On Thursday, October 3rd, students and faculty from all 2019 Summer Abroad courses reunited in Hart House’s Great Hall for an evening of bittersweet reminiscence, nostalgia-filled encounters, and much needed catching up. The annual Summer Abroad Reunion is a chance for students to reconnect and fill each other in on life since their unique summer course.
Professors also attend the event, as they too are a pivotal part of students’ experiences abroad and live the adventure with them. This year, laughs echoed through the hall, cameras flashed, groups of friends old and new, and travelling companions were reconnected.
The reunion stands as a testament that Summer Abroad is much more than an academic experience. It’s a character-building journey through which students are pushed into a mode of learning at a much faster pace than in any other setting. As a result, bonds form quicker, information is absorbed more firmly, and memories last longer. All these factors were on display at the reunion. “The great thing about Summer Abroad is that, even when you’re out there having fun, you’re never not learning”, said one student from the Central European business course in May and June. Summer Abroad alumni from other U of T campuses also made their way to Hart House Circle to relive memories with the classmates they would otherwise have had little contact with. Professor Robert Austin, who led our course and guided us in many of our travels, commented “the Summer Abroad reunion allows me not only to see my students and have a few laughs about some of our moments in Central Europe but to be reminded that there is no substitute for getting into the field and making the field the classroom.”
I stood in a circle with people from my course – some from different faculties, some from different campuses – as we basked in memories of fun nights and peculiar moments we had during our trip, which took us through several countries on the European continent. We tried to remember what the best moment experienced in each city we visited was, but quickly realised the good times we had across all four weeks are innumerable. From heated class discussions on the topics of European History to having coffee in one of Vienna’s oldest cafes, all of us grinned as we remembered instances that, even on their own, would have made the entire month worth it.
As a photo montage projected snaps at the front of the Hall from classes in their respective destinations – some in cities and some on mountains, some in the sun and others in the rain – it was obvious that although no two experiences were similar, the level of emotion everyone felt was comparable. The combined elements of academic, social, and experimental creates in people an unparalleled skillset. Whether taken as a novice adventurer or an experienced traveller, these month-long journeys offer students a sense of adventure and accomplishment that is hard to find elsewhere.
Ripped out of their comfort zones, Summer Abroad students come back braver, savvier, and as more complete individuals. Though there was sadness flowing from people’s realisation that no university experience will ever be like the one they had this past summer, confidence was the predominating emotion in the room.
As Summer Abroad alumni, we had not just participated in a course abroad, we had shaped one. Firmly planting our feet in territory unchartered by our regular classrooms, we grasped knowledge not highlighted by our textbooks. We set out and tackled the world in ways even our professors had never experienced, and they were all the more pleased to see us for it.
Summer Abroad is more than a full-year credit or a month overseas; it’s an invitation to let your creativity and your ambitions get the better of you as you learn in a new environment. Armed with self-assurance and polished with a pervasive know-how, the students around the Great Hall had clearly and unashamedly understood that the world is their oyster.
By Louis Butt (Participant of the 2019 Central Europe Summer Abroad Program)
Check out our photo gallery from the 2019 Summer Abroad Reunion.