Study Abroad Column: Settling in

Ellie O’Donnell will be keeping us updated with her study abroad adventures from North America. Keep a look out for more of Ellie’s articles over the year!

After a few weeks of settling in and starting at York University, I saw the huge perks of living in downtown Toronto and being in close proximity to the hustle and bustle of a big city. I was lucky enough to find student accommodation for the cost of $864 a month, catered for lunch and dinner Monday- Friday which is a steal compared to other accommodations I had looked at. The Campus Co-op owns a number of division in Toronto providing cheap accommodation in the city and giving opportunities to socialise with students from other universities in Toronto. It runs on the basis that each member of the community does their bit, helping out with cleaning once a week in the communal dining room and rotas within each house.

Due to the unfortunate whereabouts of York University I have to accept the downfall of long travel to classes. With York University being a good 40-60 minutes away from downtown Toronto, I have had to say goodbye to the student favourite of waking up 20 minutes before my lecture, putting on some trackies and belting to University just in time.

The classes at York have been different to the set up I have experienced in Nottingham. In UoN lectures, we sit silently and write notes but as I have experienced at York, students will interrupt the lecturer to clarify or question a point being made, something that I can only recall one person ever doing in Nottingham! I’ve also been introduced to the ‘take-home exam’, a 1000 word to 1500 word exam to conclude the class, which I’ve got to say is slightly more enjoyable than weeks of revision spent in library. Instead of everything boiling down to two hours in an exam hall, you can reconsider what you have written and not be left full of regret of what you should have wrote in the tight time constraints of an exam.

There are endless things to do in Toronto, both during the day and night. A particular favourite of mine is TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), a cinema that hosts independent and award winning films all year round, with a festival that takes place in September. I saw Jafar Panahi’s Taxi, a work that follows Jafar Panahi driving a taxi around the streets of Tehran, a film definitely worth watching.  TIFF hosts many events throughout the year from replays of classics to newly released films. After the movie, you can find a lot of cheap food around downtown Toronto – my place of choice is El Furniture Warehouse, a chain restaurant and bar that has a wide range of food all for the price of $4.95 (around £2.50!).

In terms of nightlife, Toronto has a similar set of clubs to places like London, with a wide range of music and prices. In my area, just across the road, there is a pub night on Thursday at The Madison which has drinks priced at $3.50 for a single. Along with other international students I’ve met out here, these nights are ritually met with an embarrassing trip to the Fox and Fiddle, a karaoke bar conveniently across the road from my apartment. I have also particularly enjoyed places such as Coda and Cabal venues in downtown Toronto that offer the chance to see both big and new names in the dance music scene. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the weather prior to January and thought I was handling the weather in Canada pretty well. It was only when I spoke to Canadians about the weather did I realise that we had been experiencing a very warm winter compared to typical weather in December. When I arrived home from Florida in January, fresh from Christmas festivities, it was only then did I truly feel what everyone was saying about the Canadian weather. On my first day back at class the weather was -14, the coldest temperature I have ever been in! I had to wrap myself in 3 layers of long sleeve jumpers and a ski jacket. I arrived at class only to be told by my friends that “it gets way worse, sometimes you’ll leave your house and begin to cough just because the air is just so cold”! From what I’ve heard, I am sure I have many colder days ahead!

Look out for my next post where I will be talking about the time I spent in Montreal and Florida over the Christmas period!

Ellie O’Donnell

Featured image by mariusz kluzniak

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