Here is my reflection on my 2018 UTS global exchange experience at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. I left my hometown, Sydney beginning of January 2018 and I am now writing this blog just as I’m aboot to enter my flight back to Australia.
Its been quite the journey and without a doubt a once in a life time experience I am grateful, blessed and thankful I took. I still remember myself sitting in my room wanting a change, an escape, a “new discovery” of self. I was browsing my laptop and for some reason I came across UTS exchange and realised the deadline was very soon, so I applied.
And with no expectation I did my research and concluded with Ryerson University at Toronto Canada. I was very hesitant as I needed all direct equivalent subjects from my MAPS degree. But somehow some way managed due to the help of Raffaela a dedicated and persistent UTS exchange study abroad officer (she is great !!! definitely could not have done it without her).
And after being accepted and approved it was time to purchase my flight to study for the 2018 winter semester at Ryerson University. In regards to accommodation I made the mistake of waiting too late to apply for the recommended student housing “Neil Wycik”. So upon arrival I stayed at several Air BnB before moving into the student housing on February. But this also was benefiting as it forced me to see the city.
Upon arrival the cold was no joke. I think it was the coldest weather ever recorded in Toronto. It was brutal and all I had was a ski jacket which was definitely not enough. So I remember distinctly walking around the city after landing with my luggage trying to find my Air BnB. We are talking aboot -40degree (wind chills granted this is very rare and the most extreme it will most likely ever get) which is INSANE ! I remember my face was just frozen from 10 sec exposure. But its true you do adapt to the weather fairly quick and coming back to Australia I will most likely be wearing a t-shirt and shorts during the measly 14 degree winter period 🙂
Besides the weather in my opinion Toronto is very similar to Sydney in many ways. Sydney’s CBD and Toronto’s CBD are similar in the sense that its busy, has variety of shopping malls, restaurants, taxi’s, uber’s and transportation. It is also very ethnically diverse. Additionally Ryerson University is very similar to UTS in the sense that its in the heart of the city and is somewhat scattered across the CBD (although not as much as UTS).
Some difference I knew immediately was the fact that people walked in the opposite direction (the right side) in escalators, walk ways, cars etc. Taxation was quite annoying as it is not included in the final prices (so its just + 13% of the advertised price) and tipping was also quite confusing. However towards the end I was used to it and adapted. It is also important to note that the main language in Toronto is English not really French (although their is text and some people might speak French – regardless English is still the main language).
I would strongly recommend snow boots, as the snow and ice is quite slippery at times and there are many deceptive puddles throughout the city during the snowy periods. In regards to clothing, I think UTS suggestion was good in the sense you shouldn’t purchase any jackets as it will not be warm enough. Instead I would recommend layering A LOT of clothing e.g., thermal, long sleeve, jacket, then jumper, then another warm piece of coat. Then upon arrival purchase a warm coat either a high class Canadian goose (which I would not recommend due to the price unless you really like the design) otherwise purchase from Canadian Tire or in the Eaton centre or another retail store (for around $70-$200).
I purchased a TBGN jacket at the Eaton centre for $200 (you can definitely buy other jackets cheaper), and it was really warm all I wore was a t-shirt and the jacket and it was warm enough for most days. Unfortunately I lost the hoodie which was annoying and in the end I had to donate the jacket as it took too much luggage space :O I would also strongly recommend a scarf, beanie and gloves. I would also strongly recommend joining Citi Bank due to the non-existent transaction fees in Canada compare to other traditional banks such as Commonwealth (R.I.P my friend) and ANZ etc. The weather in Toronto does get better throughout and after the winter period, funnily enough when the weather settles down towards late April early May it is really nice and warm and you can essentially dress similar to Australia’s Summer/Spring.
In regards to food, you can purchase them from a grocery (duh) however in Canada and America there are no shopping centres instead it is just a mall (everything except a dedicated grocery store) so yeah interesting. Another thing I noticed was the sheer size and volume of food. e.g. grocery stores are significantly bigger than Australia providing the customer with more choices and a larger proportion/serving size of everything e.g. drinks, chips, milk etc.
In regards to accommodation, I believe Neil Wyick will be the best value for money in terms of location. The hostel is located seconds to the university and offers essentials like a cafeteria, private room (with shared bathroom), kitchen, gym, laundry and often hosts many events. The place is also relatively well maintained and clean however I was unfortunate to be matched with roommates who were of much older age (so we didn’t really see each other often).
But nevertheless I stuck through and learnt a lot through the extremely tough environment. So in conclusion I don’t think you will be matched with “bad” roommates as everyone is generally super friendly open minded and all have similar interest/ goals (on exchange).
I would definitely recommend Neil Wyick and without a doubt sign up early as rooms fill up quick. N.B The process is via mail only or in person. Other alternative could be student housing such as Tarutu college (near Uft, 15 min walk from campus) and Parkside (2min walk from campus)) both slightly more expensive but “nicer” in some ways.
Besides student housing an alternative option would also be Air Bnb which can be a hit or miss due to the high prices (although you can definitely find reasonable prices), location and vacancy. Lastly another option would be browsing online through third party website such as kijjiji (not spelt correctly :O).
