Kenya 2017

Kenya 2017 (Part II): The Build

As most service trips go, there’s usually some kind of build that is the focus of the trip. In the case of my trip, teaching was the focus. Although, that did not stop us from getting our hands a little dirty every few days.

My group and I were building at Esinoni Primary School (which is also the school we were teaching at). The school was interesting because they still had the original school on the property. The school was made up of two classrooms. I would give a physical description but I think photos would represent it a lot better:


The oldest part of the school was actually built by parents in hopes of giving their children an education. The parents taught a variety of subjects in the classrooms. Once the student population increased the government recognized it as an actual school and supplied a Head Teacher (Principal in North American terms). This sounds like a good thing but it really wasn’t. The conversion meant that parents would have to start paying to send their children to school. Population decreased but then the government did something absolutely amazing: They allowed Monday classes to be free. Children all over the community were rushing to go to school for that single day because of how much they valued education. Eventually, the Kenyan government put a law in place that says that “for every individual classroom, they will supply one teacher.” The school took that as a positive thing and with time and fundraising they were able to build 6 classrooms but 3 buildings. These 3 buildings allowed for 3 new teachers! You might be wondering why it wasn’t 6 new teachers, that’s because the classrooms were attached, not individual buildings.

The new classrooms that were built allowed for better learning. They have a lot more space for students. They had an actual surface that you could use as a chalkboard, instead of a piece of plywood. They have proper windows and electricity. Most importantly, they had actual floors and walls. The floor they were learning on was no longer dirt that became mud when it rained. The walls were cement and no longer needed to be repaired after a rainstorm. It was a healthy environment for their learning. The biggest problem was that the walls were thin and you could easily hear the lesson in the class next to you. A few years the organization that I travelled with paired up with Esinoni and they offered a solution to their struggles.

The organization I travelled with believes in giving a hand up instead of a hand out. So the community had to raise a certain percentage of funds to help build a new classroom that was it’s own individual building. In return, groups of students (like me and my friends), businesses, families and so many people from different walks of life started travelling to the community and help with the various builds. This works well because the community doesn’t have to pay for labour cost. My group was working on the 6th classroom. Although, they have been able to but in much more than just classrooms. They’ve put in a water well and have started working on new washrooms. For the sake of what I am familiar with, I’m sticking to talking about classrooms.

How the newest classrooms look.

The way that building a classroom goes is kinda simple but like any build it gets complex. I’m going to go from step 1 until the place that my group left off:

  1. Dig a rectangle trench that is about 3ft deep (maybe deeper depending on the soil)
  2. In the 4 corners, dig deeper by an extra 2-3ft
  3. Pour concrete into the corners and put rebar inside for support
  4. Build a retaining wall in the trench that was dug (This is where the build was at when my group started)
  5. Fill the interior of the retaining wall with large rocks
  6. Fill the cracks with smaller rocks
  7. Use a sledge hammer to level the foundation and crush the large rocks
  8. Fill the foundation with sand so that all cracks are filled
  9. Put a layer of black gardening tarp (I have no idea what it’s actually called) over top
  10. Put a layer of rebar on top of that

That’s where the Teachers to Teachers group left off

Safety measures were common sense: wear gloves, hard hat and protective eye gear. Also, it wasn’t very labour intense it was just hot in the sun, which made it hard to work in.

I like to say that the best part of building is seeing the growth right before your eyes. It’s also good to take a look at the project before you start at the beginning of the day and when you finish at the end of the day because those are the moments where you see and how much progress was made. There’s also the knowledge of knowing you’re making an impact on the lives of children and a piece of you will live on because the entire group literally put their blood, sweat and tears into the project.

That is it for the build! Like how I said in the last post, please feel free to contact me if you have interest in doing service aboard. It’s truly something life changing. I learned so much about myself, the world, and how to live a healthy and happy life. I feel as though I grew and matured as a person and it’s honestly the most wonderful experience for a person. If you haven’t checked out Kenya 2017 (Part I): The Atmosphere please check it out! As for now…

Happy adventuring!


