The far horizons

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” St Augustine.

Many young Canadians view studying in the United States as studying abroad. But Raed Ayad says that although both Canada and the US have much to offer prospective students, there is a whole world outside of the two countries which can offer them an even richer experience.

In 2014, Canada led all OECD nations in the number of adults with a post-secondary education. On the other hand, with regard to the number of Canadian students studying abroad, they ranked near the bottom of OECD nations with an underwhelming 3 per cent. While their southern neighbour, the United States, fares better, Anglo-North America is not incredibly active in promoting the idea of travelling overseas to study. It must be said that of the nearly 50, 000 Canadians studying abroad, over 50 per cent are studying in the United States.

The number of people who hold a functioning passport in the United States hovers at around 40 per cent, in Canada, that number settles at approximately 70 per cent, up 20 per cent since 2008. It is important to note that up until 2007 Canadians were able to travel to the United States by land or ferry with proof of citizenship. Today all Canadians must provide a passport or an enhanced driver’s license to travel to the United States. With over 300,000 people journeying between the United States and Canada every day, these new stipulations may have driven this spike in passport applications.

There is a reason behind this, it is not that Americans and Canadians do not enjoy trvavelling, but their firm belief that what these two countries offer will suffice. Between Canada and the United States, one can swim in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, ski in the Rocky Mountains, enjoy the French experience in Quebecand appreciate the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York and Toronto, etc. This part of the world has a lot to offer, and up until my early twenties, being born and raised in the Toronto area, I shared this firm belief.

I completed my undergraduate degree in one of the most popular universities, in one of world’s most diverse cities, in one of the world’s most diverse nations, which is also officially bilingual. My friends come from all different parts of the world and speak a range of languages. Me, I am fully bilingual, representing an ethnic minority. Regardless of all this, after finishing my studies, I felt it was essential to step out of my comfort zone and expand my experiences.

Before deciding to move to the United Kingdom, I reached out to Waseem Kala, a University of Toronto graduate who was studying at the University of Westminster in London at the time. He helped me to reach that decision, based mainly on his experiences of living in London. Now a lawyer in Toronto, he shared the following;

“Well, it gave me the ability to meet some great people whom I’d otherwise not have had a chance to meet. Further, I was able to explore a great city and country, and indulge in its culture. Finally, it was a great experience to be taught and learn in a different academic system. The overall experience was great, and if I had the opportunity to do it again, I definitely would.”

A few weeks into my MA in International Business and Diplomacy at the London INTO Centre I came to realize that as diverse as North America, namely Toronto might be, we live in a bubble. Throughout my MA I had colleagues representing countries that, outside of the fact that they have a seat at the United Nations, I found myself painfully ignorant of.

In Toronto, you can’t avoid noticing the impact immigration has had on the development of the city and its culture, but while those in the Diaspora have an ethnic connection to their home country, there remains a common Canadian, or in this case, Torontonian culture. Regardless of race or religion, people here become quite similar, and although this may be beneficial for the country and/or the city, it does not provide for much of an international experience. Spending time in Little Italy does not equate to visiting Rome, a meal in Chinatown does not compare to one in Beijing and by the same token, while there are similarities, one cannot truly liken Montreal to Paris.

The benefits of studying abroad are endless. They include, but are not limited to, learning a new language, discovering a new culture and experiencing education under a different curriculum or teaching style.

When it comes to studying abroad through INTO, the major advantage, outside of the fact that the network has schools in and around London, New York, Washington, and coastal China, lies in the reach of INTO’s global recruitment network.

INTO works with more than 900 local education counsellors, allowing the 130 in-market recruitment staff based in 31 cities around the world to attract approximately 12,000 students from 128 countries a year. This provides an opportunity for the student to not only learn from the wide range of professors and programs, but from the experiences of students from all over the world, building relationships that will benefit both parties.

Furthermore, the opportunity to live away from home forces someone to grow, learn about a new culture, and develop a new way of living. Salman Ayaz; also a University of Toronto graduate, who completed an MA through INTO at the London Academy of Diplomacy said:;

“Choosing to study abroad vastly enhanced my academic experience. In addition to being challenged academically, it provided me with an opportunity to develop and grow as an individual. To study abroad is to embrace a vast range of social and cultural opportunities, international perspectives from academics and colleagues, and life-building experiences that cannot always be experienced at home.”

Studying abroad facilitated my own academic development and personal maturation by exposing me to different cultural environments and social perspectives. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will always cherish, as it enabled me to see the world through a truly holistic and international perspective.

Though it remains essential to attract the world to Canada, it remains just as essential to promote opportunities for Canadians to study abroad.

Raed Ayad

Author: Raed Ayad

Raed is a graduate of York University, Toronto, who currently works for INTO as a Research and Policy Analyst. He studied Diplomacy at the London Academy of Diplomacy and is now working on a PhD at the University of East Anglia with a focus on the politics of national identity.

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