It has been an amazing year in Canada! Reflecting on my many new relationships, experiences and adventures, I feel grateful for the opportunities that studying abroad has provided to me. A major accomplishment this semester was working on the VIU Intercultural Week project. I had the opportunity to plan the Cultural Couch Series on Belize with fellow Belizean scholars. I also partook in the first ever Story Slam at VIU hosted by Education Abroad and was chosen to be an M.C. at an event to promote indigenous hip-hop. Although I thought that hip-hop was vulgar and promoted negative ideas, I attended a workshop where I learned that it could unite people through positive messages of love, unity and freedom. I was captivated by this idea and became reminiscent about how reggae connected people back home in the Caribbean. Learning to scratch like a disc jockey at the workshop for the first time was also an unforgettable experience.

During my studies this semester, I shared in numerous learning circles with colleagues and professors. I formed deep relationships that I know will continue into the upcoming semester and perhaps throughout my master’s program. Guest speakers from various leadership positions in the field of Education were invited by my Faculty to share their experiences with my class. Moreover, my classmates and I were taken to schools around Nanaimo to experience first-hand what the education system was like. It was a wonderful experience and it helped me to connect the theoretical ideas I was leaning in class with real life.

Sharing an apartment with eight girls from different countries has also been a challenge but an incredible learning experience. I leaned many things about Canadian culture including how to make grilled cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes as well as Rice Krispy squares. I also had the honor of teaching some of the girls in my dorm how to cook some Belizean dishes like Relleno and Escabeche. Despite setting off the fire alarm, we were also able to make delicious corn tortillas on a comal that my cousin gave to me as a gift. These were delightful experiences and they taught me even more about how to appreciate cultural diversity.

I ended the year with a slam by attending an intercultural event about Native Canadian and Indian culture. It rocked my world! I enjoyed the food, the company, the splendid music and yes… the highly energetic dances. It taught me how to appreciate the connectedness among people of different cultures and that we can learn many wonderful ideas about life from all peoples.

For the New Year, I hope to continue to be involved in activities that will promote appreciation of cultural diversity. I also plan to begin my research on celebrating cultural identity in education. I look forward to attending and planning cultural events on campus and conducting research in British Columbia. Moreover, I plan to visit places like the Native Art Museum in Vancouver and the University of British Columbia library to learn more about Canada’s Native Peoples. Furthermore, I look forward to learning how to make more Canadian dishes like Poutine and Bannock and to meeting more new friends.

- Marian Juarez, VIU Masters of Educational Leadership Student & QE Scholar



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