An Exchange of Ideas: U of T Engineering students share their tips on international exchanges

Samantha Stuart made the most of her exchange by travelling on weekends to places like beautiful Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland. (Courtesy: Samantha Stuart)

Samantha Stuart made the most of her exchange by travelling to places like beautiful Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland. (Courtesy: Samantha Stuart)


Four U of T Engineering undergrads show that while there is no right way to be on exchange, there are some things you can do to make your exchange a success.

Choosing an Exchange Opportunity

“Apply for a research exchange post-PEY Co-op. The work I was given was much more advanced than I was expecting, which will really help me with graduate school applications. I was also not expecting to come out of this summer with an academic paper! It’s also a great way to unwind after a stressful year working and get back into an academic routine.” — Samantha Stuart (Year 4, MSE), exchange to University of Liverpool

Learning Abroad opportunities at U of T

“Apply to places with an open mind! Germany wasn’t my first choice for a summer exchange, but it has been an unexpected amazing experience.” — Joseph Choy (Year 3 MSE), exchanges to the National University of Singapore and Darmstadt University of Technology

While on Exchange

An office abroad. Grace Shan in her office at Lund University. (Courtesy: Grace Shan)

An office abroad. Grace Shan in her office at Lund University. (Courtesy: Grace Shan)

“There is no ‘right’ way to be on exchange. It is important to explore the world in a manner that works for you. Some people have the energy to go out every evening, whereas others need to stay home often to recharge. As long as you keep yourself physically and mentally well, your exchange will be a success.” — Grace Shan, Lund University

“Travel on the weekends and stay in hostels! It can be quite affordable with budget airlines, I booked round-trip flights to Dublin from Liverpool for 35 USD! That’s less than it takes me to get to my hometown Collingwood from Toronto on the Greyhound…Depending on your exchange timing, you could also work out a backpacking trip before your exchange starts, which was what I did.”  — Samantha Stuart (Year 4, MSE), exchange to University of Liverpool

“Going on exchange is a wonderful experience and students shouldn’t be afraid to pursue any new opportunities that come their way. To make the most of your experience academically, I recommend taking advantage of the expertise around you and to learn as much as you can about your project!

I was fortunate to work with an amazing mentor…and we would touch base and discuss our work on a daily basis! This really helped me develop a deeper understanding of my project. I noticed that as the summer progressed, I was able to ask more relevant questions and hold interesting discussions with professionals in the field!” — Netra Unni Rajesh (Year 3 EngSci), exchange at California Institute of Technology

Surf’s Up: EngSci undergrad Netra Unni Rajesh shares her summer exchange experience in California

“Use social media in moderation. It’s great for sharing your experiences but too much of it can make you feel homesick.” — Joseph Choy (Year 3 MSE), exchanges to the National University of Singapore and Darmstadt University of Technology

“Keep your exchange letter (provided by your destination school) on you when you travel outside your jurisdiction. At the UK border they will ask the purpose of your trip and you will occasionally need to present it as proof of your research position.” — Samantha Stuart (Year 4, MSE), exchange to University of Liverpool

Netra Unni Rajesh at sunny Caltech.

Netra Unni Rajesh at sunny Caltech. (Courtesy: Netra Unni Rajesh)

As with anything, you want to work hard and play hard to have a well-rounded exchange! This summer was filled with many firsts…These opportunities presented themselves because I was actively looking for them. You never know what amazing events or activities are going on if you don’t put yourself out there.” — Netra Unni Rajesh (Year 3 EngSci), exchange at California Institute of Technology

“Reach out and try to meet as many people as you can because you’ll never know when it might be useful to have connections in other countries! — Joseph Choy (Year 3 MSE), exchanges to the National University of Singapore and Darmstadt University of Technology

“If you have items coming in the mail from home via Canada Post, make sure to check your tracking number on local tracking websites as well as Canada Post. I was expecting a package that contained my favourite clothes, but it was held for several weeks due because I needed to pay a customs fee I wasn’t notified about. Canada Post didn’t post an update, so I ended up scouring the internet for hours until I found the EMS website (global), which, when I entered my tracking number, informed me that the package was awaiting customs fee payment! Once I called them and paid my package was released the next day.” — Samantha Stuart (Year 4, MSE), Exchange to University of Liverpool

After your Exchange

Joseph Choy hanging out in the tiny village of Stoos in Switzerland. (Courtesy: Joseph Choy)

Joseph Choy hanging out in the tiny village of Stoos in Switzerland. (Courtesy: Joseph Choy)

“Take the opportunity to reflect on your experience after your exchange on the things you liked and didn’t like and try to see how you can incorporate the things you enjoyed when you get back home.” — Joseph Choy (Year 3 MSE), exchanges to the National University of Singapore and Darmstadt University of Technology

Find out more about international opportunities available for current students.

Have an exchange tip you’d like to share with your peers? Email registr@ecf.utoronto.ca.