 

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Half-time!

I can’t believe that I already spent half of my time here! Time goes by so fast, it’s insane. Just the thought that this experience is over soon makes me kinda sad. Everything here is great. I’m improving my English and also my German. Furthermore, I started to learn a few words in Spanish and Japanese. But it’s not only about languages. I made a lot of new awesome friends here and I hope we can stay in touch after our time together here in Canada. And of course my host family! They are so lovely people. I’m sure a part of them will always stay with me. I really enjoy the fact that I have a little sister here. This is what I missed as an only child the most. (Elena if you read this, I love you even though you broke my unicorn :D)

I still recommend an exchange to everyone who has the opportunity to do it. It’s incredible how much this short time can change you. I grew up a lot and I also got more independent. You learn how to live without your parents that are doing everything for you. In my case, I had to start preparing my lunch, washing my clothes, and getting up on my own without someone kicking me out of my bed when I’m late. And you know what? It made me really proud, that I can do this on my own now.

 

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New country, new hair…

Since I’m here in Canada, of course my life has changed. Therefore I decided to dye my hair pink again. It wasn’t a totally spontaneous decision since I wanted to have pink hair for a long time, but didn’t do it because I thought the people here are more conservative than the people back home. At least that’s what my organization told us on our preparation weekend. Through that, I was even more surprised when I realized that the school here is as open-minded as my school in Switzerland. In fact here are even more students with “crazy-colored” hair. It doesn’t matter what your clothes look like or if you’re wearing makeup or not.

So when my host-sister told me, that she wants to cut her hair, we decided to go to the hairdressers together and surprise everyone after our appointment. It was a great success; I got a lot of compliments for my new color and I’m really happy with my hair!

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before and after
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My organization

logo_ie_pfad_4c_with-barsI decided to plan my time abroad with a small organization called international Experience (iE). International Experience Switzerland, established in 2005, is one of 18 locations of iE. They are a small team, so pretty much everyone knows each other.

After I signed up on their website and chose where I want to spend my exchange, I arranged a date for the interview with my organization. This means, that an employee from iE comes to your house and talks to you and your parents about the exchange and asks you a few questions. After the interview, I got a letter with the confirmation that I was accepted for their exchange program. With this confirmation, all the arduous paperwork began. I had to fill out a never ending amount of forms, record a video, and write a letter. This was the not so funny part of the planning phase, but it just has to be done, it doesn’t matter which organization. A few months later was the preparation weekend with all exchange students. We learned all the do’s and don’t’s for an exchange and made new friends. The last thing I had to do, was to get my Visa and my flight ticket. After that, the waiting for the big day – the day of my depart – began.

Since I want this blog to stay absolutely authentic and honest, I have to admit that I have my doubts that this organization was the right decision. And with that, I don’t want to say they’re bad, but it wasn’t very helpful for me. To be honest, the only thing that I more or less made a profit from, was the preparation weekend with all the other exchange students. But also only because I had the chance to meet new friends there. During the preparation weekend they most of the time only talked about rules concerning the US.

The other reason, why I think, that it wasn’t the best choice, is that my school here in Victoria has it’s own system, where every student can request to study there for a certain time. I also had three orientation days, organized by Victoria International High School Programs, the week before school started.

BUT please don’t think now that this organization isn’t good! If you are interested in an exchange in the US or you want a small organization, then I recommend you iE. They just weren’t the perfect choice for me, that’s all.

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My first week of school

My first two weeks in Victoria and also my first week of school is over and I’m really happy here in Victoria. The people in my classes are very friendly and I feel comfortable here. The school system in Canada is completely different to the system we have in Switzerland. Here you only have four subjects per semester and every school day is the same. I have English, Dance, Digital Media, and Japanese. School starts at 8:30 AM and finishes at 3:05 PM. My School offers many extra-curricular activities over lunch or after school. I am in the salsa dance club over lunch on Wednesdays.

I go to Victoria High School, which is the oldest high school in Victoria. The motto of the school is ‘palma non sine pulvere’  (no reward without effort), but it’s a lot easier than in Switzerland and I often don’t even have homework.

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So far I’m really happy to be here and I really enjoy the short time in beautiful Victoria!

Victoria High School Homepage

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Let’s go!

Greenland
Greenland

Today is the 29th August and today is the first day of my adventure. I headed to the airport with my parents. It’s a strange feeling. This whole thing felt so unreal, but I was so excited! For me it was no big deal flying alone, I’ve been so many times at the airport since I was one year old, so I kind of know how airports work.

After the security check, I had enough time for a bit duty-free shopping. An opportunity I would never miss.

The flight from Zurich to Frankfurt was fine, although there were some turbulences but I didn’t mind them. During the flight, I talked a bit with the man next to me and he told me that he was in Vancouver about three weeks ago. What a coincidence! Apparently, his daughter lives there and he visited her. Of course, I asked him many questions about Vancouver and now I know a few more places to visit there.

Then I had to switch planes for the first time, but everything went great, except that the plane from Frankfurt to Vancouver was almost an hour delayed. Normally this wouldn’t bother me much, but the fact, that I only had one hour in Vancouver (in which I had to get my visa, get my baggage and check-in again) made me worry that I miss my plane from Vancouver to Victoria.

And I was right: we landed 25 minutes late, which was clearly too late for my next flight. First I had to wait for my luggage and of course, my bag was one of the last ones on the baggage carousel.

A part of the long queue in the immigration bureau.
A part of the long queue in the immigration bureau.

And that was only the beginning: I had to go to the immigration office to get the stamp for my visa and guess how long I had to wait there. Not one hour, not two hours, no, almost three hours! The queue was huge, there were approximately 400 people waiting for their visa. Because of that, I missed not only the flight that was initially booked, but also the two following ones.

With four hours delay, I finally landed in Victoria and could meet my host family. But unfortunately, that was not the end of it. My bags stayed in Vancouver. So we had to stop at a drugstore to buy a toothbrush for me before I could see the house where I would spend the next five months.

But it all came out well, I could finally sleep after I was a bit more than 24 hours awake and my bags also arrived the next day in Victoria.

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About me

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Hey there! My name is Kim Lena, I’m 16 years old and I’m from a small village in Switzerland.

My biggest hobby is dancing. I’m in a hiphop dance crew, which is like a second family to me. Besides dancing, I also love traveling and languages. This was a big reason, why I wanted to spend a few months in a foreign country. At the moment I speak English, French, Italian, a tiny bit Japanese, a tiny bit Spanish and of course Swiss-German and German.

I am an only child, but I will really enjoy having host-sisters, even though it’s only temporary.

In Victoria, I will attend a normal high school and be a part of a Canadian host family. I’m going to spend five moths there until January 23rd, 2017. I hope that I will improve my English, meet new friends, get to know an other culture and make a lot of unforgettable memories.

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