The finals days in Lyon: Reflections from a broad abroad

By Julie Germansky, Undergraduate student in the School of Journalism, Faculty of Communication and Design

Julie is also a participant and scholarship recipient of the Ontario Universities International exchange program to study in France.

It’s around 5 o’clock and I am sitting on the steps along the quai du rhône, sipping a sample size bottle of côte du rhône red wine while observing the French after-five indulgence in full swing. Clusters of friends gathering for apéro, runners trace the border of the quai, the pastel palette of Lyon’s historic facade reflects off of the water, couples show heaps of PDA and baguettes and cheese are being eaten in the masses— this is the French culture thriving as I will remember. The first time I sat on those stairs, the french chatter was white noise, but now I’ve grown to understand and participate in the French lingo myself.

I had always wanted to live in France someday so I knew when I started the journalism program at Ryerson that I was going to use the opportunity to go on exchange in France. I’ve done quite a bit of solo travelling for someone my age, so it wasn’t so much the newness of entering a foreign country that had me revelling, but the chance to be able to immerse myself like a local into the French joie de vivre.

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I segued my studies into journalism because it gave me a very legit excuse to experience and understand the lives of others and ask empathetically what makes them who they are. Perhaps it is my subconscious desire to better understand myself which is why I seek to understand others.

Studying and applying myself to journalism at Ryerson has helped develop a lot of skills that I will need to move forward in the industry. But, it is for certain that combined with my decision to go on exchange that I have enriched these skills into a more forward thinking approach with real-life relevancy. You hear a lot of how the more important lessons happen outside the classroom— this I believe is true. Beyond learning how to be a journalist, I needed to learn how to be myself, whoever that was.

Rewind to when I started my semester at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and I was immediately thrown into a pack of international students, all with a keen sense of openness and an itch for adventure.

Being an ambivert, I have the tendency to retreat into myself, not out of shyness, but out of the need to re-center myself after spending time in large crowds. It’s hard to get out of my shell, and at times I would spend a lot of time on my own. It’s one thing to be set in your ways in your home city and have your friends know your sometimes reclusive tendencies, but visiting new cities, especially on your own for short periods of time, can make you feel alone.

Slowly, but surely the exchange began to mesh in a type of global classroom, where my fellow classmates became gateways into new cultures and perspectives. The unique atmosphere with mixed cultures helped open up a new frame of conversation, beyond the everyday mundane small talk. From spontaneous day trips to Geneva with weather that rivalled that of a Canadian winter to touring a chocolate factory in a remote town, there were always opportunities to connect with others— it was just about seizing the moment to get the most out of the experience.

The irony of going on exchange to France was that I made friends from all over the world, some from right at home in Canada. But naturally, living in a new country shifted me out of my ordinary routine, however, not so much so that I didn’t fall back into the responsibility of getting a part-time job so I could comfortably afford the adventures to come. Though it may have isolated me a bit from the typical exchange student life, it allowed me to dip into the french student life— one that offered an equal amount of adventure.

Getting into the swing of things as a student in Lyon entailed a certain type of non-stop energy. The city has the perfect blend of areas boasting both old and new, scattered with universities, terrasse cafés and sunlit squares for mid-day reading. I easily succumb to the habitual stop at patisseries which frequented every corner. Lyon is the capital of gastronomy in France meaning that indulging in amazing food is not reserved for special occasions, it’s to be enjoyed everyday. Who can argue that!

Living abroad in Lyon allowed me to gain a new sense of appreciation for the little things, like the after-five rendez-vous for a drink to recount the day among friends and the act of taking five minutes out of your morning to sip an espresso at a local café rather than rushing from A to B with an extra large coffee gripped in your hands.

These subtle nuances are what make my time in Lyon so special. While Ryerson helped me gain the skills to be a journalist, it was exchange that really helped me see how I can be a global citizen by exploring my interests through a new lense. The distinct contrasts between myself and my new environment revealed aspects of my character that I never before uncovered. And these traits… they came in many forms that I may never have even realized if I hadn’t faced them while abroad.

