Magnets and My Year Abroad

Growing up, I sat on the side of the kitchen table facing the fridge. Every time my family traveled somewhere, we’d buy a souvenir magnet and place it on the fridge. They were mostly rubbery-plastic magnets of skylines, city names, or animals. Looking back, our family’s magnet collection probably grew because I preferred and encourage the purchase of these small, vibrant magnets filled with personality to the bleak white canvas of the fridge. Over time, our fridge became a mosaic of multicolored images. From our humble Niagara Falls or CN Tower beginnings, the fridge is now decorated with magnets from Vancouver to Indonesia and everywhere in between.

(Now, I have to nuance this introduction by thanking everyone that’s contributed to the family magnet collection, and my personal collection. This international mosaic would not be possible without the kindness and generosity of friends who always knew that the way to my heart is through souvenir magnets.)

Maps and Magnets seemed like the perfect title to describe my travel blog. After a six month break from writing, I’ll admit that I had a hard time starting this blog. So, combining my scratch map of countries I’ve visited with my souvenir collection seemed like a good place to start.

On February 5th, I will be starting a Masters of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. This field work focused program is very unique: four months in a classroom preparing for the field, three months in the field, and three months writing the thesis/ethnographic report. My intention is to study anti-refugee sentiment and discrimination in Western society. I hope to conduct my field work in the United States, but the location will be influenced by the thesis advisor.

It still hasn’t set in. Although it’s been months of emailing between universities, finding accommodations and searching for the best flight, it still hasn’t set in. Even when saying goodbye to friends in Ottawa, it felt like a weekend visit during the summer holidays… the coldest, foggiest weekend complete with freezing rain and -35 degrees Celsius. But what did set in were the kind words of my friends who wished me well on my Canada 150 flag. Thanks guys. I can’t wait to hang it up in my room in Amsterdam.

I look forward to scratching off more countries and collecting more magnets in the year to come. At the top of my list are visiting my Spanish sister, Ana, and reconnecting with my host family in Italy from way back when I did a high school exchange to Treviso with CEEF. After that, well, the list is too long and optimistic to include right now, so let’s just say that the better part of Europe is included. Better save some room on the fridge.

I’m challenging myself to write one blog post every two weeks. Don’t be afraid to keep me accountable and send me an email if I’m behind schedule. Odds are, I have writers block and need a push.

I hope you join me as I explore Amsterdam and learn more about my passion. Stay tuned. 😊

Sincerely,

Claire

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