Ryerson University, is located in the heart of downtown Toronto where there is easy access to restaurant, malls, groceries, pubs, restaurants, events, transportation and of course hot dog stands (the one on campus is the best I found). The university is fairly large and boast a free small ice skating rink, large student learning centre (essentially a large study space), library, two gyms and of course Tim Hortons. As for the University experience it was okay (for me personally but my friends also agreed to some extent).
I was studying Media Production at Ryerson University and was enrolled in two faculties (definitely possible just check with UTS and also talk to the faculty coordinator). So I was a part of both Image Arts (which is seen as more hipster, traditional as well as experimental film making) and RTA – Radio Television Arts (which is more of production and studio work). Ryerson is apparently top 10 film school in the World and I can see why (to some extent), the teachers are fabulous and knowledgeable, the students are passionate and the equipment is beyond fantastic we are talking aboot using industry camera’s like the Aries (valued over $100k) and the good old Sony FS7. The faculty also grants access to high grade lightning equipment, dollies, trollies, lenses, microphones, tripods etc.
The atmosphere in Ryerson is very similar to UTS, you mainly have local students who have a part-time job living in the suburban areas of Toronto meaning they commute a large distance to University for classes and attend some events but not really down to hangout due their time commitments and them already having a solid friend circle. But you also have a lot of friendly people who are open and have time to hang out, I guess its a hit and miss eh?
Toronto and Canada’s “nice” stereotypes are somewhat true, many people are very nice on the surface, there are also a lot of homeless people (perfectly safe) in the downtown area constantly asking for “change”. I would be careful walking the streets alone at night especially in the more shady locations.
At the start I tried really hard (although I of course could have pushed myself more) to put myself out there. I joined groups, attended events, parties etc however I was disappointed multiple times. Its not anyone’s fault its just I didn’t feel like I vibe with the people I met and I didn’t want to pretend. So I had very few friends throughout my trip but they were extremely high quality ones.
Initially there was an exchange group but again I didn’t feel like I vibed with them and I’m so glad I didn’t follow them and instead I stayed true to myself. So if you are heading towards exchange it is your opportunity to be alone and independent, and this is perhaps the most valuable thing I took from the whole experience. You aren’t tied down to anything, relationships, family, parents, friends no one is telling you what to do. You can eat ice cream for breakfast !
So essentially you learn how to become independent which is a beautiful thing. You just do you and you learn to express your true self which is a very hard and rare thing to do and witness in today’s day and age. We are so caught up looking at other people’s stories but we often forget we are our own selves. The times I spent alone I felt like I really discovered myself and learnt who I really was, I strongly encourage you to spend time alone and really listen to yourself to find “who you are” and who “you” want to become.
So in essence besides the first 3 weeks, I did not have much of a social life as I gave up on people (due to the not vibe-ness). That being said I did indeed have fun at times, with my few close friends! which I am beyond grateful for. So instead of spending time with other people and following them I focused on myself through learning new skills, self development and fitness and I am very glad I did.
And although I was doing 5 subjects which I don’t really recommend (again depends on your goals), I still had a lot of free time. I got a job at a local patties store and not only gained magic paper, I met new people, gained experience and learned new skills.
In regards to homesickness, I was definitely very homesick towards the beginning of April. I don’t think I would have missed home if it wasn’t due to my unfortunate circumstances (roommates) and many disappointment from people. However I stuck though it and used this as fuel to continue self improvement and I’m very glad I did. I also definitely would not have kept going without the support of my close friends who were empathetic (much love <3).
In regards to trying new things, I think this is a good time to do stuff, experimenting with who you are, trying new food, things, people, style, fashion etc. The city is also a lovely place to explore, some highlights of mine was Nathan Phillip Square, Eaton centre (shopping), Yorkdale (shopping), Toronto Islands, High park, Harbour front skating and much more !!! Toronto is also close to many interesting locations such as New York and Niagra Falls.
I think with Global Exchange, University is only 40% (max) of the experience the other is self discovery, new experience, learning to become independent, trying new things, failing, experimenting, love, friendship, relationships and learning to appreciate the gift of life. Personally without a doubt I can say I am definitely a changed person both physically and mentally (for the better) due to my exchange experience at Toronto Canada mostly due to the hard times I endured.
I have many more things to say but I’m not going to ’cause I would probably end up writing a novel (haha) So I leave you with a quote from Michelle Obama which I agree with:
“The benefits of studying abroad are almost endless”
And Global Exchange is quite a once in a life time experience that I think everyone (as long as you’re open to learning new things and generally have an open mind) should definitely try if given the opportunity.
But in the end it’s your life and your choice, I think the best advice I can give anyone is “to take every advice with a grain of salt” as ultimately again its your life and your choices. Just remember you can be anyone you want :), especially when you are abroad so make the most of it!
P.s. Sorry (still practising Canadian etiquette eh) for spelling, grammar, punctuation and structure of this blog. This was a long blog so if you read this all many thanks! and best of luck on your travels 🙂
Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Media Arts and Production)