It is that time of the year again when I talk about the value and importance of my education in support EduCanada’s Study in Canada Fair. In the past, and in my book CHIC: Tips on Life, Style, and Work, I have shared how my high school and university education in Toronto armed me with skills and gave me opportunities that went beyond the borders of my home town. This year, I participate both as an alumna and as a parent of future Canadian students.
First, let me start with my usual disclosure. I was not a foreign student whose parents sent me to get a degree in Canada. I am Canadian. I was living in Toronto where my whole family still resides. Now I am here in my motherland, the Philippines. My choice to study in Canada’s premier post-secondary school, was instinctive. I was following the natural path. As early as when I was 13 years old I set my eyes on going to university. And thus began my lofty goals and aspirations of getting a degree from the University of Toronto, or U of T as it is fondly called, one of Canada’s top universities. Competition was tough, so I worked hard during my high school years in order to get in to my university of choice.
I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts, Specialist in Fine Art History, Minor in Urban Studies. It is one of Canada’s biggest universities with three campuses across Metro Toronto. I chose the main campus in downtown Toronto, St. George campus. Because the school was so big, it was further divided into smaller colleges, by which students from the Arts and Science faculties chose an affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s College, because it was the Catholic college. My courses were spread out across campus though, so there were times I had to walk across Queen’s Park, our provincial legislative building, just to get to Sociology 101. My network of friends and classmates were registered in different colleges.
The St. George campus is beautiful. Architecturally, it has some of the most historically significant buildings like the Romanesque and Byzantine-styled University College, Tudor-styled Trinity College, peacock-shaped post-Modern Robarts Library, and the modernist concrete block of Sidney Smith Hall. My centrally located campus was a block away from Chinatown and the posh shops of Yorkville. My local neighbourhood reflected the diversity and multiculturalism of Toronto. I also benefited from my internship programs at the Royal Ontario Museum where I studied East Asian Art and at Toronto City Hall, where I interred for a city councillor and learned more about urban planning, public participation, urban development.
Student life at U of T, was and is what you choose to make of it. There are so many different clubs and organizations to choose from. In my freshman year, I joined Pi Beta Phi, the oldest women’s fraternity in North America, dating back to 1867. In Pi Beta Phi, I found a community of dynamic women who strove for excellence, and we shared leadership and philanthropic goals. Instead of living in an official campus residence, I chose to live at the Pi Beta Phi house on Beverley Street. I also got to try off-campus housing in a more colourful part of Toronto. Let’s just say, my social life was very active during my university years.
Whenever I go home to visit my folks in Toronto, I always bring my husband and daughters for a walk through my old campus. It is still so beautiful there. My daughters feel like they’re in a Harry Potter set. A lot of movies have been filmed at the U of T downtown campus — Incredible Hulk, Mean Girls, Good Will Hunting, Anne of Green Gables.
As the mother of three girls currently studying in a Philippine school, I also hope that one day my daughters choose to study post-secondary school in Canada. I am rooting for my alma mater in Toronto, of course. But we are open to exploring other excellent schools across Canada that may fit their fields of interest more. Canada is the home of some of the world’s top research facilities and academic institutions. There are medical breakthroughs, great inventions, and new innovations from Canadian schools that we read about in global news. There are Nobel Laureats among Canadian alumni and professors.
Like any parent, I am concerned about the cost of a foreign education. It is something we have to plan and prepare for even if they study in the Philippines. Here is an interesting fact though, Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for foreign students compared to the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. And because I am Canadian (and so are my kids), I got my globally-recognized education at a fraction of what it would have cost us in a private American university. The good news for foreign students is that they can actually work and study at the same time in Canada.
My Canadian education not only gave me skills and qualifications that are valued around the world, it also gave me very balanced and fair view of the world. We take pride in the fact that Canada is a multicultural society. We are not a melting pot. We have what is called, a cultural mosaic, where people are encouraged to celebrate their uniqueness and diversity. I know what it’s like to be in a healthy and safe community where equality and respect for human rights are respected.
My university experience was not just about the books and the grades. It was about the friendships I forged with students from my field and the women I lived with. It was about living independently in a beautiful, well-planned, dynamic city like Toronto. These are the reasons why I wish for my daughters to study in Canada. And because we want to raise them to be strong, fair, well-informed, unafraid, and involved future leaders, creative thinkers, down right amazing women, a high-quality education in Canada will surely open doors for them wherever they choose to live and work.
The Embassy of Canada in the Philippines will take the EduCanada Fair on the road next week.
Representatives from 37 Canadian institutions will meet with prospective students and parents to discuss opportunities for studying in Canada at the K-12, college and university levels at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City (Wednesday, October 19) and the Shangri-La at the Fort at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig (Saturday, October 22). Admission is free.
Interested students and parents are invited to register at www.educanada.eventbrite.com.
For more information on studying in Canada, including admissions, scholarships, student life, immigration, and more, visit the EduCanada website.