Greetings from the Lion’s Den!
Hope everyone is doing well! As I am currently in the process of working to get to Rennes, where I’ll be doing my French exchange next year, I thought it would be a great idea to interview a former exchange student who came from Paris to Toronto to study at Glendon!
For any one out there in the world, I hope this insight will give you some incentive to at least consider being an international student or going on exchange, if not to our awesome campus here in Toronto. Arthur Rousseau from SciencesPo Paris came here with little idea of what his experience might be, and left with a deep appreciation for his experiences and opportunity.
As well, for all of our current and incoming Glendon Coeurs de Lion, I would hope that this post, though it is from the perspective of a foreign student coming here, brings you the insight to consider what going abroad during your degree can do for you as well. You never know how your international experiences can do to open your mind, and enhance your understanding of the world and yourself.
Let’s get going!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
My name is Arthur Rousseau, I’m 21 and French, born and raised in downtown Paris, just two minutes away from the Louvre.
I’m just finishing the 1st year of my Masters program in Economic Law with the École de Droit at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences-po is the more common name).
I have always lived in Paris and even though I had travelled quite a bit over the US, my year at Glendon was my first real North American experience, as well as my first time in Canada.
Since then, I’ve come back twice to Glendon within the past year and I’m currently here for a two week vacation.
What were your motivations to do an exchange ?
Well, to be honest, had it been completely my decision, I probably wouldn’t have ever done an exchange…
…and I would have missed one of the most exciting things that has happened so far in my life.
It is mandatory that the 3rd year of Sciences-po is done abroad. I didn’t really have the choice over whether or not I wanted to do an exchange at all. I simply had to do it.
Every student I had met who had come back from an exchange was absolutely enthusiastic about it, but despite this, I felt uncertain. Now, I realize that even if I was a little bit reluctant to do an exchange, it was probably because I was afraid of the unknown, afraid of leaving for a year in a country I had never gone to, and in which I knew nobody. Nonetheless, I think I was excited to discover a new culture, and curious to see if the usual clichés I had in mind about Canada, involving lumberjacks and cold, great lakes, would actually be a real thing.
Every other student was extremely excited to leave and I think that, little by little, they convinced me that it was much more of a great opportunity than just an ‘academic requirement’ to go on exchange.
Was Toronto or even Canada one of your first choice ? Where else did you envision yourself studying abroad ?
Hmm, no, Toronto was not my first choice, and neither was Canada… I feel bad to say that now, because it should definitely have been my first choice !
As I mentioned earlier, I was afraid of the unknown. But at the time, I wanted to go to another continent and to an english-speaking country. My first choices (we were allowed six) were liberal arts colleges in the eastern United States, a country that I already knew pretty well and in which I had friends. The U.S. option was thus the ‘reassuring’ one.
But it happened that one of my choices required a level of english superior to what I had. I was only told this last minute. So, I immediately picked up my phone and talk with my cousin who is also a student in Sciences-po who wanted to go to North America. He was the one who told me ‘I’ve seen there’s a liberal arts college in Canada, it’s called Glendon and it’s in Toronto. It looks great and I have put it in my choices. You should look it up’.
I did and decided immediately to put Glendon College among my choices.
The funny part of the story is that I ended up Glendon and my cousin in the US !
What was the first thing that surprised you or confused you upon your arrival to the city ? To Glendon ?
As you’ve probably understood by now, I was a little worried about my adaptation to a new country, in an new culture, and with new people. I could foresee a big change from what I had known the past 20 years of my life. As a result of this, I did not want to hear about Canada or Toronto at all before my departure, fearing that any discoveries would just make me even more scared (it seems a little bit ridiculous to me right now but I promised to be 100% honest before being interviewed).
The first time I ‘Google Imaged’ Toronto was the night before my departure…
But don’t get me wrong, I had promised myself that starting from the morning of my departure until the end of the exchange, I would be as enthusiastic as possible. I knew that an exchange is what you make of it and one of the only ways to have a truly good time and a good experience is to be enthusiastic always.
And that’s how I left home and jumped in the plane smiling, finally ready for my year in Canada. And I pretty much never stopped smiling during the year until I cried in July when I had to go back home… And a year before I came, who would have expected that sort of reaction ?
The first things that surprised me upon my arrival in Toronto probably popped up as follows: ‘Wow ! Toronto looks so much like big cities in the States ! ’ and ‘ It is actually a big and beautiful city ! ’.
