By Lisa Cumming
Ryerson School of Journalism
Every winter some Ryerson undergraduate journalism students venture to foreign lands and we’re not talking about the mysterious third floor of the Rogers Communication Centre.
Generally during their third year, students in the Bachelor of Journalism program have the opportunity to go abroad on 14 select exchanges including the Auckland University of Technology, City University in London, England and the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Copenhagen.
I sat down with two former exchange students from j-school to chat about the good, the bad and everything in between.
Kayla Kuefler, Australia, Class of 2017
Q: Why did you decide to go on exchange?
A: I love travel, I’m from Alberta and I came to Toronto for school and even thought that was a big move I wanted to do a bigger move. I love getting out and I love seeing the world. I’ve done exchanges in high school and I loved those and I thought those were really influential on just finding out what I wanted to do with my life and helping my confidence and meeting new people. I find it’s really good for your independence to be forced to go out on your own. Also, I didn’t want to sit in the cold when I could be on a beach in Australia.
Q: Expectations vs. reality: was the exchange all you had hoped it to be?
A: I would say that my priorities have shifted a little more because I went out and I met so many different people, exchange students who are in journalism from all over the world and just seeing what they have learned. It’s shifted my focus [in terms of] what I want to do. When I left for exchange I had a very one track mind of what I wanted to do when I graduated, how I wanted my life to go and now I’m a lot more open to the different opportunities that life can take me.
Q: Any advice to future j-school students who are going on exchange, or are wanting to go on exchange?
A: Two bits of advice:
- Take out a lot of cash before you leave. What happened to me is that I took out some cash but my bank cards didn’t work when I got there even though I told my bank I’m going overseas. It took probably a week and a half for my bank cards to work. I had this limited amount of cash so people I had just met I [was asking], “can you help me out.” So definitely take more cash. That’s just practical.
- Be very open and you have to be social. You have to go out and you have to talk to strangers. No one is going to say, ‘oh hey who’s this person let’s go be her friend.’ You have to be the one to go out and introduce yourself. That’s what I had to do from the first day. I forced people to be my friend and they’re still my good friends. There has to be that one person in the group to break the ice.
Jasmin Husain, Singapore, graduate, Class of 2016
Q: Why did you first decide to go on exchange?
A: I think I had a yearning or wanting to leave the country and explore what it was life outside of Toronto. Before exchange I hadn’t really traveled other than on family vacations, but that was very resort-like and a very commercialized space. I was excited to travel, but also the opportunity to learn about a different countries culture and be immersed in that experience plus also seeing what would school would be like in another country. I was very intrigued by that.
Q: Do you think that your experience as an exchange student helped you as a journalism student?
A: I think it was interesting to observe journalism in South-East Asia specifically because the way that it’s structured is so different from North America and their style of learning was also very different. So I guess as a journalism student it made me a little more aware. Also, I think when you go on exchange it depends on what schools you go to because certain ones have more journalism focus than others. Mine was a little more like alternative journalism, the focus was a little more on marketing and PR-type courses and that’s the type of courses that I decided to take based on my own field that I wanted to get in to so I feel like it benefited me that way.
Q: Did you do any reporting in Singapore?
No, that was my choice. It was based on the nature of the courses that I took. The only journalism type-thing I did was in magazine design.
Q: Would you have any advice for future j-school students who want to go on exchange?
A: I think if you’re looking for an interesting experience that tells you about how journalism functions in a different society, definitely do your research into different schools and the country you’ll be living in. Be open-minded when it comes to that because of course the way we learn journalism at Ryerson, in j-school, is very different than the way other schools teach journalism. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from other places.
Students interested in the exchange programs need to begin planning during the second year of their undergraduate program. More information on the administration of the programs is available on the school’s website, Students may also contact the exchange coordinator, Kamal Al-Soyalee <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
These interviews were condensed and edited.