Seeing life in a new light: Looking back on my exchange at Ryerson University

By Jade du Preez, Inbound Exchange Student from the Journalism program at Edinburgh Napier University

“Yeah, but why Canada?” This was probably the most commonly asked question from local Torontonians. They couldn’t understand why someone as well travelled as myself would spend four months in Canada, of all the countries I could have picked. And here’s why; Canada is the most beautiful and polite country I’ve ever visited. Never have I encountered nicer people in such a big city, and I’ve lived in a few cities!

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but moved to the Highlands of Scotland when I was nine. Then I left to study Journalism at university in the capital, Edinburgh. After two years, I moved to Toronto as part of the Ryerson International exchange program – and I never met the person I exchanged with, but if they ever want to swap lives again, I’d happily accept. In fact, my parents just about had to drag me back home after a whirlwind four months at an amazing university, with amazing new friends. If I had it my way, we’d all stay in Toronto and never leave. I couldn’t understand why locals were so dumbfounded to find that I’d fallen head over heels in love with the city.

Toronto has everything you could possibly want as a student – the bright lights at night, the beautiful harbour, and the surrounding areas are amazing; Scarborough Bluffs are insane on a warm day.

People kept telling me that they’d love to leave Toronto behind and move to Edinburgh for a few months, even though they had what I viewed as literal paradise on their doorstep. This was madness to me. I couldn’t understand their confusion, just as they couldn’t believe mine. Then it struck me, the novelty of things wears off when you’ve been around them for too long. You forget the beauty and wonder of sights at home when you’ve walked passed them a million times, or how delicious things taste when you’ve eaten them once a week for your entire life.

I’d never looked at Edinburgh from a tourist’s perspective, because I wasn’t one, but when I had the excuse of acting like a tourist for four months, I realised how good it feels. I was witnessing and experiencing everything for the first time, and I was viscerally very aware of that. It was like every second spent with my new friends; eating, exploring, trying, it was all on a heightened level of happiness, as I totally immersed myself into Torontonian life.

I rode the TTC, ate Beavertails and shopped in Kensington Market, whereas at home I would take the Night Bus, eat Tunnock’s Teacakes and shop at the Grassmarket. I could do all of these things at home but it wasn’t the same; I had to learn how to see things like it was for the first time again.

 

Toronto showed me how to do that. I’d never experienced a baseball game in a stadium as amazing as the Rogers Centre, or eaten maple syrup that wasn’t a cheap exported knock off of the real deal, or walked for hours to get a great view of the skyline.

I still miss the reassuring sight of the CN Tower from my bedroom window, or the adventurous friends who were always up for a laugh, but I made more memories in the time I was in Toronto than I ever did when I was at home, so if anything, my exchange has taught me a true lesson. To value what is around me and never take for granted the place I live in, because there is always an adventure waiting for you around the corner, you just have to go looking for it.

Toronto awakened me to the fact that there is so much to see and do, no matter where you are. So, take that holiday and see the world, even if you don’t go very far, make sure you make the most of it and make all the memories you possibly can.

Moving to Toronto was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve learned so many life lessons from it. It truly was a magical, beautiful and worthwhile trip. I can now understand people who aren’t content with where they live, but I can’t understand people who don’t go on exchange whilst they still can. It’ll change their lives.

__________

For more information on exchange opportunities at Ryerson, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/

For tips and tricks on financial planning for exchange, click here.

Getting Involved in the Exchange Community: Join RISExC!

RISExC is a student-run group that helps new Ryerson exchange students settle into life in Toronto. The committee is mostly made up of current Ryerson students who have previously participated in the exchange program. The group plans social events and sightseeing trips in Toronto.

Joining RISExC is not only a great way to become involved in exchange community, it is also an opportunity to draw on your lived experiences to help others feel more comfortable here in Toronto.

Join the RISExC Fall ’17 – Student Group Facebook page.

Interested in taking a leadership role on the committee?
Email us at rihelp@ryerson.ca with the subject line: RISExC Committee Fall’17  and join the RISExC Fall’17 – Organizer Facebook Page.

Are you or will you be a Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM) student in the fall? Join the TRSM Exchange Buddy Program!

The TRSM Exchange Buddy Program is an initiative by the Ted Rogers Students’ Society (TRSS) that aims to provide incoming TRSM exchange students with the resources and support that they need to make the most out of their exchange experience.

