My best friend, who I grew up with in downtown Toronto, is currently in second year at NYU. I make yearly trips there and submerge myself in the fast-paced, dynamic New York life. The delicious restaurants, interesting characters on the subway, parks, and student life are all as fascinating as they appear to be in TV shows and movies. The question is: are U of T and Toronto inferior to this glamorized New York life?
I found NYU to be very similar to U of T. I cannot speak to the quality of education; however, I can speak to the differences in atmosphere, and student life. U of T has a vast array of different students with different lifestyle choices. NYU is smaller than U of T — with around 25,000 undergraduate students, compared to the approximately 45,000 undergraduate students at the St. George campus. . NYU’s campus is around Washington Square — straddling midtown and downtown Manhattan — which is similar to U of T’s location in proximity to the rest of Toronto — not quite at the waterfront, but only a short subway ride away. Both schools share the sense of integration with a large, diverse city with all of its hustle and bustle. In my opinion, this plays a significant role in how — from what I saw — the student cultures at both NYU and U of T are quite similar.
NYU attracts liberal, creative, and open-minded students internationally. The party culture at NYU is similar to that of U of T; with the exception that New York State’s minimum drinking age is two years higher than Ontario’s. However, like U of T students, NYU kids often prioritize academics and extra-curricular activities over going out. Nevertheless, like us, they understand the value of socialization in university as well.
Having picked up on all of these apparent similarities, I realized how incredibly underrated Toronto is as a city. Many of New York’s famous qualities are also present in Toronto, while many of the disliked characteristics of the Big Apple are not present here, in the Big Smoke. We have exciting events, great shopping and restaurants, interesting people, multiculturalism, concerts, and dive bars — not to mention celebrity sightings, a similar climate, a thriving arts culture, waterfront properties, parks, islands, boroughs, and landmarks. At the same time, we enjoy lower crime rates, less overcrowding, a cleaner and simpler subway system, a lower drinking age, and the benefits of cheaper domestic tuition.
New Yorkers and Torontonians are not that different because New York and Toronto are similar. Just as Toronto culture seeps into U of T culture, NYU is influenced by New York culture — regardless of where either group of students originates from. So, if your U of T pride is lacking, then maybe New York and NYU could convince you that you also live in a cosmopolitan gem.
Christina Atkinson is a second-year student at University College studying economics and political science.