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Insider tips from international upper years: How to make the most of your time at Rotman Commerce

In the first of a series of advice from RC upper years, international students Vera Frantseva and Ren Fujimoto discuss their experiences and key learnings from moving to Canada to study at U of T.


Vera Frantseva (BCom '23) and Ren Fujimoto (BCom '23)

Diversity in community and learning 

Growing up just outside of Moscow, Russia, and moving to Canada for high school and university was a bit of a culture shock for Vera – but in a good way. “Everything here was surprising and different for me,” she shares. “Nothing in Canada is similar to where I came from, so I have been learning so much and I love it.” Vera appreciates the diversity and open-mindedness of people in Canada and the U of T community alike. 

For Ren, the most notable quality about studying at Rotman Commerce is the way the program encourages his unique thinking. “In Japan, learning is focused on memorization. This isn’t the case at U of T. Learning course material involves asking myself what I think and how I can apply my knowledge.” He adds that such a structure is important in allowing him to differentiate himself in his career.  

Exploring extracurriculars

During her first and second year, Vera was a member of the Rotman Commerce Entrepreneurship Organization (RCEO), which she describes as “a great place to be”. “I met so many wonderful people there. I finally felt like I was becoming more integrated in the U of T and RC communities.” More recently, Vera has taken her interest in entrepreneurship and tech to her position with DataFinery Consulting, a firm that offers recruitment and consulting services to software companies across Canada. Outside of school and work, Vera enjoys running as part of a running club called Midnight Runners. “We meet every Tuesday and I usually go there with a few friends,” she shares. “I was able to meet so many interesting and amazing people during and after the runs.” 

Ren was involved in the U of T Pre-Law Students’ Association in his first year, and was director of finance for the U of T Japanese Association in his third year. Now, his focus has shifted to athletics, with involvement in the Wing-Chun and jiu-jitsu intermural groups.  

“Being part of these student groups aligns with the overall goal I set for myself in studying abroad. I wanted to place myself in situations outside of my comfort zone. For example, as I’d only studied English for four years before starting at U of T, participating in national mock trial competitions was a challenge that allowed me to grow.”

Ren Fujimoto, BCom ’23

Ren applies this same mentality to his hobbies outside of school. He has recently taken up bouldering, which he describes as an activity that helps with discipline, goal-setting, and stress management.

Know your goals

Vera says that she learned and grew so much during her time at RC.

“The first thing I would say to younger students is to come in with an open mind. Don’t be afraid to be different! You shouldn’t feel obligated to follow what your friends and peers are doing – follow your own goals and dreams instead.”

Vera Frantseva, BCom ’23

Vera also has a few words of wisdom for RC international students in particular. “It’s hard to be on your own and away from loved ones in a new environment. I can definitely relate to feeling helpless, demotivated, and misunderstood. While these feelings are valid, I’ve learned that it’s important to work on the things you can control and to take responsibility for your life. Change will happen only if we take action.” Vera’s final piece of advice involves asking for help and checking in on your friends. “No matter how strong you are and what you have been through, life consists of ups and downs. In order to get through those downs successfully, it’s important to ask for help when you need it, and of course, to offer help to those around you.” 

Ren’s most important takeaway from the past four years involves the idea of goalsetting.

“Without a goal, nothing is achievable. When you have a goal, you can figure out what action you need to start taking today. It’s important to think about exactly what you want to accomplish and then begin road mapping your journey to reaching it.”

Ren Fujimoto, BCom ’23

Another piece of advice Ren has for younger RC students is to not postpone decisions. “I recently read a book where I learned that the process of making a logical decision only takes on average 10 minutes. So, next time you are faced with a difficult decision, have confidence in your abilities to make a logical choice!”  

February 16, 2023

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