Introduction

A student’s experience studying abroad in Central Europe

A student’s experience studying abroad in Central Europe

The University of Toronto provides students with a plethora of unique and interesting learning opportunities, many of which can quite literally be considered “once in a lifetime”. One learning opportunity I unfortunately never pursued during my time as an undergraduate student was some international study with one of the U of T’s many study abroad opportunities. (Arts & Science students should also check the International Programs and Partnerships website for more opportunities.)

I am, however, aware of how studying abroad can enhance a student’s overall undergraduate experience and in order to demonstrate this I have endeavoured to conduct two brief interviews with students who have done some study abroad — the second of which I have transcribed for you below.

This interview is with fourth-year student Igor Samardzic who studied abroad in Central and Southeastern Europe. My questions are in bold and his answers follow subsequently. I would like to thank Igor for sharing his international experience with me — and with all of you.

Igor is a 4th year Trinity College student studying Political Science and History. He traveled to Central and Southeastern Europe with the university’s Summer Abroad program.

Why did you endeavour to Study Abroad and why did you pick the location/program that you did?

Studying Abroad was something that always appealed to me as a commuter student. Since I did not live on campus and was finding it difficult to integrate myself into the UofT community, the Summer Abroad program would hopefully be able to help in these respects — and did it ever. The program gave me the opportunity to experience something different than the regular lectures at UofT. It gave me a new perspective on my subject matter, and lifelong friends.

The location I decided to go to was not one I had initially thought I would end up in. When I started researching places to go abroad, Central Europe was not an immediate draw to me at first. Probably because I am originally from the region, and I wanted to explore other countries. However, after talking with my friends and family, I decided that Central Europe would be my choice and boy did I pick right! It turns out that any preconceptions or hesitations that I might have had about picking the wrong country were unfounded. No matter what program you choose to participate in, the results will be the same…an experience that will redefine your academic and personal journey through life. If you doubt me, I dare you to try and see!

Central Europe had a lot to offer besides a great teacher, wonderful host staff and an interesting course. My favourite part of the trip, and the main reason I chose to attend this specific program, was the many excursions! Every year the Central Europe program takes students to three different countries besides your host country. Every weekend students get to experience another city/country for three days and two nights. Therefore, although you have a base city where your main accommodation and classes take place, you also get the added bonus of travelling and learning about your subject material in real time.

What has your international experience meant to you?

The Summer Abroad experience has in all honesty been the most incredible experience of my life to date. It has impacted me in ways that I would not have thought possible. When I first applied, I knew that it would be pretty amazing just from everything you find out before hand. However, the satisfaction and awesomeness that came out of this experience was not even on my radar until I had time to reflect after.

This experience has opened me up to the world, challenged me, created friendships, laughs, jokes, memories, and contributed to my academic education in extraordinary ways. So much so that I went on another Summer Abroad the following year!

Would you recommend other students pursue the opportunity to study abroad?

In three letters — YES! I would definitely recommend it to everyone, and if you know me personally, I have. As I said before, this is an amazing opportunity, and there really is no excuse not to try to apply. Another aspect of the Summer Abroad program, which I always stress when talking to potential students, is that our courses give you the opportunity to get a FULL year UofT credit in as little as 3 weeks and up to 6 weeks and are taught by a UofT professor in the English language (except language courses). The Summer Abroad program also gives students the opportunity to travel by themselves or with others before or after the program starts, which proves very beneficial for students that have family abroad.

What advice would you give students who are considering the study abroad program?

There are several points I would suggest.

  1. Apply early: The Summer Abroad program registration process opens in January of every year, and the applications go online in a staggered fashion throughout January, depending on the program (be sure to check the Summer Abroad website.) Although the registration process does not close until March, you should apply ASAP to be sure that you get your placement. The Summer Abroad program works on a first come first serve basis for most programs and therefore, they fill up quite fast. So Apply Right Away….. like NOW!
  2. Do your Research: Do not worry, this does not mean essay research! However, looking through possible courses and matching them up with your academic requirements is a great place to start — although many students, including myself, take courses as a breadth requirement.
  3. Not getting your first Choice: If you happen to not get your first choice of program do not be discouraged. The overall experience is similar no matter where you go! Every program has its own unique qualities, so be sure to give every program a chance when choosing.
  4. Financial Aid: The Summer Abroad Program offers countless bursaries and awards. I would strongly suggest students to check that part of their website out and to inquire with the office if they have any questions or issues. The award and bursary amounts are quite generous and make the trips themselves much more affordable.
  5. For Everyone: No matter what your program of study is, the Summer Abroad Program has something for everyone. Science Abroad — introduced just recently — focuses on the sciences with particular emphasis on research. These courses offer students an experience from 6 to 16 weeks in length!
  6. Have Fun!!: Be sure to enjoy yourself, although the academic portion of the program is central to the course, be sure to let yourself experience your surroundings. Travel as much as you can, talk to locals, meet new people, and push your boundaries!
  7. If you are interested and would like to get a perspective of other past participants of our program, check out our Facebook page and post your questions on our wall. Or you can check out our website or office for further information.

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