Kenya 2017

Kenya 2017 (Part I): The Atmosphere

The last two weeks have probably been the best two weeks of my life. I met amazing new friends. I befriended an entire community. I learned from Maasai warriors. I contributed to the foundation of a classroom. Finally, I taught English and Math in a grade 7 and 8 class, but learned so much more from them than they learned from me. This trip impacted my life in such large ways. I want to share with the world my experiences and how doing service abroad or at home makes such a large impact on the lives of people and yourself. I did so many activities it’s difficult to talk about them all but the trip had 3 large components: Atmosphere, Building and Teaching. 

Welcome to my 3 part series focusing around the three components to my trip to Kenya. This trip was 15 days of learning, whether conventional or unconventional. I was an eye opening experience and I’m excited to share it with you all.


The first thing that shocked me when I got to Kenya was the landscape. It was so diverse and it felt like every turn you took you had a different view and felt like you travelled to a different part of the world. You had mountains to your right and prairies to your left. There were rich green forests then the dry barren desert surrounding them. Crop fields for miles then bright green grass accompanied by Maasai huts and farms.

A lot of the landscape that I saw was during a safari tour. I might not have seen any Elephants or Lions but seeing a herd of Zebras running through the Maasai Mara is the most majestic thing I’ve ever seen and I feel as though I could have watched it for hours on end. Another amazing thing was the Giraffes. African animals in the wild just seem to have a free spirit to them, it’s wonderful. They are the definition of wild and free, because of that they make you feel as though you are too.

The next thing that contributes to the atmosphere is the community and the culture that I learned about while I was there. In the Maasai community they call their mothers Mamas. If you’ve ever worn a Rafiki Bracelet then you might be familiar with them. The Mamas make these beautiful beaded jewelry pieces. IMG_1275They are traditionally made and used for themselves and their families but recently they are sold as a way for the Mamas to make income. I had the honour and pleasure to bead with two wonderful Mamas who were so filled with joy, laughter and strength. The way they make Rafiki Bracelets is a lot easier than I thought it was, but it’s a lot harder than the Mamas make it seem. When I did it there was a lot of string breaking and beads being spilt on my shuka. That just goes to show you that the work that they put into making these bracelets is worth the $10 (but it’s also worth it because $5 goes to a cause and $5 goes to the Mama and her family).

Women not only bead to make income, but they also have daily chores to do. They have to walk up to 20 km or more on a daily basis to get water for cooking, cleaning, drinking etc. It’s a painful process to carry the water. My group and I carried it for only 1km and that was tough enough and halfway through the walk we traded off. Now imagine a 7 year old girl having to do that once or twice a day. Here in North America, we have such easy access to water but in most parts of the world it’s not that easy. We learned about a statistic after the water walk: “By the year 2025, 50% of the world’s population won’t have access to clean water.” This is extremely shocking. Imagine having to choose between you and your partner, only one of you can drink clean water and the other as to drink contaminated water. That’s basically deciding which one of you will live a healthy life and which one will live a life filled with sickness. It’s easy to be aware that not the entire world has clean water but to think of it so drastically is scary. If you want to make an impact it’s the little things that help:

  • Turning off water while lathering your hands, body and hair
  • Using energy efficient appliances that conserve water
  • Drinking tap water or filtered water instead of bottled water (water is needed to make the plastic)
  • “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”
  • Take a shorter shower!
  • This might sound wrong but… use the dishwasher. They are actually made to wash dishes and they save water because you are able to wash large amounts of dishes with less water waste.

There’s so many more ways of saving water, I just gave a few examples

The living conditions that the Maasai live are totally different from the ways I live, in North America. In North America, people are always looking for more square feet. People want fancy homes. They spend years collecting decorations to make their homes unique. In Kenya, they live simple lives. They don’t have the tools to build beautiful large homes. They build their homes to be as functional as they can make it. I had the pleasure to sit in a traditional Maasai home that a Mama built (and maintains) with her own two hands. Out of respect for her and her privacy I’m not going to share photos of the home but I can share a rough blueprint I created to match what it looked like:Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 10.15.39 AMThis blueprint is just an example that I made. In reality the walls are mud; the floors are dirt; the ceiling is sticks, dirt and grass. The beds are single sized thin mattresses. There’s very little ventilation in the kitchen space but not enough to allow smoke to be completely freed. They don’t live in their homes though. They live outside. They are farming, playing, singing, dancing, working. They live simple lives that aren’t spent indoors. It may sound like they have poor living conditions but they are very happy people. They don’t focus their time indoors, they’re more or less always outside. I wanted to share their home because it becomes more of a health concern, rather living in poverty. They sleep in a smoke filled home with their farm animals in the next room so they don’t get eaten in the night. That’s a huge problem for their health and health care centres are needed and are so far from communities.

