Living & Studying in Utrecht!

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Author: Victoria Ercolao
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Everyone has their concerns when they are about to start a new adventure or experience. These concerns were certainly present when it came to pursuing my studying abroad experience. Although I had my concerns, I knew that with the right help and support that I would quickly overcome all of my concerns with ease. Thanks to both my coordinator at Seneca, and the international office at Hogeschool Utrecht for making my transition one that was both smooth and simple.

The Program

I completed my second semester of my Public Relations & Corporate Communications certificate program at the Hogeschool, Utrecht (HU), where I studied International Communication and Media (ICM). I had a wide variety of electives to choose from in the ICM module that directly related to my program at Seneca. All the courses were also taught in English. From the day I arrived, I was integrated with both Dutch and other international students. Between my coordinator at Seneca and the International Office at HU, I never felt confused or overwhelmed with academic processes. All the staff and teachers were always willing to help. The HU also prides itself on offering its students an international learning experience, and I agree that this was the most rewarding part of the program. My classes had students from Spain, France, Germany, Australia, India and South Korea (just to name a few!). Collaborating with students from such diverse backgrounds really challenges you to think from different perspectives and becomes a very valuable skill that employers look for!

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Housing

The student housing market in Utrecht is extremely competitive due to the large student population, which is why finding a place to stay during my study abroad period became a concern for me. My concern was quickly resolved once I spoke to the international office at the Hogeschool Utrecht (HU).  The HU recommends that all international students use an affiliated student housing company named SSH. I rented my room through this website and had a really positive experience. SSH has properties all over the city and they take the uncertainties out of finding a place on your own. Rooms range in price from €300 to €700 per month, and the earlier you reserve, the more choice you have. I rented a studio apartment right on the HU campus for €625 per month all-inclusive. The apartment was clean, spacious and I didn’t have to share any amenities; however, I would recommend renting something closer to the city centre because that’s where all the action is. Aside from being really close to all my classes, there’s not much else to do on the HU campus.

If you are excited and eager to study abroad, make an appointment with one of the going global coordinators!

Bonjour Paris!

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Author: Safa Siddiqi
Program: Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Paris, France

I have always wanted to be a global citizen. I believe that travelling and learning about other cultures is essential to personal and professional growth. When I found out that Seneca’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications program offers a semester abroad, I was nothing short of ecstatic.

I chose Paris because I made a five-day visit during the previous year and really enjoyed my trip. Nonetheless, my expectations were low because five days and five months are very different. I really had no idea about Parisian culture or what living there would be like but I wanted to dive in head first and figure it out along the way. I truly believe that is what made my experience so exciting.

The institution called EFAP – l’ecole des nouveaux métiers de la communication, is centrally located right off of the Champs Elysees which is one of the most well-known streets in Paris. I found this really helpful because there are many English speaking locals and foreigners in the area. I found myself asking these people questions all the time in order to navigate through the city.

I also asked my instructors lots of questions; they were always willing to help and came from a range of backgrounds, both educationally and culturally. I learned so much about communications in the European world because of their vast knowledge and global experience.

I could go on forever about Paris and all the wonderful things about it but I’ll just name a few. In terms of food, I would recommend trying escargot at least once, macarons are a must, crepes,  and croissants of course. French culture is all about having a work-life balance so spending time with family and friends are essential. You will see people enjoying picnics with baguettes and pastries at all hours of the day. Some picnic locations include the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Seine River, Tuileries gardens, Luxembourg gardens and endless parks. One night my friends and I had a picnic from 10 pm-6 am – it was amazing! It is important to move away from the very middle of the city to other areas as well called “arrondissements” (there are 20), the more you move away from the core, the more authentic your experience. Taking in Parisian architecture by day and all the lights at night is mesmerizing- the city never ceased to take my breath away.

I get really shy when I’m pulled out of my comfort zone. Though I wish I was a fluent French-speaker, my knowledge of the language is limited. I would often struggle with communication and get embarrassed quite easily. Eventually I took it as an opportunity to practice my French as much as possible and soon enough, Paris became my comfort zone. I was pleasantly surprised because many locals were happy to help, thereby increasing my motivation to improve.

This experience has changed me in an incredibly positive way. I am able to adapt to a variety of situations and have gained an awareness about the world that I would have never developed without this program. I have made international friendships and my eyes have been opened to opportunities that transcend North American borders. Beyond the educational aspect, this experience has been about personal growth and development. I now know that I really enjoy the French way of life and I would happily live there again.

I should also mention that I was able to travel to multiple cities in Europe including, Amsterdam, Bruges, Nice, Aix-en-Provence, Milan, Florence, Chianti and Rome. Just having the ability to travel to other countries and soak in other cultures during my time off was such a great opportunity.

I think having this experience will be beneficial to me in my professional career because it expresses that I am open to new ideas, well-cultured, self-motivated, creative, and culturally aware. Many employers are looking for individuals who have these characteristics, especially in the global arena.

Author: Safa Sidiqqi

An Experience of a Lifetime

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Author: Jacqueline Roes
Program:  Public Relations – Corporate Communications
Study Abroad Location: Ghent, Belgium

Throughout my university experience, I never had a desire to go abroad. I think part of my hesitation lied in the fact that I hadn’t left the nest and was nervous of being so far from my family. After applying and being admitted into the Corporate Communications Program and moving away from my hometown of London, Ontario to Toronto, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be an amazing opportunity to take my studies abroad and Seneca offered an exciting exchange program called Going Global. After doing some research, I confidently chose to go to Ghent, Belgium. Friends and family had asked me, why Belgium? My reply to them was that I love to travel and Belgium is conveniently located within Europe. To the north is Holland, to the south is France and just below France is Spain. To the east there is Germany and to the west is England. Fortunately for me, I got to travel to all of these beautiful countries!!

Upon my arrival, of course I was anxious and really had no expectations. I had no close friends who had ever been on exchange and I was also going completely by myself. I am a friendly person but of course there are doubts: will I make friends? Will I get to travel? Will I be homesick? The answer? I made so many more friends than I expected, traveled so many more places than I anticipated and I really didn’t get homesick! So therefore, the overall exchange experience surpassed my expectations more than I could have imagined!

So for those wondering, the exchange program was all in English.  All the exchange students plus the locals could speak English and I was surprised how easily we were all able to communicate with each other! To give a very brief blurb about Belgium, the country has two official languages: French and Flemish (Flemish is very similar to the Dutch language). I was in the Flemish speaking area of the country.

I’ve been asked if there was anything I could change about my experience what would it be? My reply was I wish I could’ve stay longer! I met so many incredible people from all over Europe, as well as from the United States, and have made lifelong friends. Even though they are all so far away, my solid group of friends and I have stayed in contact and talk about how we wish we could escape the real world and revisit Ghent. The city was welcoming (most locals speak English), and it is the perfect student town with tons of activities. The historical architecture of the city was stunning and truly has the best beer, chocolate, fries and waffles in the world!!

Through this exchange, I gained more confidence in myself, incredible friends, and a more open and well-rounded perception on life and culture in general. The exchange really opened my eyes to differences in culture and how to adapt accordingly.  This was an amazing learning experience and I would a hundred thousand percent do another exchange in the future if the opportunity ever arose!

I encourage anyone contemplating a study abroad program to do it without hesitation! I jumped from thinking I’d never do one, to one day saying I’m up for the challenge and I am forever grateful for the decision I made and for my parents who encouraged me to follow through with my decision! Every day, I miss my friends and Ghent so much and that’s how I know it was worth every second and every penny I spent!

Author: Jacqueline Roes