Toronto – University of Toronto

Reasons people went to this university/place

Why UofT

  • Best university in Canada, among the best in the world
  • Best Italian department outside of Italy
  • Canadian literature (Yan Martell, Margarete Atwood)
  • Awesome societies (Quidditch team!)
  • Campus: lecture halls, libraries
  • International office very active, esp. in September, organizing tons of things for international students (BBQ, picnic, Niagara Falls, events)

Why Toronto

  • Canada as a bicultural/bilingual space
  • Multicultural city
  • General American Accent
  • “small” big city (downtown possible on foot/ by bike)
  • Extremely multicultural (à 10 min: 4 different districts), no racism (that I noticed)
  • Underground pathways (although only 2 real subway lines)
  • Toronto islands
  • Amazing seasons: warm summer, great autumn, cold and snowy winter, beautiful (albeit late) spring

Amazing travel location: close to Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Chicago + Airport with “cheap” flights

  • Canada has always appealed to me as a destination for my exchange plans. Then I looked through the partner universities and found the University of Toronto really interesting right away. After some research about the university (highly renowned) and the city (super multicultural) I was convinced that I would rank U of T first on my list of preferences.

Recommended semester to go there

Fall (= September to December)

  • The university organizes tons of events for new international students that you can attend (not so many for exchange students per se)
  • Summer in Toronto is great (30-33 degrees Celsius) and swim in the lake! (Toronto islands =D )
  • It is freezing in January and February (-22 was a normal temperature during the day) so nobody wants to go out and sight-see and socialize anyways…
  • Also, you get Halloween and Christmas and even new years if you want to

But if you can try to stay for the whole year, the spring is amazing too! And May is a great time to travel!

When I applied, they only offered placement for a full academic year, and I think that is still the case. But I really enjoyed staying in Toronto for two semesters and would absolutely recommend it.

Before going there

Accommodation experiences

  • A room in a shared house that I found once I was there even though I got there late (yeah, I was very lucky): Amazing, a little expensive maybe, but both the other student and the landlady were super nice and I was invited to have Thanksgiving Dinner and Christmas Dinner with my Landlady and her family.

  • I went to Toronto about two weeks before courses started and tried to find accommodation there on site (which seemed to be easier for me than looking only online). The housing market in Toronto is expensive and pretty rough, and rooms and apartments that are rather cheap are fiercely fought over. So it is common practice that you come to a showing with the deposit (in cash or a cheque) ready, in case you like the place and want to make sure you really get it! I found a room in a shared apartment in a condo after two days in Toronto, and was pretty happy with it (after a big initial cleaning session). Housing standards are lower than in Austria, and with regard to the prices that might be surprising sometimes. If I had known about the student residencies earlier, I think I would have applied for one of those. Friends of mine stayed in the “Coop” houses and in “Tartu College” and most of them really liked it there. They are very close to campus and you have more opportunity to meet other (exchange) students.

Special items to pack

  • You probably don’t own clothing that’s warm enough…
  • I think there was an adapter but I only brought my laptop so it was on there and that’s it. The rest of the electrical appliances I was able to borrow from my housemates

  • Warm clothing is highly recommended. Winters can be long and very cold. I bought a warm coat and boots when I was in Toronto.
  • Yes, you need an outlet adapter if you want to use your electronic devices from home. I brought one adapter and a distributor, so I could use all my chargers at the same time.
  • You need to apply for a visa for staying in Canada for more than 3 months.

How people who went there handled their finances

  • I opened a new bank account (which was a good thing, because the dollar went way up while I was there, and a friend of mine ended up paying 33 % more for her accommodation than at the beginning of the year). You’ll get used to the currency in no time

  • I opened a bank account with “Scotiabank”, because I needed it for transferring the monthly rent for the apartment.

For everyday expenses, I used my Austrian credit card or paid cash.

