By Christevie Ngoma, University of Toronto, Canada
After crying on the plane about leaving my friends and family, I felt a wave of excitement because I realised after weeks of planning a personal statement to apply for the IPO, months of waiting for an answer. I finally made it to Toronto.
The past 3 weeks have been so busy, who would’ve thought that moving to a new country would be so eventful? This blog has tips on what to do and where in your first month as an exchange student!
- House Shopping!
You’ve landed in Toronto and due to suitcase weight limits you of course have no duvet, pillows or mattress topper. Here are some store recommendations in Downtown Toronto: Homesense and Walmart. To give a UK comparison Walmart is probably the closest you’ll find to Asda prices, so I recommend that to save money. In Walmart you can definitely find some cutlery and plates, but again to save more money I recommend Dollarama as you’re only using these things for a short amount of time.
If you’re like me and enjoy decorating your room, then I also have recommendations for that too! Dollarama have affordable decorations, but I recommend Amazon to get things quick and you can definitely find things for a cheaper price. (Tip I brought my fairy lights from the UK to save money)
2. Make Friends
For me personally, I haven’t had to step out my comfort zone since 1st year to make friends. It was low key scary to have to go through that again, but here are some tips on how to do that!
Whatsapp Groups: I joined the University of Toronto exchange student Facebook group and it helped ease my nerves, because I knew there was a bunch of other students going through the same thing as me. And I knew I had people to meet up with when I land! It also helps to join a group that just has UOM students, makes you feel less lonely!
Club Fair: I would recommend attending the club fair to find people who have similar interests as you! UofT have a wide range of clubs and societies to join. There’s athletics, roller skating, gaming, choir and many cultural groups!
Societies: I researched all the societies UofT have and I tried to find their Instagram’s to see if they had any events happening. On my 2nd day in Toronto I attended the Black Students Association (BSA) day party and I met some lovely people!
Talking: This might be the hardest one, but if you are sitting next to someone in a lecture. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just say hi! Being an exchange student is already a conversation starter and it always helps to have a course friend who’s familiar with UofT.
I came a week earlier so I could settle into the city, and the weather was perfect so either alone or with friends I walked around campus and downtown. It also helped to find my class buildings before teaching actually started.
This is a bit of downer. But you need to be brave and look at your bank account, look at your expenses. Don’t let apple or google pay run you dry! Separate your budget into income and expenses. I advise separating your expenses into Travel, Entertainment, Food, Rent and Self Maintenance (e.g. haircuts etc). With banks like Monzo and Starling you can easily divide your money into different saving bags so you know you don’t over spend!
5. Winter Shopping
Don’t be fooled by Toronto’s Summery September! Start looking for winter clothes especially before they get too expensive. As soon as I heard that it can get to -30 degrees here, I started looking for jackets immediately. Here are some shop recommendations!
H&M, Mountain Warehouse, ASOS. I got my jackets and boots from here and they were quite affordable!
6. Relax and Enjoy
As much as I have put pressure on making friends, budgeting and getting settled, don’t forget to take a deep breath and relax! You finally made it after all that preparation, you deserve to have a night to yourself to rest. Order some food, watch a movie and enjoy Toronto! You have a whole semester or a whole year to make friends, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself!
Good Luck <3