My time in Lyon is coming to a close and I have no other way to express it other than it feels like a dream. Soon enough I’ll be heading out on more summer adventures, and then returning home to Canada. All in all, it’s always when returning home after a long time away that you really grasp how you’ve been impacted and I can’t wait until then.

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

For more information about University-Wide Exchange Opportunities in particular, please visit: http://www.ryerson.ca/ri/global-learning/exchange-opportunities/

RI Photo Contest Winner

Ryerson International would like to congratulate Sierra Sun, the winner of the 2016/2017 Ryerson International Photo Contest!

Sierra is an undergraduate student in the Media Production Program at the RTA School of Media. She is currently on exchange in Hong Kong.

The Winning Photo:

Temple Street Market – Hong Kong

In her submission to the Photo Contest, Sierra wrote:

“It wasn’t easy to get this shot. This experience gave me the courage to go exploring on my own and no less, at night in another country. This was the moment that really led me to have confidence in myself, particularly in my ability to find this place. There were no directions online on how to get there, so it was a matter of trial and error. I’m proud to say I found my shot.

I think the most memorable experience from my time abroad is really realizing how much is taken for granted. While I have met some great lifetime friends and had amazing experiences, there is nothing more humbling than finding new appreciation for what I already have (in Toronto) and how the world manages to work despite cultural differences. It’s been quite the opportunity to experience the different social systems in Asia, notably Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong. For example, clean water from the tap opposed to having to boil water every time is a simple appreciation.

Another memorable experience is having strangers become friends. We had a humbling experience with Lan, a lady in Ho Chi Minh who had opened the doors to her home to teach us how to make the traditional rice rolls. We did everything from going to the neighborhood market to get ingredients to making the finished product. Lan and her family were very kind to us. And to be honest, I don’t think it would be as easy to have the same experience in Toronto.”

Sierra with a Boa Constrictor in Ho Chi Minh

Again, congratulations Sierra! We wish you the best for the rest of your journey and look forward to presenting you with your prize upon your return to Toronto.

7 Lessons Learned on Exchange

By Janica Portillas, Undergraduate Student in the Business Technology Management Program, Ted Rogers School of Management

Although it feels like just yesterday, it’s been well over a year since the day I left Toronto for my exchange semester abroad in Zagreb, Croatia. Fueled by my desire to explore new places and experience new things, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and set off into the unknown.

Like most exchange students, it was my first time leaving home and living in a new country. Unlike most exchange students, however, I was a timid and naïve introvert. With this being said, I was naturally anxious and worried if I would ever make it back sane. To be honest, I even had second thoughts about going. Thankfully, the wanderlust in me dominated and next thing I knew, I was in a new city, country and continent!

Luckily, when I arrived at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management, the anxious energy I had been feeling vanished. Instead, all I felt was excitement and thrill for this new adventure. I promised myself to keep an open mind, disregard my biases, and take chances.  All of this is probably what transformed my exchange experience into more than just studying abroad. It become a great source of inspiration for me now, and I’m sure it will continue to do so well into the future.

I definitely learned many new things throughout my exchange – some useful things, some just nonsense facts. Below, I describe the top and most memorable takeaways from my experience:

  1. People are generally kind

Without the help of so many great people along the way, I would not have had such an amazing and unforgettable time. From the techie wrestler who offered to show us around his city, to the family of three who offered me cookies while hiking down a mountain, to the old woman who didn’t speak English but invited us into her house and gave us a glass of fresh strawberry juice. If I had let my skepticism overpower my judgment, I would have missed out on so many experiences. Of course, you should follow your gut and use your best judgment, but based on my experience, I recommend keeping in mind that people are generally willing to help and if you let them, and the kindness you receive might surprise you.

  1. Do not be afraid to make spontaneous decisions

Know that not everything will always go according to your plans when travelling, so you might as well embrace the art of making spontaneous decisions. Following this way of thinking led me to stumble upon some of the best places I have ever been. When a person from the local community says it’s a hidden gem, believe them!

