By Victoria Scarpelli, Undergraduate student in Global Management, Ted Rogers School of Management
When choosing which university I wanted to attend, I always knew I wanted to go on exchange at some point throughout my studies. This was one of my main reasons for deciding to attend Ryerson University. Their business program offered so many choices of schools in countries all over the world. In my 2nd semester of my 3rd year of studies, I was finally able to make this dream a reality by attending SKEMA Business School in Nice, France for a semester with my best friend. We decided to stay in a little town just outside the main city called Antibes. As soon as we arrived, I instantly fell in love. The culture, cuisine, the art and history, it was all just so incredible. Not to mention, it was winter and 15 degrees outside and sunny!!
Although I was feeling nervous and anxious in the months and weeks leading up to my exchange, it really helped to have my best friend from home there with me who was going through the same emotions. When we found ourselves missing family and friends at home, we were able to lean on each other for support. It can be really tough and shocking to move to a new country by yourself, but having my best friend with me it made the transition a lot easier. Moral of the story, convince your friends to go on exchange with you- plus it will also make your parents feel better about letting you go!
Even though I did get home sick from time to time, I met so many amazing people while on my exchange that I now consider some of my best friends. Because the town we lived in was so small, we all lived within 5-10 minutes from each other which made it so easy for us to spend time together. The culture in France is a lot more laid back and people really take the time to enjoy their life. Our apartment was right above a little cafe and everyday before work, at lunch, and after work (or really an opportunity they could possibly find), people would be outside on the patio drinking coffee or wine and eating food with friends and family. This was one of my favourite aspects of the French culture that we really took advantage of and embraced. Between attending classes together, and heading to the beach bars and cafes afterwards, we all became very close very fast. We quickly started to plan trips together and by the end of exchange I had visited 7 countries and 13 cities with my new friends.
The school experience itself is a lot different then what school is like here in Canada. Most of our classes were only a week or two long in total, which sounds crazy but we were able to focus on one or two subjects at a time rather than 5 simultaneously. All of our school work and assignments were a lot more case-based rather then theory based. For example, for a class I was taking on business strategies, each group created solutions to real life problems a new company in France was facing while expanding their business, and presented these to them. This was a new perspective on learning that I really enjoyed and connected with.
Although there is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into going on exchange, it is 100% worth it! The experiences I had I will remember forever. Adventuring outside of my comfort zone really taught me a lot about myself and what I am actually able to achieve. I met people from so many different countries around the world and was introduced to cultures I never had the chance to experience before.
If I can offer one piece of advice to anyone going on exchange, it is that the time you are there will fly by. Appreciate every moment and take advantage of every opportunity you can while you are there. This may sound super corny, but it is so true! The friendships and memories I made will last a lifetime. By the time I left, I felt as if I was leaving my new home. In all honesty, for me coming back was the most difficult part of this experience. It was hard to leave my new friends and life that I had made in Antibes but knowing all the opportunities and adventures I got to experience made it all worth it. I am a now better person, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world. My exchange truly was the experience of a lifetime.