After living in Toronto for the last year and a half (minus the summer), I’ve learned some life skills and gained some knowledge that helps me survive.
I have compiled a list of things you MUST know about Toronto.
- Every hour is rush hour in Toronto. It’s almost always faster to walk and a good idea to save the $3 that would’ve been wasted on a subway or streetcar token whenever possible.
- That being said, a pair of good walking shoes is essential. Otherwise, your feet will be covered in painful blisters that don’t go away for weeks. Let’s just pretend I’m not speaking from experience.
- If the destination really is farther than walking distance, the subway becomes fair game. And it turns out that the people on the subway are MUCH more entertaining than any movie you’d pay $12 to see in the theatre. The second you get near the subway station, people surround you wanting spare change. They all, coincidentally, have experienced the disaster of a lifetime and really just need your money. If you’re feeling down, at least 4 creepy people on the subway will tell you that you’re beautiful. If you need fashion inspiration, you can find it on display there; people wear anything and everything from garbage bags to tuxedos. If your nose is stuffed up, the stench of the subway will likely clear any sinus issues. You can count on the newest “up-and-coming” 60-year-old musicians to be playing in the underground walkways with hats out, begging for change. And the FIGHTS. When service is down or delayed, tension floods the underground air. Arguments explode over people talking too loudly, people touching other people, people taking up two seats, people not controlling their dogs… it’s a great place to relax with some popcorn and just watch the situations unfold. The fact that I say that must mean I’m a broke university student with no money to spend on real entertainment, but anyone would agree that the subway is an interesting place, unique to Toronto.
- Living near the university is beyond useful, especially when you tend to forget 90% of what you need when you leave. It IS possible to leave class, run up seven flights of stairs, print off an assignment, run down seven flights of stairs and get back to class within two minutes, successfully making the due date. Oh, and making a mental commitment to never be this unprepared again won’t really make any difference. One night, I was having trouble sleeping and couldn’t get to sleep until a bit after 1. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but I had an exam at 8 AM the next morning. I FINALLY start drifting off and then hear THE LOUDEST NOISE. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP! THE FIRE ALARM GOES OFF AT 1:30 IN THE MORNING. Everyone’s hustled out of the building and sent outside into the freezing cold. We stand out there for about 15 minutes, lining up at the doors and just waiting for them to let us back in. Firefighters arrive and inspect the building and finally, the fire alarm goes silent. I burst in the door, “YES! I’m the first one in the building! This is awesome!” I had a few milliseconds of joy before security guards came from every angle screaming, “NO! NO!” and threw me back outside. Apparently I wasn’t allowed in yet. Anyways, we finally arrived back in the room just before two and my adrenaline was pumping so I couldn’t sleep AGAIN. Eventually I dozed off and my alarm woke me up at 7. “Ok, I’m getting up,” I told it…. and dozed off again. It is a MIRACLE that I woke up again at 7:50 – Thank you, Lord. I put on my contacts and just RAN to my exam, ended up out of breath but on time and passed the class with flying colours. So if you have to decide whether or not to live on campus, choose yes.
- If you have a dog and you leave it to go to university, you will develop a weird dog obsession and stare at any dog that walks past until it makes eye contact with you and ask every owner if you can just quickly pet his puppy and you’ll occasionally just Google search images of dogs and puppies and send these pictures to friends periodically and you’ll talk to any dog that barks at you and convince it to be your friend if no one’s around and they always accept the offer …. Wait, that’s just me?
- If you’re going to a university that has sports teams, you are automatically a fan. Snag some sports paraphernalia and support your athletes! GO RAMS GO! I bleed blue and gold.
- “Big Slice” – the pizza place serving a cheap slice that’s about a foot and a half long – seems AWESOME the first time. However, after feeling sick after the second and throwing up after the third… it was really a bad idea.
- Still on the topic of pizza (and coincidentally number 8)… when your friend dares you to eat 8 slices of pizza in one sitting without water and promises you $50, he is lying. You’ll feel sick for 48 hours and have nothing to show for it. Other than bragging rights, because ingesting 8 full-size slices of pizza is pretty impressive.
- Let your past make you better not bitter. I saw this on a church sign in October and thought it was a wise little tidbit of advice.
- FROSH WEEK is fun AND wallet-friendly because the amount of free things that are being thrown at you every minute is mind-blowing. Take advantage of this, because you’ll be broke soon enough. And at least when you’re broke, you’ll have an unlimited supply of writing utensils, reusable bags, USB sticks and more. I did the majority of my first semester’s interviews with a free Medieval Times notepad that I got during Frosh Week.
