University of Alberta 411: Where to find the best cheap lunch and more

A University of Alberta insider's perspective on campus life

University of Alberta Campus

Various classes and activities on the main campus of the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, on Thursday, October 8, 2009. (Photography by John Ulan)

University of Alberta student Mitch Sorenson.


Unofficial school motto:

‘Wow, the bus came on time today’

Best place for a nap:

The Fishbowl in the Humanities Centre or the silent floors of Cameron Library

Best cheap lunch:

FiliStix in the Central Academic Building

Best hangover breakfast:

The ‘Grick Middle’ sandwich and coffee from Farrow; they’re life-changing, I promise

Favourite watering hole:

Devaney’s Irish Pub; service is awful at the Students’ Union-run bars

Perks of living in this town:

There’s a revolving door of great festivals all year, and West Edmonton Mall is pretty neat

Best place to study:

The ‘Harry Potter Room’ in Rutherford South Library

Weirdest tradition:

Eating ‘the Tombstone’ (an extra-large poutine wrapped in a double-meat, double-cheese donair) from Marco’s Famous

Best campus event:

Week of Welcome

Best giveaway:

Aside from the tidal wave of merch that is Week of Welcome, try to make it to a Bears and Pandas game when they pass out cowbells

Best live music venue:

Starlite Room

University Insider Report: Mitch Sorensen, 20, English and Psychology

At first blush, there’s a lot not to like about the University of Alberta. With 38,733 students, the campus can feel enormous and alienating. It’s winter for six months of the year if you’re lucky, and you’ll be bundled in a parka for most of the fall and winter semesters. And then there’s the fact that most students commute to school, making campus feel empty on evenings and weekends.

But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a firmly entrenched residence culture, a multitude of student groups and lots of resources to make your student experience as smooth as possible.

PROFILE: University of Alberta | Edmonton, Alta. | Founded 1908

The U of A is consistently ranked among the top five universities in Canada. You’d be hard-pressed to find a department not on the leading edge of its field.

MAC_RANKING BUTTONS_MD5 In terms of location, the main North Campus, which is where most undergraduates go to class, sits between two vast urban parks on one of the more scenic pieces of land in Edmonton. Though -40° C is an unpleasant reality for everyone, no one makes more of winter than the people here. What’s more, four varsity teams won Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships last year, and all their conference home games are free to attend.

A stroll through the grounds offers a profound contrast between old and new. A few steps from the ivy-covered brick of the Old Arts Building lies the glass-and-steel enormity of the newly built Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering, which is just one of many newly completed structures.

Though the university wears its 108 years with pride, it has a clear focus on the future. A revamped strategic institutional plan as well as a reversal of prior budget cuts from the province mean the education you receive here will only get stronger.


From language clubs to debate to recreation league sports, all the extracurricular bases are covered. The U of A is probably best known for the campus-wide obsession with dodgeball, and a variety of leagues allow people of all skill levels to play.

Those who enjoy writing can volunteer with student newspaper The Gateway, water lovers can join the rowing team and the newly built rock-climbing centre is a ton of fun.

Checking through the club directory is an absolute must when you arrive. And if your activity of choice isn’t yet an option, starting up a new club and getting it funded is pretty straightforward.

Local Vibe

Edmonton maintains a vibrant arts community and is home to a diverse population. Of course, it’s also the provincial capital, and walking around the legislature and other seats of government is enjoyable, as is strolling through the downtown core, just a few stops north of campus on the city’s light-rail transit.

The entertainment and restaurant scene caters to a variety of tastes and budgets, and a surprisingly full live-music calendar means you can find great shows year-round.

The Skinny

The umbrella university site for schedule-building, enrolment info, scholarships and tuition payments is All things Students’ Union (elections, events, information, resources) can be found at