As a Tree with the Passage of Time
As a Tree with the Passage of Time
  • Koo Gyohyun
  • 승인 2016.10.09 11:08
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“As a Tree with the Passage of Time”  This is the motto of the University of Toronto (U of T).  Just as the motto states, inside everyone is a trees that is growing constantly.  Its appearance changes and matures over time.  In my case, I used to suffocate my small sprouting tree under a thorny bush for years rather than allow it to flourish.  My life-changing experience came as an exchange student in Toronto.  It was there that I allowed my tree to spread its branches and grow.  By doing so, I found potential in my inner tree.




Sowing the Seed of Your Inner Tree: How I Started

The biggest challenge was deciding where, nation and university, I should apply at for my one-year exchange.  I had to reflect deeply on what I wanted out of the exchange.  Answers to this question vary greatly according to individuals, but they typically include travel, improving one’s English proficiency, and career advancement benefits.  For me, I yearned for time to map out my future and to study at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.  I needed to do a lot of preparation, from writing a statement of purpose, to ensuring I had an acceptable GPA score, to attaining the required TOEFL score to passing an interview evaluation. There is tough competition among applicants for U of T, but with a score above 105, one can feel a little more secure.  Besides the formal documentation and requirements, I also make extensive use of online blogs, sought consultation, and asked requested revisions to my work like proofreading for errors from my professors.  After receiving the acceptance letter, as an application, you should gather and prepare information about housing, making a bank account and getting a smartphone.  It was helpful for me to use websites such as Kijiji Toronto or Kesmo (  As a world-renowned school, U of T offers a variety of studies and curriculums.  In addition, there are more than forty libraries, which are comfortable and well-stocked and an on-campus gym that provides both free and paid activities such as yoga and dance.




What Kind of Tree should I Plant: Course Registration and Classes

Deciding which courses to take plays a pivotal role in one’s life as an exchange student.  At U of T, courses are numbered in the hundreds; i.e., 100, 200, 300, 400.  The first digit indicates the course level; that is, as the number goes up so does the difficulty level and amount of academic work the course would require.  Rather than taking a myriad of high level courses, I recommend taking a mix of both challenging and easier courses.  On top of that, class size is huge, so most classes have supplemental teaching assistants (TA).  Students are free to approach a teaching assistant for advice instead of the professor.  In some cases, students are required to meet with TAs once a week at an appointed time.
The most memorable course I took was Newspaper in Canada (SMC 315).  I learnt about communication theory and about the system and features of the Canadian press and media.  During the latter half of the course, reporters and editors of representative Canadian news media including the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Buzzfeed were invited and responded to student enquires.  Furthermore, there was a field trip to the Globe and Mail which was a very heart-throbbing experience, for I could interact with the most renowned journalists in North America.  Above all, it was a great opportunity to contemplate social phenomena by writing essays on topics such as the role of social media and newspapers on the social cohesion of Canada.
Besides course lectures, U of T offers students a chance to listen to a variety of seminars and short lectures conducted from its affiliated institutions and student council.  I attended several sessions that focused on writing a good resume and participated in conferences about media studies.  U of T posts announcements on its school website or sends out group e-mails to the students, so it’s easy to check and receive information regularly.




Ample Amount of Water and Sunlight Exposure: Quotidian Life

It wasn’t easy to make new friends in class; rather, I typically would hang out with other exchange students from different parts of the world.  Compared to Korean students who opt to study at European or Asian universities, exchange students in Canada at U of T have limited time to travel or play.  Despite the heavy academic workload, I enjoyed several Halloween festivals and the Nuit Blanche as well as visited the theme park Wonderland from time to time.  In addition, I joined the U of T Taekwondo Organization and went to a taekwondo class twice a week.  It was my first time to learn taekwondo, but I felt my stress sweating away and made new friends.  Off campus, I attended Light Korean Presbyterian Church, located just next to U of T.  Since most people were Korean-Canadian U of T students, I received a lot of support from them.




The Tree that Keeps Growing

To be in a totally new environment without family or friends is challenging indeed.  Also, it is very challenging to compete academically with local students.  Nevertheless, looking back, for me, it was worthwhile and fulfilling and became a great asset in my life.  Compared to my life in Korea, full of struggles and an obsession for fulfillment of goals, in Canada, I had much time and freedom.  It was very confusing at first; however, I took my time to get settled.  I listened to the tree within me and mapped out my path by considering what makes life valuable.  Last but not least, Canadian society consists of people from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and races, so it is a true ‘mosaic society’.  Likely, I felt respected and became more tolerant of others as the branches of my tree spread.  It allowed me to become more accepting of myself and to realize the significance of solicitude.  Now, I am looking forward to growing my inner tree back here in Korea, as the motto of U of T suggests: a tree with the passage of time matures.



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