  1. Living like a local person is the best kind of travel

When on exchange, it can feel like you’re on a LONG vacation and sometimes, it can feel like you should travel EVERYWHERE. Other times, a drink from the corner coffee shop or a stroll at the local park is all you need. But no matter where you are spending your weekend, I recommend doing things that the local people do. Try your best to immerse yourself in their lifestyle to get a more authentic feel of the country you are in.

  1. Enjoy the sunsets

There is nothing more blissful and serene than watching the sunset in a new place. In addition to the glorious golden hues, there’s just always something so grand about sunsets that makes me feel alive.

  1. Italy does have the best gelato

Enough said. This photo is not in Italy though. I didn’t actually have any photos of an Italian gelato because I usually just gobbled it all up right away!

7. Keep in touch with people you meet abroad

To this day, I still keep in contact with the new friends I made throughout my time abroad. Whether they’re just strangers I met on the road, fellow international students, or hostel roommates, I try my best to connect with them online – I even receive postcards from some of them occasionally. These people are going to be the ones to subtly remind you of how your exchange experience went. Keeping them in your life will also help preserve the precious memories you made abroad.

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

My Adventure Abroad: Life Down Under

By Julia Amodeo, Undergraduate student in the Creative Industries Program, Faculty of Communication and Design

3 months ago I left Canada for my semester abroad in Brisbane: the largest city on Australia’s east coast! It was my first time travelling alone and I was excited and terrified. Once I landed, met my roommates and learned more about Brisbane, I was thrilled to spend the semester here. So far my journey in Australia has been the most amazing experience of my life and I am only half way through! I have learned so much about myself and met so many amazing people from all over the world!

New Zealand Trip: Franz Josef, Milford Sound & Queenstown.

When I first arrived, I flew to New Zealand to travel the South Island before I started classes. I backpacked along the coast for 17 days.  We went on hikes, discovered incredible lookouts, and learned about the culture. It was a beautiful country.

One of the most unforgettable experiences in New Zealand was the Heli-Hike I did to the Franz Josef Glacier. We took a helicopter ride up to the glacier and went on a 3-hour hike. We climbed through the glaciers, ice caves, and tunnels. The view was stunning. It was definitely one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had!

I arrived back in Brisbane happy to be in warm weather again. I was surprised with how quickly I fell in love with the city. After walking along the river and discovering all parts of the city, I was so excited that this was the place I would call home for the next 6 months. Right away I noticed that the people were very friendly and welcoming. I also noticed how clean, modern and unique the city was from what I’ve experienced. The weather is constantly sunny and the lifestyle is a lot more laid back than what I was used to in Toronto.

I have been studying Creative Industries at the Queensland University of Technology. The campus is really beautiful and I love my classes so far. They have given me a lot of opportunities to get directly involved in Brisbane’s music and entertainment scene.

Brisbane: Koala Pine Sanctuary, South Bank & Gold Coast.

South bank is one of my favourite parts of Brisbane. It is across the river from the downtown core. It has great restaurants, markets, shops, museums, and stunning walkways along the river. The Streets Beach is one of the main areas we spend our time. It is a man-made beach lagoon overlooking the city and is only a short walk from campus! Another highlight of my time in Brisbane has been the Koala Pine Sanctuary, where I got the chance to hold a koala and feed kangaroos!

About an hour away from Brisbane is the coast! We visit the gold coast often on the weekends to enjoy the restaurants, bars, shopping and beautiful beaches.

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend surfing as a member of the QUT Surf Club in Byron Bay (2 hours from Brisbane).

Byron Bay Trip: Bay Hike & Soul Surf School

We had surfing lessons for 2 days, explored the town, kayaked with dolphins, and went on a hike to Byron light house. Surfing was an incredible experience. Everybody in my group picked it up by the second day, learning to stand up and ride the waves!

