Hello again, international students! After giving you tips on how to prepare for your arrival in Toronto, making a few suggestions on what to do once you get here and preparing for classes, it is now time to talk about exploring the campus, the city and Toronto’s surroundings. I hope my tips will help you with your transition to your new home, so read on!
A multicultural city with many attractions worth seeing
Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet, naturally boasts a variety of neighbourhoods reflecting that diversity, such as Little Italy, Little Portugal, Greektown, the India Bazaar, Korea Town and Chinatown, to name just a few of the more well-known ones. In my opinion, it is very important to explore all aspects of the city, because that is the only way to truly know Toronto and discover the places where people hang out, as well as the many activities, events, restaurants and points of interest that Toronto has to offer. There are a lot useful online resources that will help you learn more about the city and its attractions, but here are a few good ones with which to start: City of Toronto ( the official website of Toronto) , Toronto City Guide and BlogTO, a blog that will keep you updated with all the most trending information about what’s happening in the 6ix (as younger Torontonians lovingly call their city, with a nod to Drake). If you’d like a slightly more personal view of what’s worth visiting and doing in Toronto, go ahead and read my colleague Megan’s post, which she put together for visitors to the city during last year’s Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
And from my perspective? These are five of my favourite spots: King Street West, Nathan Phillips Square, Fran’s restaurant, Kensington Market and the Distillery District.
Directions to campus using Toronto’s transit
If you want to head out into the city as I am suggesting, it is also important for you to learn the subway system and the bus routes you will be using the most. Toronto has a very small and simple subway system, composed of only four different lines, so it is really easy to understand. For the bus routes, check here for a list of buses that take you to campus or downtown if you are studying at Keele, or refer to this list for Glendon. You can also read my colleague Garima’s post on commuting, or have Sam give you the lowdown on first-year transit at York.
Know your campus
While exploring the city is a lot of fun, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with what is closest to home as well: the areas around campus. If you are living in residence, it is important to explore neighbouring areas, especially if you are living at Glendon, if for no other reasons than practical ones. At some point, you will need to go to a bank, a supermarket or drugstore, and none of these are available directly on the Glendon campus. During my first year, I lived on campus at Glendon and found myself buying some food off campus, because the cafeteria, which is the main food option on campus, closed early some evenings. I had to take a bus to Yonge Street and then walk to go to a supermarket, which would take me around 15 minutes on the bus and another 5 to 10 on foot. I did this routinely all year until I discovered in second year that if I took another bus toward Bayview Avenue, it would drop me off right in front of a supermarket! Besides the practicality of it, knowing your neighborhood can also give you a better sense of place and home, which is important in a new country. And by the way, even though the Keele campus has many more offerings within its boundaries than Glendon, it is still important for you to know what lies beyond, since many of the stores and locales on campus close on the weekends.
Go and explore beyond Toronto
When you’re feeling a little more adventurous, I strongly suggest you leave campus, neighbourhood and even the city behind to explore farther afield. It may take a little bit of an effort, but it’s worth it. For example, Hamilton offers an incredible art and music festival called Supercrawl along one of its main streets. Unlike anything I have ever witnessed in Toronto, Supercrawl encourages everyone to showcase their artistic side and play music or paint all day on the street. Nuit Blanche, which many of us participated in this past week in Toronto, offers some similarities, but the art is performed by professional artists and it takes place across large swaths of the city, meaning you have to walk from one place to another, which can be exhausting.
If you’re more into the outdoors than into art, be sure to check out the incredible Algonquin Provincial Park, where you can enjoy beautiful landscapes (especially now during the fall with the leaves changing colour) from a trail or a canoe, as well as the company of some animals such as moose and beavers. Really Canadian, eh?
Well, what are you waiting for? Go and explore your campus, Toronto and the city’s surroundings and make your experience here in Canada memorable. And if you have some exploration tips of your own, please add them in the comment section or tweet us at @YorkUStudents with the #YUBlog.