International Placements

Around this time last year, I had the pleasure of doing an international placement during my interprofessional year in the Midwifery Education Program. The placement I chose to do was a midwifery placement following American midwives in Upstate New York. I was able to follow home birth midwives and learn about certification and schooling in New York State. Although I was accustomed to practicing midwifery in Ontario where midwives practice in home and hospital, it was interesting to learn about regulations and politics surrounding midwifery in a different country. It was also nice to see midwives in other places providing well woman care for all ages and life cycles. Midwives in Ontario only provide care starting pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum so we only see our clients for a part of their lives.

If your program allows you the opportunity to do an international placement, I highly recommend it. It gives you a chance to learn how things are done somewhere else. In my case, I was able to learn what standards of care were similar and different, which made me analyze what practices are truly evidence-based. It deepened my understanding to affect my future practice. It also gave me the chance to witness aspects of care that I liked and did not like. This will contribute to the policies I would like to implement in Ontario. For example, seeing midwives in New York provide well woman care outside of pregnancy was an eye-opener to how midwives in Ontario could expand their scope. Thinking critically, such a policy change may assist the Ontario health care system address the shortage of family physicians.

If you are able to do an international placement, I recommend planning well in advance. There is a significant amount of paper work and time needed, especially if you need a VISA. These things can take months to process. Financial planning around placements also should be considered. You will need to think about how much transportation and accommodations will cost and if it is affordable. Part of the reason I selected Upstate New York was that I was able to drive there, which dramatically decreased expenses. Another aspect to consider is safety. Will the country you will be travelling to safe? Below is information from Ryerson International, which will help you prepare for establishing a placement.



All Ryerson students (both grad and undergrad) must undertake a number of steps prior to departure.  The three mandatory steps are as follows:

  1. Travel Risk Assessment (TRA) – an online form that has the traveller identify the potential risks inherent in their activity and destination.  This form is to be approved by the activity supervisor (such as an internship coordinator) or, in the case of high-risk or extreme-risk activities, the Dean or Provost.  The form is available at
  2. Liability Waiver – Student confirms that Ryerson has made him or her aware of the potential risks (through the TRA, as above) and take responsibility for them.  This document is available from your internship coordinator and is kept on file in the academic unit.  Access this form at
  3. Registration – Student provides Ryerson International with key emergency contact information in case of problems via online form at
  4. Pre-Departure Session – All outbound students participate in a pre-departure session covering travel preparation, travel safety and security and cultural acclimatization.  RI conducts these several times per year, usually around the end of each month.  This gives us the opportunity to ensure that students have some real practical travel information prior to departure.  Information on upcoming sessions can be found at

Students living abroad for an extended period of time are strongly urged to register with the ‘Registration of Canadians Abroad‘ service (ROCA), which gives DFAIT information on where Canadians abroad are staying, and where they can be found in case of local emergency.

Other Travel Resources:

See the Ryerson International website at for a variety of travel resources:

Visit the Ryerson International office at 1 Dundas St. W., 11th Floor to access a variety of print information anytime between 9am and 5pm.   Our collection includes a variety of Lonely Planet guides, country-specific resources and information on international work, study and travel.

Work Permits

Temporary work permit may be required for certain countries.  We encourage you to research work permit requirements for the country you will intern in as early as possible to facilitate your internship work abroad.

Internships in the United States

If you are planning on arranging an internship in the United States, you must obtain a Temporary Work Visa also known as a J-1 visa.

To start the process of the J-1 visa application, you will first need to get a job offer from an employer in the U.S.  A very small number of U.S. employers can assist their interns in obtaining the J-1 visa by also acting as a ‘sponsor’.  The US Immigration Service distinguishes between ‘host’ and ‘sponsor’ – your employer is the former, but cannot usually act as the latter, a role reserved for a handful of providers.  Check with your employer to see if this is a possibility.

