I was born Italian, raised in Greece, and cultured by the global media. I moved to Toronto about one year ago from Athens, and easily adjusted despite the vast cultural differences between Canada and Greece — not to mention the change in temperature. I went through a drastic change very early in my life; the kind of change that many people never have the chance to experience. I like to brag about how easily I adapt to new situations, but how could I have adapted so seamlessly into a new life across the ocean?
Certainly, the fact that U of T has centers, advisors, and a number of other resources for newly arrived students was very helpful. I remember the first piece of advice I received at an international first-year workshop: “When in doubt about starting a conversation, just ask a Canadian about the weather. We love the weather.”
However, when it comes down to it, a signifigant number of U of T students were not born in Canada. Whether they have fully transitioned into wearing Roots clothes head to toe and ending sentences in “eh,” or are still trying to figure out how the college system works, all international students face the adjustment, the fears, the confusion, and the outright awkwardness of integration.
Nevertheless, we all adapt. In hindsight, what really made my transition so smooth were all of the interests and ideas that I had in common with domestic students. This helped me make friends, but more importantly, it allowed me to feel comfortable and at ease without difficulty. Granted, we all procrastinate using Facebook, Instagram, and Buzzfeed, but there was something deeper in the way we got along. Globalization has allowed for more communication and awareness between cultures. Due to this increased insight into each others’ lives, there is less chance of straying away from those people with whom, from a distance, we feel like we have nothing in common.
When I was lost on campus, I didn’t mind asking the first passing student whether he knew which way was South — hint: look for the cn tower. I didn’t feel nervous making new friends, despite our completely different upbringings. Our life experiences and cultural norms were in fact more similar than they may have seemed at first. We can find common ground on a Buzzfeed article that we all read, or a recent episode of a show we all watch. Social media, news, and the internet are pulling the globe closer together — making it easier for Italian-Greeks like myself and someone from another corner of the world to find the similarities between us.
Moving to a new city by myself, not knowing what to expect from fellow students was no longer my only concern. I wouldn’t know about their favorite food, favorite colour, or favorite subject in school. I wouldn’t know who they are individually because our mutual interests are but a small part of our personalities. But I have been aware of my generation’s culture, what they follow, and what is important, regardless of where they grew up. This mutual understanding is what allowed me to get through the adjustment of dreadfully cold weather, the fears of making new friends, the confusion, and the outright awkwardness of pronouncing “Spadina,” “Spadeena.”
Francesca Morfini is a second-year student studying international relations and history.