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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The Biggest Year of My Life

2013 was by far the most significant year of my life - from getting my first teaching job, graduating university, moving out, moving across the world, starting my first teaching job, and to travelling the world whenever I can - it's been an absolutely amazing year.

If you're on Facebook, you'll know that Facebook has been promoting you to click on your "Year in Review", which compiles your 20 Biggest Moments from 2013. Here is a look at my list of my 20 Biggest Moments of 2013, with suggestions from Facebook. The list is chronological!

1. New Year's Eve

I spent a lovely New Year's Eve with a combination of Brandon and IMC friends. It was a fantastic way to kick off 2013! We each had to write down one New Year's Resolution. Mine was to get a teaching job, preferably overseas. Achieved!

2. Attending the Overseas Recruiting Job fair at the University of Northern Iowa and ACCEPTING MY JOB!

This was probably the most important weekend of all. This was my first time planning a solo trip, and I'm so glad Hannah was there with me throughout the weekend. The weekend was full of stress, preparing, interviews, note cards, running around hotels and the conference center, socializing, networking, skyping, and eventually accepting job offers!! Hannah ended up in Hong Kong and I ended up in Dubai - not bad for two brand-new college/university grads! :) 

3. Graduating piano recital

Throughout my five years of university, I always wanted to give a graduating piano recital. As a music education major, I never had to give recitals, but I really wanted to give a performance that helped culminate my time at BU. As it turned out, this recital ended up giving thanks to my entire life in Brandon and at Brandon University, since I knew I would be moving in August. I was very happy that my 3 piano teachers, friends, and family were able to attend, and my mom threw an amazing reception!

4. Final student teaching placement

I completed my final student teaching placement in Oakbank, Manitoba - a small town outside of Winnipeg. This was my first middle-school band placement, and I really enjoyed it! I loved my co-operating teacher and learned a ton. I "passed" my final placement and with that, I was officially done all of my requirements for graduating! I'm not sure if seven weeks counts as a "moment" - but that's okay!

Thank you gifts :)

5. Visiting Toronto

I decided to take a solo trip to Toronto during Spring Break. I visited my brother and his girlfriend, and met up with lots of friends who previously attended BU. We ate, laughed, watched terrible movies, shopped, and had a ton of fun. It was a fantastic trip, although a bit short! 

6. Graduating from Brandon University

This was an incredibly big deal to me. After 5 years, I graduated with two degrees - a Bachelor of Music and a Bachelor of Education. Brandon University will always hold a special place in my heart. I grew up in the School of Music, and being able to extend my time there by 5 years was the best decision I ever made. 

Graduation day itself was a lot of fun. I organized a fancy dinner at my workplace for all of the music ed grads and their families, complete with decorations, gifts, a set menu, and a slideshow. It was a total success! 

I was also very honoured to win 2 awards at graduation - the Brandon University Gold Medal in Music Education (awarded to the highest GPA in Music Education) and the Governor-General Silver Medal, awarded to the highest undergraduate GPA. I was extremely happy and proud that my hard work over the past 5 years was honoured in such a way :) 

7. Left my serving job

Facebook thinks this was one of my top moments, and I'm inclined to agree. I worked at Remington's Seafood and Steakhouse for all 5 years of my degree. I was a hostess for about six months, and served the other 4.5 years. It was absolutely the best job to have, as they were more than willing to schedule me around my crazy life schedule (concerts, student teaching placements, summers at camp, etc). I actually only worked 3 days in 2013 (Agricultural days and Valentine's Day!), but I officially handed in my uniform and said good-bye in June. I have very fond memories of Remington's, and I'm very glad I was able to have my graduation dinner there!

Working on New Year's a few years ago - I don't have a picture in my tie!

8. My Mom Retired

After 34 years of teaching in the Brandon School Division, my mom retired! I was very glad I was able to attend the BSD Retirement Dinner, and my dad and I were attend her school's Family BBQ where she was honoured in front of everyone! My mom had an amazing teaching career and continues to substitute teach in Brandon.

9. Travelling to Lake Tahoe, CA for IB Music Training

My school paid for me to attend a training session to be able to teach International Baccalaureate Music. This was my first time attending an all-expenses paid conference, and it was pretty cool! My flights were an absolute mess both there and back (Reno - Phoenix - Vegas - Winnipeg, anyone?), but I can't complain too much since they were free.

The conference itself was awesome - I met excellent educators all over the world and am still in touch with some of them today. We socialized quite a bit, including one night where we simply stayed up late sharing choral music resources!

