2016 Scholar: U of T Update
Reflections from the early part of the year in Toronto
Although it’s a bit of a cliché to say so, my first month and a bit in Toronto has absolutely flown by. Now that we’re just coming into my favourite season of autumn (Fall here) I thought it would be time to give an update before both the cold and the deadlines really set in.
Arriving in the supposedly ‘frozen north’ in September I definitely did not expect temperatures of over 30 degrees to greet me. I very quickly realised my wardrobe of fluffy socks, puffer jackets and only one pair of shorts may have been a bit of an oversight. The beautiful weather is holding out: the leaves are stubbornly remaining green and the adorable black squirrels are getting fat. I’ve been informed by the locals that regarding the squirrels as cute, is about the same as thinking a pigeon is sweet. Maybe Canadians just have higher standards of vermin. Speaking of, I saw two racoons the other day, they looked just like hairy cartoon versions. My self-preservation kicked in before I tried to pet one.
The campus at the University of Toronto (UofT) is stunning. From the historic steps of University College (old for Canada at 163 this year) you can look across the quad to see the CN tower rising clearly above the downtown skyline. I’ll put in some photos so you aren’t subjected to my poor attempts at architectural prose. The walkway of Knox college looks just like Hogwarts but with more Tim Hortons (the Canadian icon of coffee) and mac books.
The courses that I am taking are on some of the most engaging topics I could have hoped for. From theoretically dense discussions of temporal space and law (it’s tough but I’m getting there) to sifting through the libraries huge newspaper resources to uncover the sordid history of Toronto’s sex trade. The Fisher Rare book library is truly incredible, open to the public and housed in the extensive UofT Robarts library, it holds the greatest volume of rare books in Canada and is amongst one of the most impressive of its kind in North America. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to go back to being a student in such a brilliant environment at UofT, it’s exciting to look at the year ahead and see how much it is going to change me as an academic.
It’s not been all work and no play. There is so much going on in this city it’s near impossible to keep up. I’ve been to a Jay’s baseball game at the open roofed Rogers Centre, literally at the foot of the CN tower. They lost, but I still bought a hat (anyone that knows me, knows I need very little reason to buy a hat). I also went to a World Cup of Hockey game which was so much fun. Hockey being ice hockey, not field hockey. I must admit that I didn’t feel maybe as conflicted as I should have done watching Canada soundly beat Team Europe: a team comprised of the talented European leftovers after Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech’s had stolen all of their national players. Bit of a sad Brexit reminder to have the lady selling me my drink say “I hope you’re cheering for Canada, now that you’re not in Europe anymore.” What will stay with me, is the sheer Canadian-ness of that game, so much red, so many maple leaves, so much hockey happiness.
Although I do love North American sport, that’s not been all I’ve got up to. I got to see The Killers play and my inner 14-year-old absolutely lost it, my outer 23-year-old was also a little bit ridiculous. I also went to a very surreal evening called Nuit Blanche. Every year, for one night only, art installations are hosted all over the city of Toronto. The photo I’ve put in is called “Death of the Sun” and was an absolutely entrancing play of colours and sounds projected onto a giant orb just in front of city hall. Inside City Hall was a deeply unsettling interpretation of the bottom of the sea that reminded me of an unwanted whisperer in your ear. The oddest art by far was a round table that appeared to hold a giant moaning pomegranate, for this, I have no words.
My lovely roommate took pity on a somewhat bemused Brit and took me to her family home for Thanksgiving. I am still not entirely sure how this is different from a general celebration of a harvest, but it was a lovely weekend of good food, warm company and a truly iconic pumpkin patch and maize maze.
So far, I couldn’t really have asked for a better start to my academic year. I can’t really thank the Canada Memorial Foundation enough; all I can promise is that I will absolutely make it one of the best years of my life.
View of the CN tower from University College
Rogers Centre watching a Blue Jays Game
World Cup of Hockey warm-ups with Sidney Cosby passing the Blue Line
Big Sun at Nuit Blanch
City Hall at Nathan Phillips Square