I never imagined myself living a whole ocean away from Toronto; away from U of T, my parents and my comfort zone. In my final summer at U of T, I took a leap of faith and applied for the summer abroad program. This just happened to be the first year that they offered a psychology course and it was a topic that I was extremely interested in. Not to mention, they were offering 1.0 credit in just a month, which also made it easier for me to convince my parents to let me go to England by myself!
The course content itself was very valuable to me and in a small classroom environment, I had the opportunity to interact with my peers and professor more than I normally would. It also helped that we were all living together in the Oxford University Residence and we had many class field trips which gave us many chances to get to know each other. The professor looked for ways to tie our geographical location to the course content, giving us a holistic perspective of the topic.
We were in class for four days a week and the idea was to gain the full Oxford experience. Oxford is a university-centered town and its history holds some of the world’s most renowned literary geniuses. I had the chance to explore Oxford heritage buildings and study in the same place that J.R.R Tolkien frequented. I also had a chance to go sightseeing during the weekends to satisfy the tourist in me.
I think more than anything tangible, what I gained most from this summer was the confidence to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve lived in the same place most of my life and even when I had the chance to go anywhere for university, I chose the one closest to home. This summer helped me break out of this shell that restricted me to the places I was familiar with. Even with all the support from the summer aboard staff, I tried to explore things on my own, use old-fashioned maps and allow myself to get lost in Oxford. I guess, I sort of opened up a window for myself to travel more if I do get the chance.
I can’t say that I came back a completely changed person or anything drastic like that, I still go to my regular restaurants in Toronto, drink the same black coffee and live my boring, comfortable life at U of T. But what I will say is that stepping into the shoes of an international student really made me appreciate a my peers at U of T who come to Toronto in first year leaving their home country behind. It made me more aware of the struggles of the U of T community and inspired me to share my Toronto experiences with more people who might benefit from my input.
Overall, I highly, highly recommend having an international experience during your undergraduate career. You may be concerned about costs, but there are needs-based bursaries and scholarships offered by the program which a lot of people find helpful. I know that I was worried about the same thing but I never knew what was possible until I gave it a shot. If you have any questions about my experiences with the program and the application process, leave a comment below!
If you’re still thinking about whether this would be right for you, attend the various information sessions going on in the month of January.