University Information

Rough semester schedule

  • Fall term: beginning of September – end of November (Exams: December)
  • Winter term: beginning of January – end of March (Exams: April)

  • The Fall Term starts in Mid-September and lasts until Christmas.
  • The Winter Term starts in the second week of January and lasts until the end of April.(careful with confusing names for the terms!)
  • Classes end about two weeks before the end of a term, and final exams are being held then.

Holidays during the semester

  • There is reading week in February where you don’t have classes. Also between the end of the term and the exams there is a short study break (like 5 days)

  • The winter break between the two semesters (2-3 weeks, depending on your exam schedule) is great because you won’t have anything to do then as you’ll have all your coursework done before.
  • “Reading week”: we had one week off during February

Number of ECTS the university expected former exchange students to do

  • 3-4 classes per semester (1 class is about 7-8 ECTS worth of work, but once you’re back you usually only get 5 or 6 for it…)

  • ECTS not applicable; every course that lasts one semester has a course credit of 0,5. Each course that lasts two semesters counts 1,0 credit. If I remember correctly, the University of Toronto did not make minimum or maximum requirements.

Course restrictions and when the university informed students about those

  • Yeah, on the info sheet ( no commerce, nursing…, only one 400 level class)

  • Yes, I was denied access to some courses. But since you are asked to make a long list of possible courses anyway, it is not that much of a problem. Prerequisites are being  taken so I couldn’t take certain literature courses e.g. I was informed about that quite some time before my arriving in Toronto. Once I was there, I went to the CIE (international office) and they really helped me to find more suitable courses and also to get a spot in them, and fixed my course schedule. Make sure you only choose courses that you are really interested in. The workload for each course is relatively high and intense, but all of my professors were extremely knowledgeable, competent and friendly and eager to establish a good working relationship with their students. I would also recommend taking only 3 or 4 courses per term. If you take more than that, you might find not enough time to explore the city, to travel and to spend time with your new friends from all over the world 😊

Did the university actually offer the classes students originally planned to do?

  • Not all of them (you select courses in May, but the official list of offered classes comes out in July)

  • Yes, all of them. The course program is very accurate and they stick to it.

Recommended courses/modules

  • Canadian English

  • Courses with Prof. Andrew Lesk (The Graphic Novel, Voices in Canadian Writing)
  • English Grammar
  • Writing English Essays

Historical Linguistics

Exam period

  • December and April. Some small classes have their final exam in the last session (so end of November and end of March, meaning you basically have most of December and most of April off. But: you miss the exam, you fail the class. No second sittings

  • Fall Term: Mid-December to Christmas
  • Winter Term: Mid-April to end of April (not every course has a final exam, some involve writing an essay, a seminar paper, or a project)

How exams look like

  • Same as here. In an exam hall, respectable distance between seats, and no stuff on the table. They expect a well structured essay.

  • 1 ½ hours, written exams. Most exams in the humanities require writing a well-structured, well-argued essay on a topic discussed in class/in the readings.

Other information

Recommended restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping centers etc.

  • Eating out: Well, food in Toronto is amazing, usually cooked (and served) by immigrants and their children, most of it is extremely delicious and cheap (for their standards). Italian and German food is a little overrated (some of them have been there too long and kinda gone native – with pasta alfredo and all) and a little expensive, but anything Asian (Chinese, Cantonese, Hongkong, Japanese, Osaka street food, Korean ❤, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian…) is to die for. Also good: Latin American stuff. And New Orleans fusion food. And real burgers. St. Lawrence Market is great too, you can basically have lunch by just trying all the samples. They also have a German bakery in case you get nostalgic… Basically all the food is great except for the typical fast food places like Domino’s pizza, McDonalds and Tim’s…
  • Shopping center: Eaton (the biggest, plus you don’t have to be outside when it’s cold because there’s an underground passage from the subway)
  • Bars & pubs: there are a couple cheap bars on Spadina and on King’s street… There is an amazing restaurant/cocktail bar called the One Eighty on Bloor street on the 51st floor of a shopping center (and you can see the whole city from the terrace) but you might want to dress up for that

