Wednesday, 29 May 2019

What a difference a year makes!!

It’s hard to believe that a year is gone already. I left Ireland in May 2018 to start a journey of a lifetime in Canada. I've now been home in Ireland for the last month. Its’ given me a lot of time to reflect on my experiences throughout the year both in Canada and France.

The past year has gone by so quick and has been filled with so many amazing experiences, incredible people, lots of emotions, hard work and cultural shocks.

In this, my final blog post at part of the BA (Hons) In Culinary Arts International year, I want to speak as honest and open as I can. 

I started my journey in one of Canada's most famous national parks, Banff which is in Alberta. I left Ireland in the unknown. I had no idea what life was going to be like on the other side of the world. I had no idea what work would be like and how I would settle in. I had no idea on where my journey would take me. But I did know one thing, leaving Dublin I said to myself when the plane took of that there was no going back now, this is it this is the opportunity of waited and longed for in my life. I said to myself to take every opportunity that was on offer and not to waste my time. Many people asked me before I left was I running away from my problems, in a way I was. I needed a new fresh take on life.  Life hasn’t always been good to me, whether it was being bullied all through school for being different or trying to fill the loneliness of life with love. But Canada changed me and changed me for the good. 
Peyto Lake 2018

For my internship I choose to work at The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a world-renowned hotel in the heart of Banff national park. It was very daunting at first, but as the weeks went on and I became more comfortable in my work and my surroundings life became easier. As the saying goes its good to breath a different kind of air, and that saying is beyond true. Its hard to put it to words, how getting the opportunity to live and work in one of the world’s most beautiful locations has an impact on your life. When living in Banff, and the months and experiences went on, I really started to get a feel on who the true me is. I thought hard on where I would like my life journey to take me, but I also reassured myself that we can’t plan our lives out every detail by detail its juts not how it works. I learned that it is completely acceptable for us to not be happy with what we thought would make us happy. We must be open for change and accept change. We must learn from the people we meet and the experiences that weren’t good to us. We must learn that success doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice but to live a successful life we must find balance.

But Canada wasn’t always perfect and that was ok. It was hard at times missing family and friends back home. It was hard to work with people who didn’t care about their job or always had attitudes towards things. It was hard to get respect for somethings when you’re not in a position of authority. But I learned from this working environment and there came points when you just had to turn other people’s negativity into your own positivity, because surrounding yourself with that all the time is bad for your mental health. Working at the Banff Springs I met some truly wonderful and fun people that’s I miss every day. People that always had a smile on their face no matter what. It was very hard for me leaving Canada, but I had to, my next journey, my study semester in France was fast approaching. 
Wine Wednesdays Banff AB (bad things happened) 

I left Canada 2nd of January 2019 just after the busy Christmas period. It felt right but wrong at the same time. it had taken me nearly 7 months to fully settle into a life I was comfortable with and then having to end it all was difficult. I admit I didn’t want to go home to Ireland, life just felt easier in Canada. Canada and Banff in particular will always and forever hold a special place in my life, I will always remember that it helped me find a small piece of the true me but for the moment the world has so much more opportunity’s and experiences to offer and someday  I will return to the land that refreshed my soul and body and changed me for the good.

Open Roads 

Good friends & Good times
Lyon Feb 2019
As a young boy growing up and loving food and as the years went on and you become more aware of cooking and chefs and foods etc France was like a calling I always had longing to go there. Originally France wasn’t my first choice. I had my mind set on Providence in Rhode island but for various reasons I chose different. I got the opportunity to attend classes at a world-renowned college set up by one of the most famous chefs to have ever lived Paul Bocuse. I travelled home for 2 days from Canada as the semester started quite early in January and I need to be there to sort my life out before classes started. This was tough and very tiring both mentally and physically. Your trying to catch up on life at home having missed so much for the past 8 months yet trying to sort everything out for a completely new adventure that was about to begin. 