The SWAP Program through Travel Cuts provides services to facilitate the visa process on your behalf, and has connections with an approved sponsor.  Visit SWAP’s web site at for information on U.S. internships, how to apply for your visa, required documentation, processing time and service fees.

The SWAP office will coordinate the administrative paperwork between your employer in the U.S. and U.S. immigration so you are able to get your J-1 visa in due time.  The processing time to obtain a J-1 visa through SWAP program is normally 6-8 weeks, provided the information on the application form and the documentation submitted is complete.

For further information on the SWAP program, contact Ms. Brigit Hatsy who can be reached at

416-966-2887 Ext. 203 or

For additional information at Ryerson, contact



I’m 2 assignments – a paper and a presentation – away from completing my Bachelor of Social degree at Ryerson. While I’ve been thinking about graduation for some time, this only became real for me during class yesterday. Our prof distributed paint and canvases, and asked us to express our feelings about graduation through artistic expression.

I’ve never been much of an artist, and spent more time mixing paint colours together than creating a visual statement of my feelings. With a night to think on what my time at Ryerson means to me, and how it feels to be finishing up, I’ve formed a more in-depth reflection.

My undergrad has been a 5-year process; I started at Ryerson in Sociology. I loved the theory – Foucault, Durkheim, and Marx continue to influence me – but yearned for a more practical application of what I was learning. I switched into Social Work after a year, and I’ve never felt a stronger sense of belonging in my academic career.

During my first year, everyone around me was thinking and talking about issues that I was interested in, and the Faculty of Community Services and Ryerson’s Student Union ran a number of engaging events. The course work in first year reminded me a lot of Sociology – we only had one SWP (Social Work) class – but I relished the opportunity to become part of a vibrant community.

Second year was when things got real, with 6 courses each semester. My head was filled with Healy, Mullaly, Saleebey, and other emerging Social Work theorists. I chose mostly political courses for my electives and began to form my ideology that would later inform my modality of practice.

I opted into an International Placement for 3rd year, which occured during the Spring/Summer following my 3rd-year course work. I took the extra time I had during the Fall/Winter to start engaging more heavily in organizations that I felt I would be interested in working with in the future. I also learned a lot about Social Work Research in 3rd year, and have already started applying my learning to real life.

My 3rd year placement in Bulembu, Swaziland was an unforgettable experience and is the source of some of my most cherished memories. To have been able to take this trip, and receive school credit for it was an unbelieveable privilege. I would not trade those 3 months in for anything.

4th year, which I’m a week away from completing, has also presented me with an incredible placement experience. I’ve signed on to a research project into developing a program for serodiscordant couples – where one partner is HIV-positive and the other negative. The program this study will produce is set to be the first of its kind in North America – based on an early environmental scan (our literature review might reveal otherwise). In coursework, I’ve been able to build ever further upon the theory I learned in 2nd year.

Overall, Ryerson’s BSW program has left me feeling confident about my future as a social worker. I could not be more enthusiastic about the experience I’ve had at this university, and am thrilled (and a little scared) to finally enter the real world.

Standing Out

“You’re unique – just like everyone else”

Almost all of my fellow first year nursing students that I have encountered thus far have said that they want to pursue a career in pediatrics (myself included). Sure, I expect that opinions will change over course of the next three years, but as it stands now, I foresee a high demand for the line of work that does not have the greatest supply. Since coming to university and hearing that most people have the same end goal as I do, I’ve only become more motivated to stand out from the rest in both anticipation of the real world and in hopes to prepare myself (both personally and professionally) for what I am sure that I will one day encounter as a nurse. At this point in time, I’ve really only touched the tip of the professional iceberg with some retail experience, a whole lotta babysitting and as much volunteering as I can handle. As I see it, it’s never too early to start building up your resume or branching out to make contacts in preparation for the real world, and so over the past few years I’ve been trying to do just that.


