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Rotary Exchange 2015-2016 Canada-France 7010~1790

299 Days

It’s been a wild 299 days since I arrived in France. In that time I’ve made copious amounts of international friends, met a countless number of wonderful people and I have greatly expanded my knowledge of the world and that of other cultures. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. 

On April 1st, 2016 I began a twelve-day expedition in six different countries, with over 40 other exchange students, known as “Euro-Tour”. Throughout this trip, I met over 30 new friends from all over the world, some of which I have become quite close with. We traveled by bus through France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy and Switzerland, visiting some of the most famous and interesting cities, towns and landmarks along the way.

     

 

Euro-Tour was one of the best and most memorable opportunities that I have ever experienced in my life. The memories and friends that I made on that 12-day trip will stick with me forever, wherever I go. I discovered on this trip many places that I could add to the list of “My Favorite Places Ever” including Prague, Geneva and Vienna…along with many more from past travels!

                    

Three short days after my voyage with the other students, it was time for me to move to the house of my third and final host family. Then three days later it was back to school after the vacation for the last bit of semester two. I have been shocked to find how quickly all this has passed by, I can’t even believe how in 31 brief days I’ll be arriving in Toronto, starting a new life again just like at the start of the exchange. New house, new people, new school friends and hopefully a few new adventures along the way to graduation and prom!

                         

Tomorrow will officially mean that I have exactly one month left in France of summer vacation, as I have finished school and already passed my DELF fluency exam! I have my French diploma, enabling me to return to France for my post-secondary education should I choose to apply to any university programs here! For the next month, I plan on spending some time visiting a few of my different friends in Nancy, Saint Dizier and possibly a quick trip to Belgium with a friend from Lille for a few days as a last goodbye adventure in Europe. I also plan on going on a few adventures in and around my region, Haute-Marne, hopefully seeing Paris once more and of course, celebrating the national holiday on the fourteenth of July in Dijon!

                 

                 

                 

                

                

             

                

               

              

                                

                                                                  

             

These are just a few photos from the last few weekends I’ve had with my Rotary district. District 1790 has provided me with more than a few friends who are so close, they’re pretty much my family. I couldn’t have asked or wished for any better friends than the ones that I’ve truly been blessed with in these photos. It was hard to say goodbye to each one of them over the past couple of weeks,  but we all know that we will stay in each other’s hearts and will always keep in touch. Thanks for the memories everyone… Je vous aime, vous allez me manquer beaucoup! En plus, pour mes amis qui sont comme ma famille, vous savez qui vous êtes…trés spéciaux, trés importantes, vraiment juste les meilleurs du monde. Bonne chance et beaucoup d’amour comme d’habitude….

#BeachClub1790Forever  ❤

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~200~Days~

An incredible 200 days has passed since I hopped off a plane in Luxembourg and met my host family and new Rotary in August. It is difficult to believe how much time has passed and how many incredible adventures I have had with so many marvelous people…

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Getting muscles for supper in Normandy (Christmas 2015)
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Normandy, France (1st host family, Christmas 2015)

Paris+Normandy+Gerardmer+Verdun+Nancy+Strasbourg (FR), Bergamo+Sirmione+Verona+Venice+Milan (IT) Stockholm (SE), London (GB), Madrid+Toledo+Marbella (ES) —These are the mains places that I have been to since I arrived back in August, some I have been to with my host families and others I have been to with the other exchangers from district 1790 with whom I am particularly excited to travel on EuroTour  with in less than three weeks! Each of these places has held a special memory for me or was a time that I did something incredible such as zip-lining in Toldeo, New Year’s in Stockholm, snowshoeing in the mountains of Gerardmer and finally making it to my favorite place in the world that I thought would only ever be a dream…LONDON! I have been so fortunate to be able to experience all of these things in the last 200 days and though the adventures are not yet done and I still have around 97-100 days left, the thought of leave everything here behind and heading back home is a difficult thought that has crossed my mind multiple times. I am truly happy to see everyone and be back home but leaving the other in D.1790 and Europe will without a doubt be hard to do.

