No, this is not a post about a possible afterlife. Instead, it is about the life after a year abroad and, as I approach the end of an incredible year in Toronto, how I am thinking about what happens after.
This is hands down the best trip I have ever been on. I would recommend everyone who gets a placement in Canada or the USA (or anyone else for that matter) to visit the Canadian Rockies that surround the small towns of Banff and Jasper. I did it at the end of my placement, so I did not have to worry about assignments or exams, and it was the best thing I did whilst on exchange in the University of Toronto.
The inner workings of fraternities are often left as somewhat of a mystery for exchange students. Their obscurity and emphasis on secrecy means that infamous stereotypes usually surround any conversation about frats and, by extension, the guys that are members/brothers within them. This blog should give you some insight into what they’re actually about and encourage you (if you’re a guy) to join one because it has made my year infinitely better – girls can join sororities, but you will have to ask someone else about them.
There are four main options for accommodation for exchange students in Toronto: University Halls, Private students’ residence, student co-op housing, and Private renting. I opted to go for a private residence on the edge of campus, which was perfect for me, but I will talk about that later. I will give some general advice first; then, I will go through each of these (there will be a sentence overview after each one if you don’t want to read the whole thing) and finish with what I would advise to make sorting accommodation as stress-free as possible.
First thing to say is that Canada is massive. Any distance between things you would actually want to see is likely to be the equivalent of going from London to Newcastle – and that’s just within Ontario. Therefore, I would advise against getting the bus between big cities as it just takes too long, and you end up spending half your time away sitting next to fat men on stuffy coaches.
In Ontario, Go Trains would be the ‘go to’ solution (although they are stupidly slow in North America) but travelling inter-province would require VIA Rail. However, whilst the rail-route between Vancouver and Halifax (the whole breadth of Canada) has a global reputation for beautiful scenery and a full Canadian experience, it does take 14 days and costs more than an entire student loan instalment. Whilst it may not be the most environmentally friendly, the only realistic option for longer trips is plane travel.
Planes can be expensive in North America (you won’t find the equivalent of a £20 flight from Manchester to Lisbon), so I’d recommend downloading the ‘Hopper’ app. It lets you track your specific flight and predicts prices so you can get the best deal possible.
You have probably also heard about North American road trips gaining something of cult status in the US, and it’s no different in Canada. Some of the best times I’ve had is whacking on some tunes and driving for hours in the Canadian wilderness. It may be more expensive than other transport, but it gives much more freedom to explore exactly how you want. It also makes COVID-related entry requirements into the US much easier.