Illustration/ Daniel Glassman
Illustration/ Daniel Glassman

 

When I finished my first year of university, the first thing asked by anyone who had not seen me in months was: “how was living in downtown Toronto?” or “what did you discover?” Meanwhile, those who lived here queried: “don’t you just love the city?” All I could think was, “what city?”

 

Living in residence housing on campus is all a part of the university experience, right? It’s a great way to get involved, meet close friends, and immerse yourself in the campus community. I would be lying, though, if I said I ventured out beyond the four corners of campus more than five times in the eight months of first year.

 

I found that if I was not in class, I was either in the dining hall, at a campus library, or in my dorm room. That’s not much of Toronto—or even U of T for that matter. I found that with all the overwhelming new aspects of life in first year, I tried to keep things as simple as possible. Unfortunately, that didn’t leave much room for the city-life experience.


So when I signed the lease to my first apartment in July, I was itching with excitement. I had a whole month to discover Toronto as a true local—rather than as a campus dweller. Although I had technically lived in the city the previous year, I didn’t quite feel comfortable calling myself a Torontonian.

 

I moved in at the end of month and within just five weeks of living in the actual city I noticed that I had begun to call Toronto, rather than the town where I was from, my home. That’s when I knew that I had qualified for local status. I started going to the aesthetician across from Honest Ed’s more for her sisterly dating advice than for her waxing services. When we found out that we lived within three blocks of each other, we exchanged our favourite hang outs and phone numbers, in case I ever had an eyebrow emergency.


Coming to know Toronto has made me more comfortable at U of T and with myself. There is a sense of agency that comes with knowing one’s surroundings so well: when you know all about your literal destinations, you can focus on your figurative destinations. When you actually explore the opportunities available to you, the goals you want to accomplish suddenly don’t seem so impossible.


The diverse, quilt-like quality of our surroundings gives one the chance to network with and learn from a variety of people and places. Second year is a great time to engage with this opportunity; you’re no longer trying to adjust to first year, but don’t yet have to worry about applying to grad school, jobs, or professional school. So whether you’re lingering in a coffee shop, signing up for a conference, or getting a part-time job, be open to the wisdom and opportunity that can always be found on the streets of Toronto.

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