By Serena Lalani, Undergraduate student in the School of Journalism, Faculty of Communication and Design
I’m not sure what day of the week it is as I’ve started to lose track, but what I can tell you is that I’m currently sipping rosé on the coast of Greece and life feels nothing short of a dream come true.
Only 4 short months ago, my 3 suitcases and I were nervously boarding a plane from Toronto Pearson to Amsterdam Schipol.
Almost a year of preparation had led up to the moment of the take-off. It felt completely surreal to be moving to a new country, let alone a new continent. I knew from my first year at Ryerson that I wanted to take advantage of any abroad opportunities I possibly could and yet I had no idea what to expect from this semester. I had done months worth of research on absolutely everything. I felt extremely prepared to get my visa, register my new address, open a bank account, decorate my room, make international friends, plan weekend trips and have the time of my life.
I’ve spent the past few months studying at Hogeschool van Utrecht in the European Culture & Journalism program. The perks of my program here in Utrecht is that the class sizes are extremely small. This made making friends extremely easy as everyone got close right away. The friendships I’ve made at Hogeschool are ones that I know will last for life.
Another great part of being on exchange is that there are tons of events formed by student networks to help you meet other people your age from all over the world. Any feeling of nervousness quickly diminishes when you realize just how many people are in the same boat as you are. Many of my best memories were made during nights out with new friends.
Living in a European city is probably the highlight of my entire life. Utrecht is exactly what I hoped it would be and so much more. There are cute cafés on every corner, endless amounts of boutiques, picturesque canals surrounded by hundreds of bicycles and friendly people.
The absolute best part about being on exchange in Europe is the ease of being able to travel to a new country almost every weekend. During the off-seasons, flying or taking trains to other European countries can cost as low as 20 euros. Of course, I took full advantage of this and jet-setted as much as I possibly could. I took trips to Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Portugal and Switzerland and crossed numerous things off my bucket list (the main one being Skydiving above the Swiss Alps).
Class trip to Berlin
Traveling through Europe introduced me to countless people from cities I had never even heard of, gave me a fresh perspective, enriched my cultural experience and left me speechless.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give to Ryerson students it’s that opportunities are endless. Many of my friends that are currently abroad had no idea it was even an option for their program. If there is something that interests you in any way, reach out to faculty members and they will be more than happy to point you into the right direction or help guide you. Your university experience is what you make of it and I highly recommend making the most of anything that comes your way, especially if it involves going abroad.
If you ever find yourself on exchange in Europe, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!