With more foreign-born inhabitants than practically any other city, studying abroad in Toronto is more like taking a trip around the world. In a day you can skip from Little India to Chinatown, hop over to Little Italy and the Portugal Village and finish up with karaoke and barbeque in Koreatown.
Toronto has way more to offer than a Maple Leaf game and the Hockey hall of Fame (though, as hockey fans we ask you, isn’t that enough?).
Toronto is an urban wonderland, described by architect Lawrence Richards as a “new, brash, rag-tag place—a big mix of periods and styles.” The CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, presides over residential red brick neighborhoods, the victorian and industrial Distillery Historic District and the bustling restaurants of Chinatown. However, green spaces aren’t far away, in places like Tommy Thompson Park, a 5km-long 'accidental wilderness' artificial peninsula that reaches into Lake Ontario, or the steep ravines in the many public parks.
A short inexpensive ferry ride to the Toronto Islands and students can leave the rush of the city behind. Visually, the views of the skyline from the islands is stunning, and for cycling, walking, picnics or just relaxing, the Islands are hard to beat. There is even a small amusement park for kids, Centreville.
Yonge Street, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest street in the world. It runs from the edge of the lake to about 1896 km north of the city, and the Yonge subway line runs right under the Street from King Street North to Finch Avenue. You can drive along this street if you want (give up trying to find parking), but the smart way to explore Yonge is on foot, with a subway day pass to whisk you between the spots you want to see
Toronto has some unique shopping to offer. Kensington Market was once a centre of Jewish life but has morphed into the hub of Toronto's bohemian scene. Students will be assaulted by sounds and smells unlike anywhere else in the city, as narrow streets bustle with immigrants, punks, and yuppies alike. Also check out, Pacific Mall, the largest Chinese indoor mall in North America.
American students will be surprised to learn that the legal minimum drinking age in Toronto is 19. The city’s nightlife can be found in the aptly named area of Clubland in the fashion district. Nearly everywhere is packed with pubs and bars. For the more art and music oriented crowds gravitate towards Parkdale where hipsters hangout in the multitude of bars, galleries and clubs that dot the area. College Street is, of course, home to many student hangouts. Toronto is also home to a number of microbreweries, including Mill Street, Steam Whistle Pilsner, Cool, Amsterdam, and Great Lakes.
Toronto offers the urban benefits of a big city like New York without the absurd price tag. As of June 2013, the exchange rate from USD to CD was almost 1:1.
Lunch will cost about 6-12 dollars. Beer goes for $6 at the average bar and cocktails for around $8.
And the cost of milk? $2 a liter.
Culture Shock and Support
Toronto is one of the safest big cities in North America. The streets are chocked full of pedestrians and bicyclists in most neighborhoods, even at night. Use common sense, but in emergency, the number to call is still 911.
While many people will point out the similarities between Canada and the US, American students should brace themselves for the sudden switch to the METRIC SYSTEM. Don’t be scared!
Written by Julia Brady
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