Stop Stressing and Start Traveling: Advice from the Global Lounge

Bonjour (Hola, Hei, Hallo, Hej) Blogosphere, Last week, I promised a post on how to get yourself abroad, and how to perfect the art of wearing a beret in public. And I'm not one to skimp on my promises. My name is my bond, guys. So with that in mind, I made a visit to The Global Lounge, the social hub of The Centre for International Experience at U of T. And while, Ben, the internationally minded undergraduate student/CIE staffer, (who, impressively enough, has managed to pursue almost his entire U of T degree abroad) had a lot of great advice for students who want to pursue international opportunities, he had never worn a beret before. I've made a few strange life decisions in the name of dressing up. (I moved to Toronto from sunny California largely because I wanted to be able to wear a pea coat and equestrian boots without flip-flop clad Southern Californians staring at me with shock and disdain.) But up until the summer of 2009, I had never made it off of the continent, and I didn't feel right wearing a beret until I was finally strolling down the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Which leads me to my point: everything is cooler in a foreign country. Consider the following: "What did you do yesterday?" "Oh, I was just people watching ... IN PARIS." "Oh, I just went to church ... IN HELSINKI." "Oh, I was just looking at the lights of the city ... IN TOKYO." And so, I promised you that I would help you perfect the art of wearing a beret in public (without looking like a moron). And here is my advice: wear it in Paris. No one will look twice as you stroll through the streets of Paris, and chomp on a flaky, buttery, delicious croissant. Seriously. Have you always dreamed of drinking red wine on the Seine, exploring Thailand, or sampling plantains in Cuba? Because, it's really not that far-fetched. With a little bit of planning, and the help of the Centre for International Experience, you could be eating schnitzel in Germany as you complete your political science degree in six months. I know what you're thinking: Sure, sure Emily. Easier said than done. Of course we should all just take off for Europe, but what about the requirements of our major? What about money? How would I ever fund that trip. anyway? Plus, all of these programs are so competitive, I only have a 3.0, I would never be accepted. But to all of these fears, I respond: STOP STRESSING, START TRAVELING: A Step by Step Guide
The Global Lounge is in The Cumberland House. (33 St. George Street)
The Global Lounge is in The Cumberland House. (33 St. George Street)
1. Pick your program. You have a few options here: -Go on an exchange. (Spanning anywhere from one semester to a year.) Pro: You immerse yourself in the culture more, because of your lengthy stay. Additionally, you'll be taking courses through the local institution and not University of Toronto, giving you a completely different experience. Con: You have less of a guarantee that you will receive full course credit. (Which basically means, DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE PICKING AN EXCHANGE PROGRAM. Make sure you talk to your faculty and program, show them the classes you're planning on taking, and make sure that you can get the credit you deserve.) -Take a summer abroad course. Pro: This kind of time abroad is facilitated by the University of Toronto. Essentially, you'll be traveling with other U of T students, guided by a University of Toronto professor. You're guaranteed a credit, and you're guaranteed friends and traveling companions. Con: This kind of time abroad is facilitated by the University of Toronto. Essentially, you'll be traveling with other U of T students, guided by a University of Toronto professor. You won't have as much opportunity to connect with the culture, and will constantly have a kind of "intellectual tourist" status. 2. Apply. Don't freak out, it's easier than you would think to qualify. Here's basically all you need: Note: Visit CIE's website for more details, what's listed below is a basic overview!) -You must have completed your first year (4 credits) at the time of application. -State your interest: Why do you want to go abroad? What do you think you'll gain out of the experience? -Prove that you've done your research: Are you a commerce student applying for a philosophy program? That's not going to make much sense. Apply for a program that makes sense with your stated degree. -Get a reference. One of them needs to be from someone who is familiar with your academic work. Oh, and as for that "I have to have a perfect GPA or I'll never qualify for a program abroad!" insecurity? You're just going to need a minimum of a 2.25. Nope, you don't need a 4.0 to qualify to study abroad, folks! (Heard it here first.) And so long as your application hasn't raised any red flags? That's it. You're in. 3. Get funding. Alright, so, of course this is going to be the biggest concern for most students. But the first thing that you should know is that going abroad does not void your OSAP. If you qualified for OSAP at U of T, you'll qualify for OSAP when you go abroad. Your next step is researching the tons of funding opportunities. Start at CIE, then check out the Ontario International Education Opportunity Scholarship. It's not competitive, offers tons of support for many, many students. Otherwise, check out the awards available at your individual college, and through your particular faculty or program. Alternately, there are tons of private bursaries for students who want to go abroad. 4. Pack. Just kidding. (Kind of.) But, of course, if all else fails, and you're still not convinced that you could be strolling the streets of Paris in a fine-looking beret within the year, I advise checking out The Global Lounge at the Cumberland House. It's a gorgeous room, with a brochures everywhere for the thousands of universities you could possibly be studying at all around the room. It's inspiring, and the staff working there have actually been there. They're all exchangers who are all more than happy to get you excited about your future over-seas.

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