By Mina Todosijevic
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only the first page.” -St. Augustine
Travelling is something all to itself. Whether you’ve been travelling since before you could walk or you’ve yet to get a passport, exploring a new country is one of the most amazing experiences you could possibly live.
Travel is essentially a humanizing experience. There is a renewed sense of wonder every time you realize that people live in the cities you’re visiting; that the place you stopped for lunch is their regular bar, that the exquisite little schoolhouse you passed is where their cousins go, that they roam the streets complaining about schoolwork and the weather and their friends.
There’s so much to see once you begin; layers and layers of a city to peel away. While travelling to a city can be a fun experience, staying in it for a longer time is a completely different experience. Instead of observing the different lifestyles, you get to be an anthropologist, trying your best to engage in participant observation through grasps at a foreign language.
For those of you who have ever debated taking a year off to travel, U of T gives you a chance to do something even more immersive: to live and study in a city for a summer, a semester or a year, thanks to the exchange program, run by the Centre for International Experience (CIE).
While these programs range in function and goal, most of them either focus on giving you credit or research experience while abroad. The list of countries and universities is immense, and if your choice of city is not on the list, you can request a self-designated program, meaning you contact the university and make arrangements yourself, and U of T will recognize your credit.
For the regular school year exchanges, your tuition fee will be the same as your U of T tuition. The costs you’ll incur while abroad will be primarily living expenses, along with the price of the plane ticket. There are a couple of summer programs run by U of T. The first is through CIE through universities that run summer sessions. The deadlines for these vary, but some programs still accept students up to mid-to-late February. The second program is run by the Summer Abroad Progam, and is structured slightly differently. It allows students to get a credit abroad over 4-6 weeks, while exploring the host city or country. It incurs different fees from regular tuition. The deadline for applying to the summer exchange program is February 16 with the exception of the France program, whose deadline is February 13.
I got the chance to interview Isidora Vidojevic, a third-year New College student who spent last summer in Seville, Spain through the summer abroad program, about her experience.
What was a typical day in Seville?
A typical day in Seville involved going for coffee with my friends before class, which was every day from 10:00am-1:00pm. After class, we would explore the streets of Seville. We’d come back to the dorms around 3:00 or 4:00pm, have our siesta and then go out for dinner or cook later in the evening. Our days off would be spent walking around, sightseeing, and then going home and getting ready to go out to bars/for tapas/to see flamenco at night.
What was the hardest part about being way from home?
Well since I wasn’t away for long it was not that hard, but it would be not seeing my family for a long time.
What was your favourite moment?
My favourite moment was when a group of us went to an underground flamenco show. It was incredibly intimate and beautiful and we really got to experience the culture of Seville.
What advice would you give people looking to go on an exchange?
The advice I would give to people looking to go on an exchange is to make friends right away and to spend your time sightseeing and travelling to other cities during the weekends. I would suggest making a planner so you can ensure you see everything you want to see. Take advantage of where you are, explore as much as you can and visit different places.
Some programs still have deadlines open! Take the plunge and try out an exchange; it is an invaluable and irreplaceable experience which will change your view on the world forever.
(This interview was conducted via Facebook and has been edited.)