Brittany (BA Digital Media and Communication) has just come back from an amazing semester abroad at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Depending on what degree you are on, you might be able to take part in the exchange programme too! Here’s more about Brittany’s experience.
Why did you decide to take up a semester exchange at Ryerson University in Canada?
Once I heard about the semester exchange opportunity, I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do. I must admit that, after thinking about it for a while, I wondered whether or not it was a good idea to leave London so soon, as I had just completed one year. However, I thought, what do I have to lose? There is so much on offer at University of Westminster and I wanted to take part in this amazing programme. I thought taking part in an exchange would be a great opportunity, as it would allow me to be better equipped with knowledge, skills and experience in my chosen field.
What made this an even richer experience was the fact that I was awarded one of the Distant Horizons Awards and I thought it could not get any better than this. Not only was I accepted for the semester exchange to my first choice at Ryerson University, but I was also successful in obtaining a scholarship award that was much needed and made it possible for me to undertake this programme. Of course, the subject of most of my conversations was about my new move to Toronto – it was no secret that I was already excited about my previous move to London and now I was on the move again. Bags were packed, and, may I add, I have never packed so heavy in my life with all those heavy coats I was told to carry. Either way, I was all set and ready to go!
We would like to know more about your exchange at Ryerson University! What was your typical day like?
Once classes were under way, one of the differences I had to get used to was the three hour classes as opposed to the hour or two hour classes at Westminster. This speaks to the difference in structure. Another thing was the amount of students in a class. I’m usually one to prefer smaller classes (15-20 students), because I prefer a more intimate setting. However, most of my classes consisted of more than 40 students at a time. This was another adjustment, but certainly a great experience, as I was able to meet and learn from various students in different disciplines. The only con, however, was the fact that you would really have to push to get assistance from the lecturer, as in most cases it was a 40 plus student ratio to 1 lecturer.
Along with this, I had many group assignments, which called for a lot of group meetings, conducting interviews and completing research. This really helped me to meet other students and explore the university a bit more. One exciting group assignment I had in my Digital Product Lab gave me the opportunity to work with the CBC by creating for them a quiz app for their readers. As part of this assignment, we met with staff from the CBC on a bi-weekly basis. This was definitely an indelible experience.
How did you like your exchange at Ryerson? What did you find the most enjoyable and most challenging? What did you miss the most about the UK?
Excited was an understatement of how I felt when preparing for my semester exchange in Toronto, Canada. At Westminster, the Student Mobility Team arranged meetings with us months before we were all sent off to our temporary new homes for a semester abroad. Myself, along with two other students were from Westminster’s Harrow Campus and we were all studying Media Arts and Design – I, myself, am a Digital Media and Communications student. We were all thrilled about this new experience to see for ourselves how other universities engaged with Media Arts and Design. That along with the fact that we were visiting such a media hub in such a great city.
When it came to my programme in Media Production, after attending the orientation for media students and becoming aware of what the programme was like, I was excited for something new, but I also knew it would be a bit of a challenge for me because of the differences in structure. The classes that I was enrolled in for that semester were more hands on and practical compared to the mainly theory-based classes I usually attend at Westminster. It was refreshing to have this experience, as I was able to put to use the knowledge I had gained previously at Westminster in Digital Media along with what we learned at Ryerson. However, the challenging aspect of this was the fact that I had to learn certain software that we used more often, as compared to what I was used to. Also, being in an environment where majority of the class may have already been up to speed on certain topics of software, meant that I had to work a little bit extra to work at the same pace or level. However, what I did miss about Westminster were the class structures of an hour or two hours lectures or seminars, whereas at Ryerson there were three hour seminars.
What graduate attributes have you gained through this experience? Have your transferrable skills improved?
I would definitely say that I have gained graduate attributes and transferrable skills as a result of taking part in this semester exchange programme. Firstly, moving from home to attend University in the UK, to now another University in Canada in a matter of months changed my global outlook and my ability to adapt. This was a challenging and rewarding experience all at once, and one that has definitely allowed me to grow. Also, being in the media production programme at Ryerson, where most of my work was hands on and involved group assignments, meant that there was need for team work, organisation and definitely proper communication skills. When dealing with so many different personalities and students with different discipline knowledge and cultural backgrounds, I learnt to become aware of these things and how to effectively communicate and work with my fellow classmates.
There were times when I had to lead in certain assignments, but also times when I was able to sit back and give others the opportunity to lead or, in other cases, put our heads together for solving problems and critically analysing various situations. I must say this was a life changing and learning experience for me.
What message would you like to pass on to students who are considering an exchange programme? Are there anything they should know before going to Ryerson, Toronto or Canada in general? What advice or top tips would you like to give to students who plan to gain international experience in general?
I would definitely encourage students to attend a similar opportunity at Ryerson University, if they are considering it. I did enjoy my University experience in such a media hub. It was definitely useful and hands on. At Ryerson there were many opportunities to get involved in the media industry and actually get practical experience that in my opinion is needed in the media industry. I would also recommend to explore the city and really try to take advantage of the opportunities and resources available to you. This experience was enriching and I would do it all over again.
Thinking now over my experience, I would say I had three stages during my exchange. Firstly, the anticipation and excitement of what was expected. I was getting all set and ready for a new adventure that awaited me. Secondly, was actually being in that moment when I had to get adjusted to my new life and let reality set in. After that, I got adjusted and then had to prepare to move on to another stage in life, and just like that my study exchange had come to an end.
If I could change one thing, it would be the length of time I was on my exchange – I wished it was a full year exchange instead of just one semester. I truly felt my time was so short, but I guess it’s true: ‘Time flies when you’re having fun’. I made a few friends, learned life lessons, which all led to unforgettable memories that left an indelible mark in my life. For this, I am grateful for this opportunity which was offered to me not only by being a student at University of Westminster, but also by being awarded the Distant Horizons scholarship that helped make all of this a reality.
For any student considering taking part in international opportunities, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that, if in your reach, you should grab with haste. I could never forget this experience and I must admit it was certainly worth it.
If you have any interesting stories from your trip, please share them with us here:
I knew of the vast differences between London and Toronto and that made it all the more exciting for me. I must say, when I heard the stories of the cold winters, I paused for a moment to really think It through. Can I really handle a cold snowy winter, when I’m from a place of sunshine and beaches (The Bahamas)? This may have been one of the only things that I considered a con for my exchange, but when weighing it out, I thought about the experience I would’ve gained from making such a move.
It was so much to see and oh so different than what I was used to. However, I knew that there was going to be some adjustments I would have to make, as it is the case when relocating anywhere in the world. It was indeed a push for me, but that was something I learned, even though I was not used to it – I had to make an effort and still push because I was determined to enjoy the city while there.