By Paul Alex Treadaway, University of Toronto
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far it’s that, most of the time, saying yes is usually a good idea. Do you want some cake? Obviously yes. Are you coming out with us tonight? Yes! I mean what could possibly go wrong? Do you want to go to study and live in Canada for six months? Yes.
So far that last one seems to have been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. A few weeks before I left the UK to come to Toronto, a friend from home turned to me and said “So you’re moving to Canada, isn’t that scary?”. Even though I’d been planning and talking about doing this semester abroad for what seemed like forever, the question really hit me. I mulled it over for a few seconds in my head; I didn’t really know anyone in Toronto, I was leaving behind friends and family who meant the world to me in the UK, I was going to a whole new country, with a different culture and on top of that I was going to a university with an entirely different academic system. On second thoughts, maybe it was kind of ‘scary’ after all. However, it was what rushed into my head next that decided my reply.
“I’m nervous” I said, “but when else in my life am I going to get to travel and live in another part of the world as easily and meet and make friends from anywhere and everywhere?”. When I said that, those thoughts were what I hoped would happen, now they are my every day. In the last week I’ve spent my life with people from Denmark, Singapore, Germany, China, the Netherlands, Ireland, France, Italy, as well as obviously the UK and most of all Canada. My days and nights have been filled with people telling me the stories of their lives followed by me recounting mine. There’s a sense amongst all of us that we’re just beginning to discover how we fit into the wonderful chaos of culture that not only defines Toronto, but also Canada as a whole. A Canadian friend of mine said to me today in our class that to him, a child of immigrants himself, Canada was “everyone and everything” and right now it definitely feels that way to me.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments where you miss home or get things wrong; on my second day in Toronto I meant to get the tram (they call them Streetcars here) to one side of the city, forgetting that Canada drives on the other side of the road, and went in the completely wrong direction for longer than I’m willing to admit, before realising and hastily getting off at the next stop. But when I’m walking through the snow, watching an ice hockey game (I know, it had to come up at some point, I am in Canada after all!), looking up at the CN Tower or simply meeting people from anywhere and everywhere, it all feels totally worth the mishaps and mistakes you inevitably make along the way. Every day I wake up to my view of the Toronto skyline and feel as if I’m one of the luckiest men alive and it’s all down to one word. The word is Yes.