The Road Ahead: Planning for Post-Exam Life

“I can’t believe this year’s already over!” we all say to ourselves in disbelief. In just over a month (even sooner for some people) we’ll be done with exams and will be free for four months. Now I know many of you have likely started figuring out your summers already, since jobs, travel plans etc. are often best planned in advance. But, if you’re like me and have procrastinated on post-exam Life: Have no fear – Api is here!

I have compiled a list of my summer options, which are my alternatives to the summer endeavours that I should have (probably) started a few months ago…(I’m only human.)

Hopefully this will help me decide on what to do this summer, and will offer some inspiration to a world of procrastinators and beyond:

1. Employment: Okay to be clear, with jobs, EARLIER IS ALWAYS BETTER. But don’t fret my friends, because it is not too late! Many places around the city are still hiring and continue to hire into the summer. Places with high traffic in the summer (such as tourist destinations) tend to hire progressively throughout the summer as well, based on need. Realistically, it might not be exactly what you wanted, but if money is the motivation, then you have plenty of hope!

Special Tip: Check out the U of T Career Centre (aka my life and soul), either in person on online for job postings, resume building and more! A few other personal favourites for job postings include TalentEgg or Indeed.Ca!

Api in a blazer in an office setting

I Wear Blazers So Please Hire Me: A Student Saga.

2. Travel: Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of experience planning large trips abroad, so I know that’s likely out of the question for me this year. BUT did you know Ontario is kind of an amazing province? A weekend up north at Georgian Bay or a Toronto Staycation is exactly what I need this summer (and it won’t disrupt school, work or anything else I want to do!

Api sitting on rock formation overlooking a lake at Georgian Bay

Ontario, yours to discover!

3. Study: The schedule for the summer term came out fairly recently, and as always, there’s a wide array of courses being offered.  Ah, summer school. It may help you finish your course requirements faster, or let you take a more intensive course without the distraction of other classes. And it probably has many other perks for some! But alas, it is school. In the summer.

Photo of empty chairs at Hart House Library

One of the many summer term perks: EMPTIER LIBRARIES

Special Tip: If you’re taking 1.0 credits continuously from May-August, then you’re eligible for the summer work-study program! Yay for more employment options!

Bonus Suggestion: Binge-watch things. I’ve barely kept up with my TV shows this year. I think that justifies watching ALL of 2014/2015’s TV gold AT ONCE, right?

So that’s a little peek into my summer, folks! What is your summer looking like, U of T? If you have any tips for what I can explore for the next third of my year, let me know down in the comments!

Looking Ahead, and Choosing a Path

Dealing with your program can be stressful. Choosing your degree can be hardest. This question can be easy for some people, but asking yourself what degree you want can force you to ask bigger questions as well.  For me, choosing my degree was a long process and was transformational as well.

Looking our from a small ridge towards the dense foliage of Philosopher's Walk, with a gleaming tower in behind

In the forest of life, there are limitless numbers of pathways you can choose from (Photo by Zachary Biech)

At the beginning of my second year, I declared my Public Policy major after much deliberation with minors in Political Science and Philosophy. I also took a Russian Language credit and loved it. Long story short, philosophy wasn’t right for me and the Political Science minor was redundant. So what do you do when you realize you want to switch POSts?

Looking west towards Trinity College, with the foliage of Philosopher's walk in front and the stone citadels of the college poking through in behind under a bright blue sunny sky

U of T is a big place, with many different opportunities; finding the one best suited to you is a whole other story (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Don’t worry, it’s easy. For me, the Russian Language minor was a no-brainer and I had always known in my heart I should be in Aboriginal Studies once I had the courage. So I changed my minor POSts the summer after second year, took an ABS summer credit to catch up and voila! A personalized degree path suited to my interests.  You have to do what interests you or you’ll never get the most of your program. So think hard and ask those tough questions: Are you really doing what you love?