- The free events hosted in Dundas Square and surrounding downtown Toronto are actually pretty awesome. For example, I got a free pen on Brazilian Day. I impress everyone in my classes by showing them the mini calendar that comes out of it when you pull on a tab. As expected, I make a lot of new friends with that pen.
- I can’t even emphasize how important “free” is. If a contest is free to enter, by all means enter it! You could win $150 on a prepaid MasterCard, like me. A friend of mine followed this advice – in her own words, “I decided to be like you, Erin” – and she ended up winning her own $50 gift card! If the world would just listen to me, it would be SO much happier. I also ended up winning a $25 Starbucks gift card. FREE is REAL, people.
- Growing vegetables – and any other plant, for that matter – is hard work. I got a free basil plant and my roommate and I were growing it like the nice little pilgrims we are. Despite our best efforts, someone rowdy ALWAYS ended up knocking over the poor little basil plant and I’m pretty sure the thing died from stress.
- A toaster oven will end up being your best friend. It works like a regular oven but in the convenience of your room! I’m not sure if I published this already, but my roommate and I were performing some illegal activities throughout the year. The rules of residence clearly state that one must not have any electrical cooking appliances in their bedrooms…. But they equipped our room with a counter and a sink so what choice did we have? I don’t think there’s any appliance that we DIDN’T have. Of course, these were all hidden during inspections. And we never got caught!
- Of course, after moving to the big city, a country girl is bound to miss the farmlands. So when country comes to the city in the form of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, you can’t miss it! I was fortunate enough to talk my professor into giving me a free pass so I could write an article about everything there. It turns out that I didn’t need the pass because I – believe it or not – got lost and ended up inside the fairgrounds without ever passing security. And it was amazing – I spent the day with horses, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, llamas and more. I’ve never felt more at home.
- Views are important. My roommate and I lucked out – one of our walls was a HUGE window looking over the downtown streets with a nice cityscape of the CN tower and other bright buildings in the background. We spent a lot of time just sitting on our beds watching the people down below, which isn’t creepy at all. So when my cousin asked me what I was looking for while we were condo shopping, my first and only answer was “a good view.” Never underestimate the importance of a good view.
- Busses will always be late. Clear and simple fact of life.
- Never be afraid to try new things. I ate camel meat from a street vendor and I’m still alive!
- Grammar is SO, so important. With everyone rapidly firing off messages and emails and relying on the spellcheck of a smartphone, grammar mistakes are everywhere. So many people still can’t tell the difference between “your” and “you’re” and “they’re/their/there.” If you’re one of these people, I suggest you do a quick Google search and learn this right now!
- Hockey is a privilege that many other countries do not have. When a Brazilian exchange student wanted to come to the hockey game with me and my friends, I was not saying no. It was his first hockey game EVER and he was decked out in Ryerson Rams horns and a GO RAMS foam finger. “It’s so violent; I love it!” he said. It was awesome.
- In my opinion, the police on horseback do not belong in Toronto. Their horses poop all over the streets and it’s usually there for hours because they don’t clean it up. I probably wouldn’t be this concerned if I hadn’t stepped in it…
- Everyone you meet matters. A janitor is no less significant than the president of the university, and I learned to just be kind and smile at everyone. Whatever their job, anyone could be having a bad day and anyone could use a simple, “Hey, how are you?” If you think this is a minor thing, it’s really not. I once went to a cafeteria for lunch and asked the cashier how she was doing. “You’re the only person who’s asked me that all day,” she said and it actually took her by surprise. She said she wanted to give me a discount for it but she would get in trouble. A little bit of care goes a long way.
- Old technology is better than new technology. Since I’ve been through about 11 phones, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the subject. My old blackberry was submerged in a puddle once and worked again later that night – no rice, no anything. My new blackberry was on the floor when a fat guy at the gym rolled a bench onto it and sat down… the screen never turned on again. My old iPod nano was put through the wash by my ingenious mother… and lived to tell the tale! Along with its headphones. My friend’s wasn’t so lucky. A bodybuilder dropped a 100 lb. dumbbell on her new iPod touch and completely shattered it. Maybe this lesson should actually be that the gym is a very dangerous place for technology.
- If you leave a sink running and leave for a while, it WILL continue running and flood the room. This flood will also create an odd-coloured brownish stain on any towel that you use to clean it up.
- Last but definitely not least, dancing skills are important. The feeling you get when you beat a Wii U employee at a Just Dance competition in front of a huge crowd in the middle of the mall is indescribable.
I encourage you to memorize these 25 lessons and apply them to your daily lives for an extra little dose of happiness and wisdom each day. Have an amazing day, readers!