Thursday, September 26, 2013


Once upon a time half-a-globe-away from home somewhere in the middle of exercising my usual bookworm habit and projecting the author’s experience on my adventures ego I stumbled upon Liz Gilbert’s speculation on happiness. “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it,” she said in her bestseller “Eat Pray Love.”

The idea stung bitterly. I have “traveled around the world looking for it.” But was I happy? No.

I quickly rushed through the happiness factors checklist created by M. Seligman, a founder of positive psychology.

Supportive family – checked, friends – the best one could ever have, romantic relationships – sort of, a satisfying career perspective… Emmm…

So a crucial element of “happy and fulfilling life” was lacking.  My mind started racing.  There were those tiny pieces of personal victories and achievements? But how do I match them into one whole vibrant picture? Mentally I started creating another checklist to evaluate my skills.

To begin with, I had obviously developed a taste for writing. I was head over heels in love with word combinations and sentence structures.

Next, I decided, I knew how to express my thoughts and deliver the information to a listener. Time spent teaching contributed to presentation skills and the ability to speak up.

I also remembered my recklessness when during the university years I took on a responsibility of managing rock events not knowing much about event management but desperately passionate about music. Since it worked out well I could say I was a quick learner.

The hopefully critical self-assessment rang the bell. The answer was clear: my favourite course in the university psychology program, psychology of PR and advertising! Bang!

Skills packed up, fears left at home, and here I am, again half-across the globe from home, in the coolest postgrad program in the oldest college of Toronto. It hasn’t been a month yet, but I feel like my whole personality is reshaping. I’ve taken a new approach with looking at the news and feel like a social media addict is growing in me. Now every FB post is an experimental material in terms of responses it gets.

The thrill of entering a PR profession is in its continuous evolving. The media has reshaped dramatically in the recent years which made it simultaneously easier and harder for a PR professional to do the job. In our “speak-up” era, when everyone can voice an opinion, engaging general public into a dialogue became possible as never before. But on the other hand, being heard in the chaotic choir of different voices takes skills and wit.

Growing social corporate responsibility and increasing awareness of global issues makes it even more interesting. Now when companies actually make an effort to build relationships with their clients the demand of PR specialists has steeply grown. And that’s good news for us, establishing professionals.

The biggest personal challenge though is trying the new cultural context. Some boldness to the point of recklessness is required to enter a profession heavily dependent on culture when being new to the country. But what's the fun in staying in a comfort zone?

Once in a while I turn my thoughts back to the comfort of home. But then as an inner response I hear in my head loud and clear Steve Job’s: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Don’t settle.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gunfire and Scars

You heart is not open,                                               Don’t say it’s over
So I must go.                                                              ‘Cause that would send me under.
(“The Power of Goodbye”, Madonna)                      (“Under”, Alex Hepburn)

Cold damp air rang with the echo of her steps as she trod along a long dimly lit hallway. Her high heels marked each passing moment with a loud “click” whereas her thought rushed back in time.

This bleak windowless corridor with multiple doors on each side opened a gateway to another alike but brighter and more cheerful hallway separated from “here and now” by more than a year and by approximately       2, 270 miles. Muffled by the carpeted floor her footsteps didn't disturb the silence there.

When she walked down that corridor joy and anxiety would fill her chest. She could never quite explain that nervousness that would grasp her before she would push the door open. Maybe subconsciously she anticipated changes and feared that every time might be the last time.

A steadying deep breath and she would make her entrance into the room. Emotions would immediately switch to the peaceful side, the effect he always had on her. A tide of warmth and care would surge over her whole being. Every cell of her body would respond as he would lock his arms around her. And then she would slip into that special state of mind: the awareness of his presence.

She pulled the key out of her pocket and pushed it into the keyhole waking back to reality. He wasn't here or maybe it was she who wasn't there. Her desire to see him again caused a dull throbbing pain in her chest. After being countries away for all these months she still longed for him. Getting over him was impossible neither during the periods when he was seemingly oblivious of her, nor when he would suddenly break into her reality with his text messages stating he missed her. She was constantly swinging between the desire to forget him and a determination to fight tooth and nail for being with this man, the man she felt was so right for her.

