Lydia Gitanjali Thiagarajah - York University, Toronto

On the 2nd of January 2015, I sat on a plane fearful and nervous about my semester of exchange in Canada. During my application process I was constantly on pins hoping that everything would go smoothly, it was only when I got my visa that it really hit me that I was going to a completely new university, in a freezing cold country to study for an entire semester. As always, pessimism kicks in hard during such times of apprehension, and I expected the worst!  Often time no expectations bring great joys, as it paves way to appreciate even the slightest occurrences. Fast forward to April 30th, and I was literally crying on the flight home; I was quite sad to leave behind a journey that had brought so many thrills, introduced me to so many amazing people, and given me a wonderful experience.   

As a Bachelor of Arts (Global) student, I was required to undertake at least one semester of exchange. I opted for the interuniversity exchange, and applied to universities in Canada. I was lucky enough to secure a place at York University, Toronto. One of the first things that struck me was the sheer size of the campus; needless to say, I was often lost. It was an experience on its own; there were times when I kept walking in circles because it was too cold to gaze up at the directions! What I enjoyed about the education process at York was the choice in terms of the available units! I took up a very interesting unit on Comedy, which catered tastefully to my interest in English literature. 

Furthermore, I met some wonderful friends from all over the world during my time at York - Brazil, Netherlands, India, Sweden, France, Bangladesh etc. Generally, the people in Canada are quite friendly. I commuted nearly two hours each day to university, and looked forward to a chat with a stranger during my travel. The city of Toronto is truly a multicultural city, the effect of which can be observed in the food, cultural events, grocery stores, and the general ethos of the city. Toronto also has something to offer for everyone, so whatever your interests maybe you will be entertained. My interest in music led me to witness some fascinating performances by upcoming musicians whose specializations ranged from jazz to rock to contemporary. I was also privileged to be able to watch some excellent stage dramas, which took me back to my school days (the nostalgia was too much to bear). As a student of international studies, I am passionate about social issues which relate to equality and justice issues. I appreciate the level of openness and awareness that exists in Toronto where political concerns across the world were discussed in forms of documentaries, art, music, poetry, and such awareness raising events. I enjoyed the time I spent in downtown Toronto and one of my favorite places Kensington Market; it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods, and has a wide variety of vintage stores and chic cafes. 

I also managed to scrape some savings together and invested it in a three day tour which took me to Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec. I found the tour to be rushed and exhausting, but given the limited time and money I had I was grateful to have experienced these other cities. The province of Quebec is also known as ‘French Canada’. Montreal and Quebec were very different from Toronto, and very European in style. The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal was an experience on its own; the intricate architecture and beautiful colors were just mind blowing; I refrain from trying to explain the beauty of this cathedral as words are insufficient.  

Overall the exchange was beyond amazing! It is truly an experience that can open your mind to newness. I am glad that I persevered through the application process, paperwork, and visa technicalities! Every slip and fall in the snow was worth the experience. I look forward to visiting Canada again very soon!

- by Lydia, Bachelor of Arts (Global)

Find out more information about Monash Abroad Inter-University exchange here.