Travelogue International Study Project 2021: Toronto
This is a short travel blog about the International Study Project of 2021.
From October 30th until November 7th, we visited Toronto with 25 students, mainly doing their masters in Econometrics & Actuarial Sciences (the so-called International Study Project). This trip was made as part of the orientation of the participants on opportunities on the labor market abroad. In line with previous years, the main idea is to have sponsoring companies that we could visit both in Amsterdam and in the visited city, to be able to see the difference in how they operate on different locations.
This year there were many corona-related organizational issues (of course). In the beginning, the willingness of companies to sponsor was disappointing, because many companies did not want to commit themselves to anything because of corona. Eventually we found 3 companies that could sponsor us, just like previous years, but we could only visit one of these in Toronto, so we had to look for alternatives for the lost company visits. As a committee and board, we have put a lot of effort into trying to convince new companies to let us visit them in Toronto, but this has yielded us nothing.
We decided to make the trip after all, introducing the participants to studying and working in Toronto in a slightly different way. We decided to do this in the form of tours, and if they weren't offered by external parties, we led these tours ourselves. For example, we created a walking route through Toronto's (big!) financial and business district. Then one of us led this tour. This approach proved to work well: because we toured ourselves, we were able to focus on stories and places that were especially relevant for our students.
Self-guided walking through the financial district
We also decided to visit two universities, where we wanted to compare a more practical university (Ryerson University) with a larger, more classic university with an expansive campus (University of Toronto). Fortunately, at Ryerson University, we were able to get last-minute organized tours, where we were shown around the campus, which was quite fully equipped. We also noticed that a lot of emphasis was placed on supporting students, such as free tutoring, and on side activities, such as sports and associations. Unfortunately we couldn't get any tours at the University of Toronto, but we were forwarded an extensive tour in advance from an employee, which was normally given by her. Many buildings were closed on campus, but it was still interesting to make a comparison between Ryerson University, University of Toronto and the UvA.
Self-guided walking tour at the University of Toronto
Another day was devoted to an in-house day at MSG – one of our sponsors – that had specially converted its office to introduce us to their working method. This location of MSG, the so-called Cookhouse Labs, focuses on creating innovations for insurance companies. During the morning, we got a crash course in how they did that and in the afternoon, we were challenged to come up with a solution for insurers to tackle climate change. This was a special experience, because our group of students is not always used to coming up with ideas in a creative way, as our studies are often focused on individually solving (mathematical) problems. More information about our day, and a report, can be found on their website: https://cookhouselabs.com/recap-our-first-hybrid-event-ft-university-of-amsterdam/
Inhouseday at Cookhouse Labs
Of course we also did activities to get to know the group and the city well. Among other things, we did a day tour to Niagara Falls. Through the hotel we were able to hire an old school bus with a driver who took us there and picked us up. Many students have also attended a Maple Leafs ice hockey game, we dined together a lot and we visited several museums and places of interest.
Visit to CN Tower
Trip to Niagara Falls
Ice Hockey Match of the Toronto Maple Leafs
When I look back on the trip, I see that it has given me some new insights. I am myself a master's student of Econometrics at the UvA, and I found it a very valuable experience to get to know my fellow students well. Because the participants were selected on CV by the sponsoring companies, I hung out with other well-performing students during the trip, and it was very inspiring to find out what they want to do in the future and what they think of our studies. During a trip – no matter where – you get the opportunity to get to know the group of fellow-students better. The group became a lot closer because most of us didn't have mobile data in Toronto and because of the time difference with the Netherlands - in this way we were 'forced' to get to know each other well. This is something that you would achieve a lot less quickly during an event close to home.
I think that I would like to study abroad at some point in the future, and I am sure that the visit to the universities has contributed considerably to my impression of this. I can now make a better decision where, what and whether I would like to study outside Europe.
We can conclude that the trip was a very fun and unique experience, and all participants we encountered after the trip look back positively on it. Although the trip would have been a lot more beautiful and valuable if there were fewer corona measures, I think we have adapted well to the circumstances and we have still been able to provide a valuable interpretation.
We would like to sincerely thank the Amsterdam University Fund for making their sponsorship money available and hope that we will be able to set up numerous beautiful trips together in the coming years.
On behalf of the International Study Project 2021 committee, written by Lucas Barnhoorn
November 30th, 2021