The IB Music program is very open and flexible, but I felt as though I got a lot of resources and information out of this conference. Lake Tahoe itself was simply gorgeous. I took tons of photos of the mountains and stunning scenery. I was staying in an adorable hotel in Squaw Village. Other than the physical travelling, it was an amazing trip! 

Rainy Squaw Valley :)

IB Music Colleagues overlooking Emerald Bay

10. David and Devon's Wedding

Two of my music education classmates were married in the summer. It was such a happy day, and the last time that our whole graduating class was together before we started our new jobs as music educators / went to grad school!

11. I Sold My Car

I bought my car in February 2012 and I absolutely loved it. I did not have intentions of teaching overseas when I bought it. When I got my job, I realized that selling it made the most sense, since it still had a few years of warranty left on it. I was able to sell it to a friend who was just coming back from teaching in Korea for a year! I'm very glad with how it all worked out, and I think the international teacher buying the car from the future international teacher is a great sign!


From here on in, the recaps get a lot shorter, since I have already blogged about most of the experiences! I had lived in the same house for my entire life. I can't even begin to explain how much STUFF I had accumulated, especially in terms of clothing, toiletries, and schoolwork. I spent hundreds of hours trying to go through everything. Here's an example of my packing: 

Yet somehow, after tears of frustration and sacrifices (a certain neon green hoodie comes to mind...), I was able to fit everything into three suitcases, a carry-on, and a backpack. Not too bad!

Read more about my journey here!

13. Living on my own 

I had never lived on my own before. I had always lived at home or with families for student teaching placements in Winnipeg. I am independent, but it just made financial sense to still live at home while attending university in my hometown. The transition to living on my own hasn't been too hard at all. It was strange at first, but everything felt strange! 

The biggest surprise to me (and my parents!) was how much I am enjoying cooking. There is a huge delivery culture here in Dubai, and lots of people order food in quite frequently. I try to save ordering food for when I'm extremely tired or have nothing in the fridge. My colleagues were all confused and impressed when they realized that I was bringing my lunch to school every day with homemade food.  

My one complaint? Our oven only cooks from the top, so it's extremely hard to bake. I've perfected a muffin technique though, where I cook them for awhile in muffin tins, then take them out and cook them upside-down on a baking sheet to cook the underside. True story.

2 hours of meal prep = all of this food!

14. Receiving my first grown-up salary... in CASH!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I had only been in Dubai for 2 weeks, and receiving my first full salary was pretty welcome, especially since it was in cash! Needless to say, this salary was spent pretty quickly as I bought new things. 

15. First day of school

Again, self-explanatory. The first day was a mess of confusion and stress. I didn't feel prepared enough, but I managed to make it through!

Read a very detailed description here!

16. Ethiopia

I went to Ethiopia for Eid on a group tour, and really enjoyed it! My highlight was either shimmeying onstage in front of a packed restaurant, or the day we ended up at an old bridge, chasing baboons, and playing in the water. 

17. Becoming a PADI certified open-water diver

Scuba diving is something I have always wanted to get into, but being from Manitoba, I have never really had the opportunity. I was very excited to have the opportunity this fall to complete a PADI Open-Water Diver course with one of the teachers from our sister school. I'm excited to see where diving might take me around the world! 

I haven't actually dived since being certified - I'm hoping to squeeze a day in before we go back to school on the 5th. 

18. First concert 

I had my first official concert in November! Both of the grade 10 classes combined and gave their first performance. I was happy that my curriculum leader and administrators were in the audience, but disappointed with the audience turn-out in general. It was a bit of a mess organizing the lights and sound, and I ended up spending 14 hours with the students over the two days before their concert. These hours were unpaid, of course, and this was one of my first moments where I really felt like a "real" music teacher! I don't have any photos of this event at home.

19. Egypt

Oh, Egypt. Travelling to Luxor was one of the best trips I have ever taken. I promise I will recap it properly in the New Year. Here is another picture to tide you over until then.

Massive pillars at the Temple of Karnak!

20. England

I went to England for Christmas! I really wanted to visit my family and go somewhere with colder weather for Christmas without travelling all the way back home. I do need to get some work done in the New Year before school starts, which I know wouldn't have happened back home!

I will be devoting one or two blog posts to England soon, but again, here's a picture for now!

The first time that I have been with all 4 of these cousins since 2001!

20+. Many more...

There are so many more experiences from 2013 that I could include in here, such as the Big Band Dance, library study parties, seeing Rajaton perform, seeing the Mnozil Brass perform, working at IMC, snorkelling in Oman, a day trip to Abu Dhabi, report cards, the first grade 7 band concert, all of the support and networking through my Personal Learning Networks, etc. 

It was an absolutely wonderful and amazing year! Stay tuned for my stats report! :)

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