A single great tree on a large green lawn with red flowers at it's base, and sunlight shining through it's leaves

Sometimes in the forest of opportunity, one small piece can shine itself on you, and make your pathway clear (Photo by Zachary Biech)

So what about grad school? Wow, tough question. The earlier you start asking yourself, the better. And whatever you do, don’t lose hope. There are many reasons not to enter grad school but even more reasons to go for it.

A pathway of green grass winding through a partially lit, partially shadowed greenspace of shrubs and trees

What happens along this pathway? Well, there’s only one way to find out… (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Disclaimer: I am still undecided on where, when and what my further education will be. The how is always a tough question with no real answer. But the why? Well, here’s how I think of it: why not?

looking through an open iron gate, down a shaded cobblestone path with grand overhanging trees and bushes, towards the bright sunlight beyond

We may not know what’s at the end of the path, but the door is open, and it’s worth every step (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I have a few findings to share. ULife has a career mentorship program to get you connected with someone who can answer your questions. First Nations House has Aboriginal Law Mentorship services for undergrads interested in law school. The FNH staff can offer excellent guidance.

Law Mentorship Program: Are you considering law school? Join the Law Mentorship Program and get connected with a current Aboriginal U of T Law student mentor. You will learn about the law school experience and better understand the application process. Undergraduate contact: Law student contact:

FNH Law Mentorship Program

Unfortunately, U of T has no graduate Aboriginal Studies program so if ABS is your direction, you may wish to look at other schools like Trent or York. However, Indigenous students in grad school at U of T still have the support of SAGE to keep connected.  Also, The Aboriginal Studies Department has a unique Collaborative Program in Aboriginal Health which is definitely worth exploring.

Now back to law. U of T’s law program is very interesting. There’s a welcoming pathway for Indigenous students, status or non-status, through the Aboriginal Law Program which can include a Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies. There’s a huge array of scholarships, bursaries, and grants, and the faculty began offering a free LSAT course for students with financial need in recent years.

A view of the front of Falconer Hall, with a trimmed lawn, large garden, and leafy vines covering the Victorian-style brick building

Falconer Hall, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

The four large white pillars of the main entrance to Flavelle House

Flavelle House, Faculty of Law (Photo by Zachary Biech)

It may seem overwhelming early on but that’s all part of the process. All you need to know is there are many good options out there and many supports to help you achieve your goals.

A doorway into Falconer Hall, with aged stone facade with leafy vines draped on the top

The door is open; all’s you have to do is walk through it (Photo by Zachary Biech)

What different degrees have you considered?

Does the path you are on allow you to do what you love?


Summerlicious: The Student Edition

As University students, I think most of us could agree on three things;

  1. We like to save money
  2. We like to eat
  3. We don’t like to cook

Forms kind of an oxymoron doesn’t it? 

Last week I decided to explore a Toronto event that might be the cure to this seemingly improbable situation; Toronto’s 2014 Summerlicious.


Summerlicious is a city-wide program that offers delicious food at exceptional prices. Over 200 restaurants throughout the city of Toronto participate in the program by offering a unique menu for a fixed price. It’s an opportunity for people to explore restaurants outside their comfort, and price, range.

For me however, it was an excuse to try a new restaurant, and some yummy new food, all in the hopes of sharing it with you!

You can filter the map based on things such as  neighbourhood and price range. Click this map to check it out.

You can filter the map based on things such as neighbourhood and price range. Click this map to check it out.

There are well over 30 restaurants within walking distance of U of T, ranging in price and location. I decided to try out Insomnia Restaurant and Lounge at 563 Bloor St. W. 

Insomnia’s Summerlicious menu offered a 3 course dinner, including a starter, main, and dessert for $25, including taxes and gratuity.

I started off with a smoked chicken taco on a soft tortilla with avocado, chipotle aioli, and a mass of other delicious ingredients.


I thought I was already sufficiently full after just the starter, until I saw this delicious plate come through the restaurant. The insomnia burger is an Ontario grown beef patty with all the fixings, served with hands-down some of the best french fries I’ve had. (dipped in the garlic aioli I think I would have paid $25 just for a bucket of these!)


