Pre-Departure Q&A

Have some questions or are not sure what to expect when you go on summer abroad? We’ve asked some of our former participants a few questions about their experiences, and how you can be prepared!

General Questions

What should I pack?

Before you go, make sure you do some research on the weather there! Most of the locations will have very different weather than Canada so make sure you check and pack so you can be comfortable. Make sure you also pack necessities because things that are easy to find in Canada might not be where you’re going.

What will I be doing outside of class time?

Your program will have plenty of field trips organized that will be related to your course but also show you around, as well as some optional trips you can participate in. There will be plenty of opportunities and things to do.

How do I balance studying and exploring?

You’re in a new place – your professors will encourage you to go out and explore, not just sit inside and study. Often, exploring the area will even be part of your learning experience and field work is an essential part of many courses. Of course, there will also be plenty of places you can go to study, like libraries and local coffee shops.

How will I get around?

Many of the destinations are very walkable – you’ll be able to walk to class from your residence, and there will be shops and restaurants nearby. Once you get there, you can set up a transportation card – public transportation is usually very plentiful and convenient to use. For longer distances and field trips, we will have buses and flights arranged for everyone.


Hong KongSohrab & Susan, 2018 participants

What is something you wish you knew before going on Summer Abroad?

Sohrab: I wish I knew the location of the nearest 7-Eleven to my dorm! Maybe a couple of phrases in Cantonese too, but I got a bit lazy with that. But it all worked out in the end.

Susan: I should have done some more research about the weather! I had no idea how hot and humid it would be, we had to buy some de-humidifiers for our room (I didn’t even know that existed!) but it in the end, I got used to it. Make sure you bring an umbrella and layers because it gets very cold indoors as most places turn the AC up a lot.

How would you recommend preparing for the trip?

Sohrab: Definitely look into the attractions and activities available in your destination country. You can find yourself a bit overwhelmed when you get there, not knowing exactly where to explore first! Maybe Google Maps your dorm or hotel location, try and get a bit of a feel for the area so you’re not completely lost when you arrive. And try and pick up a few useful phrases of the language they speak where you’re going; it’ll make things a lot less awkward!

What was your first impression of the place? How did it fit with what you imagined?

Susan: I had no idea that there were so many different things to do in Hong Kong, and everything was so easily accessible! You could go from hiking through a cave, to relaxing on a beach, to rooftop views of the city skyline in less than a day. Whatever type of experience you’re looking for, you can probably find it in Hong Kong!


SpainBronwyn, 2018 participant

What is something you wish you knew before going on Summer Abroad?

The residences do not provide blankets but this should not pose an issue as Spain is very hot in the summer and many students bought towels to use as blankets if necessary. Try to exchange your money in small denominations before arriving in Spain to be best prepared (a lot of local places did not accept large bills).

How was orientation – what was it like when you first arrived?

Orientation was very helpful as we were shown all the local grocery stores, pharmacies and where to buy/reload the public transit passes. My only critique is that I wish the orientation/welcome dinner had featured local Spanish cuisine.


EnglandPolly, 2018 participant

What is something you wish you knew before going on Summer Abroad?

I wish I did more research on the places nearby (Tesco/coffee stores etc), and knew how close everything would be. I recommend going to the info sessions, which I wish I attended. I wish I knew about bringing a proper ID, since most places we would go for dinner on the weekend especially would require it. 

How did you balance having fun and exploring with studying and doing well academically? What would you do after class?

My class was very well structured where we would have discussions in class and other people would give a presentation on the readings at the beginning of class and post summaries of them. Which made easier to keep up with the course material. My friends were also in my class so we would help each other and do work together. After class we would always get food and hang out for a bit, and then we would go to coffee place or the bookstore nearby and do some work. So we would be hanging out while studying, which was fun. One thing which was helpful is everyone in our class and my friends was very helpful, and we got Friday’s off which helped as well. 

What was your first impression of the place? How did it fit with what you imagined?

I did not know anything about Oxford before going, which I wish I did a better job or researching, but I was able to make friends at the airport right away and they ended up being my class also. There were lots of social events and the classes were small so making friends was easy and there was an immense amount of support of Oxford, felt like a little community. Once we got to Oxford it was amazing and I was very impressed. I did not know what to expect, but it was definitely better than my expectations. everything was so close, less than a 5 minute walk, from where the college was. The college itself was beautiful. The weather was also great and something I enjoyed. Overall, Oxford is probably my favourite place. 



Shanghai & Beijing – Susan, 2017 participant 

What was it like making friends on your trip? How was the experience of meeting new people?

Our class was pretty small with less than 30 people, which was great because you got to meet and talk to everyone in your class! Also, we went on lots of field trips and there were many after class activities planned so everyone got to hangout together for most of the trip, which was pretty cool. It’s a great way to meet new people since classes in Toronto are usually big and it’s a lot harder to meet and talk to people. Exploring a new place also really brings people together in ways you might not expect!

What was the professor and class like?

Our class was pretty small with less than 30 people, and we’d have class the whole day. At first, this seemed like it would be super tiring but it was very enjoyable because we’d have half the day for discussions and Q&A’s with the guest lecturers which was really interesting. It was nice having such a small class size as everyone got the chance to participate and you got to hear so many different opinions and perspectives. Professor Wong was a great lecturer and he gave us the tools and information needed to have great conversations in the classroom.

Who did you reach out to when you had questions or problems?

Our onsite coordinator Alissa, was amazing and we could go to her for help with academic questions, and any issues we were having from phone plans to lost items. Professor Wong also helped us out with academic questions and he was always open to questions during his office hours or through email. I also reached out to friends in the program – there were a few Chinese speakers as well as people from Shanghai so they had lots of tips on where to eat and shop.

Italy – Vicente, 2018 participant

What was your first impression of the place? How did it fit with what you imagined?

The town of Siena is so unique that I would say I had a very surprising (but good) first impression. I had high expectations and everything, from the decoration of public places to the way people behave is a different experience that is not to be found elsewhere.

What was something different about your location that you had to adapt to?

The town is very hilly and everything is done on foot, so it is important to be prepared to wear comfortable clothes (mainly sneakers) and, even though it is pretty hot in the summer, Siena is not as bad as the rest of Italy since it is on the top of a hill there is a good breeze, but it is important to be prepared to face some heat while walking around the town.

What was it like making friends on your trip? How was the experience of meeting new people?

In Siena there are two residences, and I became really good friends with my roommate and people from the res as well as my classmates. I would say not to worry about making friends while being there, it is really easy (everyone is in the same boat!)

What is something you wish you knew before going on Summer Abroad?

I wish I knew more about the city and focused more in exploring things within the city than around Italy. Weekend trips are fun but I wish I spent more weekdays exploring the richness of Siena.