I can’t wait to explore more of Australia in the next few months. My exchange experience has exposed me to so much and I could not be happier living and studying here. It has been important for me to make the most of my exchange by trying and experiencing new things. I can’t wait to bring what I have learned back to Ryerson for my final year before graduation. For anybody considering exchange, I highly recommend it. It is one of the best things you can do for yourself!

And if you ever travel to Australia – get ready for slang you’ve never heard & don’t get too scared by the snakes and spiders!

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

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!

London Exchange Profile

By Perry Newsome, Undergraduate student in the RTA Production program, Faculty of Communication and Design

Last Sunday evening, I was travelling back to my residence at the University of Westminster in Harrow on the westbound Metropolitan Line train. It was nearing dusk, and the sky was lit up with a fiery, pink-streaked sunset, bringing the perfect spring weekend to a close.

I had spent the last two days meandering my way across Covent Garden and Chelsea, my two favourite districts in Central London. The weekend was driven only by a desire for both food and spontaneity, as my friends and I crawled across the city in search of great bakeries, cafes, and green spaces upon which we could lie and soak up some warmth.

The spontaneity of my weekend, and the striking sunset that ended it, encapsulates the beauty and contentment that I have found in my semester abroad.

There was a point two months into my stay when London no longer felt foreign and the quiet unease of being a tourist dissipated. Instead, London has become a familiar playground and a city that feels personally fitting in a way even Toronto does not.

There is an undeniable feeling of euphoric freedom when you leave behind your normal pattern to scrape out a life in a new place. Now that I feel settled in London, I am faced with this daily.

For me, it was glorifying to suddenly realize that the feeling of vacation has passed; that the novelty of my new city had given way to normalcy, and suddenly London had become my life and not just a temporary layover. It’s rewarding to be able to glance at a tube map and take myself anywhere in the city, and to realize London’s winding, busy streets are no longer overwhelming. Being here has given me the opportunity to discover something new each day, whether it’s an old neighbourhood, a seaside town, or which corner deli has the most delicious baked goods. In case you’re wondering, it’s definitely either Bread Ahead, Honey and Co or Ottolenghi. Though if we’re talking food places, I also suggest that you go to Dishoom, and order the potatoes.

I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to escape all that was familiar and give myself new opportunities to explore and grow as an individual. I chose London because it was a city I had always admired from afar, and because it had so much to offer culturally, historically, and gastronomically.

I’m now quickly nearing the end of my time in England. Next week I begin travelling across Europe, hitting Denmark, Amsterdam, Ireland, and Spain before heading back to Canada in May. While I’m excited to begin the next leg of my adventure, I’m already sad to be leaving both a city and a great group of friends that I have grown to love. The ability to explore London as a resident and to feel in tune with its rhythms and quirks has been an unbelievable accessory to living in the city. Being in London has reminded me how easy it is to get caught up at home in the worn in, comfortable beat of our day-to-day stresses. A whole other world is out there, and that world has a lot to teach you, both big and small.  After all, how else would I have discovered the important fact that while traditional scones and jam really are delicious, British English muffins are actually inferior to their Canadian counterparts?

That’s one thing I can promise, however ironically, is much better at home.

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

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

¡Que Viva Madrid!

Meet Joshua H!

As a Business Management student at Ryerson, Joshua participated in our Outbound Exchange program, living and studying in Madrid, Spain for the Winter of 2016.

*Below are excerpts from Joshua’s reflection piece about this life changing experience.

View of Es Vedra Rock in Ibiza, Spain

“Last January I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life; studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. Up until then, I had never even left North America, nor was I anything close to fluent in Spanish [. . .],  so needless to say I was a little bit nervous before my flight. As one might expect, my flight from Toronto was delayed by an hour and a half, however it so happens that this delay would forever alter my exchange experience. During the delay, I met one of the many lifelong friends I made while in Europe. It turned out that not only were we on the same flight, but we were both going to the same school in Madrid, and would also be living only a 5 minute walk from each other while we were there. This was just the beginning of what I can easily call the best 5 months of my life.”

