I was recently invited by the Canadian Embassy (Manila) to join a roundtable discussion with media and the Canadian Ambassador to promote post-secondary education in Canada. It brought me back to my years in university, where I had the best years of my life. To this day, I still value not just the quality of education I received, but also the wealth of experience I gained by living and studying in a dynamic city like Toronto.
I must say that I did not choose to study in Canada. I’m Canadian and it was just a natural progression. I graduated from a Canadian high school. I always wanted to study at the University of Toronto. I worked hard in high school, got involved in leadership positions, and I got in to all three universities of my choice. I wouldn’t know what it’s like as a foreign student. The Study in Canada Fair hopes to address questions regarding international students.
Tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel, the Embassy of Canada is hosting the Study in Canada Fair. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Everything you need to know about studying there will be available. Register online here, it’s all free.
I will answer the most common question I receive about Canadian education. No, the Embassy does not give scholarships or grants. They are hosting this event to give information and support for those considering an education overseas. However, universities, colleges and organizations give scholarships to individuals based on merit and need. First things first, put in your application to a university and get in. Then try applying for financial assistance.
The day I graduated from the University of Toronto. I was 23 years old and my sisters were still in high school. Both of them also went to U of T. Both did very well. Hanni even graduated “With Distinction” (cum laude).
University of Toronto is Canada’s #1 university. It is ranked in the top 20 of the world. I say that not to show off, though it makes me very proud that I got in to such a prestigious institution (and completed my degree). I’m proudly sharing this fact because in Canada, you can get top quality education at a fraction of what one would pay in the UK or the US. All our universities are subsidized. We do not have private universities. Because of this, competition is really tough getting in to the top schools.
University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada. It is divided into three campuses – St George campus (downtown, where I went), Erindale College (in the west of Toronto, Mississauga) and Scarborough Campus (eastern side). St George is huge and spans across many blocks of the downtown core. As a student in St George, you are either affiliated with a professional faculty (Engineering, Architecture, etc.) or a college (for those in the arts and sciences). I chose to be in St Michael’s College. I didn’t live in official on campus residence because I found my “family” in Pi Beta Phi, the first women’s fraternity established in 1867 in the US. I lived in my women’s fraternity house, which was in the periphery of the university and just a corner away from the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Within the UofT St. George campus (downtown), there are seven colleges. Each arts and science student must choose one college affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s because it was Catholic. But once you’re studying it hardly matters which college you belong to, except if you’re paying tuition or changing courses (which I am sure is all online now). The college system is a distinct feature of UofT, to give students the chance to feel the smaller college community life with its own traditions. This photo shows Knox College, a postgraduate theological college of the UofT, founded in 1844. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the church of Scotland.
Sophia is smitten by UofT, St George campus. This is at the University College (UC), established in 1853. UC has no religious affiliation. The building reflects a mix of styles including Norman, Romanesque Revival, and faint traces of Byzantium and the Italian palazzo. It is located in the centre of King’s College Circle, making it the most recognisable landmark of the university.
This is Hart House, our student activity centre established in 1919. In my freshman year, this is where my friends and I ate lunch every day. I love the Gothic revival style of architecture. I used to do my aerobics classes and swimming laps in the indoor pool with vaulted ceiling. Really beautiful place.
Living in the heart of downtown Toronto gave us access to a lifestyle that was rich in culture, social activities and dynamic urban issues — very important for a student of urban planning. The Royal Ontario Museum ROM was within our vicinity. One of my Art History courses in East Asian Art was held at this museum. The ROM has since undergone an expansion by Daniel Libeskind.
Just a block from where I lived (Pi Beta Phi house), was the Art Gallery of Ontario and Toronto’s famous Chinatown. Again, as a student of art history, living near the AGO was a real privilege. In 2008, the AGO was redesigned by my favourite, Frank Gehry.
The new City Hall of the City of Toronto, where I was an intern for two years. As a student of urban planning, I got my practical experience as an intern for a city councillor. We dealt with the city’s growth issues, heritage conservation, and our local ward’s neighbourhood concerns – from a resident complaining that a neighbour is not mowing his lawn (creating an unsightly streetscape), to the study of deep lake water cooling, to gentrifying neighbourhoods and preserving heritage structures, and the possibility of a Metro government. Fast forward to now, Toronto city government has moved to the Metro Hall as all the cities within the Toronto area amalgamated and formed one metro-wide government. Think, one Metro Manila government as opposed to 17 city halls.
It was also this internship at Toronto City Hall that paved the way for me to get hired by the Canadian Urban Institute’s International Programs Office, which eventually led to my working overseas — in Mexico and the Philippines. And the rest, as they say….
With Ambassador Reeder to launch the Study in Canada Education Fair were other prominent Filipino alumni of Canadian schools. From left, Chef Sharwin Tee who graduated from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Miss International Bea Rose Santiago who studied at York University, SEAOIL Philippines President and CEO Glenn Yu from University of British Columbia, me from University of Toronto, entrepreneur Christopher Tan from University of British Columbia, and musician artist Nykó Macá of McGill University.
So, yeah, I talk with my hands. Haha. Here’s a light moment with Ambassador Reeder. On the left is the President and CEO of SEAOil Philippines Glenn Yu who graduated from the University of British Columbia on full scholarship from the federal government. Bea Santiago, current Miss International, studied in York University. Amb. Reeder studied at University of Saskatchewan and Carlton University.
The Study in Canada Fair, tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Learn everything you need to know about studying in Canada. Register online here, it’s all free.