Their living conditions shows how important heath clinics and hospitals are there. The organization that I travelled with recently converted one health clinic into a hospital and that means they can now do surgeries. They would never do surgeries that the doctors aren’t qualified to do, so there’s a lot of cesarian sections and other minor surgeries. I think in the future it will expand and more people will be able to go to school, become doctors or surgeons and their hospital will grow to large city level hospital. I also think that their health clinic is growing rapidly and soon it will reach hospital status as well.

The last thing I want to mention is the Maasai Warriors. It’s the last generation of warriors in the Maasai Mara and they are the greatest people I’ve ever met. The organization I toured with pairs two warriors with every group that travels to Kenya. My group had the two best warriors (at least in my opinion): Justus and Livingstone. I don’t want to share too much about them because I want to respect their privacy but if you want insight about the Maasai ways, their culture, traditions, how they become warriors and how it feels to be the last generation of warriors then I would recommend reading: The Last Maasai Warriors: An Autobiography by Wilson Meikuaya & Jackson Ntirkana with Susan McClelland. I haven’t read the book yet but I’m on my way to Chapters to pick it up soon and I’ve heard great things about it. 

Justus on the left, Livingstone on the right

I shared a lot about my trip in this post. I hope that you all enjoy it and if this inspires you in any way to do service aboard, please feel free to contact me. As for my next blog post, I’ll have it up as soon as possible. I’ll be giving you a look into the build that my group did. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had recently and I’m glad I have the chance to spread what I learned and my insights with all those that read this article and the others that will follow. Thank you.

Until next time and happy adventuring,



Adventure Time: Rabbit Mountain

Date: Wednesday May 25, 2017

Adventure: Rabbit Mountain

Rabbit Mountain is a fairly easy adventure. It’s a drive up John Street Road, left turn onto Belrose Road and right into a “parking lot” on Marlwood Road. Following your park job, it’s a short “hike” (I think of it as more of a walk) up the road to the top of the Mountain where you get the most beautiful view of the North end of Thunder Bay (Port Arthur) and a wonderful view of The Sleeping Giant, a view that doesn’t make it look so giant.

Hiking Superior has other directions about the Rabbit Mountain Lookout Loop linked here.

Due to how easy the trek up Rabbit Mountain is I’m not going to go too in depth with it. I brought water, hot tea, flip flops, a sweater and a flashlight (because it was sunset). I find it to be more of a place you go to relax than a place to hike and such.

For me, my experience at Rabbit Mount is always calming. I walk or drive there with my dog, on my own, with friends. I’m an avid visitor of the mountain.

However, this time felt very different. I went with a friend who I had met during my time back in Thunder Bay during reading week. He’s very intelligent and passionate about nature, specifically plants… he’s also an artist!

Plant expert and artist on the left there! (follow @naturalworks3 on Instagram)

This trip to Rabbit Mountain had more of a learning experience tied to it. Not totally about plants though because I forgot all the information within 5 minutes of learning it. The learning was more about myself. This short drive with green tea and apple cider to sip on, plus the great great company got me thinking. I am exactly where I need to be in my life right now and I am happy. This really clicked for me while I was laying down parallel to The Sleeping Giant. My mind was racing at a million miles a minute. Then I took a deep breath looked at over at The City of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area and thought: “There’s so much of this small city I have yet to discover and THAT is all I need to do right now!”

Sure the life I’m going to start building in Toronto will be AMAZING but I’m living for the moment and right now my heart and mind are in the lovely little city I call home.

Until next time!


Gotta stretch the toes!


Photo my friend took of me




Ps. I’m sorry I’ve been a shitty blogger the last month!