“Within days of landing in Madrid, I realized just how easy it was going to be to travel around Europe. A quick search on Sky Scanner (Trust me this will be your new favorite website) showed I could get virtually anywhere in Europe for under $100… seriously, $100, that’s not a typo. So even before school started, I had already visited Portugal, and hung out with some monkeys on a giant rock overlooking Morocco.”

Monkeys on The Rock of Gibraltar in Spain. The mountain in the back is Africa

“Shortly after classes had started, we had assembled a group made up of Canadians, Americans, an Italian, New Zealander, and a couple Brits who all had 1 goal in common; to travel somewhere different every weekend. We soon discovered that Spain was a great country for this as it is a hub for travel which made flights a lot cheaper, and plane rides a lot shorter. Within just a couple of months we had already visited most of Western Europe and even hopped the pond to ride some camels in Africa. I cannot begin to explain the bond that was created between us as we travelled around the world. Not only were we all learning and experiencing the different cultures of the countries we visited, but we would also share knowledge from our respective countries as well, which allowed me to learn something new about a different country virtually everyday”

Riding into the Sahara Desert in Morocco, Africa

“Ever since I arrived home to Toronto, I’ve been itching to head back to Europe and continue exploring. However, I know nothing will ever compare to the time I had studying abroad with all of the friends I made. Whether it was learning new slang from countries around the world, or finding out that most people didn’t know that Canada had its own dollar, each day spent with my friends abroad was more entertaining than the other.”

“Without a doubt going on exchange to study in Spain was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was able to travel around Europe at an alarmingly low cost, with friends from all over the world, while at the same time I was obtaining 5 credits for school. While my Spanish may not have improved nearly as much as I thought it would, I still could not have possibly imagined my experience abroad being as incredible as it was.”

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

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!

Learning how to be jolly good: Living life the British way

By Lauren Gellatly, Undergraduate Student in the RTA Production Program, Faculty of Communication and Design

Did you know that, in England, you have to pull the door handle up before you can lock it? My awesome fellow Canadian housemate and I did not. We tried for half an hour to lock our door and, when we gave up, we locked it from the inside and broke out of our own backyard like any intelligent, resourceful, and independent young women would do when faced with this problem.

I didn’t find there was a lot more than this level of culture shock in England. As a people, they’re pretty similar to us – a little more sarcastic and way cooler in terms of accents, but they also say sorry excessively and love talking about the weather.

I had been dreaming of going on an exchange for a very long time – since I was thirteen. I started putting away my babysitting money for my big trip around the world. I was going to live in a new place I’d never been to before. I was going to see famous places and eat lots of delicious food. I worked non-stop and saved as much as I could to go. As I got older, and started looking at universities, I highlighted three things in each university’s booklet – what program they had, what scholarships I could get, and where I could go on exchange.

Waiting at the airport felt surreal. The thing I had been dreaming about for years was finally happening! I’ll admit I was a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to leaving. Was I really not going to see my family or sleep in my own bed for months? But the loudest voice in my head was my thirteen-year-old self telling me to go for it.

And she was right. My six months in England were the best six months of my life. It was everything I ever dreamed of and more. Looking back on it, there was one small period where I was a little stressed – but not once did I wish I was home. I know that I am the luckiest person in the world to have had this experience. I got to visit nine different countries with both new friends and old. I lived in a place I’d never been to before, and it felt like a second home in a very short time. I saw famous places and not-so-famous places, and was blown away by both. I ate so much good food, especially in places like France, Italy, and Spain, I thought I’d have to be rolled onto the plane home.

My advice to anyone who is just starting their exchange, or who is going next semester – remember to make the most out of your experience, whatever that means for you. Make friends from around the world, including your host country. TRAVEL, especially if you’re in Europe. Their discount airlines will become your favourite guilty pleasure websites. You’ve gone this far, so see all of the places you want to see! Don’t fail, and don’t waste your learning experience at a new school. But, don’t bury yourself in schoolwork and forget to experience your exchange.

And, if you’re in England, don’t forget about those doorknobs – pull up, then lock.

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