International Conferencing as an International Student

By Desislava Stefanova, Masters Student in the Environmental Applied Science and Management Program

MIT Campus

Last April, Ryerson International awarded me with the International Conference and Research Support Fund (ICRSF) to represent the university at the AAG International Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

As an international student here at Ryerson, I was thrilled not only to present my research, but also to explore a new city on this side of the pond.

Boston

It was my first time attending an international conference AND my first time presenting my own study. Although I was super excited, I was also somewhat sceptical that people wouldn’t find my work interesting.

My research examines how tree canopies impact traffic noise within a streetscape. In other words, I discovered that trees in front of my house attenuate traffic noise, making my life more peaceful.

Upon arrival at the conference, I put up my poster and waited. Soon after, the first person stopped to inquire about my research. At first, I lacked confidence and thought to myself: “Am I saying the right words? Is it at all important? …” But the woman was pretty interested so we kept talking and exchanging information. In fact, it turned out that some people came specifically to see my poster!

I met professors who study noise effects on human health; I met professionals who evaluate noise measurements; I met students who work on noise mitigation. It was great for networking!

Fenway Park

In addition to the conference, I had the opportunity to be a typical tourist. To get into the real Bostonian spirit – my colleagues and I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Bostonians are furiously enthusiastic about their team!

MIT Campus

In order to get inspiration for a PhD, I visited MIT and Harvard University! The “smell” of intelligence was all around.

The experience of traveling to Boston for this conference helped grow my confidence, network, and public speaking abilities. And most importantly, it brought me joy from a job well-done!

I would like to thank the Environmental Applied Science and Management Master’s Program, the Geography and Environmental Studies Department and Ryerson International for the International Conference and Research Support Fund (ICRSF). None of this could have been possible without your support!

 

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.

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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/

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

Shedding Skin at Talking Bodies 2017

By Emma Dunn, PhD Student in the Graduate Program in Communication and Culture

As a PhD student, international conferencing can be intimidating. If you’re like me, when surrounded by brilliant minds in your field, you can often feel stuck somewhere between shameless optimism and crippling self-doubt. However, the recent conference I attended with the support of Ryerson’s International Conference and Research Support Fund (ICRSF) – Talking Bodies 2017 at the University of Chester, UK – helped assuage my uncertainties and increase my confidence as an emerging scholar.

 

Engagement; networking; motivation. If I had to summarize my experience with Talking Bodies 2017 in three words, these would suffice.

Both the organizers and the delegates of the conference were extremely friendly to graduate students; in addition to presenting my research on anorexia and doll culture, I was able to absorb many engaging ideas from my fellow presenters. I made meaningful connections with scholars and graduate students from around the world, and gained new motivation to work on my thesis upon my return to Toronto.

Moreover, the conference took place in one of the most enchanting towns I’ve ever visited. Chester was used as a Roman fortress in the 1st century A.D., a fact that is illuminated by its long, red sandstone Roman walls, which frame the old town. Chester is also characterized by its red brick row houses and authentic Tudor style architecture. In between my intellectually stimulating conference sessions, I made time to walk around the town and take in its beauty.

One of the big bonuses of travelling to the UK for a conference is that there are many low-budget travel options offered to numerous places in Europe. With this considered, I of course couldn’t turn down the opportunity to continue my journey once the conference was over. I went on to travel through the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany for two weeks. Travelling with low-cost transit, sticking to a strict budget, cooking instead of eating out, and staying in inexpensive AirBnbs allowed me to travel to these three additional countries on a low student-friendly budget.

Canals, Amsterdam

May Day Protests, Switzerland

My inspiring experience at Talking Bodies 2017 would not have been possible without the support of Ryerson’s ICRSF. Participating in international conferences has allowed me to see places I never would have seen on my own, and to grow academically, emotionally, and spiritually; I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland

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.

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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.

Conferencing in Thailand and Beyond

By Adel Alhalawani, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

 In March 2017, I received the International Conference and Research Support Fund (ICRSF) to travel to Thailand for an unforgettable global learning experience. My wife, Rania, came with me as well!