I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for before I moved to France, I knew that the language would be challenging and that I really need to immerse myself into the French way of living. My Erasmus was very different than any other experience somebody else would have. As the college is private and small it’s a more of intimate experience. We had some minor difficulties at the start of the semester, however, at IPB they run the classes in 4 week rotations which was good. Overall, it was incredibly hard work, a true test of character and not for the faint hearted.

During my 4 months, it was some of the hardest and loneliest times of my life. Being surrounded by some genuinely nice people and amazing food etc more than any training chef could want, life was very difficult and dark at times. However, I’ve been brought up to work hard and not give up, I have a thick skin to not let the little things get the better of me. I learned that at times we must give in to people and give them what they want or desire but to never lose what I believe in or to doubt my self worth and to come out the other side knowing right. My time and experiences in France will forever stand to me, again I found a piece of my true self. I learned things on how I want my career to go. I learned a lot on how I don’t ever want to treat people in certain was.  I learned that working hard for somebody else to take the benefits and not get respected is not where I want my life to go.

Paul Bocuse statute 

The last 12 months have been the best times of my life even filled with all the emotions, the good and bad experiences looking back on it now I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. It’s been a roller coaster of learning and growing over all aspects of my life.

In my last blog I said this, “I believe that everything happens to teach us something. I’ve certainly had my fair share of lessons this year. If I’ve learned anything in the last year its this, the most difficult and testing of times are the ones you’ll always remember. Not for the pain, the struggle, the tears, or the heartache but for the strength of your character and the depth of your heart”.

But now I say goodbye and thank you to those who have helped me along the way and enriched my journey. My journey is not over and will never be over until the day I leaves this earth. So, keep smiling even in times of darkness, keep learning and growing as an individual. Most importantly keep true to who you are because its you journey to live not somebody else’s.


Sunday, 26 May 2019

An ending to a great year !!

                                               Its not goodbye its a 'see you later'

I can’t believe I’m coming to the end of my erasmus year. What an experience it has been. This year has been one of the most incredible years in my life so far. I have so many skills, skills that have gained my confidence, made me a better chef but must importantly has made me a better person.

This time last year I was getting ready to start at the slieve donard. Going into a new work environment didn’t know what my expectations would be but I look back at my time there now and I can honestly say I have never worked in kitchen that such a close family bond and such a great work ethic and take pride in teaching others how work to in a high pressured environment . These aspects are what is missing in a kitchen setting, a sense of community and respect for one another.

When choosing to select work placement first rather than academic placement was the best decision I could make because I had the chance to save a lot of my wages from working in the Northern Ireland so I could be financially independent when studying in The Netherlands and to also to accommodate my travelling around Europe. I have had the best time here in The Netherlands, making some incredible friends from all over the world and studying a course that’s completely out of my comfort zone but I know it will benefit me going into my final year of college in September and my culinary career in the future. I was very lucky that I have travelled to other countries also such as Germany, Italy and Belgium which were all more beautiful than the other and of course travelling around the beautiful country that is the Netherlands from visiting the beautiful tulip fields of Keukenhof to visiting the astonishing shopping city that is Maastricht I will never forget the scenery, people and oh cant forget about that Dutch beer 😉

For anyone that’s going forward in doing an Erasmus year my advice would don’t be afraid to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone I went from a girl that hated the taught of being away from my family and friends for a long period of time to working and living quiet independently abroad with no feelings of home sickness. The year will define who you are as person and your career going forward so please if you can go out and see the world it is full of amazing people, places and opportunities.

Signing off for the last time.


Aine xo

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The finish line approaches

I can’t seem to get my head around the fact that I am writing my final blog post. If I was told before starting college that I would live in Canada by myself for half a year working for a nationally recognised company in Calgary and then the Netherlands studying fresh business I would have had trouble believing it but this has been without a doubt the most amazing experience. I’ve developed so much as a person the past year with the help of throwing myself into new situations for example, moving to countries I have never been to before, one of them alone. I never thought that this year would help me grow so much but has been a huge benefit to me personally, my confidence and awareness has improved a great deal.

