Tuesday, 15 November 2016

El principio | The Beginning

This is my favourite beach in all of BC - Near Bamfield on the West coast of Vancouver Island

An incoming email last Friday… Subject line “ACCEPTANCE AS EXCHANGE STUDENT”… those four words filled me with euphoria after so many months of preparation and waiting. It’s official: Barcelona 2017!

Since my wee little crayon days I have had the extreme privilege to have travelled pretty far throughout my short life. Having a native Argentinian mother means I’ve been down to South America many times (He-LLO incredible family feasts and pools!) and elsewhere to go see family, including Spain and Italy. Now that I am “growing up” and more independent (ummm whoops, I still call my parents every night), I have been itching to go travel the world –and I mean EVERYWHERE.
The adventure bug was not only caught from my widespread travels, but also from where I grew up –Beautiful British Columbia (I swear I am not an ad for the provincial government). I have been sailing since the womb in my dad’s little 23 Coronado; we would spend our summers putsing around the Gulf Islands, going fishing, kayaking, hiking, and beachcombing. 

This summer we embarked on a 14-day circumnavigation of Vancouver Island where we encountered pods of porpoises, eagles, bears, natural hot springs, rapids, and some quite terrifyingly rough seas up at the northern point at Cape Scott). My gorgeous hometown –Victoria—is green and open, and within 20 minutes you can be at the coastline in almost any direction. Mount Washington is our winter skiing destination and the multitudinous natural parks scattered throughout the island are wonderful places to go for walks, runs, or hikes. Just this past summer, my father and I did a 4-day, 47km hike on the Juan de Fuca Trail. I am not gonna lie, it was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done, but there is something so fundamentally alluring about carrying everything you need on your back and being so completely exposed to your surroundings; I sit in class now dreaming of the next big hike (West Coast Trail, anyone?).

Hotsprings Cove - We had the place all to ourselves for the sunset.

General Public Sushi Restaurnt. Crazy plastic toy 
sculptures, neon lights, and freaky masks.
Since moving to Vancouver to attend KPU, I have taken on the city jungle. Something that I found so attractive about Vancouver is that it has everything –it has the ocean and the beaches, farmland, city, suburbs, mountains, skiing, hiking—all within a relatively concentrated area. My favourite areas around the city include the ski hills, of course, as well as Main Street with all of its picturesque little shops and cafes (if you are up for very unorthodox sushi experience, I highly suggest the General Public –be sure to bring three other people so you can share the large platter), and the downtown Waterfront and Gastown areas where there is so much culture, activity, and nightlife. Studying interior design and architecture, I am also quite inspired by Vancouver’s sustainable mindset, especially by its recent announcement to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. 

Every year the Interior Design Faculty starts off with a week-long group project.
Last year we painted murals all over the design wing of the school.
I chose Kwantlen Polytechnic University not only because it was the best option for my program on the West Coast or because it is in Vancouver, but also because the Richmond campus itself feels much more small and intimate compared to a larger university. I have heard horror stories from other universities about how students will want help from a professor and never be able to obtain in because there are too many other people waiting for the exact same thing. It is not like that at the KPU Richmond campus, with small classrooms (no 300-seat lecture halls) where the students can have real relationships with their professors. There are always things going on around campus, whether it is a Chinese Cultural week, International week or Sustainability week to name a few, as well as guest speakers and fun events like Halloween movie nights. I love the local market that comes once a week where I do my grocery shopping and the fitness classes going on right at the campus which I have found to be quite good for mid-term stress relievers. In regards to Interior Design in particular, KPU is the only school in BC with CIDA accreditation (which will soon be a requirement for all interior designers). The class has 20 students and we complete our four-year degree as a cohort –you better believe we know every little secret and quirk about each other and we spend the majority of our time together laughing manically at our own jokes. It is difficult to express how much I will miss all of these friends when I leave next semester.

That being said, it is still difficult for my brain to compute that I will be leaving soon for B.A.R.C.E.L.O.N.A., one of Europe’s Meccas for design and architecture. I will be attending Elisava School of Design and Engineering located at the heart of the city on Las Ramblas, studying from January to late June, after which I will backpack around Europe for the summer. I cannot wait to learn about design in another country, take in the diverse wealth of architectural history (shout out to Antoni Gaudi), meet incredible new people, and make many, many, many lasting memories. This will no doubt be a challenge and I would be lying if I said I was not nervous; simply being away from home for so long can be difficult enough, but I am also going to be challenged by having to study in Spanish –eek. Something that I always try to tell myself is that “making yourself uncomfortable is the only way you are going to grow”. I am looking forward to this opportunity as something that will completely change me and push me in new directions for my personal and professional growth.
This blog is meant to be a personal record of my experience so that I may come back and remind myself of everything I learned and everything I have yet to learn. It is also a way for me to communicate with my friends and family, and anyone else that may be interested in studying abroad, about my experience.

At the moment, I am buried underneath a stack of studio work and visa application papers but the light at the end of the tunnel is not too far-off now.

Go learn something new today.

#travel #studyabroad #exchange #spain #barcelona #interiordesign #KPUStudyAbroad #KPUInternational #KPU #Elisava