When Meric Gertler began his term as the sixteenth president of the University of Toronto in November 2013, he referenced the need to strengthen and deepen international partnerships as one of the main priorities of the university. The need to enhance research links between Canadian and foreign education institutions was also sighted as a target of the new International Education Strategy launched by the Harper government in early 2014.
Despite concerted efforts to encourage more students to spend time overseas, it is relatively uncommon for U of T students to study abroad.
Five hundred and eighty-nine U of T students will participate in the Centre for International Experience (CIE)’s Student Exchange Program during the 2014–2015 academic year. This figure, which draws from students at both the St. George and Mississauga campuses, represents a 20 per cent increase from the 2012–2013 academic year. However, it remains a very small percentage of the 42,686 students at St. George and the 12,741 students at UTM.
Many students interviewed cited the perceived cost of studying abroad, including travel costs and the possibility of higher living expenses, as reasons for not studying abroad. Other students cited commitments to student groups on campus.
Still, many students are simply unaware of overseas study opportunities.
In the past, the CIE has undertaken efforts to enhance its outreach and inform students about the university’s exchange programs, as well as the scholarships and bursaries offered by various U of T offices for study abroad.
The CIE is currently in the process of developing an online database that will make it easier for students to engage with international opportunities.
As for why students want to study abroad, the opportunity to travel, practice a new language, and gain international experience are frequently mentioned.
For George Garrow, a third-year human geography student, it was an easy decision. “I really like travelling,” says Garrow, who will spend the spring semester in Singapore.
Caroline Nguyen, a first-year peace, conflict, and justice student, hopes to spend a semester in Washington D.C. because she is “really interested in American politics.”
Having been born and raised in Toronto, Nguyen is looking forward to experiencing a new city and new perspectives.
The CIE offers numerous funding opportunities for students, including need-based bursaries, awards for going to specific institutions, and awards for students in specific programs.