Scenes from Banff
Canada was a huge learning curve for me, it helped me improve my confidence in the kitchen and allowed me to experience work in different types of environments. I found myself drawing back on all the skills and knowledge I have gained from college often while also learning more while working. I experienced true independence and will always remember my time there. To this day I keep in contact with majority of the chefs and people I met in Calgary (sometimes too often) and hope to return someday.

It is also quite hard to admit that we are very close to the end of our time here in Venlo, we have had the true Erasmus experience. We’ve made friends with people all over the world and have really bonded during our time here. There’s never a moment of loneliness, someone is always up for doing something and the travel opportunities are almost endless. During our time here I have visited more countries than I have the past few years!
A portion of our Venlo family
The work has been tough at times but coming to the end of lectures and exams making their way towards us everything has been coming together. I’m very happy I chose to come to Venlo and study Fresh Business for my placement. I came here with the interest to see a more in-depth view of this side of the industry and I have experienced exactly what I was looking for. It certainly was different to what we’re used to but in time it all came together, and I’ve learned so much during my time here.

Scenes from Bruges
Finally, this whole year has been a pivotal moment in my life. I’ve developed so much during third year as a chef and a person. I’ve gained so many skills, knowledge, met amazing people and seen beautiful places while travelling around the world.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures the past year, I look forward to returning to WIT for our final year and sharing my experiences with everyone.

Best of luck to everyone starting their journey this year!

For the final time,

Thursday, 9 May 2019

My Final Post...

Sunset from my accommodation in Venlo

Third Year of BA (Hons) Culinary Arts is the reason many people choose the course. From the moment you step foot into the first lecture in 1st year, it’s the main topic of interest – for both the students and lecturers. Everyone understands that it will be the year to mould you not only as a chef, but as a person too. I was excited to get out of my comfort zone, experience different foods, cultures and ways of living. As we fast approach the end of the semester, I thought it appropriate to reflect on my year and how beneficial it has been for me.

Fruit stall in Rotterdam Market

I had two very different life experiences throughout the year. It started off with a very challenging work placement in France. Truth be told, I didn’t quite enjoy it until near the end. I found the language barrier tough and somewhat isolating. However, with reassurance and support I got through it. I learnt more in that kitchen in those few weeks than I have in the past 3 years. It was a true culinary education. My skills, knowledge and technique increased tenfold. You can read more about my time in France in previous blogs but in hindsight, it was the most rewarding experience of my life.

Dinner with our Venlo family!

My study semester saw me headed off to the Netherlands. Just five minutes from the German border, myself, Tom, Danielle and Áine settled into the small lively city of Venlo. We didn’t know what to expect. To be honest, we didn’t even do any research. And you know what? I’m so glad we didn’t. We simply could not have braced ourselves for what was to come. Our first stroll through the streets of Venlo pleasantly surprised us. My first time stepping into my apartment immediately sparked a sense of home. The first friends we made instantly became family. It might sound cheesy but I really can’t word it any other way.

Daytrip to Keukenhof

The college experience in the Netherlands has been pretty positive. Though we may have felt a little out of our depth and the content of the course was sometimes a bit difficult, we were given lots of help and advice from lecturers. The workload is considerably greater than any semester we have had in WIT. It was a little bit overwhelming at the beginning, but we are getting through it.
Work hard play hard!

It goes without saying that most of our time is spent in class and getting work done, but the most memorable moments from Venlo are far from studying. Since initially getting to Venlo, I have travelled all around the Netherlands, to Germany, Belgium, Italy and Poland with people I have met from all over the world. In our free time we have had endless parties, movie nights, cheese and wine nights, laser tag trips, picnics and barbeques. We haven’t had time to long for home since we got here, as there is always something to do and people to meet.
Stalls in Krakow
Sightseeing in Milan

When I think back on my year, it really has been amazing. There was such a stark contrast between my time in France and in the Netherlands. France was a true test of character. I was completely and utterly out of my comfort zone but it was so rewarding. Having such a positive experience in Venlo has made the struggles of France so worth it. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend 6 months of my life.

