As a second semester of exchange, UQ Abroad offered me the chance to attend University of Toronto (UofT), and with it the opportunity to really broaden my perspectives of the world. I could not be happier with the diversity of exposure I have gleaned from the experience, having already completed a semester in National University of Singapore just months before.

As one can imagine, Toronto brings a completely different personality of a city compared to that of Singapore, and even Brisbane. Student life is amassed with thousands of bright, excited faces in the heart of the city where University of Toronto is situated. In fact, the university that sits at the heart of Toronto, attesting to its historical significance in the story of Toronto – it is but one of the reasons that make being a student such a privilege to going to UofT, as you become a front row witness to the culture and the character of Toronto itself. Because of the university’s centrality, almost everything you could ever require from shopping to entertainment is accessible by bicycle, or even a short walk after classes.

However, the university itself is reason to go to Toronto, without even indulging in the other blissful charms of the city. I have never met such an enthusiastic bunch of engineers – and students in general – at UofT. My first encounter with them was during the first orientation week of classes. There is a program there called F!rosh, which is designed to help first year students integrate into university life. I attended anyway, since I was, in some sense, a first year student as well. The team building exercises and games we played were a lot of fun, but the final two days were what transformed the event into the unforgettable. The engineering secret society slipped a note into my pocket: it was a cryptic message written in morse code, which upon deciphering, led me to a secret location at 1 am of a Friday morning. I was greeted in a courtyard, surrounded by the walls of multistory buildings, manned on the balconies with tens of masked individuals. An announcement was declared: I was chosen to be inducted into their society upon completion of a number of enigmatic trusts tests that were all completed in the blindfold.

My involvement with the society gave me a good idea on how students think at UofT: they work hard out of the camaraderie they gain from the unyielding challenges of their study. And indeed, UofT’s programs were challenging. After hearing from my peers and other exchange students on the magnitude of difficulty and work their courses demanded of them, I was met with a similar situation, having to meet many project deadlines and two mid-semester exams per subject (there were five of them). Fortunately, with UofT again being so central to the city, it saved me a lot of time in travelling to events and activities so my time to socialise with other students was never compromised, and in the end I forged a number of strong bonds that I believe will endure the test of time.

Some of the recommendations I would make to students arriving at UofT are the following:

  • The latter portion of the year is particularly beautiful, with the chance of experiencing Canada’s Fall. If you get the chance during this time, make a weekend (or longer) trip to Algonquin Park.
  • Don’t expect to get college accommodation if you are only staying for one semester. You will most likely get denied – start searching for other places well in advance
  • Participate in University clubs and societies. The atmosphere is amazing – where else could you find secret societies?
  • Don’t let the workload overwhelm you. Assessment is demanding, but results are bell-curved and this tends to work in your favour.

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