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Marbella, Spain (February 2016)
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London, Great Britain (Harrod’s January 2016)

Exchange is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience that can never be replaced and the memories and good times from exchanges will stay with me forever. However exchanges do not always pass easily and without difficulty. I had a recent stint with a small bullying situation in my school. As someone who as dealt with bullying through their whole life; I was truly disappointed when it happened to me while I was internationally abroad studying, but with the help of my host family, exchange + school friends and teachers at school I have been able to finally get the group of students to leave me alone and stop with the messages and interrogations before and after my classes. Although exchanges do come with difficulties such as this and among others, it was always important to remember that there were friends in my class who stood up for me and to thank and be grateful for the other amazing people in my life who supported me.

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Stockholm, Sweden (New Year’s 2016)
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Nancy, France (A few exchangers for the DELF Blanc  March 2016)

I am set to return back to Canada between the 16th and 19th of June and I sincerely cannot believe that I will be stepping off a plane in Toronto that soon!! It seems just like yesterday that I was taking off from Toronto on my way to Amsterdam, the start of this big, great adventure that it is intimidating now to think and start to plan the trip back to Toronto; my mum, my sister, my friends and the life that I had left behind back in August.

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London, Great Britain (On the London Eye: January 2016)
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Verona, Italy (October 2015)

I truly hope to make the most out of these last few months with the rest of the travels and memories that are waiting to be made with my friends, exchange friends and the next host family! Thank you again to all of those who have been there for me and helped me get to where I am today…

Xx~Cassandra

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Gerardmer, France (D.1790 Snowshoeing January 2016)
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Gerardmer, France (January 2016-Day before snowshoeing with one of my best exchange friends, McKayla)
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Gerardmer, France (January 2016 snowshoe day with the crew from N.A.)

Half way there! Five months in…

January 25th, 2016

 

Today marks my halfway point of my exchange and well….wow. I can’t even fathom the though of me being here for five month already; how does one sum of the most amazing five months of their life?

I have visited three European countries, passed through three more and have taken two more airplanes since I left from YYZ in August. In the next month I’ll be able to add England , Spain and Switzerland to my list and even more with my Euro-Tour and Italy trip coming up in April.

All the trips and travels aside, in these past five months, 153 days, I have met some of the most amazing and unforgettable people in my life. I must say, now I am truly grateful to have them with me on this journey and in my life. People that I will forever remember and continue to stay in contact with long after the exchange ends in June. On that note, I have to thank everyone back home, who were there supporting me in the nine months leading up to my departure and continue now that I am here.

Its hard to put everything into words about how I feel with everything happening, as I sit here, eight-fifty pm at night finishing this post for this milestone, I realize just how hard it truly is to create a life halfway around the world and then drop it all after ten months to return home and back to a life that will forever feel different. If you’ve never done something like this, its sometimes hard to wrap your head around it. Before I came here, my former exchange friends had told me about everything but I will admit…I truly was not prepared to make the kind of deep connections that I have but am deeply appreciative of them nonetheless.

I want to thank everyone who has made, continues to make and keeps supporting me through this next phase of my exchange! I love you all and I promise to be posting  more, frequent (I hope) updates as the next few months pass by!

xo

 

Cassandra ❤

A post for Paris & the world

November 13th, 2015 was a globally-terrifying night. The tragedies of Paris will be forever ingrained in the memories of many people, including myself.  Paris was one of my favorite places on Earth and the bombings and shootings of that prevented any hope of rest for the Republic of France and it’s people. The terrorist attacks have taken their toll on Paris, France and the world as a whole. It has broken my heart and I must say I am touched at how many countries have chosen to band around France and provide support and love.

Indeed, this event was shaking and shocking for France and myself alike. I haven’t done too much sleeping this weekend, along with many of my friends here in France. With a death toll upwards of 130 and an injured toll of 350, it is hard to make sense of everything that has transpired in the past 48 hours. It is a horrifying prospect, and one that has rightfully attracted international attention.

