By Kristy Schippel
Matty Masongsong remembers getting mugged and running with the bulls in Spain, he remembers being pronounced clinically dead in the Netherlands from an allergic reactions to peanuts. But his worst memory from his student exchange didn’t happen in Europe at all.
“The worst part,” he says, “is coming back. Home is the last place you want to be.”
This year, around 130 Ryerson students will trade in their Metropasses for passports, and continue their university education on a global stage. Students who study abroad are able to get a break from downtown Toronto, without breaking up with Ryerson. Students who study abroad are able to get a break from downtown Toronto, without breaking up with Ryerson.
When it comes to studying abroad you have two options explains David Begg, Program Administration and Communication Officer for the Office of International Affairs (OIA). You choose a formal exchange or you can go the do-it-yourself route.
Neither option is hassle-free, but taking part in one of Ryerson’s over 50 exchanges saves you from paying international tuition fees and gives you a pre-approved list of international universities to choose from.
In addition to the increased fees, studying outside of Ryerson’s jurisdiction requires a letter of permission ensuring your chosen school is accredited. You also have to make sure that the courses you take overseas are roughly equivalent to a Ryerson liberal studies course.
It might be a bigger headache, but it can be done.
“Administratively speaking it’s a much heavier burden,” says Begg.
Both options cost money and require serious forethought. It’s recommended that you start planning and saving in your second year for a third year exchange.
Where you go is up to you, almost. Locations vary between faculties and programs, but include options in central Europe, South America, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
If you are shy about making the leap across the pond, look into the EDGE, an exchange program with the University of Prince Edward Island. It’s a project that launched last year and is open to students in their third year of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Business and ACS.
Shorter exchanges are easier on the wallet. You can earn a liberal arts credit over three weeks in France or Italy.
The Ontario/Baden Wurttemburg (OBW), and the Ontario/Rhone-Alpes (ORW) exchanges, in Germany and France respectively, are programs arranged by the Ontario government. However, classes are taught in the native language of the country. This may require some previous experience with the native language.
For any student exchange the application process can be tedious and protracted. Your new best friend will be the exchange co-ordinator in your faculty. In February, you hand in your application to them. The co-ordinator, like an involved parent, will also help you choose your courses.
According to those who have gone before, the paperwork is worth it.
In addition to the times he cheated death, the student exchange allowed Masongsong, 22, fifth-year business management, to be in Torino for the 2006 Olympic Games, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, and Germany for FIFA World Cup a. Not bad for a clinically.
Lexi Dogon, fourth year Journalism student, did a six month exchange in London, England. She recommends students do a lot of research before they go.
“Find accommodations before you arrive, www.gumtree.com, and craigslist.com are places to start,” says Dogon. “Bring clothes for every season, and if you plan on staying more than the four months look into getting a visa. Build your life there.”
Dogan enhanced her time in London by picking up odd jobs, which might be a good idea to consider.
“The biggest mistake a student can make is not bringing enough money,” says Begg. He advises students to plan on spending around $10,000 for one semester. A lot, for sure, but it takes into consideration all expenses, including airfare.
Dogan suggests applying for a scholarship to ease the financial burden. This is where Ryerson can be astonishingly useful. For example, Ryerson is funding $300,000 worth of scholarships for this year, says Begg and there are only 130 students partaking in this year’s exchange. Internal and external scholarships are posted on the OIA website, and like a lot of free money, it never gets used.
Less than one percent of Canadian undergrads take advantage of exchange programs. That’s a lot of students dealing with long winters, TTC delays, and strange Torontonian smells, when they don’t have to. There are plenty of odd smells in the world.