Inbound students Study Abroad and Exchange at the University of Melbourne

Student Profiles

Natalie Stepan

The University of Toronto, Canada

Exchange in Semester 2, 2007
Bachelor of Science and Diploma of Modern Languages (French)

The excitement and enthusiasm of returned exchange students is contagious. Whether it was the numerous anecdotes of the people they met or the amazing places they saw, it was in hearing their tales of life on different shores that I was drawn into applying for exchange. And so it was with the thought of making that same excitement my own reality that I decided to spend a semester at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Choosing where to go on exchange was as much about experiencing a new way of teaching as it was getting the most out of a new corner of the world. Home to one of the best universities in Canada, and with places like Montreal and New York on its doorstep, Toronto encompassed all this and more. Like the city it finds itself in, UofT provided the same diversity that so distinctly characterizes Toronto (or Toronno as you may eventually learn to call it), and it was this same breadth and depth of teaching that attracted me to studying there.

The immensity of Toronto can initially be overwhelming, as can the size of the UofT campus that seems to spread itself over an infinite amount of blocks. Yet surprisingly, within what is quite a studious university is also a hive of social activity that is always buzzing for anyone that wishes to find it. With an abundance of student clubs, an even greater list of sports and an extremely welcoming international student centre, you will soon find yourself part of a community that somehow reduces a very large place down to a more palatable array of the many social pockets of which it consists.

Living in a student residence also played a large part in my time spent abroad and deciding to live in one was influenced by two main factors. Firstly, I saw it as a way to get to know other students, particularly exchange students. It became a fun, social environment from which I gained some of my greatest friends on exchange and it was very much the "family away from home". Secondly, like UofT, its centralized location, in what would be the Melbourne equivalent of Flinders Street, was a great base to get to know the city of Toronto well. Just as Melbourne harbours something new down each of its laneways, so does Toronto have a surprise around every corner. From its great live music, to every type of cuisine you could imagine, Toronto's enormity means there is a little bit of something for everyone, and being in amongst it all was the best way to discover it.

Although becoming bored of Toronto really doesn't seem possible, escaping the big city life was also quite easy. There were regular trips organized by the international student centre to some of the beautiful spots around Ontario like Algonquin Park where, if you're lucky, you may just see a moose or two! And semester breaks, such as Thanksgiving or that much needed "study break", provided great opportunities for road trips to Montreal, Niagara Falls and the city that really never does sleep, New York. Your itinerary is as long as you make it, but keep in mind that Canada is a deceptive in size so if you want to see the west coast or the breath-taking Canadian Rockies I would suggest trying to get there either before or after your exchange as its great to see the contrast between East and West too.

I could go on for quite a while with the "whys" and the "why nots" but really the only way to get the true flavour of Toronto is to go there. One of the greatest things about exchange is being able to create your own vision of a place rather than relying on perceptions imbued with the experiences of others. Living and studying in Toronto last semester allowed me to do just that. UofT provides a very high standard of teaching unrivalled by many other universities, and combined with its convenient location Toronto is very much the "all in one" destination of Canada.

But don't just take my word for it, go and see it for yourself!