Kayla Gaskin

Date: SP5, 2013
Degree Program: Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning
Host University: Ryerson University (Toronto)
Host Country: Canada

Why did you choose your host university?

I chose Ryerson University primarily for its location; it seemed to have plenty of readily available student accommodation (which proved not to be the case this year), Canada was a country I’d always wanted to travel to and Toronto was classed as quite a liveable city (ranked just above Adelaide). Also, as a planning student I’d always wanted to experience living in a large city and Toronto has a population similar to that of Sydney.

Ryerson also had a decent selection of planning courses which aligned somewhat to those I would’ve been taking in Adelaide. They also offer a ‘field-trip’ course, which I believe only accounts for a half of semester course (so you’ll be taking on an extra workload), however, will give you the opportunity to travel to and study the planning of an American city such as New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Windsor-Detroit. I personally opted not to do it, but heard great things from the students and professors who went.

On a side note, upon arrival I found the facilities to be modern and the staff were very helpful from arranging enrolment to organising student exchange get-togethers.

Kayla Gaskin What was the university like?

Ryerson University runs differently to UniSA. Firstly, the classes aren’t structured the same; as opposed to having a large lecture (100 – 200 students) with a small tutorial class (20 – 30 students), at Ryerson you tend to have a middle sized (50 – 100 students) class whom would be together for both a lecture and lab session. In saying that, some courses were different consisting of only lectures.

I found resources quite scarce at Ryerson. Take your laptop to university as there is a very slim chance you’ll manage to get a spot on the computer and good luck finding a spot to study. I ended up spending most of my time in Tim Horton’s or in the planning building if I could find a spot, as finding a seat in the 10 floor library was mission impossible. Also, if you need to print, you’ll have to pay, I found doing it at the library with my ONE card (their uni card) easier but you can get it cheaper in COPYrite and off campus printers.

Assessment also varied between all four courses I took at the university. The courses I took are:

  • Land Use Planning Studio II (a 3rd yr. course): Initially this was the most challenging of the courses I chose, it’s very self-directed, expectations for assignments weren’t very clear and it consists of large group work (10 – 12 students in a group). The assessments were an Interim report, a Secondary Plan for an area selected by the professor and an interview with the professor about your contributions. By the end of the semester it was definitely my favourite course and I made most of my Canadian friends in this course. If you’ve done Urban Design Workshop at UniSA, your notes will help you out.
  • Urban Transportation planning (a 3rd yr. course): Another of my favourites, this consisted of smaller assignments every 2 – 4 weeks with a final exam. We used GIS for the first assignment and had a one up on the Canadian students.
  • Theories in Urban and Regional Planning (2nd yr. course): The assessments for this course were similar to UniSA; a group assignment (report and presentation), an essay and a mid-term.
  • Regional Analysis of Canada (Liberal studies course): A geography elective, it required a text book and had a mid-term, an essay and final exam. It had 2 lectures a week and comparatively light workload. I’d recommend this course to those who are looking for an elective and are interested in learning a little more about Canada.  

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

As cliché as it sounds, I have more confidence in myself after exchange. Prior to leaving I became quite nervous and really doubted whether I’d be capable of going through with it, but I took it one day at a time and before I knew it I was all settled in. From this, I’m more confident in accepting new opportunities. The world is now my oyster. 

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

Accommodation in Toronto is quite expensive. There are a handful of student residences listed in the Ryerson Inbound booklet, but here a few to give you some ideas;

  • Neil Wycik student residences (cheapest; about $500 - $600 a month),
  • Primrose College (very expensive, $2000+ p/month usually a hotel but rented out to students, with a meal plan), and
  • Private off campus accommodation

Originally, I applied for Neil Wycik for its location and affordability. However, a few weeks before moving in they sent an email (to me and most of the other UniSA students) that we were on a waiting list and they don’t have a spot for us. While this was frustrating (and daunting) to begin with, it worked out for the better, with NW residents having little nice to say about the place.

Instead, myself and three other UniSA students pulled our funds together and found a house in Lesliville to rent. I recommend Carol’s Furnished Rentals (http://carolsfurnishedrentals.com/), they offer both long and short term rentals throughout Toronto, all electricity, water, phone and internet included and rent was paid every 4 weeks. It cost us $3300 p/month ($825 each between the 4 of us) and while it was a little more than we budgeted for, it was reasonable when compared to what other students were paying (and we had a whole house!).

In saying this, the Ryerson exchange coordinator has mentioned the upcoming opening for on campus accommodation for exchange students, so keep an ear out for that.

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I didn’t do as much local travel as I’d hoped; I would’ve loved to have camped in Algonquin Park and stayed at a ski resort. However, I made several trips out of Ontario. During reading week I went on two tours on my own. The first was with ISX Canada (I absolutely recommend this company!!) to Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec. The second was organised through TNT in conjunction with Ryerson University to New York, whilst the city was brilliant, the tour was sloppily organised, usually running late and out accommodation was in New Jersey instead of New York (an $80 cab ride). Afterwards, I wished I had travelled to New York with ISX also.

Later on in the semester, I travelled with two other Australians back to Montreal and Ottawa as well as a quick trip to Chicago via bus. I also recommend Megabus. The Ryerson exchange team also organises events, such as the day to Niagara Falls, which are a great way to meet people.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

Adjusting to life in a new country was hard but I think not really having anyone I knew was harder; it took about a month for me to really settle in. I found developing a routine helped, shopping this day, cleaning another, etc. It helped me make sure I was staying on top of everything, which I felt was settling in itself.

As I ended up renting a house with a few other UniSA students, the best way to meet people was at the exchange activities organised by Ryerson and through introducing myself to others in my courses; you’ll enjoy exchange much more if you have a mate in each course who can bring you up to speed with the little things that us foreigners aren’t familiar with.

The exchange activities organised by Ryerson were brilliant! From Niagara Falls to the Halloween Haunt at Canada’s Wonderland; I strongly recommend joining the Ryerson Inbound facebook group (for your semester). 

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Yes! There were several benefits to exchange. While most of these are less to do with my career, for example, confidence, independence and self-reliance, there were also some beneficial to planning. Never having travelled before my exchange, I was able to experience different planning structures and observe the differences in the urban form from them, in comparison to the city I lived in my whole life. This was also interesting as Toronto and Adelaide have recently been ranked very similarly in terms of liveability, despite some quite different observations.

Additionally, it has given me an international study experience, which has not only made me more open to undertaking further studies overseas but is also an achievement I will add to my resume. 

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Think of yourself in 10 years’ time, would the you 10 years later regret not just going for it? I knew the answer for me was yes which was why I applied. Despite still living at home and never having done international travel before, after being accepted I was worried I’d bitten off more than I could chew; a feeling that didn’t wash away until I was settled in Toronto.

However, that feeling once you’re settled is an incredible, pat-yourself-on-the-back and buy yourself a ticket to New York and skip home from uni kind of moment. Quite simply, it’s not worth passing this up! 

Top Tips:

Be sure of what you want but be prepared to step out of your comfort zone (especially if you’re the stay in your PJ’s on a Saturday night person, like me). And go two weeks earlier in case your accommodation falls through!

Also, Ryerson were pretty on top of issuing booklets for information regarding phone lines, local transport and information on the university. Feel free to email me if you’d like me to forward you my copies while considering your application. 

Areas of study and research

+ Click to minimise