The other day, one of my fellow students and I were talking about what we envision for ourselves after graduation. I told her that I hoped that my volunteer experience in the health care field would help me to get to where I want to be in my career one day (if not for the experience just being listed on my resume, but for the skills that it will help me to develop) but she thought otherwise. In fact, this person told me that she purposely hasn’t spent any time volunteering or trying to get work in the nursing or health care field because she thought that the nursing degree which we will all graduate with in the end will be enough of a qualification to land a job. At first I thought she was joking, then I realized that I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, we all graduate with the exact same thing and if we’re all going to be going for any jobs at all then going above and beyond is the best (and only) way to stand out. No one’s going to hand you a job – in any field – and getting the degree is only one piece of the puzzle.


A nursing degree does not make a nurse, and it’s up to us to go above and beyond to foster the most personal and professional growth we can in ourselves – for any profession. I don’t see the sense in adopting the “least possible amount of work” attitude throughout university to try and scrape by and hope that a piece of paper and a few letters after your name will do the talking for you. Even if a bachelor of anything was enough to find a job in the real world, why would anyone want to limit their learning to that? I’d like to think that we’re all pursuing something that we’re passionate about but I know that’s not the case for all. I hope that this person smartens up soon enough to realize that when other people raise the bar by doing everything that they can to become the best that they can be, striving for the bare minimum just isn’t going to cut it!

Safe Sun

Thank goodness summer is on its way… Even though these past few months have been a poor excuse of a winter, there’s nothing more exciting than knowing that the heat and the sun and the breeze are just around the corner. That being said, there’s a few things that we should all keep in mind throughout the coming months (and all year) with regards to sun safety. We’ve all been told that tans and sunburns are bad, and that many instances of skin cancer and a large component of aging are heavily linked to sun exposure, but somehow so many of us can’t help but bake out in the sun season after season.


If your childhood was anything like mine, then chances are that your mom slathered you in sunscreen and insisted on a large-brimmed hat anytime you went outside in the summer. If your teenage years were anything like mine, then chances are that you somehow ‘forgot’ to wear sunscreen on every outing and suffered a few excruciating sunburns in pursuit of the perfect tan. Yes that was me and though I enjoyed my tans while they lasted, I can already say that I’m kicking myself for all those years of foolishness. Perhaps it’s the teenage mentality to assume that ‘nothing will ever happen to me’, but with time and maturity I eventually began to reconsider my love for the sun. Slowly, the facts started to get through to me, and I remember being particularly jolted when I found out that one blistering burn before the age of 18 is enough to double your chances of one day developing skin cancer. When I finally got it into my head that all that sun could potentially be harmful one day down the line, I knew I had to do something. Though I’m not concerned with aging (yet), I am worried about all the damage that I have done to my skin. For the past two years I’ve worn sunscreen everyday, yes, even on those cloudy winter days, in hopes that I will never have to face any consequences for my many, many, many burns throughout the years. I hope that my wishful thinking and adamant use of sunblock is enough, but after doing some research into this topic, I’ve come across a few things that I wish I had known earlier and that I’d like to share…


Florida 2009 - Not one of my proudest moments

What is “SPF”?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. The number of a sunscreen’s SPF indicates the length of time that the product will protect wearers against UVB rays – the rays that are responsible for tanning and burning. For example, if you would usually burn in the sun after 20 minutes without sunscreen (the rate at which we burn varies from person to person), then when wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, you could spend up to 600 minutes (30 times longer) in the sun without burning.


The New Kid on The Block: What is “PA”?

A sunscreen’s PA level refers to the protection that it will provide against UVA rays – the rays that contribute to aging and other long-term forms of damage. A sunscreen’s PA factor is ranked on a scale of PA+, PA++ and PA+++, in which the more ‘+’s indicate a stronger protection factor. Beware that UVA-protective sunscreens are often harder to find than ones that only contain SPF, so make sure to do your research before you slather on the block.
Other Safe Sun Tips:

–       The sun is strongest between 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM, so remember to take extra precaution during that time, or avoid being in the sun at all at that time of day

–       Pay attention to the UV index – a scale that indicates the severity of the sun’s UVB rays in a particular region at a certain time. Though UVB ray intensity varies throughout the year, UVA rays are consistently strong.