As we prepare for exams and book our flights home in the next few weeks, it seems strange that the year we so eagerly anticipated is ending so soon. When I think back to first year, I could never have imagined myself living in France or the Netherlands for part of my life. That is exactly what this year is all about; making the most of it and trying something different.

Though I never want to leave my life in Venlo behind, I look forward to reuniting with my classmates to share our skills and stories from the past year!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my 3rd year adventures, and for anyone about to embark on theirs, I wish you the best of luck!

Ciara Power

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Life in Lyon!

Bonjour tout le Monde...I am back with news from France. This time for the last time. :)

Usual weekend breakfasts: fresh fruit from market and bakery goods :) 
I have a whirlwind of thoughts circling around my brain as I prepare to write the final blog post of my abroad Erasmus.   
Empanada day!! 


   The light at the end of the tunnel me regarding the past year is precisely what I am doing right now. I am sitting in my grandparents garden wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with a steaming hot bowl of porridge beside me basking in the Transylvanian sunlight. 
     It seems hard to imagine that merely a month ago I was doing 8 am to midnight shifts with 5/6 hours of sleep and my only proper meals were made on the weekends. 
     The past year has taught me three things in whole :
1) you are stronger (physically, mentally and emotionally) then you think. 
2) you have so much more potential and are capable of so much more then you ever thought possible. 
3) the only certainty in life is change. 
Brasseries Georges- Choucroute!  

     I can arguably say that the past year of my life has probably been the toughest one thus far. 
     Not much changed since the last time I left you off in Saison. We were still starting work at 8am and finishing at midnight or after. I still went to the market each weekend as I had the chance. The chef was still unhappy. And we still didn't get much sleep. And then one morning I woke up and it was all over. All the blood, sweat and tears of the past year were suddenly in the past and I wasn't sure how to react to it all. It took about a month , up until just recently that I've finally managed to absorb it all, all the accomplishments of the past year. 

   Budapest and Lyon and everything in between has taught me a lot about myself , other and the world alike. I have had the chance to see places, meet people, taste food and wine , learn the art of being independent, learn where my strength and weaknesses lie and understand the importance of a strong family  background and support network. 
      It is only when you truly throw yourself in the deep-end like this that you learn whether you'll sink or swim. 
Moroccan family lunch at Saison. 

      I've also learnt that failing at something doesn't always equate us with failure. Failure and what it means to each individual is all about point of view and perspective . We can look at it as a devastating catastrophe or as a bump in the road and another opportunity to grow and learn. I believe that these are lessons that life would teach us all regardless of where we learn them. But having completed the past year has certainly sped up the process for me. 

      I wasn't sure what to write in this blog, I didn't want it to be a repeat of things that I have already said. The year went as fast as it came . But throughout the toughest of times I have had one motto that has helped me immensely "This too shall pass". Life is all about change and nothing lasts forever . Whether we resist that change or allow it to mould and shape us is entirely up to us.  

    Sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you really need. Quitting doesn't always equate failure , sometimes it is a necessity for our personal well-being too. But if I've learn anything so far, it's that learning to accept and flow with the situation you're in , will make your life immensely easier. 

     I have a few words of advice for whoever is preparing to set off on their own Erasmus year as we speak. 

1) Leave home with your heart and your mind open. It will be very difficult to absorb everything you can learn I'd you are not open to other ways of life. 
2) You can do it. You can work in the top restaurants, learn from the best and become one of the best. And if that's what you want, you will do it.  
3) Push through the hard times and make the absolute best of your days off. 
4) Don't forget about family. When you need them, that's what they're there for. 
5) Make good use of fresh fruit and veg markets. Eat healthy. Sleep. And BUDGET! ;) 

All the best, 
A bientot, 
Hanna <3
Lyon on a windy day .