It is tragic, and I can truly appreciate every post/message that has been sent to me from friends and family around the world, worrying about my safety and the safety of France. Within this slew of touching messages, some even asked if I would be leaving France and returning to Canada out of fear from these attacks. No. My answer is completely no. It hadn’t even been a thought in my mind until a friend mentioned it. I have grown to attached to France and it’s people to end my exchange now, out of fear. The truth is; I am not afraid. Everyone here who cares about me and everyone I care about is safe and okay.

I am currently quite safe where I live, but on Friday night, many people in the heart of the capital and around the world weren’t able to say the same. The series of tragic world events on Friday, November 13th didn’t just affect France. The whole world seems to be crumbling under the weight of the international damage from the 13th. Bombings in Beirut 2 days previous, a suicide bomber at a Baghdad funeral, a double-suicide bombing in Lebanon. In Japan an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 and the tragedy of a dam in Brazil breaking, leaving several with out a water supply.

Our world is in deep need of peace and love, not anymore hate, racism and prejudice. All I am asking for is for everyone to continue sending their positive thoughts, prayers and love here to France and to the rest of the world, because truth be told, we are the only ones who can fix these world catastrophes.

No one could ever bring back all the lives lost this week, and no one can rewind the devastation but Martin Luther King Jr. said ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Please keep this in mind if you find yourself thinking about any of the world tragedies from this past week.

-One love, stay positive and always tell the ones you love that you love them because you never know when something might happen…-

~Cassandra Lyn xx

Two months and seven days later……

November 1st.Hard to believe that it’s been eight weeks since I left Canada for France and I have already seen and done so many, many things.

A week after my ‘one month anniversary’ in France, my family took me to Paris and it was beautiful…one of the most opulent places in the world, I would say. We went up the Eiffel Tower, had a bus tour around the city, saw Notre Dame, the Galleries Lafayette, a river cruise and of course-The Louvre! I’m still quite unsure of my favourite part of Paris, I was enamored with the city as a whole and would love to eventually live there for a small period of time if it’s possible!

On Tuesday, October 20th, we left France at six a.m., drove for about eight hours, through France and Switzerland to make to the North of Italy…Bergamo to be exact. Bergamo was a charming city, divided into two parts, one of which is atop a great hill with a funicular as the transport between the two. We stayed one night in Bergamo, then headed to a very small town by the name of Sirmiome, also known as Lago di Garda (Lake Garda). I absolutely fell in love with this place, it felt so warm, relaxing and welcoming! I loved it there, though we didn’t spend too much time there, just a single morning and then left for a quick drive to Verona… the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo&Juliette! The city was absolutely gorgeous! I saw the balcony of Juliette, the old Roman amphitheatre, the huge market in a courtyard part of the city just around the corner of all the shops and of course, the fortified castle! The castle bridge is always filled with small vendors selling everything from trinkets, to food to healing oils! Verona was fantastic and the food there was as well, I wish I could go back for more Gnocchi!

After two nights in Verona, we left for the city where we would spend the longest amount of time, VENIZIA!! I was so excited for Venice and it was most defiantly everything I had expected. There are no cars on the main parts of Venice, such as San Marco among the others and so we took the boat system to travel from the car and around Venice and it was truly breath-taking! We spent one evening and two full days in Venice, eating amazing food and hoping from island to island through the water transit system. Each island seemed to have its own unique speciality…Murano is world-famous for its magnificent hand blown glass and Burano is for its detailed lace and needle point work, both of which are very lovely and very cool to watch being made! Each building and mostly the churches in Venice were extremely, uniquely detailed and gorgeous, I would recommend seeing as many as possible! Absolutely incredible!

I found that Venice was at its most beautiful when the sun was setting and then at night. You can hear all the musicians playing to people outside of their restaurants, the lights glowing against the old cobble stone streets and just the feel that the Italian atmosphere gives is unexplainable, but beautiful! Once we finished in Verona, we headed for our final stop, Milano! Milano is the home of fashion week and a very old beautiful cathedral, known as the Duomo…and it’s massive! We walked around the outside balcony, all the way to the roof and were able to see the city from there, and below the Duomo was a huge archaeological exhibition for the cathedral! Milan also has the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping centres, it includes places such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel and Dior! The next day, we got up early and started our eight-hour trek back to Chaumont!