For the first week of our trip, we explored Bangkok, getting a taste of its people, food and culture. Soon after, I presented my research on new silicate-based bioglasses for orthopedic applications at the 3rd World Congress of Smart Materials hosted by BIT Global Inc. The conference was an extremely rewarding experience. I took advantage of various opportunities. For instance, sharing knowledge from the other side of the world, discussing possible advances in the field and making plans for future collaborations with leading innovators in the sector.

After the conference, Rania and I drove 2 hours away from Bangkok to the beautiful city of Pattaya, where we parasailed in the Gulf of Thailand, relaxed on the beach of Koh Larn island and tried some of Thailand’s world renowned seafood.

The week after, we actually flew to the beautiful Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is where I completed my Masters Degree in 2013, so I was very excited to show my wife around. It was 45 ℃; a great contrast to the -20 ℃ we left behind in Toronto!

During the trip, we visited Malaya University, where I met with a cardiac surgeon and discussed details of a future collaboration.  We also visited the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC), the 100 acre site that hosts the tallest twin buildings in the world.

We then traveled northeast of the city to the Genting Highlands, which is 1,740 meters above ground level. We loved cooling off and trying a diversity of tropical fruits. One of the most exciting parts of this trip was the cable car, which took us to the top of the hill passing through the clouds. The nature around us was breathtaking.

Our trips to both Thailand and Malaysia were full of fun and adventures. Lots of unforgettable memories in different theme parks and city attractions! I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Mark Towler, and Ryerson International for giving me the opportunity to participate in an international conference that was so relevant to my program of study.

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).

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!

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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.

The 19th International Conference on Building Simulation and Environmental Engineering in Dubai

By Christopher Xavier Mendieta, Graduate Program in Building Science

The plan went like this: stay awake on the flight to Dubai, power through and come out smiling, having beaten jetlag and remaining energized for my first international conference. Twelve hours later I walked off the plane feeling not the least bit tired, taxied to the hotel, got into the room and decided to test the bed. I woke up in the dark. My cellphone read 5:30. Perfect, I’d head out to watch the 6:30 sunrise. The receptionist at the front desk hesitated when I asked about a good place to go, “at this hour?” She replied. I hit the street and notice the cafes and restaurants are full of people in good clothes. They start early here, I’d thought. I was craving an ocean sunrise. I walked on, the streets were empty, the Metro was still locked up. I stopped a slow moving couple and they told me, gently, that the beach was too far to walk. I checked my phone, 6:30. I looked from the screen to the sky, absent the sunrise, and then caught sight of a clock through a storefront window. It was 3:30AM, local time. I went back to the hotel and got some much needed rest.

Dubai plays host to a number of excesses, which match the extravagance of its scale. For $7,000 you can have a drink layered in gold flakes, for a cool $200,000 you can have the world’s most expensive pizza, topped assumedly with “the best ingredients in the world”, not to mention plenty of gold flakes. This richness is present all over the United Arab Emirates. It makes possible the extravagant activities and building designs.

I would be presenting my research at the 19th International Conference on Building Simulation and Environmental Engineering in front of industry professionals, scholars, and professors. For me it was a massive step into my field, a surreal experience for an engineer with limited conference exposure. In the beginning I was nervous, but I felt confident enough to deliver the message that had been crafted with the support of my advisor. The development of energy benchmarks through the collection of public data allows us to granularly compare the energy efficiency of buildings without the need for extensive building audits. I was gratified to see the level of engagement in the post-presentation discussion, and felt I’d done my part. Later I learned that I’d won Best Paper in my category, and I knew that in the future I’d begin a lot of stories about my career with that moment.

I wanted to see as much as I could of the built environment, so I took a trip to Masdar City and saw what it means to build a city with passive cooling strategies and human scale in mind. It lays the sprawl and illogic of modern historical cities bare in its compactness and attention to harmony. It wants to become the city of the future, with self-driving cars and streets between buildings for pedestrians only. While there, I was able to tour a net zero energy houses engineered for the desert climate. Everything in Masdar is designed using passive strategies to keep its inhabitants comfortable without resorting to unnecessary consumption.

Dubai was a dream, but it was the validation and momentum I drew from my experience speaking that continues to inspire me to go farther. It’s something I never could have done without the support of the Architectural Science department and the International Conference and Research Support Fund, which were there with funding available and a desire for its students to engage with professionals in the field.

And no, in all my excitement and flash-blindness, I never made it to the beach.

 

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.

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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.