Luckily I had some friends around to help me with the final course, a pink velvet cake which is essentially a glorified excuse to eat about a pound of cream cheese icing. Regardless, it was delicious.

The ratio of cake to icing was about 2:1 (not that I'm complaining)

The ratio of cake to icing was about 2:1 (not that I’m complaining)

So while I walked out of the restaurant about 5 pounds heavier, my wallet wasn’t quite as light as if I had gone to Insomnia on a normal day. To get the exact same meal, including tax and gratuity, you would pay $36.39 – which means I saved around $11.

I think Summerlicious is a great way to get out in the city and explore some restaurants that are normally out of your comfort zone, or better yet out of your price range. Some restaurants even offer a 3 course $15 lunch! The event runs until the end of this week, so make sure to check it out – and share it with me on twitter if you do! I know that I already have a couple places I want to check out before it’s over, but how about you? Are there any restaurants participating in Summerlicious that you’re dying to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Campus Getaways

I would pretty confidently call myself a city person. Ever since deciding to come to the University of Toronto I’ve wholeheartedly embraced city living and I cannot see myself living outside of a city anytime in my immediate future. That being said, I do come from a town that has a population of less than 10,000 people and is literally surrounded by farms and sometimes I really miss the quiet countryside.

What I love about U of T is that although it is right downtown there are still so many spots on campus that you can go where you can’t see (or hear in some places) any cars, or see any condos. These are some of my favourite little urban getaways on campus that I like to hang out in when I just can’t bear to see another taxi or bus.

Is your favourite getaway on here? Let me know in the comments!

I have named this the Vic Oasis, I don't know if it has a real name but I feel like Oasis is fitting. This gem is nestled between Pratt Library and Lower Burwash under a giant tree. The only downside to this spot is the people sudying in Pratt will be staring at you the entire time you're there.

I have named this the Vic Oasis, I don’t know if it has a real name but I feel like Oasis is fitting. This gem is nestled between Pratt Library and Lower Burwash under a giant tree. The only downside to this spot is the people studying in Pratt will be staring at you the entire time you’re there.

even if you turn around at the vic oasis you still can't really see any cars

Even if you turn around at the Vic oasis you still can’t really see any cars or many people at all.

If you get lucky and don't find Hart House quad otherwise occupied by a wedding party (I don't blame the wedding parties, I mean look at it) the tables are a great place to sit and read or just chill.

If you get lucky and don’t find Hart House quad otherwise occupied by a wedding party (I don’t blame the wedding parties, I mean look at it) the tables are a great place to sit and read or just chill.

hart house statue

I have so may memories associated with the Trinity Quad that it almost feels like my own backyard... almost. Sitting under the trees with a book is my favourite summer activity to do here. Trying not to fall as I cross the frozen tundra is my favourite winter activity here.

I have so may memories associated with the Trinity Quad that it almost feels like my own backyard… almost. Sitting under the trees with a book is my favourite summer activity to do here. Trying not to fall as I cross the frozen tundra is my favourite winter activity here.

I like the University College Quad in that it's very different from those of Trin and Hart House, it's wilder and has a lot more shade.

I like the University College Quad in that it’s very different from those of Trin and Hart House. It feels wilder and has a lot more shade and I just want to picnic here always.

Knox College is in between Kings College Circle and St. George Street. With two quads seperated by a cloister there is an abundance of options for study spots/general relax-in-the-sun spots.

Knox College is in between Kings College Circle and St. George Street. With two quads separated by a cloister there is an abundance of options for study spots/general relax-in-the-sun spots. I think I’ve speant more time here this summer than anywhere else on campus.

I really love this place.

I really love this place.

can you tell we're in the middle of the biggest city in Canada?

Can you tell we’re in the middle of the biggest city in Canada?

I take a lot of instagram pictures here (follow me @lifeatuoft)

I take a lot of instagram pictures here (follow me @lifeatuoft)

My Toronto Staycation!

