This is the story of a Quebec city girl doing a 13 months term on an International MC...



Recently, life has been like a rollercoaster. In a very short period of time, I have had a sudden and very intense change in my lifestyle. Afterall, most people feel like it's a big change moving out of the house when they do it in the same city. In less than a month I have gone from...
- living at my parents place to living with roomates;
- studying full time to working full time;
- living in a city where everybody speaks French from a city where nobody speaks French;
- having a solid friends network to having no network whatsoever;

This experience is a challenging one. Moving into a new city can feel pretty lonely. Sure there is technology so I can skype my friends or follow their lives over facebook but let me tell you it's not the same. It's all a matter of adaptation, it's where this experience becomes enriching. Because everyday when I step out of my room I end up stepping out of my comfort zone. To all those that I have been harrassing with that statement "Step out of your comfort zone", just know that it never gets easy but the more often you do it, the wiser you get. I used to feel uncomfortable when stepping out of it. I still do but I now have the wisdom to know that:
 a. it's worth it
 b. everything gets better with time
 c. it's the whole point of why i'm doing it. the fact that it's hard makes it life-changing

I really don't wanna feel depressing for you, Dear readers. I just think that it's important for you to know that it's not always easy. Here, my lifestyle is quite different from the one of people that surround me. I don't study while almost all of them do. I haven't started work officially so I'm sort of in a grey zone of my year. Not quite started but already here. I feel like the 2 people who could truly understand the way I feel are my two colleagues who haven't arrived here yet. One of them is from Mexico and the other is from Colombia. They are waiting for their visa procedures to be done (touch some wood please). Once they get here, they'll move in with me and they'll get onto the same rollercoaster ride that I'm on right now. I wish we could all take the ride together but life isn't like this. Timing does not always work your way. You just gotta deal with it.

On the bright side, I danced reggaeton Friday and Saturday night :) things could be worse!


Settling down

I have been in Puerto Rico for five days now and I can finally say that the dust is starting to come down. I have finished unpacking, moving into my room (which included lots of cleaning), zebra-ing my environment, walking in my new neighborhood, visiting my new office, etc. I guess you can't feel at home somewhere before you know your way around a little bit. I now know how to get to Walgreens (drugstore), to work, to the beach, the movie theater, to Marshalls (equivalent of our Winners stores), to the bus stop, to Placita (the coolest hangout place), and back home :P all by myself. Yay!

I still need time to get into a new routine but my room makeover sure helped me feel more "at home". It's gonna take me a while to get into the mood of cooking since the kitchen is invaded by moskitos. Considering the bad state of my legs right now (they are terribly bitten), I need to figure out a strategy to get in there without getting eaten alive. My roomate Oriana and I have started implementing some anti-moskitos strategies today but I'll start taking B12 vitamins tomorrow. I took them before and during my internship in Honduras and they actually make your blood less appealing to those idiots. For those away on internships, note that tip down!

I have an appointment tomorrow with the Department of State of Puerto Rico to make sure everything is fine with my visa and so the officer can check my proficiency in English..... it's gonna be interesting to see how I survive wearing formal clothes when it's 35 degrees outside!

I met some of Oriana's friends yesterday and today and it felt really good to hangout and have fun with some interns (from Mexico and US).  There are definitely lots of nice people to get to know here.

Hope you enjoyed the news!


 My moskito bites...40 just on my legs...

Here is part of new room!!


I made it!

After several tasty anecdotes I will detail later, I am proud to say I have made it to Puerto Rico. I am currently in Cabo Rojo (city on the west coast) to participate to a transition weekend with both MC teams. I have trainings from 8 am to late pm and it's great to be part of a structured transition process (it's one of the first times it's formally done here). I am also becoming more aware everyday of the challenges that await for me.. but I'm constantly putting new tools in my tool box. I will finally see my MC flat (appartment) for the first time tomorrow. Woohoo!!! I received my keys and my cell phone: this is getting real!

More news will come later.  Thanks for following me :)



Tips: Going abroad for an extended period of time

When leaving your country for more than 3 months, the number of things you need to think of grows exponentially. Having to go through the process of moving abroad right now, I am learning a lot about all those tricky things we need to keep in mind. Here's a quick list of tips you should keep in mind when you make the big move.

1. Visa 
As soon as you find out your destination, apply for your visa. This can take a while and it's a lot of stress not knowing when you can leave. It could prevent you from getting your plane ticket at a good price...

Side note: Canadians requesting a US visa can apply for their visa directly at the airport (which means skipping the interview process at the embassy) provided that they bring the right forms with them at the airport.

2. Health Insurance
Check with your province/state about your public health insurance coverage (in locations where it applies). They have strict regulations and it can be tricky finding a way to not lose your public protection shall you have any health issues while you're abroad. Dig a bit more and you'll find out if you fall under certain exceptions (which is great!).. otherwise you might have to fly back into the country not to lose your privileges.. NOT cool. Internships or study semesters abroad are some of the potential exceptions you could fall under.

3. International Drivers License
(PCI in French) are a cheap and easy way to be able to drive abroad without having to argue with the car rental companies or the authorities. The IDL is basically a distinct card that you get that works as an appendix to your regular drivers license. You will still need both as your IDL is basically a translated copy of your regular permit. That means you have to pay for your regular license to be renewed if you want the IDL to be effective. It's not a replacement...

4. Plane tickets
They can be tricky to purchase. Unless you have an unlimited budget, resist the temptation to buy right away or the easy way. To save money, use different search engines, check daily a couple days in a row to see the price fluctuations, compare your prices, your schedules and the number of stops. I found my cheap flight on cheapoair.com. It was my first time hearing about it and I found flights that were much cheaper.

Warning: Make sure you are aware of if you have to do an airport switch or not. As an example, in New York, there are 3 major airports (JFK, Newark in New Jersey and La Guardia). You might have to switch from one to another which is not too bad except when you are MOVING. That means lots of heavy luggage. Not convenient in the subway and everything. In that case, it is wise to pay a bit more but to save the hassle of transfers.

5. Luggage allowance policies
When shopping for a plane ticket, it is smart to take a look at the different luggage allowance regulations offered by the different air carriers you are comparing. A cheap flight with company A might end up more expensive after you add the luggage fees than if you had flown with company B. It takes time to do but it can end up saving you some bucks.. As an example, some companies do not charge anything for the first cargo suitcase but charge 25$ for the second one. Most airlines do charge fees since laws were changed in November 2010.

6. Drug prescriptions
If you are under some prescription drugs, thing about having a little chat with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure you will get access to your drugs while being abroad. Many options are possible: you can ask your pharmacist to provide you with enough pills for the whole trip (which is a lot of pills if you leave for a year), you can also ask him to provide you with a way of confirming to your abroad drugstore what you need or you can also go see a doctor while being abroad and do the whole exam and everything.

7. Legalities
You may want to sign a paper allowing one of your family members to do some actions in your name while you are abroad. In French we call this a "procuration". It's a document that you sign (ideally in front of a lawyer) that states that a person you designate can represent you. Ex. cash in checks, sign papers, fill out official forms, etc. This can be useful while you are abroad with either limited means of communication or potentially urgent needs.

8. Passport
Make sure you have one. If you do, make sure it won't expire when you are abroad. If so, you CAN do the renewal process from there but it's a lot more trouble. You can do an early renewal (like I did) if you prove that you have a good reason to do so.

This is it for now! Hope it will save you some headaches!

p.s. Don't forget to get your ticket for my fundraiser event! Only 11 days left before the big day!