Adventure Time: Sliver Falls

The time has finally arrived! Thursday May 11, 2017 is the day that Thunder Bay finally got adventure worthy weather! To start off the adventure season, I made my way over to Silver Falls, about a 45 minute drive North West of Thunder Bay, ON. Oddly enough, this adventure wasn’t on my original list (but it’s on there now and it feels damn good to cross it off!). That just goes to show you how plans change.

You might be asking how I came across this gem of a spot? Well… I’m here to tell you and give you some tips to having a good hike up at Silver Falls!

I found Silver Falls through an Instagram post a few days ago and it looked beautiful! So like anyone would do, I added the destination to the list. It turns out Silver Falls is actually a Provincial Park and very easy to get to.

You travel up Dawson Rd. and turn right onto Silver Falls and follow that road until either the Ontario Power Plant (which is where the hiking trail is) or until the end of the road where there is a camping ground (you can guess what else has been added to the list). A more detailed description will be attached here.

In terms of the hike it’s fairly easy! The hardest part for me was walking up the road where the path divides because I was baking in the sun, without a water bottle and the road is fairly steep! Although, as soon as you get on the path again it feels good. A few things I recommend if you’re going on this hike:

  1. Bring a backpack! This is important because you have to carry all your stuff.
  2. A journal is a must! I stopped at a few places to write and observe. The hike and path reminded me a lot of a hike I went on in Arizona and I drew inspiration from it (tune in next week… maybe sooner).
  3. Water bottle… you gotta stay hydrated kids! (In other words: Do as I say not as I do! I’m writing this blog to help you on your adventures.)
  4. Extra socks because it’s a pretty muddy trail (especially this time of the year because the snow is just melting). My socks and shoes were black after this hike! 

    They got a lot worse…
  5. When it’s actually summer time the river is pretty clean and calm in many places… that means great for swimming! I suggest bring some swim gear (or don’t, skinny dipping might be your thing).
  6. A camera or GoPro is a must! Although, try to remember to live in the moment and take in your surroundings. Don’t try to focus on that perfect shot, all you’ll be doing is hiding behind technology. Go out and explore nature!

I took the hike on my own. I needed a day of personal reflection, where I focused on myself. I found that on the drive out there my mind was wondering, thinking about nonsense. The hike offered me a lot of time to reflect on all my relationships in life, my school year, my job situation, my future and so much more. As soon as I got to the falls I was at easy. There’s something about a body of water that just takes over me and makes me feel at home (that’s one reason why I tattooed Poseidon’s symbol on my wrist). I was able to write in my journal, observe nature and my favourite: listen to the roar of the rapids and falls. On the drive back I was calm, cool, collected. I didn’t have thoughts running in and out of my head, I was at easy.

This hike is perfect if you need a day trip for yourself and focus on you! Just make sure someone knows where you are and when you should be returning because you could get lost and there isn’t cell coverage out there. I do suggest going with friends during the summer months! It’s a smooth drive out there, great hike and a fun place to chill by the water and swim a bit. Really, this path works for both introverts and extraverts. Also, if you want to swim but don’t want to hike, the Silver Falls Provincial Park campgrounds has a nice beach area that you just drive up to.DCIM100GOPROG0010061.JPGIf I had to grade this experience, I’d give it an A.

Happy adventuring!

Check out other adventures I’ll be taking or get to them before me in the About section!

Adventures · Lessons

My First Year in Toronto

As you’re reading this my journey in Toronto is coming to an end (at least for a few months) and I’m probably on my flight back to Thunder Bay or already here. Leaving the city is bittersweet because I know that there’s an adventure to be had in Thunder Bay and I’m so excited to take it head on. The bitter part is that I truly love Toronto. I’ve made amazing friends here. I’ve experienced things I wouldn’t be able to do back home. Most importantly I actually didn’t mind being in school (even though I complained every single day…). There was something new in every corner of the city, from my first flight in to my flight out. Everything I did in between was something that put me out of my comfort zone.

I was fortunate enough to have amazing people accompanying me on every adventure. From day one to my last I did things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t move here for school. In honour of my list of adventures for the summer, I would like to share with you a few “must do” things in Toronto and the wonderful experiences I had.