I thoroughly enjoyed my week in Italy and I can’t wait to go back there on Euro-Tour with the other exchange students! I really want to go back and do Rome, Pompeii and Sicily maybe! I am very grateful to my host family, The Osmonds, for bringing me with them to Italy and taking me to Paris! I’m having the best time and I can’t wait to go to Normandy and Sweden with them in December! Crazy to think that in just nine months I will be back in Canada, I can’t wait to see what those nine months hold for me! Stay tuned to find out!

Lago di Garda
Lago di Garda

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September 7th, 2015 (School day No.4)

Salut!

I know this is super late but I am a procrastinator after all, and between my first exchange weekend, touring Chaumont and school, I have been extremely busy to say the least!

On Thursday, August 27th, I headed an hour-and-a-half away from my town to Lac de Madine for my first immersion weekend with the other inbounds and it was fantastic (almost 30 of us in total)! We went site-seeing, picked fruit (and made pie with it), paddle boating, biking, had some French lessons and then Sunday morning we had a talent show to do for our host families and it was a blast!

When I finally rested Sunday and Monday, I went out with my friend and was finally able to see and walk around Chaumont and it is the most beautiful town I have ever seen! I am excited to live here for a year and walk through the many small shops and bakeries with endless fresh pastries and baguettes.

I started school this past Wednesday, and despite my lack of French vocabulary, I was able to find a small group of friends that have helped me around school and introduced me to many more people! One thing however is extremely different from Canada…the school schedule.  It is by far the most bizarre timetable ever! Some days I start at 8,9 or even 10 and in the afternoon I end at 12, 4,5 and sometimes even at 6! I promise to never complain about school in Canada ever again! It is actually not too bad, especially when you sometimes have a 4 hour lunch… 😉

On Saturday, my host family took me along with them to a fair/festival, where two of their favourite singers were preforming, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. We had a blast and it reminded me so much of the Markham Fair that my mum takes us to every year, I will definitely be missing that this year. 😦 Today it was back to school and learning. In my first four days of school I learnt a bit of French, made quite a few friends and even had two English ask me if they could use my knowledge of English.

It has been a packed, very full two weeks since I left my family behind at terminal three while I boarded that flight to Amsterdam. Everyone who was there meant something to me and I miss each and every one of them dearly… don’t get me wrong, I am having a good time here but there is something about certain people that once they’re in your life it’s very hard to let go. But as I walked home through Chaumont today, I realized that this is going to be a good year, a year full of memories and good times. Besides, no one said exchange was the easiest year of a person’s life, they said it was the best. ❤

Xo

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Finally here!~August 25th

Bonjour!

As  I just finished unpacking my two insanely heavy suitcases and my carry-on, I felt that it was necessary to start this blog…its been a bit delayed but it is a crazy time for me right now!

Yesterday, at 5:30 pm I boarded a plane to Amsterdam after saying a very hard goodbye to some of the most important people to me. Lots of sobbing and hugging occurred before  I had to leave everyone behind as I stepped into security…for the first time ever.

I finally made it to the gate where I would be boarding a KLM ROYAL DUTCH flight to Amsterdam! First class was very nice to have flown in for my first flight. They served snacks, every drink you can imagine, dinner, dessert and even breakfast in the seven hours I was aboard!

Just before our descent into Schiphol Airport, the flight attendants gave me a small Dutch house to take with me on my travels to France! In Amsterdam I was able to meet up with a few exchange students travelling to my district in France and we all waited for our delayed flight together and met up shortly after our flight to meet up with our host families! As we walked away from baggage claim there was a lot going on… we found our Rotary chair and officer there who directed us to our families. Then there were lots of photos…LOTS.

It was a long ride home and then I spent a few hours unpacking and trying set up my room. After dinner I got the rest of the tour for the house (Its huge).

I guess tomorrow we will see what else is in store!

Bonne Nuit!

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