Eight months, two semesters, and a life changing experience

Friday, June 6, 2014

By José Peralta

CJFE asked me to write about my life at Massey College and the University of Toronto, and despite my eight years of training to make a story fit into the requested word limit, I’m having a very hard time with this one. How to summarize so many events? So many conversations? So much interaction?

I can tell you this is the most important academic experience I’ve ever had. I can add that it connects you with a part of the world that would be very difficult to know as a Latin American. It’s also a great place to have fun, make friends and interact.
However, that’s falling short. Too short. The CJFE/Scotiabank Fellowship is much more than that. It is the perfect combination of study and hands-on experience, a place where you will get to know other journalists, travel around the world, learn tons of things and still be able to relax and think about your future.

There is not a single moment wasted in this eight-month long impasse from normal reality. It’s really compelling to arrive to a place where almost all the students are several years younger and several degrees over you. Anyway, weeks go by and you realize everyone has something to share and to learn and that’s how you start growing as a person at Massey College.

Because everything is about community at the College; and that’s good. It feels like living in a movie sometimes–especially when wearing a robe to dinner every night, or dancing in fancy costumes around a legendary room. Those are things I got to experience at Massey.

And then, of course, there is the University of Toronto itself (one of the top 20 universities in the world), where I have been able to study courses of my choosing, increase my knowledge and get in contact with wonderful people and potential sources all over the academic world.

If you have the opportunity to share this experience, it’s important to make the most of it. When going from Massey College to class, take a minute or two to appreciate the wonderful surroundings in which you are living. Take at least 70% of your weekends to tour around this amazing city. Overcome the cold (the winter I lived here was the worst in over 20 years, reaching -35°C) and walk, bike, run and drive around the city. It’s a unique place of multiculturalism and architectural beauty you’ll find in no other place in the world.

This is one of those experiences where you come out a much different person than the one that landed on campus in August. This is one of those experiences where you come out transformed, knowing that your horizons are much broader than the ones you had on that first August afternoon.

José Peralta is a veteran journalist from Montevideo, Uruguay, and the 2013-2014 Scotiabank / CJFE Journalism Fellow at Massey College. He is a contributor to Panamericanworld and the Toronto Star, and you can follow him on Twitter: @Jose3v3