But today was different. As she got into her room she hurried to switch on her laptop and scrolled down her Twitter feed. The news she feared the most appeared frequently on the page. His earlier text message brought a relief: he wasn't hurt; he wasn't even there when it happened. But some dark inexplicable motives pushed her to investigate what the scenario might have been.

The information was horrifying. There was gunfire at his work place. An armed man shot 12 people dead, among them were civilians and contractors.  The murderer made his way through the guarded entrance and randomly aimed at employees unaware of his heinous intentions. In chaos and panic that followed people tried to escape the premises. Some of them never made it to the exit. Though the killer was shot as the police tried to take control over the situation, she didn't think his death made it up for his crime. How could he do it? How could he shoot down real people who had friends and families? The police reported his motives unclear which made her wander if the murderer knew he would take his reasons to the grave.

Suddenly she was seized by gratefulness to the chance that kept him away from the Naval Headquarters that morning. Tears streamed down her face. All the wrong things in their tantalizing “relationships” didn't matter any more. She discarded how their recent conversations made it seem she might never see him again.

She just wanted him safe. And then there was this necessity to wrap her arms around him, to run her fingers on his face, press her cheek against his chest to make sure of his physical existence. Every mile between them felt like a scar in her soul…

Monday, September 2, 2013

Turning into Hermione Granger or Becoming an International Student in Canada

Take me down to the Paradise City
Where the grass is green
Where the girls are pretty…
Take me home
(“Paradise City” by Guns’n’Roses)

Landing the dream destination has demanded investing a soul into achieving.  I still experience troubles believing that I am here in Toronto, Canada even though I now have the undeniable proofs: Canadian phone number, Canadian bank account and the most valuable my Centennial student ID.

After setting a goal of requalifying and entering the ranks of highly demanded professionals a long path of bringing the idea to life followed.

I opted for a postgrad program “Corporate Communications and PR” in Centennial College (Toronto, Canada)  to cause this major life turn.  A six-month-process leading to my physical presence here comprised three major stages: 

1) Passing a test of English IELTS;
2) Getting accepted by the college;
3) Obtaining a study permit and arranging the arrival.

While the first two steps were more theoretical, mostly involving brain, books and a computer, the last phase resulted in losing pounds. The first two turned attainable with tight schedules and proper time management and came down to compiling the previous achievement together and refining already formed skills. The third prompted me to appreciate once again the professionalism and support of people I am blessed to have in life.

Obtaining visa required preparation of a thick documentation pile. Running around the city during the heatwave in the chase after paperwork  considerably contributed into fat burning . But the expertise of BELL DNK  and its CEO Oksana Almanova in particular deserves special gratitude for the guidance. BELL DNK, an international education agency, had already proven efficient in the earlier steps providing comprehensive information about various schools and programs around the world as well as setting effective communication with the college.

And after having all the formal paperwork sorted out and purchasing my ticket the focus fell on the arrival into the country I had never been to. Much to my surprise it appeared easier than any of my previous traveling experiences. Afterwards I couldn't get rid of the feeling I knew Toronto prior to my landing in here. Through the network of friends finding a place in Toronto was made a manageable task. And the fact that I was met in the airport and brought into my new home, saving me from the search for my way in the middle of the night, escalated my spirits 150%.

The succeeding three days of intensive meeting the staff and student advisors followed to reinforce my confidence in the right choice.

It started with gaping at solid presentation skills of the School’s Dean Nate Horowitz whose speech assured me he knows his area well. This is the kind of people I want to learn from.

Next, meeting the teachers was utterly heart-warming as they confirmed the idea I formed about them earlier relying on the Web sources:  respectable PR practitioners with a profound theoretical basis.

And last but not least, Program Coordinator Barry Waite’s clear emphasis on the fostering hands-on-profession skills, creating professional environment right from the first days has switched me into the mode of upper readiness.

School starts tomorrow and as Hermione Granger would have done it, I’m about to rush up the newly opened avenues with the renewed confidence coming from having my nose stuck  in the textbooks and online resources before the course starts.