In the chaos of our daily lives as students, we often forget about the world outside of our campus. We run from class to class, nap at the nearest libraries, and study ’til the cows come home. On occasion it’s helpful to remind ourselves that across the GTA there are thousands of other students sharing these experiences, albeit in different settings. This past week The Varsity teamed up with The Medium and The Underground to explore student life at campuses other than our own. A UTSG student bushwhacked her way through the thickets of UTM; a UTM student braved the foreign land of UTSC; and a UTSC student weaved in and out of the chaos of UTSG. Their journeys were rigorous, depleting, and undeniably educational. Here, the three writers share their accounts of the campuses they visited.
One hour and 34 minutes — that’s how long it took me to get from the St. George campus to Mississauga via public transit. Increasingly impatient due to traffic delays and construction, my frustration disappeared as soon as the bus pulled into UTM. As a big fan of architecture and landscapes, the first thing that struck me about UTM was the harmonious integration of modern structures and natural settings.
Farah Qaiser, a third-year molecular biology specialist, and features editor of The Medium greeted me upon arrival. She took me on a brief walk from the bus loop into Kaneff Centre and then through to the Student Centre.
At UTSG, it’s not uncommon to confidently jaywalk across Queen’s Park with thirty other individuals; however, at UTM, there is no need to jaywalk at all. The campus is secluded from urban areas and can be reached by way of a single road. As a pedestrian friendly campus, all of the buildings are a short walk away from one another across a series of pedestrian-only pathways. The Student Centre, functions as UTM’s town hall, hosts the UTMSU offices, The Medium newspaper, the CFRE Radio station, and various other student organizations. The Student Centre, although small, is host to club booths, the Blind Duck Pub, and serves as a relaxing space to hangout with friends — similar to the ground floor of Sid Smith at UTSG. Qaiser was surprised when I informed her that UTSG is only in the process of developing our own Student Commons.
After dropping off my things at The Medium’s office, I headed over to CFRE (Canada’s First Radio Erindale) where I had the chance to listen to a live taping of The Coastline, a student-run radio show hosted by DJs Jiten and Dylan. The show aims to share experiences and issues that students have faced, from high school personality phases to dealing with workloads. Apart from representing student life at UTM, the radio group’s aim is to showcase a variety of musical genres, and promote the student DJs on campus. When asking the hosts if there is ever a specific topic to their show, the DJs reply that “There are people that have a topic — not us.”
Across from the Student Center sits the Blackwood Gallery, an art gallery featuring the work of local, national, and international professional artists. The gallery’s current exhibit, The pen moves across the earth, is a look at humanity’s influence on nature.
Walking back to the Student Centre, I noticed an open-storage room. The room is a space for BikeShare, which is UTM’s bike rental and repair facility. Noting the small size of their facility, the representative at BikeShare said that there is a high demand for their services, and as a space for students to rent and repair bikes, they hope to expand in the future.
The UTM campus is also situated next to forestry and wildlife. A nature trail adorns back campus, and runs alongside the Credit River, where people are often found fishing. The nature trail was notably empty, unfrequented by UTM students, but nevertheless a recommendable place to de-stress and appreciate the quiet of nature.
Accompanied by The Medium’s features editor, I took this as an opportunity to ask about some common myths regarding UTM. According to Qaiser, the notion that everyone at UTM knows each other is, in fact, true. Apparently the school is so small that you’ll recognize nearly everyone in your respective year of study. Unlike UTSG, it’s particularly difficult to avoid someone. Even if you try; you’re bound to run into them.
I visited UTM’s four-floor library to compare it with our own library, Robarts. Much like Robarts, UTM’s library holds a variety of study environments: desks with dividers, group study rooms, and tables with low dividers for when you want to pseudo-study with friends. There’s a ‘Quiet’ Collaborative Study Zone’ on the third floor — which is in reality a space for loud conversations, food, and maybe the occasional studying on the side.
Coming in to UTM, all I really knew was that there would be many trees and glass buildings, but the campus prove to hold so much more. The campus design is successful in its balance between nature and modernity, because it finds positivity in its friendly environment and tight-knit community.
— Marian Mendoza
I can still hear the last few announcements echoing through my mind. With stark clarity, I recall the speaker aboard the Rocket bus: “This is an express route; the next stop is UTSC.”
Looking over my transit instructions one more time, I reassured myself that I must be in the right place. There could be no other place where people would be sitting casually at the bus stop, sipping their beverages, and having animated conversations about the neuromuscular physiology and locomotor capabilities of hummingbirds.
After asking for directions, and probably being mistaken for a first-year student, I made my way uphill along a concrete path towards the Student Centre.
At the top, there were interconnected pathways leading to different buildings that all converged on a common walkway. On my right, I could see all the beauty that autumn had to offer, which satisfied the expectations I had built when observing UTSC’s famous campus plan. While the contrasting views seemed to form the perfect balance, I was more drawn towards the energy radiating from the Student Centre.
I walked in and was instantly tempted by the vast variety of food options available. Resisting the urge to fast-forward my schedule to lunch time, I headed up the stairs located in the centre of the floor. This allowed me a panoramic view of not just the stalls set up for clubs’ week, but also the buildings beyond.
While I expected to be impressed by UTSC’s architecture, I was surprised by what I felt after completing my exploration of the Student Centre. There is a strong sense of community present at UTSC — I was met with disagreement from UTSC students about this. This made me realize that what makes our campuses similar is essentially the self-discontent.