  1. Wonderland! Sure it’s in Vaughan and not Toronto, but it’s close enough that if you don’t at least go once in your life then you’re doing something wrong. Also going on rides that scare you allows you to move out of your comfort zone and I’m an advocate for always living life on the edge.
  1. Nuit Blanche. I don’t know why but this will forever be one of my favourite nights. It’s a sunset to sunrise art exhibition throughout Toronto. My friends and I thought it was a cool idea to go and explore. It was cool but we saw next to nothing, art wise, and the things we did see, we were confused about (there were glowing orbs and dancing birds at one point). We stayed out looking for bagels most of the night and then when we finally gave up and decided on pizza we headed home. We walked for about 2 extra hours through Yonge and Eglinton to Bayview and Lawerence (we let an Italian be our tour guide). We finally made it home at 4 AM. Still wouldn’t trade it for anything.
  1. Ripley’s Aquarium! I love water, any animal that lives in water, the ocean, Poseidon and Ripley’s brings out your inner child! My favourite part of the aquarium was definitely the jellyfish! The neon lights, how they glowed – it was beautiful!
  1. My absolute favourite one… THE CHRISTMAS MARKET! I felt like was at the North Pole, with Santa and his Elves. I was absolutely in love! No matter if you love or hate Christmas, you will love the market. The lights, the trees, the knickknacks that you find. It’s all so beautiful and worth going at least once while you’re in Toronto.
  1. I didn’t do this one because I don’t know how to do it but… Skating at Nathan Phillips Square. No matter the season seeing the TORONTO sign is something everyone does. I liked going just to people watch during the fall. There’s just something about skating outdoors, at a crowded rink I think is hella cute and everyone should do it.
  1. Any and every coffee shop. If you live in Toronto and don’t have a coffee addiction then you’re not doing it right. There’s a new coffee shop at ever corner and a Starbucks in every direction. I personally like the non-franchise coffee shops because baristas talk to you, they aren’t as busy and they have something unique to them. There’s this one shop, near King and Jarvis, I promised a barista coffee beans from Kenya… gotta keep that promise I guess.
  1. Trying random restaurants. I loved going downtown without a plan, roaming and coming across random restaurants. It was so much fun and allowed me to try different foods, but also more authentic foods.
  1. Toronto Light Fest! This was cool because it was free and almost two months long. It’s similar to Nuit Blanche because it is an art exhibition, but strictly lights. Most exhibits were interactive and I thought that was cool because you add yourself to the art. I highly recommend!
  1. One thing that I personally got to experience was going to WeDay in Toronto. It was my fourth WeDay but my first in Toronto. It’s a day of inspiration and I got to share the day with my best friend of 14 years. If you ever get the chance to go to at least one, I suggest going.
  1. Finally, taking the subway. I don’t care how stupid this sounds but the subway is so cool in my opinion. It so easy to get around but it’s mostly because it completes my “Living in Toronto” experience.

I know that most of these are typical tourist things to do when you’re in Toronto but they are tourist attractions for a reason! They are fun and create memories. The way I see it is that if you didn’t have fun or remember it for more than just a picture, it wasn’t worth it.

As a little bonus to this list, I’ve decided to make it my tradition to get gelato from Touti Gelati on Queens Quay W every time I enter the city for a new school year and every time I finish because that’s exactly what I did this year and it’s so good there! If you go some of my favourites are: Coconut, Tiramisu, London Fog, Lemon and Basil, and the always timeless Chocolate.

I’m so very thankful for every experience I had this year and even more thankful to have shared them with such amazing people and friends. Toronto, these 7.5 months have been so memorable and I’m looking forward to another amazing year in the city. As for right now, I’m living in the moment and working on my list. First up, I’m thinking Rabbit Mountain.




A Message to Future First Years (Part II)

My time as a first year university student is coming to an end and exams are coming full throttle but I enjoy ignoring my school work (or maybe I’m self medicating with this blog to relieve stress – who knows!). As promised I’m writing my advice to future first years, but first I want to give you some insight on the school I am enrolled in.

