Friday, October 30th
Well, the bags and boxes are all packed, so it looks like I’m about to end my time here in the city of Toronto. I have to admit…I really enjoyed my month or so here in the city. I’ve had the chance to interact with a few thousand students here, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.
So what did I learn during my time as a temporary Torontonian? This is a bustling, crazy, 24-hour city, alive with culture and energy, jolting from Film Fest to Fashion Week with alarming efficiency. Living downtown was an educational experience, particularly since I’ve never lived in a city before. From my apartment in the Soho, I had a view of both the Skydome – I refuse to call it the Rogers Centre – and the CBC, places where great Canadian memories have been made and reported on. The city managed to enrage me with its traffic, charm me with its food and culture, and – of course – make me sad to be a Leafs fan. But it’s not until my final day in Toronto that I really came to see what the city was about.
On my final day in Toronto, I called my family doctor and asked him if I should get the H1N1 vaccine. A severe asthmatic as a child, I was a little worried about the flu, particularly since I’m in airports and high schools for the rest of the fall. He recommended that I visit a clinic, so Friday, I joined the huddled masses in front of Metro Hall in downtown Toronto, waiting for the vaccine. Like everyone else, I joined the line, checked my e-mail occasionally, marvelled at the media coverage, and – it being Toronto – rejoiced when someone brought me a latte. In line, the hardened, tired faces I’d become used to on the sidewalks and in traffic seemed to vanish. In their places stood fragile human beings; parents, children, the old and infirm. Everyone tired and a little bit fearful, but prepared to be patient. The people I met in line were personable and helpful. We talked about the news, family, careers, and whether this H1N1 thing had been blown out of proportion. I made friends, traded laughs, and lamented the weather. It was the most Canadian of experiences, mimicking the conversations occurring in Tim Hortons across the country. Of course – it still being Toronto -we exchanged Facebook/LinkedIn coordinates prior to leaving each other’s company.
I think if push came to shove, I could live in Toronto. It’s a huge city, and comes packaged with tons of issues and opportunities. But deep down in places we outsiders don’t often get to see, Toronto is still capable of small-town charm, and a friendliness I never associated with Canada’s largest city. It is with mixed emotions that I find myself leaving, and I look forward to next time.
So, on the university side, what have I learned at the end of 60 days?
Students are actually LOOKING for help and guidance, to the point where I meet freelance guidance counsellors on a fairly regular basis. These are usually former guidance counsellors, who leverage their years of experience to the benefit of their clients. As for what I think this means…Well, it could be any number of things. One read on it is that students – or parents – are working to make sure they make an informed decision, and looking for outside help. Another is that the system is failing its students, to the point where private industry has sprung up. I don’t truly believe it to be the latter, and look forward to examining this issue more closely.
QUIP is a pretty good time, and my days have taken on a bit of a different flavour since I teamed up with McGill and Concordia. Sara and Sarah – (the reps from McGill and Concordia)– present very differently from me, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons from each of them. I’ve learned an awful lot about both universities, and had fun working with them. While the presentations are pretty uniform from day to day, it’s cool to watch the elements we switch, learning and reacting to each other. I often wonder, if I was in high school, would I have been able to read between the lines and see the different experiences available at all three schools?
- Parents are intimately involved in the university decision, asking pointed questions about outcomes and lifestyle. One parent even confronted me with the legendary Bishop’s fight song, showing that parents are really doing their research.
Next up…Regina, Winnipeg, and a 3-week adventure in BC. Stay tuned…