In this program, incoming exchange students will be paired up with current TRSM students. Partners will act as ‘buddies’ throughout the exchange semester.

As a participant, you can attend social events organized by the TRSS for exchange students, and will be kept up-to-date with other events and activities held around campus.

Are you a TRSM student interested in becoming a buddy? Stay tuned! Sign-up forms will be sent out at the beginning of July via email.

Are you an incoming TRSM exchange student? Check your email and sign up now!

For more information, please contact TRSS Special Projects Manager at janica.portillas@trssociety.ca.

 

Planning for Exchange at Ryerson? Read this post for tips on finding short-term housing in Toronto

When planning for exchange at Ryerson University, finding appropriate living arrangements can often be a challenge. As you start your search, there are many factors to consider such as cost of living, location, rental agreements, etc.

Photo Credit: Vilja Keskimaki, 2016/2017 Ryerson Inbound Exchange Student

Below are some search avenues that may be helpful:

1. Student-residence building:​ There are 5 student housing buildings close to Ryerson campus that you may be interested in living in​, and may offer you a short-term lease along with basic furniture. As they are not owned or operated by Ryerson, you will need to do your research on them and contact them on your own. They are called: Neill-WycikCampus CommonTartu CollegeParkside Residence, and CampusOne.

2. Our partner Places4Students is an excellent resource, as property listings are posted regularly. You can use the Ryerson campus postal code to sign up for a Places4Students account: M5B 2K3.

Look for a sublet via Places4Students. A sublet is a short-term rental where you are renting from a tenant who is absent for a period of time (such as going on exchange themselves, or taking a co-op job in another city). Sublets are ideal because they are almost always furnished, and people looking to sublet out their unit may be willing to cover the cost of your internet or hydro bills in order to get their unit rented.

Look for a short-term lease via Places4Students. A short-term rental is simply a lease with a shorter duration than 12 months, where you are directly renting from a landlord.​​ Short-term rentals are not too common in Toronto (most Toronto leases are 1-year), but you may find some if you search a “room for rent in a shared house” or a furnished basement apartment

3. Our partner StayBillety is another great resource for short-term stays. We encourage you to check out StayBillety and use the code RAMS to book a short-term stay with a like-minded host. StayBillety operates similarly to AirBnB, but is dedicated to connecting guests with hosts who have shared interests, and you can book a longer-term stay than a typical weekend AirBnB booking.

4. You may also want to look at other websites such as Kijiji for postings. You can reduce the distance radius to 3km to find a place that is under 30 minutes walk to campus (1km = about 10 minutes walking).

We also suggest using Google Maps to check the distance of each apartment to campus. You can use the Ryerson Student Learning Centre as a reference point on campus, as your classes will be within a 5-minute walk of this building.

Prepare against scams

It is very important that you view a unit before agreeing to a lease. Housing scams are unfortunately common in large cities, and particularly at this time of year. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We strongly encourage you to view any apartment before you sign a lease; make sure to google the address and landlord name to see if there are any reports of scams connected with either.

Landlords want to get their place rented—if they’re making excuses for why you can’t come see the unit, or are asking you to send money in advance, this is likely a scam. Remember: you should only ever pay money at the moment you are signing the lease. Toronto landlords cannot ask for a security/damage deposit; they can ask for first and last month’s rent, as well as a key deposit only in the amount it would cost to replace the key but you should only be paying this after you have seen the unit and are signing the lease.

This may mean you have to come to Toronto a week earlier and stay in a hotel or hostel (you can find one via this list of temporary accommodations), and attend viewings in person before agreeing to sign a lease.

For more information, we encourage you to read our Guide to Toronto Housing. You can also contact the Off-Campus Housing Office for more support.

To all Ryerson Students, if you or anyone you know has a room or apartment available for short-term rent/sub-lease starting in the late summer or early fall, please feel free to share the details with us at rihelp@ryerson.ca. We can then share the details with the incoming exchange students. 

RYERSON INTERNATIONAL 2016/2017 PHOTO CONTEST!