I’m currently stu(dying) French and English at York University, Glendon Campus and studying Education at the Keele Campus. I’m apart of a 6 year program – 4 year honours bachelor in arts and 2 years bachelor in education. York is a big school with approximately 53,000 students enrolled in 2014. Although Glendon on the other hand is very… quaint… with enrolment at approximately 3,000 students. It is 100% a bilingual school and profs take french very seriously here (hence why I have to take summer school to get to their standards). It’s a chill environment but I do have a problem with how small it is at times. Class sizes are at the most 60 kids, very few kids stay on campus during the weekend and you see the same faces everyday even if you want to avoid human interactions. Nonetheless, I have very much enjoyed my first year of university but it did take work especially because I am studying away from home and living away from everything that was familiar to me. I guess I’m writing this in hopes of helping those with their transition into university next year.

So here are Vince Pelaia’s tips to a smooth and fun first year!

  1. Do Frosh (or whatever your school may call it)! I was my highlight because I got to have fun, embarrassed myself and meet friends. We still laugh about the lip-sync battle and how amazing my performance was (he said sarcastically). In all seriousness it’s so much fun and friends you make during that time will become your best friends.                                                  img_0713
  2. Try to have Fridays off! I was lucky enough to have one morning class on Thursdays and Fridays off and that extended weekend made my life so easy! It gave me time to do school work but also have fun.
  3. Get one of those big calendars from the school bookstore. I didn’t and that was an honest mistake. I tried a day planner but only used it for like a month and then moved on to my phone which becomes a distraction. I need a big visual of things that I have to do so I’ll be investing in that next year.
  4. If you don’t do the readings make sure you go to class and take lots of notes those days (there will be a lot of them). BUT! If all the lecture notes are posted online you don’t have to go (but still go if it’s discussion oriented or if attendance is mandatory).
  5. Stay on top of your work if you have three essays due the same week but have three weeks to work on them make fake deadlines for them and then you’ll finish them on time but also stress free (unless they are philosophy essays, those are stressful).
  6. Don’t focus all your time on school. We are still kids and kids need to have fun so go to a party, pub night, game night, coffee shop. Remember you don’t need alcohol to have fun (although it may make for fun stories).
  7. You will go through some kind of weight change (my now formed double chin is proof of this). Don’t stress about weight gain. Your body is readjusting to a new routine and the important thing is to make sure you eat well (or as well as you can if you’re on meal plan) and try to exercise. The same goes for weight loss. Your diet is very important because it’s what gives you energy and if your not eating well it will reflect in all aspects of your life so eat those veggies, get your protein and all the important nutrients you need.
  8. Say good-bye to your sleep schedule! Some days I found myself asleep at 11pm and other days 4am but I had to wake up between 7 and 8:30 no matter what! On the plus size you have 2 new designer bags right under your eyes!
  9. Due to your lack of sleep you’ll probably start drinking tea, coffee, energy drinks whatever it takes (don’t drink energy drinks). I found the the best thing was green tea and lots of water though. This goes back to trying to stay healthy! Also water makes your skin look great!
  10. You will probably get sick often, especially living on res. I shared a nasty washroom with dirty people for just under 8 months and the cleaning team did not clean well… it’s safe to say that that was a bacteria culture and I’m gonna have to do an immune system fix.
  11. Again have fun! Go on that tinder date (you may get a free meal out of it)! Go break the bank on a new outfit! Go explore your surroundings! Every city has a new adventure just a few blocks away so put those books down and enjoy it.
  12. Go to the formal events your school offers. It may be program based, residence based or in my case just school based (it’s small remember that). It’s fun to dress up and dance! (they are also usually open bar).
  13. Explore new music! Music helps me study and my taste has grown so much in the last few months and yours will too. Grow an appreciation for all genres because they can change your mood or even motivate you so much.
  14. Open your heart. If you find someone you genuinely like take that shot in the dark. If things don’t work then you either have a new friend or you don’t. It’s no big deal.
  15. A 4.0 GPA is not the end all be all. Sure some people need it and I understand that so try your hardest in school, but always remember that there’s always a lesson to be learned with a bad mark.
  16. You don’t need a MacBook to be successful. I mean I am slightly guilty of owning a MacBook Pro but mine is about 5 years old and there’s a green pixel that shows up on the screen when I watch Netflix (It’s very distracting). Any computer will suffice in University. Also don’t rely on computers. I actually took most of my notes in a note book and found it quite useful. On your first week of class bring both because you never know which you’ll like more. (I used my computer in literature but note books in linguistics and french, that’s what I felt more comfortable with).
  17. Join a club or two. I love being involved and even though I’m not apart of any clubs right now I have a few that I want to be apart of. They are also an easy way to make friends because you all already share a common interest.  
  18. If you move away you’re gonna do things behind your parents back and probably tell them about it after the fact…
  19. Understand that you might not stay in your program and that’s okay! The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re studying and if you don’t make a change. If university isn’t your thing don’t force yourself to stay because the most important thing is your own happiness.
  20. You’re going to make amazing new friends that’ll last a lifetime but also form closer bonds with your old friends.
  21. At the end of the day studying is very important. I know I said that you should have fun but the important thing is to actually do your work because this is your future and it’s all in your hands.
  22. Finally, remember that it’s okay to be selfish. Do things to make yourself happy and not others. This is your life and your future that you’re working towards and you shouldn’t have to try to make others happy if it means you’re sacrificing your own happiness.                 




