RU Abroad with Janine: Pre-departure Thoughts

Hello readers! I’m Janine, third-year journalism student, and RU Student Life storyteller.

This semester, I will be taking you on my journey while I study abroad and I couldn’t be more excited. When I started blogging and creating content with RU Student Life in my first year, I would have never imagined that I would be also part of the #RUAbroad series. It’s amazing how things play out.

Let me start with how I got here and where I’m actually going.


Three years ago, I dreamed of one day studying abroad. The idea of learning and experiencing education in another country really interested me because all I’ve ever known was studying in Canada.

A year ago, I applied to study abroad for a semester. When you apply, you choose your top three schools from a list of institutions your program offers exchanges with. For me, that was studying Journalism in either the University of Westminster in London, Hogeschool van Utrecht in Holland, or Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. My cousin in Ryerson’s Business program was also applying for exchange and we both dreamed of getting accepted into Westminster and studying there together. She got accepted on the spot during her interview process while for me, I had to wait to see which school I’d get into. Unfortunately, I didn’t get accepted to Westminster; rather, Hogeschool van Utrecht accepted me. But that didn’t bother me too much because the whole exchange experience is what I cared about the most.

This month, I leave for my exchange to Hogeschool van Utrecht in The Netherlands.

I’ve never been more nervous and excited for a new journey. As a commuter who has lived with her parents for all her life, this is a big step, not only in moving to another country, but moving out and living with a roommate for the next five months. Also, I’m really looking forward to cutting my commute time down to a 5 minute walk rather than one hour on the TTC.

I won’t be studying there alone, though. My friend Serena, in journalism as well, also got accepted. We’ll be sharing an apartment together, travelling together, and studying journalism together, which I am so grateful for.

A photo of the Toronto city Skyline featuring the CN tower and various skyscrapers.


While abroad, I’ve made some goals for myself; some are broad while others are more focused.

  • Write more, from #RUAbroad posts, journaling my experiences, to writing articles for school;
  • Create more, from photography to developing new ideas;
  • Capture more, in the sense of getting out there, experiencing places;
  • Go to one fashion week to photograph street style;
  • Avoid holding myself back from meeting new people and challenging myself;
  • Let things be; sometimes things don’t work out or they’re out of your control and that’s okay;


Money is an uncomfortable topic for most of us, especially as students, but most of the time when I tell someone I’m going on exchange their first reaction is, “That must be expensive!” Yes, yes it is. But that isn’t going to be the reason I stop myself from going. From the minute I dreamed of going on exchange I started working and saving up. I looked into possible exchange awards Ryerson offered too and actually won one from my program. So, if you’re at all curious about taking a semester or year abroad, know that there are ways to make it happen, financially.


I’d call myself an experienced traveller, but not an expert traveller just yet. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to different cities like Venice, Rome, Naples, Munich, Istanbul, some cities in the states and more so I’m not too concerned about things like culture shock, though I have experienced it before. My first trip and one of my most memorable trips I went on without my parents was to Armenia when I was 14. I went for three weeks with my Saturday School Armenian class as a pre-high school departure. I’m Armenian and I’ve been studying Armenian culture, history, and the language from a young age, so visiting the country I’m from was quite an exciting experience.Janine poses with a monument in Armenia

Yet, as a fluent Armenian speaker, funny enough, the Eastern Armenian dialect was so much more different than what I was used to that I could barely understand it. This was the first time I’ve ever really felt a bit of culture shock, and that was in my own country. But I took it as an opportunity to understand how I reacted to culture shock and learn how deal with it next time.


Going on exchange, my travel goals are definitely in effect. You should see my Google Maps page, I literally saved and put a star on all the cities I’d ideally want to visit and let’s just say, I’d have to go to a new city every weekend to cross off every star on my map. For now, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 3: Amsterdam (obviously), Paris (because I’m Parisienne obsessed), and Milan (an Italian city I’ve just always wanted to visit). As part of my program, we will also be travelling to Berlin for a few days and we’re given 2-3 weeks off to live in another European city while writing feature story.

Next up, getting on the plane and embarking on a new adventure!

If you have any questions, suggestions or ideas regarding anything study abroad or journalism school, or you just want to say hey, I’d love to hear from you! You can connect with me on Twitter @JanineMaral. If you want to hear more from me and my previous travels, check out my blog. And for immediate updates on where I’m going, follow me on Instagram @JanineMaral.

Also, if you’re away on exchange or studying abroad, join the conversation with #RUAbroad and tag @RUStudentLife!

See you next month!