Photo by Kangyi (Collin) Shen – 2015 Contest Winner
Title: Aurora
Location: Yellowknife

*The contest is open to all 2016/2017 participants of the Ryerson International Exchange Program, 2016/2017 recipients of RIWEF and ICRSF, as well as students who have participated in academic placements and internships

To enter the contest, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Select 1-3 photos from your international learning experience and write a caption for each. We encourage photos of your global learning experience, as well as landscape and architectural photos.
  2. Write a short description (approximately 100-200 words) about a memorable experience from your time abroad.
  3. Send photo(s) with captions and write up to rihelp@ryerson.ca by MONDAY APRIL 24th, 2017 with the subject line: Photo Contest 2017.

The winner will be announced on MONDAY MAY 8th, 2017!

The winner will receive a prize, and their photos will be featured on this blog.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

RU Debt Free? Tips on Saving and Budgeting for Exchange

Studying abroad at one of Ryerson’s exchange partner universities is a great opportunity to gain international experience, learn a new language, meet new friends, and immerse yourself in a different culture. One of the most important aspects of going abroad is to start planning and saving money well before your journey begins. Not sure where to begin? This post will get you started!

Doug Furchner, Program Coordinator of Ryerson’s free financial literary course, RU Debt Free, explains that all the lessons covered in the course syllabus are applicable well beyond the borders of Canada. The course covers the basics: budgeting, banking, bank accounts and saving, credit basics, paying for school, and life after school. In preparing to study abroad, using simple financial planning tools can make a huge difference. Doug recommends that if possible, take this FREE course before going on exchange.


Doug Furchner (right) and the RU Debt Free Team

In an interview with Doug, he outlined the fundamentals for proper financial planning to avoid stress before, during and after your exchange experience. His key tips and tricks are detailed below.

When to start planning?
According to Doug, you should start planning the moment you are accepted into the program. You need to know how much money you have, how much money you will need, and what your plan is for getting there. You need to research the cost of living in the particular place you are going, and create a basic budget in Canadian dollars.

Budgeting:
Doug explains that proper budgeting is the key to everything! There are a variety of basic templates for college and university students in Microsoft Excel.

Step 1: Create a budget based on where you are now. Incorporate a line with a monthly savings schedule to bridge the difference between how much you currently have and what you will need to go on exchange.

Step 2: Create a monthly budget to follow while you are abroad. Estimate your fixed expenses such as rent, tuition and transportation. Account for fluctuating costs as well, such as food, grooming, and entertainment.  At this stage, it’s helpful to create two budgets side by side: one in Canadian dollars and one in the local currency of where you are going. Be sure to use a currency converter!

Step 3: While abroad, be sure to manage your budget on a monthly basis. Reconcile your bank account with your budget at the beginning of the month, reevaluate your spending and expenses, and consider what needs to be amended going forward.

Tips for saving while abroad:
Doug warns not to use your Canadian credit card, unless it’s an emergency. Cash and debit only! Avoiding the use of credit will help you resist the temptation to go over budget. Instead, load a prepaid credit card and lock it up upon arrival. Only use it in the event of an emergency.

Tips for Banking Abroad:
Doug cautions all exchange students to be aware of banking fees on both ends of every transaction. The bank here and the bank there will make money off of you every time you use your Canadian debit card.

As a smart alternative, he recommends opening a local bank account upon arrival. You can transfer a lump sum from your Canadian bank account, or you can bring a bank draft with you and deposit it right away. Then, you budget, budget, budget!   

Life After Exchange
Doug recommends carrying your now developed good habits into your everyday life. Keep budgeting, keep saving, and if you can, start putting 10% of your total income into a savings account or an RRSP.

For more information on exchange opportunities at Ryerson, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/

Article written by Dylani Shea
Student Mobility Assistant | Ryerson International
Editor, Ryerson International Blog
Ryerson University

The 2017 Ryerson International Photo Contest has officially begun!


Photo by Kangyi (Collin) Shen – 2015 Contest Winner
Title: Aurora

*The contest is open to all 2016/2017 participants of the Ryerson International Exchange Program, 2016/2017 recipients of RIWEF and ICRSF, as well as students who have participated in academic placements and internships

To enter the contest, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Select 1-3 photos from your international learning experience and write a caption for each. We encourage photos of your global learning experience, as well as landscape and architectural photos.
  2. Write a short description (approximately 100-200 words) about a memorable experience from your time abroad.
  3. Send photo(s) with captions and write up to rihelp@ryerson.ca by MONDAY APRIL 24th, 2017 with the subject line: Photo Contest 2017.

The winner will be announced on MONDAY MAY 8th, 2017!

The winner will receive a prize, and their photos will be featured on this blog.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!