But the thing that surprised me the most and which keep surprising me were the people. The niceness, friendliness and open-mindedness of the people were striking to me !
I arrived at Glendon on September 3rd, a little bit before the start of classes. There wasn’t many people on campus and for those who were, it was almost only international students.
As Glendon offers you to be welcomed by a student upon my arrival, I asked for the service. Someone helped me move and give me a tour of the campus as well as sharing his own experience. That was I think a very useful and important thing to do. I instantly felt very good on the campus. I very quickly made friends and 4 days later we were on our way for a week-end of camping in Algonquin Park. Thrilling !
I would say that the thing that struck me the most in Glendon, and this is a very personal statement, is that I never, NEVER during the whole year felt either homesick or sad. And for a personality like mine, it was quite a bit of a achievement ! I would not have believed it.
I had also been very impressed by the campus and the friendliness of the staff. They know how to make you feel good and encourage you to be outgoing and involved.
I also feel I have to mention that I unfortunately was not really part of Frosh Week, which was absolutely my mistake because even though I had bought my tickets, I was a little bit weirded out at the beginning by Frosh. And believe me, I still regret that and I would absolutely advise anybody who comes here to be part of that event ! No misunderstanding though, you could still of course have a great experience of Glendon even if you don’t do Frosh Week, obviously ! But I’m sure it definitely adds a lot to your integration.
Do you feel that your attitudes or ways of thinking were altered through your experiences in Canada ?
Absolutely. It literally blew my mind, shook it and turned it in a way I am much more happy with now. To me, the big bang was through the people. Looking how judgment-free they seem towards each other, how truly nice they are, without competitive or envious feelings toward each other. The simplicity within your relationships make everything so much easier and enjoyable. This was stunning !
I went back to my old life in Paris this year but I was no longer the same in my head. I left aside a bunch of nasty and backward attitudes. And it is always a pleasure to come back here, to experience once more the way of living, to enjoy the people and to refresh a bit before going back to Paris’ crazy life.
Would you recommend an exchange to others ? Are there any reasons why Glendon or Toronto would be a superior choice for students looking to do an exchange ?
I would absolutely and vivaciously recommend to any student who can, to do an exchange. I think you can’t realize the extent of the good resulting from it before you try the experience and I am not even sure for myself that I realize yet all that it brought to me. But I would again say that an exchange is truly what you make of it, and so the more enthusiastic, curious, open minded one is, the most chances of success the exchange will have.
It is not an easy thing to send oneself alone to the other side of the earth, but it brings so much that it is totally worth to force the effort a bit at the beginning.
I also have to say that out of the thousand people of my school who were sent last year on exchange all over the world (Northern and Southern America, Africa, India, Russia, China, Europe etc), I have never heard a single one of them regretting doing a year of exchange.
I would also think Toronto and Glendon would be first class choices. I felt in love with Toronto. There may be less monuments to see than in Paris, less fashion stores, less cheese shops but really who cares ? Toronto is a city where you feel good living your everyday life, where it is safe to take the subway at night, where you will find hundreds of nice restaurants, bar, music bands and places to party. The nocturnal life of Toronto surprised me. It is very rich. And everything is always done with care and respect for each other.
Toronto is also a very multicultural city, a lot of people with different backgrounds mix and share with each other. So as a foreigner, you really don’t feel excluded or put aside and you truly ‘fit the city’, which is very appreciable.
The great thing about Toronto as well is that it is easy to travel. Buses go to Montreal, New-York, Chicago, Philadelphia etc, there are trains and 2 airports.
About Glendon, I think it is a perfect place to do an exchange. It is relatively small size so you quickly feel home, you can have your own room, it is located uptown, in a very nice and safe area with a lot of nature, the staff is very friendly, and it never takes you more than 5 minutes to go to class or the cafeteria walking.
It is pretty much ideally located I think because you can enjoy all of a north american big city (cinema, theatre, opera, bars, nightclubs, restaurants etc), while being ‘at home’ in a calm and quiet area, enjoy Glendon’s gardens, read outside during spring/summer time etc.
What are your plans for the future ?
Move and settle to Toronto. I had to go back to my school in Paris after exchange to do my Masters but I am very determined to come back and settle here in Toronto. I missed it so much.
As for next year (second and last year of my Masters), I applied for a program which involves a first semester in L’Ecole de Droit de Sciences-po Paris and the second one in the McGill Law School in Montreal (Toronto was not an option). I will then try my best to continue studying in Canada for a bit and I hope that I will come back to live here permanently…