It’s actually happening! (T-6 days)


Less than a week until I depart for a year in Colombo, Sri Lanka and it’s finally sinking in… This is all really, actually, for sure, 100% happening: I am moving abroad. On Sunday. Again.

I love this feeling of exhilaration because I love the moment before trying a new thing. I’ve felt it in the past¬†(e.g. my¬†first day of university or at¬†a new job) but it’s always a rush.¬†Maybe it’s because I’ve lived abroad before that I didn’t expect it¬†as much this time. This time, I thought I’d be super chill and not at all the giddy little kid I feel like inside.

But I’m thankful for my excitable inner child. It’s the reason I can get through a packing list the length of my arm and spend hours on the road back and forth into the city to gather supplies (and then gather supplies again as I realize I don’t own a single lightweight, work-appropriate blouse!?!?).

This energy will also propel through the longest flight I’ve ever been on: 12 hours from Montreal to Doha before flying on to Colombo. (Note: I’ve been on a plane for ~20 hours from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg but it touched down for an hour in Dakkar to refuel so this one will technically be longer!).¬†I know this flame of energy will wane into more of a slow burn as I get into a groove in my new home but for now I’ll relish it… It hides the nerves, after all!

If you would like to donate to my fundraising campaign for Uniterra (note this money supports local partners not my volunteer mandate), check out my Canada Helps page.

T-11 days!


After a¬†busy trip to Toronto, I spent a few days relaxing at my grandmother’s house in southern Ontario. (She reads my blog – hi Gramma!) Those days were spent sleeping in, chatting, enjoying the spring weather, and hanging out with the amazing¬†folks in my grandmother’s life.

Back in the Ottawa area now, my life has been filled with preparations. Tasks like appointments with the travel doctor, making decisions about packing (yes or no to the travel pillow? Oh, right there’s a twelve hour flight – of course I’m bringing the travel pillow!), organizing all the¬†paperwork, and so on are definitely keeping me busy… But I will admit that my days have been more filled with everyday tasks¬†than I had anticipated. Yes, I’m moving abroad in the near future but in the meantime there are also dishes to be done¬†and laundry to be cleaned. And all of these little tasks¬†serve to remind me that while I am away, life here will continue on similar to how it has always been (though, of course, sans Katherine).

While it might sound that way, I don’t see this as a sad observation. Instead, I take refuge in the thought¬†that while this move seems like a big deal right now (even¬†a Big Scary Thing), eventually life in Sri Lanka¬†will take shape in many of the same ways life in Canada does – through the tasks of everyday life. Eventually, I will settle into a new routine in my new place. This reassures me because I know I will find my way.


Exploring near my grandmother’s house in southern Ontario


Lunch at our favourite tea shop, Annabelle’s


Me and Gramma¬†having a laugh after lunch in Carleton Place at Ginger Cafe (we were happy vegetarians!) (note her “University of Toronto Grandmother” tee-shirt!)


You can’t be in Ottawa in May and NOT visit the Tulip Festival


Shoutout to the happy Ottawan who wrote cute sayings like this on many of the walkways throughout the Tulip Festival

11 days

Got my visa… Got my plane tickets… See you soon Colombo!

If you would like to donate to my fundraising campaign for Uniterra (note this money supports local partners not my volunteer mandate), check out my Canada Helps page.


Feeling grateful in Toronto


I buy into the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.¬†This is likely because I grew up in small-town rural Ontario, where everyone knows everyone and the community is strong. And¬†it’s also probably because I worked in residence life¬†throughout my undergrad, where I consistently saw the power of connection in bettering students’ lives. So my community is incredibly¬†important to me, even as I prepare to spend a year away from the people I love most.

In all honesty, I had a hard time staying in contact with my friends and family during my last year of university. A busy life filled with work and school and more work and more school meant that I didn’t keep up with everyone as much as I wanted to and it also meant that I also didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to many of the people important to me in my Toronto community before I moved away last month. So this past week I took a trip to visit as many of them as I could, spending a few nights couch-surfing in the city to catch up with old friends, before I leave on my next big adventure.

I am now just finished this trip (and coming to you from a train to visit my grandmother before heading back home at the end of the week!). After four busy days of chatting, laughing, exchanging advice, and receiving words of wisdom (often over a delicious meal, cup of tea, or glass of wine), I feel full of love. I am so grateful to have this many awesome people in my life, people who understand my wanderlust and support me no matter what part of the world I end up in.


At the Aga Khan Museum, in front of a portrait of Toronto


Aga Khan Museum


Breakfast at Karine’s (amaaazing vegan food near St Patrick station!)


Look at my friends’ adorable cat!!


Seriously. Look at this silly, adorable kitty.


Obligatory “CN Tower in the background to prove I was in Toronto” photo


Bye for now, T-dot! (See you at convocation next month!)


Back At It Again: A Year In Sri Lanka


I wrote in my last post on this blog that I would be blogging again soon. It turned out that “soon” was really “a year and a bit from now” but, hey, better late than never! So what’s been up with me since my last post in March 2015? The short answer is: I worked really, really hard during my fifth year of university to write my thesis and finish my undergrad courses and I’m proud to say I did it!

When approaching the end of undergrad, I – like all uni students – was constantly asked, “So what’s next for you?” This question is overwhelming but thanks to being asked a million times (give or take) in a few months, I was able to settle on an answer that I’m really comfortable with. So here’s my¬†answer: I want to grad school, probably a research-based masters because I want to have the chance to learn from my undergrad thesis. But, before I do that, I want to work for at least a year. I want to get back out into the world and learn some real-world stuff, building up my skills and getting my hands dirty, so I can bring some solid experience to a¬†masters degree when the time comes.

To get this experience, I applied to a bunch of really exciting positions at universities around Canada. For those who know me well, they know how much I loved working in residence throughout my undergrad and how much I missed building that community and supporting students while I was abroad on co-op. So a residence life position seemed like a natural fit. I also applied to one – just one! – international development related position,¬†supporting volunteers with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC)‘s Uniterra program, the same program that sent me abroad to Ghana and Botswana during my undergrad.

Long story short, I got the job at WUSC! It seems like a perfect marriage between my love of supporting people personally and professionally and my love of engaging in international development practice. So sometime in early June – depending on when my visa is processed – I’ll be flying to Colombo, Sri Lanka! I’ll be there for a year working as a Volunteer Support Officer and I’m so, so excited about this new adventure. There will be many stories I want to share as I go along so I’m blogging again. Stay tuned by subscribing to this blog and by following me on Twitter and Instagram, @katherinelmacg!

Dinner at Ceylonta in Ottawa April 2016

L to R: JC, Apsara, me, and Linda at Ceylonta Restaurant in Ottawa chowing down on some Sri Lankan food during the Uniterra pre-departure training!