I really wanted to go on vacation this year. Like really, really wanted to go. Earlier this year I had my sights set on trying delicacies in Europe, touring ancient architecture in India, or having a breathtaking stay in Nepal.

But, alas, as summer rolled around, I knew it wouldn’t be possible this year, because of the summer grind. Vacations are hard enough to plan without jobs, school, student budgetary restraints (that’s a nice way of saying I’m a broke college student) and other summer commitments getting in the way. I’ve accepted that my cool vacation in a country I’ve never been to still awaits me (in the near future hopefully), but I didn’t want to spend my summer without ANY vacation time at all.

To solve my vacation blues, I decided to go on some mini-adventures to fulfill my vacation needs right here in the city- a staycation!

Things Api would like during a staycation:

  • Somewhere to relax!
  • Exotic food I’ve never tried before
  • Pretty, historical architecture
  • Nice Views

My first stop of the week was to relax out at the Waterfront. It’s a quick subway ride to union station and a short walk to the ferries and the boardwalk. I decided to bring a book and have a seat at one of the benches, and it was probably the most relaxed I’ve been in a while. I returned to reality feeling a little better about my upcoming finals.


Perfect day to relax!

Vacation spot number two was yummier than I expected. Toronto has endless possibilities when it comes to food from other cultures, but I wanted to try something something I’ve never had before. I ended up trying Kimchi fries for the first time and it was SO good! Kimchi fries are hand-cut fries with pulled pork, Kimchi (pickled cabbages), fresh leeks and a little bit of mayonnaise:

Some kimchi+pulled Pork yumminess <3

As U of T students, it’s fairly common to encounter pretty architecture, but I felt compelled to add it to my vacation list just because I need to see what else is out there (It’s not you Knox College, its me.) Therefore, spot number three was the Distillery District! This was probably the furthest spot from U of T, but its not so far out of the downtown core that it’s a difficult to get to. Truth be told, I’ve been to the Distillery before, but I just can’t get enough of it. I will use any excuse to take selfies with the twinkling lights at night time.

photo 2

I have about 20 versions of this picture because I take one every time I go #Guilty

My final vacation spot was…*Drumroll please*… The CN Tower! For one awesome view of Toronto, the ticket is totally worth it. If you look really closely you might be able to point out places on campus like UC, Convocation Hall and Varsity Stadium!


Beautiful city, beautiful sunset!

Overall, my week has been awesome. It was nice to take a break from the regularly scheduled school programming. As the summer goes on, I plan to keep up my mini-staycations and visit somewhere different each week. So check out my shenanigans on Twitter @Api_UofT!

Until next time, U of T!

Hey there, U of T!


Hey there, U of T! My name is Elena, and I’ll be one of the Life @ U of T bloggers this summer.

I have been viewing this school from an entirely new angle for the past few days. I’ve written my last exam, handed in my final essay, and will never attend a lecture in Sid Smith again. Over the past month, it was easy to forget the fact that I am graduating in the flurry of schoolwork, final club meetings, and planning for the future.

But as the door clicked behind me after my final undergraduate exam, I had a moment of elation mixed with a bit of trepidation. I’m extremely proud to have finished my degree and excited for where it will take me, but it will feel strange to no longer have a home base among these beautiful buildings on campus.

I’ve always been one for setting summer goals (shout out to 2012 when I saw 100 different bands play across the city!), so here is this year’s: to learn about and explore facets of U of T that I haven’t had a chance to experience in the past four years. I want to create some incredible memories about this place to carry forward with me, and I’ll be sharing them with all of you here each week.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That's a sander on a drum.

This is local musician Man Made Hill, one of the 100 artists I saw, playing on Toronto Island. That’s a sander on a drum.

Let’s get to know each other, U of T! Here are some things about me:

- I double majored in Chemistry and Psychology, somehow without taking a single course on neurotransmitters or something that could combine the two. In my summers doing research with the Department of Chemistry I pipetted human urine, analyzed mass spectra of illegal drugs, and synthesized a sulphur-based compound (if you don’t know what sulphur smells like, you are a lucky person).

