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Emily Cheung

SFU SIAT Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology › Design

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a night view of Toronto

Venturing out into the world of adulthood can undoubtedly be a challenging experience. At the same time, it is very eye-opening as well. I’ve always wanted to break out of my shell and explore a different city, but it wasn’t a commitment I wanted to jump into right away after graduation. Completing a co-op term abroad was the perfect opportunity to experience the stage of moving out for a few months without the commitment of living there long-term. My 4-month work term at BlackBerry in Toronto was just what I needed to experience this big move — away from all my friends and family and into an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar people. 

the author standing by the waterfalls

Of course as students, finances can be an obstacle. It’s important to take into consideration expenses such as relocation, transportation, food, entertainment, shopping and personal care. Experiences vary in different cities, but the cost of rent in Toronto made it difficult for me to find an affordable place in a convenient location. I looked at different neighbourhoods to get a better idea of what to expect, then set my budget from there. I began my search online looking for places to stay through Facebook groups. I was also suggested to consider looking for home stays. I was hesitant at first because I wanted to live independently with privacy of my own, but fortunately, I was able to find a place within my budget at a convenient neighbourhood right in between downtown Toronto and the BlackBerry office. I lived on a different floor than the family I stayed with and had a private kitchen and bathroom. I could also contact them if I needed anything.The best part? All three meals were included for a price within my budget. I woke up to lunch already prepared in the fridge and came home after work with dinner on the table. It alleviated the time and stresses of grocery shopping and thinking about what to cook every day.

the author smiling inside a tunnel with pretty purple and pink lights

Although the office was located in Mississauga and I stayed in Toronto, I made the sacrifice to pay two monthly passes every month — but I thoroughly enjoyed the city life and always found something to do whether it was on the weekends or a week day, so the extra expense was well worth it.

Being able to experience Toronto’s city-life was one of the most exciting parts of working abroad. There were always something happening, I never ran out of things to do. I had the chance to visit the One Of A Kind Show (a craft fair with over 800 makers), the Museum of Illusion, Niagara Falls, participate in the largest Lego Mystery Mural, skate in the infamous Nathan Phillips Square and enjoy the holiday festivities at the Toronto Christmas Market. Being on my own not only encouraged me to focus on myself, but also motivated me to indulge in a new hobby. My encouragement would be to make use of your time abroad to focus on your own personal growth and do things you’ve always wanted to do for yourself.

Emily and her colleagues dressing up as  toy story characters on Halloween

One of the most important advice to carry over is that naturally, feelings of being homesick may feel discouraging at times. Keeping in contact with a small circle of friends back home helped me become more intentional in maintaining communication with them — bringing back a sense of home. It is so important to remember throughout the experience that regular communication with people who are close to you will exude the love and support you need to work through feelings of homesickness. Of course, you want to maximize the time you are there so always try to be flexible and take advantage of the opportunities. Always look for somewhere to explore and take your mind off of things back home — don’t spend too much time sitting around in your room! The point is not to ignore homesickness, but to recognize it and focus on taking advantage of the present experience abroad.

About the Author

Emily Cheung

SFU SIAT Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology › Design
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