Student life in Toronto

Student life in Toronto
Updated 2019-04-30 11:49

Studying at a Toronto university places you right in one of the most vibrant and diverse urban centres in the world. Toronto consistently ranks in the top most livable cities in the world and offers a wealth of natural and cultural attractions. There's a different festival or event to experience almost every weekend, and they often showcase Toronto's diverse population.

What it's like to live in Toronto as a student

The weather in Toronto with its long winters and abundant snowfall may take some getting used to, but you will come to appreciate the distinctive four seasons. In autumn, the colours of the fall leaves are an attraction in itself, and Thanksgiving and Halloween are unique holidays to experience. During the winter months, Toronto is decorated in snow and Christmas lights. You can go outside and enjoy the snow and cold by skiing outside of the city and ice-skating at City Hall. Newcomers quickly learn to appreciate and warm up at the Tim Hortons coffee shops that are on every block in Toronto. Spring brings the maple syrup season and the first signs of life as flowers come up and trees start to bud. Summer in Toronto is a time to enjoy street-side cafes and escape to the many lakes and wilderness areas outside the city.

While Toronto itself offers up numerous cultural, sports and nightlife activities, each Toronto university has a vast number of opportunities for students to find their passion. Meet like-minded people and find your community with the hundreds of clubs, sports teams and organisations you can join. Canadian universities value the development of the whole person, not merely the academic person. By getting involved in campus life, you will meet friends, better transition into University life, gain support and feel more settled in your new city and campus.

Things to do in Toronto

While studying make sure you take the time to see Toronto's many attractions and sites. One of Toronto's most recognisable symbols is the CN Tower. You can visit the CN Tower for panoramic views of Toronto and Lake Ontario, and even dine at the 360 Restaurant. The nearby Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre host Toronto's professional sports teams from hockey to basketball to baseball, as well as host concerts and cultural events. St Lawrence Market dates from 1850 and is the place to pick up speciality foods, flowers, and handicrafts. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) are architectural masterpieces in addition to the exhibits inside. Toronto hosts many Broadway-style shows in the Entertainment district along King Street.

Most visitors to Toronto will want to visit Niagara Falls, and in the summer months, you can get really close to the falls on a boat cruise. Canada is known for its abundant wilderness and wildlife, and there is no better place to experience the land of lakes than Algonquin Provincial Park. Canada's capital city, Ottawa, is located three hours from Toronto and here you can experience the rich history of Canada.

Local culture

Canadians are renowned for being some of the friendliest people in the world and known for their constant need to apologise. You can expect Torontonians to be relatively easy-going and non-judgmental. They are proud of their diverse city and extremely welcoming to visitors.

The cost of living in Toronto

As Canada's largest city, the cost of living in Toronto is quite high. Aside from tuition, the most significant cost students face is accommodation. By sharing accommodation, preparing meals at home and limiting spending on entertainment, students can work to keep costs manageable. Students on a really strict budget could get by on CAD 1,200/month living in a shared house in downtown Toronto with very minimal spending. CAD 1,500-2,000/month would allow you to live more comfortably or on campus in student housing.

Student accommodation in Toronto

Students can choose to live on campus in student housing or off-campus. Each has its advantages, and you should think about which you prefer and your budget. Living on campus is convenient and allows you to make quick connections to the university community. However, it generally comes at a higher cost. In Canada, it is typical for students to live on campus in their first year of undergraduate studies and then to live in off-campus housing for the remainder of their studies. Many universities offer special residence spaces for graduate students.

If you would like to live on campus in residence, you will need to apply through the university's website as early as possible because space is limited. Residence housing can range from shared or private dormitory rooms to shared apartments or townhouses. The University of Toronto does have a guaranteed residence program for first-year students.

Residence costs are paid for the 8-month academic term (September to April) and range from $9,200-$18,000 depending on the residence and if a meal plan is included.

If you plan to live off-campus, the University of Toronto website provides lots of good information to help you find accommodation and to understand the process and your rights as a tenant. Accommodation costs are highest in the Toronto city centre and become more affordable as you move into the suburbs. However, you then need to factor in more time and expense for transportation. In the city centre, a room in a shared house will cost $500-750, a 1-bedroom apartment $1,000-1,600 a month, 2 bedroom $1,200-2,200/month and a 3-bedroom apartment $2,500-4000/mo (total price for all inhabitants). Sharing an apartment or house is a much more affordable option, and you can find roommates and flatmates through the university websites.

Getting around

You can get around Toronto by using the inter-connected TTC subway, bus, streetcar, and GO train lines which is the third-largest public transportation network in North America. University students get discounted TTC monthly passes that cost CAD 117/month or $3 per ride. Toronto has an extensive bike infrastructure with designated lanes on many roads and lots of off-road trails.

Employment and internships in Toronto

If you are an international student with full-time status, you are generally eligible to work on-campus and off-campus with your study visa. You will need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) which you can apply for through Service Canada. Off-campus employment is limited to 20 hours per week during the academic school year.

It is very common for students studying in Canada to participate in co-operative education and internship programs as part of their curriculum. This is an excellent way to make connections between theory and practice. It is also an excellent opportunity to gain Canadian work experience and make connections in your field. You will have to apply for a Co-op work visa through Immigration Canada before beginning a co-op or internship.

Useful links:

Education in Toronto
Scholarships for International students in the University of Toronto

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