- I want to be a journalist. I’ve struggled with this decision for a while, being in a “practical” scientific program, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to try and take a shot at making a living doing what I love, rather than always wondering if it could have worked out. Besides, there’s a great need for people who know how to talk to and write about scientists! I’ll be attending Ryerson for a Master’s degree in journalism in September.

If you couldn’t guess from my 100-band summer, I’m quite in love with Toronto’s music scene. I write for a couple of blogs, have DJed on occasion (I can call myself a professional DJ if I’ve been paid for it before, right?), and was editor of U of T’s own music magazine, Demo. Exploring the city is one of the best things you can do as a U of T student – most of my exploring has taken the form of listening to synthesizers in off-beat venues.


Tell me some things about yourself, U of T! What are your goals for the summer?

5 Reasons Why August is the Best

And . . . it’s August! How do we feel about the last month of summer? (#startUofT Is August good or bad?)

I like August. A lot! So I compiled a short list of reasons to prove, quite undeniably, why it’s the best. Here we go!

#1 – I was born in August! Therefore the last month of the summer is home to my birthday. To be honest, I am seated right on the top of the fence when it comes to birthdays (and birthday parties for that matter). There is a pressure these days to go CRAZY, particularly at the age of 19, 20, and 21, and especially at university. As if it’s somehow your last birthday ever.

Fact: This year I will turn 23. By the time I am 46 I will have lived my entire life over again!

I think the best birthdays are the ones you can remember. Maybe not all of it, but at least more than half. There’s no need to rush or hurry. I’m graduating this year and grown-ups still call me a kid!

#2 – It’s got an awesome name. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the name August comes from the Latin augustus, meaning “venerable, majestic, magnificent, noble.” How can you beat that, I mean really?

Did you know? The first Emperor of Rome was given the title Augustus. Just a little tidbit courtesy of a Classical Civilizations Major. No biggie.

I think U of T should adopt that title: The Augustus University of Toronto. I think it works. It’s subtle.

#3 – August is the best!

#4 – It’s a little like a second chance at summer. June zooms by before I ever even notice. I always miss out on June. Then July happens and I go on a trip (Vancouver), and for a while it feels like the summer has started, but then suddenly I’m writing a blog post on July 31st (right now), and it hits me, Where did my summer go!

That’s when August steps up to bat and says, “Come on, I want another swing.” August is the opportunity of one more month to have fun, enjoy your free time, be creative, be productive, visit old friends or continue the adventure with new ones. August is a reminder that there is always time to do the things you want to do.

#5 – And finally, August is back-to-school month! There is a particular thrill I have experienced throughout the weeks leading up to September ever since I was in grade school. It’s called anticipation. An endless stream of images, thoughts, ideas, and expectations, wondering what will next year be like?

And then I go out and buy pens, and the whole experience explodes into reality. Pens! It’s strange because they are so small, but suddenly I need them. I didn’t need them at all before, but now I really need them.

And I need paper, binders, notebooks, erasers, and a calculator (maybe). But it’s all these tiny items of preparation that begin to transform the dream of a new school year into a living reality.

I am going back to school. It’s time to get excited!

‘Til next time, stay diamond U of T!



Dried out Pens is from

Summertime Wonders at U of T

July is my favourite month of the year. By far. It’s the warmest, brightest, loveliest month in Canada, 30 days of summer bliss (and maybe a few torrential downpours to make life more interesting…). All said and done, it’s my most carefree month before Fall comes around and I, well, have to ‘get serious’.

The irony of having this post published right around August 1st does not escape me. However, August is still summer, and we’ve still got time to revel in this sunshine and the slush/snow-free pavement for a few more weeks.

So here it is! A ‘yay, you should try this too!’ mini-list of things that I have loved exploring on campus at U of T. Maybe you’ll like to explore them too.

We have a few weeks left U of T- let’s work it!