–       Some medications/products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun so always be sure to read the fine print


I wish I had seen this three years ago:


Information found at:

Students honoured at FCS Recognition Event – An Outsider’s Perspective

Guest Blogger: Samantha Sim
Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP) employee for the Faculty of Community Services and 2nd-year Journalism student

Last Wednesday’s first-annual FCS Student Achievement Event reminded me just how interconnected our world really is and how important it is to use this interconnectedness to give back to the communities around us who’re in need. The event showcased 23 presentations split into two categories: students presenting on conferences they had attended and students presenting on their experience at an international placement.  Being a journalism student I’m essentially an outsider to the faculty, so it was interesting for me to see the variety of countries students visited and the range of topics that had been presented at conferences. The event showed me that no matter your age you can make an impact on the world around you and it really got me thinking about the one I want to make before I leave this school.

Award recipients Ying-Mei Liang (left) and Marian Mohamud (right) with Dean Dr. Usha George.

The event also honoured three students who were recipients of Faculty of Community Service awards. Nursing student Ying-Mei Liang was the winner of the FCS Full-Time Undergraduate Award. “Thank you to FCS for recognizing students who go the extra mile outside of class,” she said. Disability studies student Stacey Simmons won the FCS Part-Time Undergraduate Award. Social work student Marian Mohamud was the recipient of the RBC Community Services Award. “[FCS] recognizes our hard work. [Winning this award] tells me that I’m doing something good and that I should continue doing it,” said Mohamud.

Here are a few of the presentations that caught my eye:

Tina, a fourth-year ECE student who recently visited Tanzania, Africa.

Tina, a fourth-year early childhood education student, spent three weeks in Tanzania, Africa this past May working as a team lead for Child Reach International, a U.K. based charity that provides community based development to children worldwide. She helped renovate a local school, teach children, and recruit team members for the charity. Her stay also included a cultural experience where she was able to visit and explore local African communities. “It was an incredible experience and I’d recommend other students to go,” she said. “I’ll definitely be going back within the next five years.”

Denice (right) speaking with an event attendee.

Health science graduate Denice Koo showcased her presentation “An examination of knowledge, beliefs and perceptions about the plant-based diet among women attending breast cancer risk assessment clinics” that she presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference in October 2010. Koo credits the conference support grant as being a major advantage for helping her to secure her current and past jobs. She currently works as a corporate patient education specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Without [the conference support grant], which allowed me to showcase this level of research, I may not have been able to get the types of employment opportunities I’ve had.”

The New Orleans Project and its participants.

A group of students travelled to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project, which is helping to rebuild the St. Bernard parish after Hurricane Katrina. In addition some of the students travelled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to volunteer at a donation centre sorting goods for the victims of the recent tornadoes. I spoke with Iryna Muzyka, a fourth-year food and nutrition student, and Daphne Paszterko, a continuing education student, who both agree that the trip really opened their eyes to the scope of the damage these natural disasters inflicted. “Even if you can see these things on T.V., [this project let us see firsthand] the people who’ve been affected,” said Paszterko.

Katarzyna (left) with Dean Dr. Usha George (right).

Katarzyna Tupta, a masters nutrition communication student, presented the findings of her presentation titled “Expectations and perceptions of first-year students in Ontario food and nutrition undergraduate programs” at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Edmonton this past July. This was the first conference Tupta attended and she encourages other students to take advantage of the conference support grant. “There’s a whole world outside of school with lots of interesting research going on. The [conference support grant] gave me an opportunity to see this and make lots of professional contacts,” she says. For her project Tupta surveyed 104 first-year nutrition students about what they expected out of their program and whether they were interested in becoming dieticians. She found that 97% of students were in the program with the objective of becoming dieticians.