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When classrooms cross borders

Urban planning students talk about their field trips to the United Kingdom, Southern Ontario and the United States
By: Madison Henry, urban planning student and FCS Student Storyteller
November 13, 2018

During a walking tour in Detroit, students learned more about the Fox Theatre, which was built in the 1920s. Photo: Sanjam Raisuada

Every year, the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson gives students the opportunity to go on field trips around the world to see how what they’re learning in the classroom is applied out in the field.

From September 30 to October 8, urban planning students went to the United Kingdom and around Southern Ontario and the United States to explore different concepts in planning.

I spoke to two students who went on these trips to see what they learned.

Southern Ontario and the United States   

During her visit to London, Ontario, third-year planning student Sanjam Raisuada snapped this photo of a community mural project.

Sanjam Raisuada, a third-year student, went on a field trip to Kitchener/Waterloo, London, Windsor and Detroit.

What did you learn?

Sanjam: Each city we visited was very unique and at each location we met with the city’s planning staff. They gave us walking tours of major projects they were currently undertaking and were able to show us the planning process in action. We were also given the historical contexts of the cities which really helped in understanding the city to date. We were able to delve into the city’s culture and understand why these projects were being undertaken. Every day was a new experience!

What was your favourite part of the trip?

Sanjam: My favourite part was definitely going to our professor, Sean Hertel’s, hometown of Windsor. We were given the academic experience of the city but also the personal experience. Windsor is a beautiful city, with a rich history and an amazing community working towards revitalization, so it was interesting to explore the city. Sean is a great professor who really went above and beyond with this field trip and our entire group can’t thank him enough. We were also a relatively small group (nine students) and it really helped us build that sense of community.

How did the experience shape your understanding of planning?

Sanjam: This field trip really helped provide perspective on how important planning is in smaller cities, as we often only look at large cities like Toronto when thinking about urban spaces and prospective careers. It really shed light on the advantages of being able to work in smaller cities and how hands-on and influential these planners get to be with their projects. This field trip was definitely one of those experiences that impacts your life for the long run.

United Kingdom

Upon arriving in Lichfield, near Birmingham, students were asked to explore the town (with no prior context) and find their way from the train station to the cathedral and back. Photo: Chris Chau

Chris Chau, a fourth-year student, went to the United Kingdom and visited Glasgow, Scotland; Birmingham, England; and Cardiff, Wales.

Where did you go and what did you learn?

Chris: We got to see three different cities in Scotland, Wales and England, all of which differ in how they approach different planning practices. We were introduced to various aspects of UK planning — different housing projects and initiatives, how retail can be a driving force in revitalizing a city centre, and the overall development of the cities over the years.

What was your favourite part of the trip?

Chris: My favourite part of the trip was getting to explore these different UK cities with my colleagues and friends and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

How did the experience shape your understanding of planning?

Chris: Field trips are a unique experience. Their experiences can differ between local field trips (taking a coach bus to destinations within 12 hours of driving) and distance field trips (going further than where a bus can reach, be it within Canada or internationally.) Regardless of destination, it allows student planners to have an understanding of how other cities approach city building and the issues they face, at a local perspective. I definitely recommend that students explore their options in distance field trips — they offer a level of immersion and understanding to the places you go that local trips cannot compare.


Both Sanjam and Chris seemed to have an amazing time on their trips and I’m thankful that my program offers students the chance to go to places they may not otherwise be able to visit. After hearing Chris and Sanjam’s stories, I'm excited to start going on these trips next year.