Harvest Noon

Yes, Harvest Noon has popped up a few times in our U of T blog, probably because it really is pretty awesome. Last week, they were offering a Salsa canning workshop. This Fall, they will be harvesting honey from U of T’s very own apiaries, in collaboration with U of T B.E.E.S. Keep your eye out! If you attend the harvest, glass jar in hand, you’ll go home with a batch of local honey of your very own.

Harvest Noon's Events - more to come in August!









Innis Cafe
I am a big fan of Innis Cafe. Last week, I decided that I desperately needed a cookie. You know, those days when you just *need* a chocolate fix? I love chocolate almost as much as Minions love Bananas.

Once at Innis, I realized that there weren’t any chocolate chip cookies left. At which point my heart broke with disappointment. Innis Cafe to the rescue: the gentleman behind the counter said: “If you wait 10 or 15 minutes, I can make you some!”.

Isn’t that amazing? That’s pretty amazing.

Innis :))))))))))))

I am also a big fan of their salads and their food in general: it’s inexpensive, healthy, and vegan/vegetarian friendly.


Victoria College, UC Quad, Knox College, the Oasis at Med Sci building… summer months are slower at U of T, which means that green spaces are even quieter and perfect for enjoying a moment or two of peace. Have you ever lounged in the UC Quad, delighted at how distant it feels from the rest of campus? I feel as though i’m not even in the city. I’m in the middle of some forest glade somewhere in the world, with giant trees and chirping birds. A perfect escape.

UC quad.










Faculty of Architecture at U of T

Okay, so this kind of applies to months after July, but the Faculty of Architecture offers some fantastic talks by visiting scholars. Check out this upcoming lecture in November: “Walking Your Talk – Integrating Walkability in Urban Design” by Jennifer Keesmaat. Very cool, especially in light of the fact that we do a lot of moving around at U of T.

Hart House

Again, a U of T staple that gets tons of shout outs – if you haven’t been yet, you’ll see why! Art, music, theatre, food, not to mention Hart House’s dashing Hogwarts look – you can’t go wrong with an hour or two spent here.






So there you have it, a few places on campus that have changed the way I see U of T. Perhaps you’ll find them equally as delightful ;).

Necessary Evils

There’s only a little over a month left before the 2013-2014 academic year begins, and it only just feels like summer is getting started – I have yet to make a dent in my annual summer bucket list (you know, that list you mentally compile over the school year about all the wonderful things you’re going to accomplish and partake in once school is out and the long Canadian winters are finally over? Surely I can’t be the only one…). Unfortunately, reality rears its ugly head and reminds us of the upcoming responsibilities we’ve neglected to consider over the past 3 months. So, for your reference, I have compiled a list of a few necessary evils I personally try to manage during the last month of summer in order to put your mind at ease so you can focus on fully enjoying the beginning of the semester and save yourself from the trouble of last-minute panic.


  • Get your timetable sorted! Make sure to keep the following in mind – backups, just in class the courses you want are full (unfortunately a very common problem here), having the necessary courses you’ll need to take in order to get into/apply to your desired program, sorting out any time conflicts, etc. Students who are graduating this year, bear in mind you have until August 17th to contact your registrar to redeem the ~*Dean’s Promise*~ if necessary.
  • Pay off your minimum payments as soon as possible. The last thing you want is for all of the struggle it took to compose your ideal timetable to be wiped out because you missed a deadline (it really does happen – I’ve heard horror stories). Due dates for each respective faculties can be found here. For details on OSAP or other provincial-related student loans, contact your faculty or college registrar.
  • If you’re living away from home, make a list (in case you couldn’t already tell, I’m very big on the list-making movement) of all the things you need to buy/take care of before you move into your new crib. I recommend also setting up a budget of how much you’re going to spend on food and other living expenses you’ll need for the next eight months. Word of advice to incoming freshmen – don’t go all out and buy out Bed Bath & Beyond, as tempting as may be. A majority (if not all) of the dorms/residences here at U of T already supply most of the things you’ll need for comfortable living.