A Message to Grade 12s (Part I)

My first year is winding down (not really – the end hits you like a train) and I learned a few lessons this year that I would like to share with you but also would like to share some tips on how to enjoy your last few months of high school.

Let us begin

Enjoying high school. People either absolutely LOVE or haaatee high school, for me high school was amazing! I was super involved, it was a loving and open environment, and I tried to be at least friendly with everyone. It’s safe to say that I lowkey miss it, things were very simple. The end of high school is bittersweet TBH. I was so excited to start my new adventure in Toronto but I was sad that the faces I saw on a day-to-day basis would only become once every 6-12 weeks. Therefore, I want to give you tips on how to enjoy your last few months as much as possible. Here are some suggestions I have for you:

  1. Grades aren’t everything! You may feel as though you need that 95 to stay accepted into your program but let’s face it – you worked hard, you got in, you can maintain your acceptance very easily.
  2. Go to that club meeting you never went to in grade 9. Like I said I was involved in everything in high school. I don’t think there was a week where I didn’t miss at least one day because I was planning, organizing, or apart of some school activity. I met new friends and grew closer with my friends that way (This would help you a lot if your friends are leaving next year and you’re staying home). It also led me towards my career goals of being a teacher. It may sound cheesy but I learned a lot about myself through the clubs I was in and that’s why I suggest going.
  3. Befriend your teachers. Wanting to be a future teacher I know that befriending my students is going to be so important to me. Your teacher’s are like your second set of parents, they want the best for you, they watch you grow, and they genuinely love you. My favourite thing is seeing a text or a friend request from a former teacher or even a like on one of my tweets (follow me on twitter @vincepelaia). Teachers are your friends and they are humans and they grow connections with their students – they do see you everyday for 4 years (@MyFrenchImmersionFriends).
  4. Go to as many parties as possible! I don’t have to explain this but like it means you’re having fun. Who knows if all of you will be there again next year to celebrate again (you also might see me there TBH)  Image result for party gif
  5. Go to your graduation ceremony and prom. Convocation was boring… but fun to cheer on your friends as they walk across the stage and get their (fake) diploma. Also have fun with your outfit that day. I wore bright red converse because why not! My friend wore pink stiletto heels and was the talk of the night (she could walk in them… don’t wear something you can’t walk in). Prom is just a fun time to enjoy you last night as a high school student and to dress up. Most importantly go to the after parties. I was the “Mom” of the after parties; bring water, a first aid kit, a chair (maybe two), blankets and paper towel. I’m not gonna say why… but you’ll find out. 
  6. Participate in all those grade 12 activities. Yearbook ideals (I’m most likely to travel the world), grade 12 pranks (My school did a charitable prank where we collected money for Our Kids Count to get pink flamingos taken off the football field) and any other activities your school plans because it’s a blast!
  7. Finally, do not stress about next year. It may seem like a big change but it’s really not. You’ll make new friends and get good grades. Live life in the moment and always make room for fun.



(Part II: A Message to Future First Years)