Honours year student Yeo Wei De Llyod shared about his summer exchange experience at the University of Toronto.
During my nine-week stint in Canada (one semester ago), I took classes in Linguistics, hiked through lush forests, soaked in the sun at bays and beaches, swam and kayaked at rivers, and stood on the glaciers that had formed on mountain peaks. Those nine weeks represented an enriching, fulfilling and memorable experience.
I was motivated to apply for a summer programme since it was my final chance to participate in any overseas study. I was in my second semester of Year 3, and I missed the previous summer exchange programme windows. I had not applied to any of them due to my ‘homebody’ nature, and I was content with a life studying and living in Singapore. I was pretty deep into my academic journey when I acquired a ‘travel lust’ and endeavoured to couple my NUS studies with an overseas experience.
The decision to choose Canada was pretty simple. Canada has a reputable culture of embracing diversity and upholding the virtues of tolerance and acceptance. Having a pleasant living environment serves as a catalyst to create new experiences and forge more connections. Furthermore, the University of Toronto (UofT) is a school with rich history, and there was much to learn about the school culture and its practices.
I feel that the interesting part of any summer programme is the freedom to take whatever courses that float your boat. There should not be any concerns regarding NUS major requirements because these are fulfilled in the regular semesters. Coupled with the optional grading system, I believed it was an opportune moment to take up courses that I am keen to gain exposure in. I took a course in Linguistics, and it was a refreshing change writing compositions instead of mathematical equations.
Aside from attending classes, some of my time went into exploring the city and beyond. I travelled solo for most of my trips. It is common to hear of NUS students on exchange banding together for travels. I chose the solitary path since this granted me complete control over my itinerary. I could stop to take pictures whenever I wanted to. I would stay longer at a place if I desired to soak in the landscape more. Plus, the solo travels provided me with a sense of peace and tranquillity that I will never attain in a group setting.
I started exploring the gardens and greenery near Toronto. After that I found transportation that brought me to conservation areas, waterfalls, national parks that were a few hours’ drive from the city. Finally, I flew domestic to Calgary, Alberta to visit the blue lakes and the Canadian Rockies.
Overall, I felt nine weeks was an adequate duration for an overseas experience. For myself, it was sufficient to experience what the country has to offer and not too long that I got bored or homesick. Studying in the University of Toronto brought me friends from all around the world and enabled me to experience a different style of instruction and teaching. My own solo travels had been enriching as well. I managed to get in touch with myself, engage in hearty conversations with strangers I meet along the way, and bear witness to sights that I used to watch with envy on the National Geographic Channel. My summer exchange programme was short but unforgettable, one that I reminisce even now five months down the road.