Friday, February 12, 2016

My International Experience

Looking for an opportunity to grow both personally and academically? Well look no further than the international opportunities offered by the University of Toronto. Follow me as I share my own experience with the UofT Summer Abroad program!

What is the Summer Abroad program?
The Summer Abroad program is a great place to start if you’re looking for a new and exciting learning experience. There are a vast number of locations to choose from and courses that cater to a wide variety of programs. In my case the Summer Abroad program gave me the opportunity to study about Germany and its stance on immigration while actually living in Berlin, Germany. Through this program I was able to earn 1 full credit while also getting to explore a whole new city.

The Academic side of things
I would say that one of the best parts of my summer abroad experience was actually coming back to UTSC, only to find that what I had learned abroad was a hot topic in a majority of my classes. Not only did I feel I was better prepared to discuss the topic, but I also had a totally different perspective than most other students in my class. For example, while in Germany I had been exposed to the way in which the German media portrayed the immigration debate, which is what was continuously discussed in my classes. I was able to see how differently the debate was portrayed in Canadian media once I had returned. And this is exactly at the heart of what an international experience will provide you, the opportunity to understand either your program of study, or just a topic of interest, from a new perspective.

But going abroad isn’t just an academic opportunity…
It is also an opportunity for personal growth, to find out more about the person you are. For some, like myself, going abroad was a chance to feel what it is like to live away from home. For others, this might be a chance to face fears and go outside of their comfort zone. Either way, going abroad is something that will enrich your whole self, both academically and personally.

Some helpful hints
Going abroad can be a wonderful experience. Preparing for it, on the other hand, can be daunting. Here are some things I think will be helpful, based on my experience:
  • Start with the Summer Abroad and CIE (Center for International Exchange) websites. Keep in mind that each individual program will have its own individual deadline.
  • When preparing, it is always nice to speak to someone who has already participated in the program. Keep an eye out for the Summer Abroad staff, who usually have a table outside of Tim Hortons. I regularly spoke to them while on my way to classes, and they offered me a lot of insight into the program.
  • Find out how the course fits into your degree. Contact the program advisor from your department to see if the course will count towards your program. But don’t worry if it doesn’t! Keep in mind you still need electives to complete your degree. In fact the course I took ended up counting as an elective, but what I learned was still very much applicable to my current courses.
  • Keep an eye out for workshops that will assist you with your applications. For example I attended a drop in session with a career counselor from the AA&CC to get my personal statement critiqued.

·       And finally, don’t be afraid to search for opportunities outside of summer abroad and exchange. Look for something that will enrich and benefit YOU!

This is my classmates and I standing in front of one of my favourite places in Berlin, the remnants of the Berlin Wall.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Networking From an Academic Perspective

We all know about the importance of networking when it comes to job search and furthering our careers, but did you know that networking is just as important from an academic perspective? Join me as I share my latest experience networking with an academic twist. Read on for some helpful tips to get more out of your next networking experience

Where do I start?

Well the best place is with your departmental students association also known as a DSA. They often host networking events related to your specific program. For example, I recently attended a networking event held by the Geography and City Studies Students Association. In fact, it was the inspiration for this blog post!

Talk to your Professors!

Professors can often be found at networking events on campus, especially when the event is specific to your program. For instance, several of my professors where present at the networking event I attended.  Networking with your professors is a great opportunity to build on your knowledge of course material. This is not a substitute for office hours, but rather, is a chance for you to discuss parts of the course that really interest you. Try to talk about things that you’ve noticed outside of class that you think relate to the course themes. 

But wait there’s more!

Networking with professors doesn’t have to be all about building your knowledge, but conversations like the one discussed above can also help you to build relationships with your professors. You might wonder why this even matters, well it does if you are planning to apply to graduate school. Reference letters are an important part of the application process, and when professors have the opportunity to get to know you better they are more willing to provide you with a reference letter. 

Do I only have to talk to professors?

Nope, there are many other people you can talk to, from alumni, to industry experts, and even other students in the program! Often times networking events can be a great way to get more information on graduate school, usually from people who have already been, or are planning to go. For instance the same GCSA networking event I discussed above, also gave me insight into graduate school as this was the focus of the event. Questions such as “what is the merit in taking a year off or going straight into graduate school?” were asked during the event. Furthermore, there was a “mix and mingle” session, which was a great opportunity to ask the panelists further questions about graduate school. 

One more thing…

I wanted to leave you with a link to a resource from our website:
Scroll down to the bottom of this page and you will see a section titled Networking for Quiet Types, which contains some helpful links. I know myself, I can be a very quiet person and this can sometimes make networking hard, but it is definitely possible, and just might require us to use different techniques. 

I hope that this post has given you insight into some other ways to utilize your next networking event.

Happy Networking!
- Alanna