Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws

I spent the second half of 2013 at the University of Toronto in Canada, and cannot recommend highly enough the experience of going on exchange. I was in my fourth year of a dual Arts/Law degree at UQ, and took the opportunity to study English Literature subjects abroad. I selected the University of Toronto for two main reasons: firstly, the excellent reputation of their English department; and secondly, the chance to travel to a part of the world I was unfamiliar with. I had not been to either Canada or the United States before my exchange, and studying in Toronto gave me the opportunity to experience a bit of both.

A full time workload at the University of Toronto is five subjects per semester, and while the expectations are demanding, they are nevertheless manageable, and rewarding. After a lot of emails to their department, I managed to persuade the exchange staff at UofT to let me take five final year English Literature courses. While they advised against this quite strongly on the basis of the heavy workload, I found the small class sizes and seminar style learning experience very much to my liking. Don’t be too worried if a subject you want to take does not initially have space for you, or if you’re not enjoying a subject you are enrolled in—there was a lot of movement in the first two weeks of class with students dropping in and out of courses. You are not guaranteed accommodation on campus as an exchange student, so, especially if you are only staying one semester, be prepared to find off campus accommodation. The University has a housing network, and websites like Craigslist and Kijiji are good places to start looking.
As for Toronto itself: the melting pot where nothing melted, the city is extraordinarily multicultural, packed with representatives from all corners of the globe. Toronto has about four million inhabitants, from over one hundred ethnic groups, and this incredible and constantly apparent diversity really gives the city a very special welcoming and accepting character. Take some time to walk along the stunning waterfront on a clear day, and visit the Harbourfront Centre for constant activity–concerts, exhibitions, lectures and food festivals, amongst so many other events, from the incredibly diverse and distinct cultural groups in Toronto.

The latter half of the year is especially beautiful, as you will get the chance to see Canada’s beautiful Fall, complete with red and gold maple leaves. The Toronto International Film Festival, the largest public film festival in the world, is held every year in September—I was lucky enough to get along to a whole bunch of films, including the public premiere of 12 Years a Slave attended by the cast. I also attended lectures and workshops as part of Toronto’s International Festival of Authors, and went down to New York for a weekend in October to the New Yorker Festival.

Some Tips:
1. Flights are expensive, but coach companies like Greyhound and Megabus are very affordable. If you book far enough in advance, a return ticket to New York can cost as little as $8.
2. You cannot walk a block in Toronto without encountering a Starbucks, but their coffee remains on the south side of average. The ‘Green Beanery’ on Bloor and ‘Balzac’s Coffee Roasters’ in the Distillery District are worth the extra distance.
3. Travel light. Shipping from Canada to Australia is absurdly expensive—it’s generally cheaper to pay the excess baggage fee at the airport than to send a box home. Because I stayed off campus, I was lucky enough to be able to leave most of my luggage at the place I stayed at in Toronto while I travelled, but be aware that you may not have this luxury.
4. If you’re planning to venture into Quebec, learn some French. While everyone will still understand you if you speak English, they will get noticeably friendlier if you speak French. Also, it’s just nice to speak the local language.
5. Keep a travel journal/blog. The number of experiences you have living abroad will overwhelm you, and this will help you remember them better when you return.

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