Stedman Library at St. Hilda's. Nathan Chan/THE VARSITY

Tucked away in a cozy corner on the first floor of Victoria College — or just ‘Old Vic’ — Caffiends is a second home for many U of T students. Founded in 2006, Caffiends comes from humble beginnings as a simple cart located in the foyer of the college, where it aimed to raise awareness of sustainability and fair-trade issues. Now, with a more permanent location, it is well known across campus for its one-dollar fair-trade coffee; Caffiends also offers vegan, gluten-free, fair-trade, and organic products — as well as the most comfortable couches on campus.

For me, this place was, and has always been so much more than a café; it was love at first sight. I began volunteering in September 2013, I found myself staying behind after shifts, waking up early, covering people’s shifts, and having to resist the urge to hop behind the counter and grind coffee. It calmed me. In the midst of first-year struggles, Caffiends was my sanctuary, and I became fast friends with my shift mates. U of T can often be a large, cold, and overwhelming environment. This place was different; it was safe, constant, and always welcomed me with open arms. Students from all years and programs, staff, faculty, and alumni all interact in this room. It brims with positive, inclusive energy, all the while providing a nice space for working, reading, or chatting with friends. As a lonely and often overwhelmed first-year student, Caffiends is where I finally began to build a community and home for myself at U of T.

Linh Nguyen, third-year, English


I started my undergrad in 2010 as a commuter-student in the life sciences program. It’s easy to feel lonely and isolated when you have classes in Con Hall with 1,400 other people that you never see again. There isn’t a central space for commuters to go and relax. I was lucky enough to have some good high school friends with me when I started university, but hanging out at Gerstein Library isn’t always the best way to make lasting friendships. One day, late into my first year, an older student told me about this place called the UC Commuter Student Centre (CSC), and I decided to start going there when I had a break, or when I wanted to eat. It’s amazing how seemingly small decisions can change your life dramatically. It was this change to my daily routine that enabled me to find a space on campus that, as a commuter, I could call home. I met some of my closest friends at the CSC, decided to become a frosh leader, and joined the UC Lit, all because I had a space that felt like home and I was able to interact with other students. Commuter students have it tough, but spaces like the CSC make it so much better, both mentally and socially. I know that it made all the difference for me, and I know that it’s still a magical place to make friends at daunting U of T.

Sarah Qidwai, first-year PhD candidate at U of T with the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology


When I first came to U of T, I was unaware of all the clubs and organizations on campus. Being a member of the varsity football team, I didn’t feel too eager to seek out other groups that I could become a part of and to build relationships; football is usually a family in and of itself. But, as a believer of Christ, I became more and more interested in meeting fellow believers on campus. The Christian faith is an advocate for both family and community, and I found that as I met more believers, avenues on campus opened up tremendously. This year, I’ve started to attend two campus ministries. The first is Athletes in Action, which is a gathering of Christian athletes who explore what it means to combine faith and sport. The second gathering is an on-campus bible study led by campus pastors at Innis College. Both of these ministries are great ways for believers of Christ to learn and find fellowship with each other. For me, these ministries are what make U of T feel like home. They allow me to continue to experience that, which means the most to me in life, and also to meet new people and make lasting connections

— Divante Smith, second-year humanities student


I’ve had my fair share of late nights at U of T, and like many of my fellow students I have a love-hate — with an emphasis on hate — relationship with Robarts Library. It’s massive, ugly, and has this awful fluorescent lighting that makes studying that much more terrible. A great alternative option for a 24-hour study space, especially for Trin students, is the Stedman Library at St. Hilda’s.

If you’re a moderately enthusiastic Harry Potter fan like me, you’ll love it because it roughly resembles the Gryffindor common room. It’s warm and full of books. It has comfy, burgundy leather seating, which surrounds a fireplace, and it even has a trophy case. The best part is that it’s almost uncomfortably quiet so it’s usually pretty easy to stay focused, especially during those late night cram sessions.

As a non-resident student at U of T, there weren’t many places on campus that I could call home. But Stedman definitely made me feel a little more comfortable. It didn’t hurt that I had a locker in the women’s bathroom down the hall that I could also access 24/7. And as an English student, Stedman was much more inspirational to me as a writer than Robarts could ever be.

— Ly Nguyen, 2014 Honours BA graduate, English


VicVentures is a project that complements many other clubs and opportunities at U of T by providing access to bicycles. The concept is that people attending an event can meet and ride to the venue. VicVentures fosters a sense of community by gathering U of T students from different walks of life and bringing them together to take part in an active and enjoyable day. Through personally partaking in VicVentures, I was able to connect with other students in the U of T community that would not normally have me. VicVentures helps people meet one another, and it helps to reduce anxiety by focusing the minds of students on something else: navigating the treacherous roads of Toronto. The club allows for you to enjoy an outing with friends, meet new people, increase your physical fitness level, and engage with your community. Home is a place where I am comfortable, and VicVentures has made U of T a little more like home for me.

—William Choi, third-year, political science and urban studies

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