Avoid last-minute scares and unwarranted surprises by paying off your dues ASAP!

Personal (not so much necessary evils as friendly advice!)

  • Mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming year. Thoroughly enjoy the last month you’ll have of relative freedom before becoming a full-time student again – get it out of your system so you’re not tempted to slack! Think about what study habits have worked for you (and what hasn’t) before. Remember that a healthy balance between work and play is important, but avoid repeating the mistakes you know you’ve made before when prioritizing unnecessary matters over school.
  • Lastly, but certainly far from least, spend quality time with the people you care about – especially family (yes, even if you’ll be commuting to school from home). Show a little love for the people who will spend the next year not judging you for your lapse in personal hygiene (who even has time for proper showers during midterm season?) and who will be silently cheering you on for your success in school. They may not always understand what you’re going through, but they’ll be the ones who want you to pull through the most.

When push comes to shove, our family are the people who provide constant support for you to pursue higher ed., so show a little gratefulness by spending time with them and making sure they know they’re appreciated for it.

If I’m missing anything you feel should be an integral part of the last-month-of-summer hustle, sound off in the comments, or tweet me at @Katrina_UofT and hashtag your thoughts with #StartUofT and #UofTNecessaryEvils.

Let me Tell you a Tale or Two

I think of my life as a collection of stories: colourful tales that I gather, one by one, as I move through my days. These stories weave themselves together, a patchwork quilt of
smells, tastes, feelings, memories and colours.

Five years ago, I decided that I needed to leave Canada in order to experience what it was like to live life in another country. I wanted my stories to be filled with new sights and sounds and places.

I chose to live and work in Madrid, Spain for two years. I threw myself into a country where I knew no one at all, to see how I would fare. Much to my surprise, I actually learned to speak a language I had known only through reading and writing.

It was an eye-opening adventure. My journey was full of joy, loneliness, exhilaration, uncertainty and a lot of growth.

Sure, I was not making too much money and living a rather simple existence, but I saw so many wonderful things. A starry sky like I have never seen in a small Spanish town in the south of Spain. A beach music festival in Zambujeira Do Mar (Portugal), where I
saw Shaggy perform live (yes, the one and only Shaggy. Who knew we’d find him
in some small far-flung music fest?).


Marrakesh’s amazing market. Italy’s lake Garda. Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial.

And then there were the mundane, embarrassing moments. The moments where you wish you could simply disappear. Have you ever tried to buy, say, cheese in another language and country? Depending on where you are, there may be tons of different kinds, and you have no idea what they all are, but you just want them all. You can’t ask for them though, because you really can’t speak yet, while the people in front of you, behind you, and to your sides order copious amounts of meat. In the meantime, you desperately try to get a word in edgewise.

cheese por favor!

Or when you didn’t realize that, by translating one word into Spanish from English (they sound the same in both languages, so they must mean the same thing, no?), you told everyone you were pregnant rather than embarrassed.

Or perhaps trying to find an apartment in another language? Oh, the humanity.

You mean the room you advertised is for three people, not just one?

Or – Where did you say the room was? Oh, you mean that the bedroom has no window? I didn’t realize I’d be sharing a windowless basement room with another foreign English teacher – for a pretty hefty monthly rent. I see.

All of these moments – the embarrassing ones, the joyful ones, the completely unexpected ones – turn into stories that stay with you long after you’ve finally bought that cheese or gotten a room of your own, with a window.

I learned so much abroad that I could never have learned in Canada. I met wonderful people and went to places I never thought I would see. I always wished that I had gone on an exchange during my undergraduate years, but I did not take the opportunity to do so.

Interested in creating different stories of your own far away from home?

Look no further: U of T has some amazing exchange programs available. You have scores of countries to choose from, and what’s more, you can earn your school credits while living abroad.

Stay tuned for next week. I will explore these programs and others at U of T’s Centre for International Experience (CIE).

In the meantime – where would you go on an exchange?