I headed to the Bladen Wing, in search of the Doris McCarthy Gallery. Feeling like a professional for not getting lost, I was welcomed by Julia Abraham. She was preparing for the Complex Social Change exhibition, which was beginning the next day.
The exhibition uses various art forms — ranging from videos and photography to text and installations — to encourage conversations about complex issues such as politics and feminism. Abraham enthusiastically informed me about how the exhibition is only a component of a much larger ambition for instigating social change, and that it can also start conversation about what people don’t want to talk about or what has to be said. She informed me about the upcoming displays for “the etiquette and anatomy of social change,” which illustrated how UTSC’s awareness through the art scene is definitely something to keep up with.
Heading out of the gallery, I walked past corridors filled with students studying on the sides — blissfully unaware of a lost UTM student in their midst. I realized that I was subconsciously searching for a particular place on the campus. I had reverted to the basic instincts of a U of T student, which gave me the direction that I needed — when in doubt, go to the library.
I sat down on a colorful chair in the open, welcoming common reading room situated in the middle, open to balconies on the upper floors. Although I was drawn towards the new DVDs section on the main shelves, the U of T student in me was applauding the intermingled corridors upon corridors of silent study spaces and the self-serve course reserves section. Seeing all the numerous spaces filled could only mean one thing: midterms are coming.
Feeling adventurous, I exited through a deserted pathway and found myself facing a daunting concrete tower-like structure. I hurried around the building and looked for the entrance, eventually making my way through the flowery green pathway. Finally, I discovered that I was standing at the entrance of the humanities wing — an architectural masterpiece designed around massive diagonal staircases.
I sat down peacefully with my lunch in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked what appeared to be meadows and preserved nature sites. As it turned out, these were in fact the athletic fields. The view was enough to motivate me to make the long walk to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, so I headed outside and trekked down Military Trail.
Swiping my T-Card, I was amazed at the beautiful pools used for competition and recreation. Not only does the centre boast an enormous climbing wall with large centres for indoor soccer, basketball, and leadership development, but it is also a model for providing accessibility.
Feeling elated after sharing the space recently occupied by outstanding international athletes, I decided to make my way back to UTM. As I passed by a number of long line-ups at the Tim Hortons on the way back, I began to feel like I was at my home campus.
Feeling at ease under the common U of T logo, amidst the anxious midterm and hummingbird physiology conversations, there’s only one thing I could think of as I boarded the rocket: when would I be coming back?
— Mahnoor Ayub
Having visited the UTSG campus prior to this trip, I had anticipated a heavy flow of students rushing to get to class. My visits downtown were always on the weekends, and were primarily for much needed quiet study time inside of Robarts. This being my first occasion venturing down on a weekday, I got off at Museum station to avoid the potential clash of bodies at St. George.
As a child I was introduced to the classic axiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover'; however, ‘don’t judge a campus by its architecture,’ would have probably been more fitting in this instance.
I was surprised — to say the least — that upon exiting I wasn’t bombarded in the same manner one would be if they got out at Union station.
My first conception of the campus being heavily saturated with students, proved wrong. This is most likely attributed to how much physical space the campus occupies, which ultimately accommodates the numerous students who attend.
Walking around Queen’s Park, with Teefy Hall and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies building to my left, and cars whizzing by to my right, really put into perspective how the UTSG campus straddles the line between antiquity and modernity.
I walked further around the perimeter of the park and ended up in the heart of UTSG, the front campus at King’s College Circle. From there, I decided to make my way towards a name I’ve seen listed quite often on my tuition incidental fee breakdown but I never had the opportunity to utilize: Hart House.
Instantly feeling envious of every single St. George student for having immediate access to this space, I decided to head straight inside and see all the going-ons within it. Assuming that it would be overflowing with students, I was initially hesitant to go in, knowing full well that I was part walking-with-purpose and part aimlessly admiring. My second conception, of Hart House being overly busy, proved to be untrue as well. Although it wasn’t as packed as I thought, it was still bustling with activity.
What I really wanted to do was to see some art installations, and I knew the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery was located somewhere close by. Unfortunately, I had arrived just minutes after the doors closed, but I decided to remain on my search for artwork.
Here is where my third conception was dispelled. I was totally convinced that this particular U of T campus would be so rooted in its tradition that it would be void of embracing any millennial interests.
Lining one of the hallways were Instagram-inspired portraits of students whom, I believe, were asked if social media can be a catalyst for social change. Their answers were placed as the captions on their photos. I was delighted that students were allowed to express their social views in a manner that translated their URL activity into IRL activity.
A walk farther down the stairs allowed me to see the diverse activities that takes place in Hart House; a darkroom for developing photos; study spaces; social spaces; and an intimately lit eatery called Sammy’s Student Exchange. I imagine this was probably a campus favourite, because it was crowded with students talking among one another and enjoying its cozy atmosphere.
I was now on a mission to find something to eat. Standing on the steps of Hart House and looking out onto the front campus made for a picturesque view as students played sports and talked academics. With Convocation Hall and the changing reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn leaves as their backdrop, my thoughts were interrupted by a gust of wind. I walked through the neighborhoods surrounding the campus to see if I could find any interesting spots.
Though the campus is decorated with its beautiful historic buildings, it has definitely kept up with the times, and it is far from being as traditional as I had initially speculated.
— Sharine Taylor