I moved to Europe in January 2007 to attend a semester abroad at Memorial University’s campus at Harlow in the United Kingdom. This was a big step for me – I was a 21 year old rural Newfoundlander who had spent some short family vacations in the Atlantic provinces and a week in Ottawa was as far west I had ventured. It was a decision that forever changed my life!
After trekking the streets of London and a group trip to Berlin, Germany I choose to visit Prague in the Czech Republic with Elizabeth and Meg. I will have to admit that it wasn’t love at first sight given a number of unfortunate circumstances we encountered when it came to trains, trams, poor weather, getting lost, adapting to a foreign language and so much more.The first night proved to be quite a nightmare. All was not negative though and as time passed, our lows became highs as we truly experienced the beauty of the the Old Town, Astronomical Clock, Castle, Charles Bridge, famous Czech beer, music and many other sights and sounds.
I never knew after that visit that I would end up travelling back to Prague for many returns. As time passed throughout the winter semester at Harlow, I would visit France, Norway, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Austria and other parts of Europe. I learned a lot about culture, society and various life skills that had me interested in continuing my education abroad. I applied for an exchange as part of the my Bachelor of Commerce with Prague, Czech Republic being my number one choice, Uppsala, Sweden as number two and Mexico as my third choice.
I received a letter of acceptance to Prague to attend the University of Economics and I was ecstatic. I was eager to experience more of this city as after my visit in January, I knew I would be back and this place would have a special piece of my heart.
After accepting the exchange and making arrangements, I was also offered a job to work for London Offshore Consultants, an international marine and engineering consultancy. This meant I spent the whole year in Europe and fulfilling a dream of visiting Egypt. I spent my Fall of 2007 in Prague where I truly experienced the rich culture, history and made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
I’ve returned to Prague again in January 2010 and also in September 2012. I’ve had my friends I met in Prague visit Canada in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and visited them in Europe every year since 2009. I could certainly write a book or two about my many “Random Travel Adventures”. These travel experiences have helped shaped who I am as a person and does provide a different perspective when I look at the opportunities and challenges that exist in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
I would encourage anyone to study, work or travel abroad (and it can be done on a shoestring). Today, I am a little nostalgic given an 8 year anniversary since my first visit to this magical city. I love reflecting and returning, because each time offers something new and a stronger connection to this special place. I always look forward to my next return.
Rural Newfoundland & Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula has a similar impact on people. Once you experience the landscapes, architecture, heritage, history and other unique aspects of our culture, you too will want to have many returns.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)
This article was written by CCM and appeared in the May 10, 2010 edition of the Northern Pen Newspaper:
Negative stereotypes portrayed in the media have influenced the mindset of how some perceive life in Labrador. FINALY! (Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Youth) hosted a five-day cultural exchange entitled Experience Labrador from April 12-17, 2010. The program enabled 21 youth and three FINALY! staff aged 15-35 from all over the island portion of the province travel to Labrador, serving as a unique avenue to experience diverse cultures, traditions, employment opportunities and self-government in Labrador. Five youth from the Northern Peninsula were selected to attend, including myself; CP, St. Anthony; EP, St. Lunaire-Griquet; RM, Flowers Cove and NC, St. Lunaire-Griquet.
Ernie Maclean of the Labrador Heritage Society spoke to the effect some people may preach youth are our future and this is certainly true, but in his view youth are also the present. These words were effective, powerful, and positive. A group icebreaking activity reinforced this comment as participants were asked before the trip to give organizers one fact about themselves. All participants then had to match each person with their fact. Facts included a noteworthy classical guitarist and the founder of Helping Hands for Haiti, yet extended to include long-term plans for one youth to be future Prime Minister and another to blossom as an actress. A diverse group dynamic filled the week with enthusiasm as the people of Labrador presented the many positive initiatives occurring in the region.
To elaborate, the Nunatsiavut Government is focusing on eco-tourism and resource management, language coordinators are using Rosetta Stone software to help preserve the Inuktitut language, elders are sharing their stories, employers are diversifying the economy, communities are coming together to promote heritage and a Friendship Centre exists to offer traditional craft instruction, drum dance performances and to bring communities together. I have travelled 27 countries, both large cities and rural regions; yet experiencing Labrador was enlightening. It proved that success is obtainable with perseverance and the right attitude. As residents of the Northern Peninsula if we reflect on our past way of life, culture, and values we will realize they are not so different from that of Labrador. There are common issues challenging both rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador; however, as in the past through understanding and community co-operation we can overcome adversity.
“All the negative impressions and stereotypes that we get from the media, limited my desire to visit the interior of Labrador. This experience made me realize that Labrador is not as bad as what we often hear. In fact it is really similar to the small communities in Newfoundland,’ states RM, ‘a well-organized exchange enabled cultural involvements, such as Inuit games, a session on Inuktituk language and meeting a Labrador Huskie dog team. Overall, an incredible week spent with amazing people and a lifetime of memories.”
“I am so glad to have gotten the chance from FINALY! to participate. I had many views of Labrador prior to participating, sadly most were negative’, says NC. ‘Now those negative views are gone because I got to experience just what Labrador has to offer. The people are very passionate about their land and their culture and are doing what they can to preserve both. Nunatsiavut, meaning ‘beautiful land’ perfectively depicts Labrador. I hope FINALY! is able to hosts more exchanges, the benefits are significant and I will do my part to recommend them to other youth.”
“Programs like Experience Labrador help greatly in reducing negative stereotypes that are portrayed in the media through active education and real life experience”, notes CP. An overwhelming group consensus would rate this project a great success for the youth in attendance, FINALY! and the province. A special thank you is extended to the Newfoundland and Labrador Government and their Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy making funding for this project available.
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Loving the Labrador Experience, just like living the island portion of the province –