  • Shopping: Eaton Centre, Queen Street, Kensington Market
  • Cafes, Bars: Tim Hortons!! 😊 Maddison Pub, Hair of the Dog, many lovely cafés in Kensington Market (e.g. “Fika”), Art Café, Aunties & Uncles
  • Restaurants: Sushi on Bloor, Future Bakery, Me Va Me, Fresh, Amsterdam Brewery

Recommended secret spots in the city/town

  • The One Eighty on 55 Bloor West. It’s a little expensive, but worth it for a special evening. Dress up, watch the sunset and enjoy the view when the lights come on
  • The Toronto islands are amazing. Go as long as the weather is still nice. Take your bathing suit (the water is really warm) and bring some food for a picnic. Don’t forget your camera.
  • There is a sort of Christmas market in the Distillery District. (sort of = everyone will love it while you’ll be thinking “nice try”)

  • Toronto Islands, Philosopher’s Walk (on campus), Scarborough Bluffs, Harbourfront

Recommended day trips

  • Day trips:
  • Niagara Falls (the falls are nice, but the town is such a disappointment, it’s ugly and dirty and 100 % touristy. Better look at the Konzelmann winery, Niagara on the Lake and the smallest chapel ever on your way there)
  • Algonquin Park (national park, especially nice during the Indian summer, you could stay there overnight)
  • Weekend trips/Longer trips:
  • Montreal, Ottawa, Algonquin Park, New York, Chicago, Vancouver, LA…
  • There is a Greyhound station and an Airport, use them.

  • Vaughan Mills Outlet Shopping Centre, Niagara Falls, Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, Thousand Islands

Recommended places or events to meet new people/make new friends

  • All the events organized by the international office in late August and September

  • The CIE (Center for International Experience) at the University of Toronto offers many fun events, especially at the beginning of the semester that are perfect for meeting new people. Most of them are free, some require your signing up for them beforehand, some you have to pay for (eg. Niagara Falls Day Trip, Algonquin Park Two Day Trip including camping)

Public transport offered in the city/area of the University

  • Only 2 subways that go there (one up down and one left right) but there are a couple of street cars and buses (that might run late so make sure you’re early) and you can also bike there (maybe not in January or February)

  • Public Transport is very expensive and not that amazing, and there is no such thing like a semester ticket. I got myself a bike at the beginning of my stay and cycled whenever it was possible. During the very cold months I bought a monthly public transit ticket. But cycling was a lot of fun and you can basically reach all important places in town easily by bike.

Other recommendations

  • Don’t just stay inside when it’s cold outside, it’s not that bad when there’s a lot of people around (I was actually cozy warm on New years)

  • The campus of U of T is awesome. They have so many libraries and nice places to study or to hang out (especially Hart House). As a student, you can also use all of the sports facilities on campus, and they are pretty awesome (swimming pools, state-of-the-art fitness centres, drop-in sports courses etc.)
  • If you take courses in which you are required to write essays, I would suggest making an appointment at of one of the Writing Centres of the university at one point. They are extremely helpful at every stage of the writing process, and really assist you in achieving the clear and well-structured writing that most professors demand in their courses.
  • The big museums offer cool evening events sometimes: The AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) hosts an arty party every month, including bands, DJs, open galleries, bars etc. (“AGO First Thursdays”), the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) offers similar social evening events.

Is this University the right place for me?

You should spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • Because it’s a great university in a great place

  • If you want to experience a year in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, studying at a great university which offers not only excellent courses, but also many opportunities for extra-curricular and free time activities on campus.
  • Because it will make you work hard, broaden your horizon, and open your heart and your mind.

You should not spend your semester/year abroad at this university or place

  • If you don’t like the cold

  • If you only want to invest a minimum of work your time abroad. The courses are really good and super interesting, but the workload is not to be underestimated.

(all information provided is based on 2 filled out questionnaires)