Exchange period in Toronto

As a part of my studies I completed an exchange period in Humber College’s fashion institute in Toronto in the autumn of 2016. It was the first time I got a taste of living abroad and I loved every second of it. When it was time to leave, I tried to change my flight to prolong my stay. Unfortunately, that would’ve been too expensive for a student like me.

All the buildings, cars, landscape, culture and people were different from what I was used to. In 2015 Finland had the total population of 5,4 million people (Population). In the same year, Toronto alone had a population of 6,0 million people (Toronto population). It was the first time I had ever been to a city that big. I was going to live there for 4 months and I had so many things to learn and to do.

It took an hour for me to go from my school to the city centre by public transportation. It was insane to me how one city could have such a big radius. For the first time, I understood why in the movies the actors would refer to their location by: “at the corner of X and Y”; the streets were straight, at a 90-degree angle against each other and stretched out for multiple kilometers. Saying that you were on Queen street for example could refer to different locations on a 6-kilometre street.

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The subway

Socializing

One of the best decisions I made regards to my exchange period was contacting the list of people who had been on an exchange period in Finland, prior to my arrival. There was an event I wanted to attend on the second weekend of my stay, so I decided to look for someone to go there with. One of the students arranged for me to attend the event with her friends and I am ever grateful to her. I made a valuable group of friends whom I ended up hanging out with all the time during my stay.

My exchange period was filled with new experiences. I decided to go by the principle “if someone asks me out, I’ll go”. Because of this I was able to make the most out of my stay in Toronto. With the exchange students I’d go to parties and the trips arranged by the international centre. With my Canadian friends I would go to a lot of birthday parties, eat delicious food and get to know their favorite spots.

I also had the opportunity to go on dates. In my opinion it is one of the best ways to get to know a city. Everything is new to you, so coming up with date ideas isn’t hard. Your partner is more than happy to show you their world. Instead of going to the typical tourist locations you’ll get to know the spots the locals love.

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Photo by Valerie Remizova

Studies

One of the reasons I wanted to go abroad was the opportunity to learn more about my field. The courses my school offers about fashion business are limited. I wanted to make the most out of my studies and to me, going on an exchange period was crucial. Especially since I aim to work abroad.

My home school is focused on the business side of fashion, but I felt like at Humber I was able to touch more on the visual side of things.

Humber’s fashion institute has a display window at the front of the building that always has an eye catching display on it. The students design and create a visual concept for the display every 1-2 months. The creation of the displays gives the students an opportunity to learn more about project management, collaboration with local businesses and visual marketing. The outcomes were beautifully thought out displays that showed the passion of the students.

You can see the window displays here

In the fashion institute, students also get to create visual store designs. Students create miniature stores out of cardboard and figure our how to decorate the store, where the products are located, how the display is decorated and where the fitting rooms are. This gives the students an opportunity to see how the ideas they have, work in practice.Plus they make adorable doll houses for kids to play with. I did take some photos of these, but I can’t show them as they might be used in future store designs.

Another way Humber touches on the visual side of fashion business is by making students create mood boards as a visual support for their presentations. While designing a mood board, the student needs to take into consideration how the viewers eyes travel across the board. There needs to be a reason why the mood board is created in a certain way. I very much enjoyed creating the mood board. It was an opportunity for me to personally create something visual as a part of my studies. I was very pleased with the results, but it might be obvious to some of you that it was my first time doing something like this.

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Design Matters A/W 2017 moodboard

The fashion institute also gives the students an opportunity to accumulate experience through trade shows. One particular course required students to attend a trade show, pick 2 booths from there and assess their marketing strategies. The fashion institute regularly organizes their own trade shows, where the students have an opportunity to show case their own products and companies.

I was able to learn about subjects that are not taught at my school, such as fashion history and colour & trend forecasting. Because the subjects are linked to each other, it was interesting to learn about them. Learning about one of the subjects supported the learning of the other subject and increased the depth of my understanding. One can’t make colour & trend forecasts without understanding fashion history and comparing the present zeitgeist to past ones. These are some of my favorite courses I have taken throughout my studies and it amazes me that such an important topics are not a part of my schools curriculum.

Being in Toronto allowed me the opportunity to be surrounded by all the different sides of fashion business. The malls were filled with high and medium quality brands, the city had modeling agencies, advertising companies, trade shows and expos and I could see different kinds of advertising campaigns all around me. The streets were filled by guerrilla marketers at night, handing out free passes to their clubs. By being in Toronto I got a better understanding what fashion business is like there, the magnitude of it. But as a student, the parts i was able to see were limited.

I feel that the time I got to spend in Toronto was too short. I envy those friends of mine who are staying in the city under international study programs. I hope to return to the city  to live and to work.

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