By Raneem Alozzi and Sherina Harris
Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) announced a $100,000 annual scholarship fund for students applying for international learning opportunities on Nov. 1.
The aptly-named Passport Fund was created and financed by FCAD in partnership with the Ryerson Communication and Design Society (RCDS) and external donors. FCAD estimates that nearly 70 students will be awarded up to $2,000 per year.
“It’s been a real concern for a while, trying to get as much money into the hands of students who are unable to go [on exchange] for financial reasons because these things are expensive,” said Charles Falzon, the dean of FCAD. “[The opportunities] are meant to be available to more and more students, including the ones who need more support.
“Whatever field in FCAD, they’re all international in scope, so our students need and want to have international experiences in order to be the best at what they’re doing,” he said.
The faculty currently offers 70 different international learning opportunities ranging from semester-long exchanges to two-week excursions. The faculty is partnered with universities in over 40 locations around the world.
According to FCAD’s exchange website, a semester abroad can cost anything between $12,000 to $15,000 including tuition. The short-term intensives vary in cost.
Not many grants or scholarships are available to FCAD students seeking international experiences.
Prior to the Passport Fund, FCAD offered students a $1,000 Dean’s Travel Bursary, which is only provided to eight students per year — one from each program in the faculty. Some programs within the faculty also have private scholarships that are exclusive to the students in that program.
A $2,000 Ryerson scholarship for international exchange opportunities is open to all faculties and is awarded to 40 full-time students every year.
Rana Latif, the faculty’s manager of international development, said the fund was designed to encourage more students to apply for international opportunities without needing to worry about any limitations.
“We’re hoping that every single FCAD student can graduate with at least one [international experience],” she said, adding that students can apply before they even decide on a specific exchange program.
“We’re really excited to give students this opportunity,” said Sam Jacobs, the president of the RCDS. “I definitely think that going on exchange is a very important thing that students should do over their time at Ryerson.”
Arianna Kennedy, the president of the graphic communications management (GCM) course union, said she would have loved to go on an international exchange, but was stopped by financial barriers. If the FCAD Passport Fund had been in place previously, she would have considered applying for an international exchange.
Kennedy said the GCM program pushes international exchange opportunities for students to partner schools in Europe. If students in the program do an exchange during the semester, it counts as their summer internship, a graduation requirement.
“Most of us have gone to the initial info sessions. We see the price and we’re like, ‘Nevermind, maybe not,’ but which is so sad,” she said.
The application for Passport Fund is currently open for the 2019-2020 school year. Applicants are required to submit a 500-word statement of intent as well as proof of financial need.
Michael Loi is a fourth-year GCM student who went on an exchange last year to Linköping University in Sweden. He received the dean’s travel grant of $1,000, and said it made a big difference for him.
The $2,000 FCAD Passport Fund could pay a student’s rent for a semester abroad, depending on their location, Loi added.
“I think a lot of people are hesitant to go on exchanges because [of] the major cost that comes with it,” he said.
For students who can afford it, or apply for grants like the FCAD passport, the experience is worth it, he added. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Loi said.
“It’s never enough, 100 grand a year can only go so far. We’re hoping to build on it and even get more money down the road,” said Falzon.