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13 Things You Need to Know Before Studying Abroad in Toronto

by Simone Visentin and Rebecca Schmor Apr 13, 2015

1. You will pay 2-3 times more than Canadian students.

International student fees are expensive. Ontario students pay some of the highest tuition fees in the country, and although the government subsidizes fees for local students, international students will find themselves paying up to $30,000 a year.

2. You will find people with every kind of allergy.

Peanuts, peas, tomatoes — you name it — someone is allergic to it. Back home I never knew one person with a food allergy. We especially love peanuts; it’s a shame to think that so many people here can’t enjoy them. They are missing out.

3. You will get SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at least once.

Students coming from warmer climates will especially notice the lack of sun during the winter season, and the effect of this leads to a certain depression. It’s not permanent, so there’s no need to seek serious treatment, just be aware of the symptoms (decreased motivation, increased homesickness, moodiness or sadness) and plan an evening out with friends. Toronto also has an indoor greenhouse called Allan Gardens, where you can escape the winter for a couple hours while taking in new botanical wonders.

4. You will pay $13 for a movie ticket — and you find yourself at the movies often.

Canada is notorious for its long winters, and the cinemas certainly make their profit. When it’s -22⁰C, outdoor activities are not really an option, so going to the cinema with friends is a typical way to spend a Friday night.

5. You will become addicted to Tim Horton’s.

Breakfast, coffee breaks, snacks and sometimes dinner — Tim’s is the most affordable and practical place to eat. “Always Fresh,” you will soon find yourself addicted to this classic Canadian coffee shop.

6. If you are foreign, then you will have lots of luck with the ladies (or men).

Canadians are very friendly and very interested to know about your background. Being Latino or even Italian is definitely an advantage when it comes to finding that special someone. But be careful not to become consumed by that identity — let people get to know the real you.

7. You will still be wearing a winter coat in April.

Winter type weather can last up to six months here (November to April) so you aren’t going to want to put away that winter jacket until there’s been at least three weeks of consistent above 0 temperatures. The weather is bipolar and while you may see Canadians wearing shorts one week, the next week it might snow.

8. You will learn to hate snow.

Those international students who experienced their first snowfall in Canada will soon see its magic wear off and learn to hate it like the rest of the Canadians.

9. You will think the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is efficient, but it is just an illusion.

The Toronto transit system seems orderly in comparison to that of some other countries, but you will soon become frustrated by unexpected subway closures, partial shuttle service, and disruption in service due to maintenance or repair.

10. You will get tired of the food.

Students abroad for the first time in Canada will likely be overwhelmed by the array of fast food choices readily available for eat-in, pick-up, or take-out. In the first months you will probably find yourself eating at the same places every day, but if you are willing to try something new you will find that Toronto has food options from all over the world. Its many neighbourhoods — Greektown, Chinatown, Little Italy, Koreatown — offer authentic food from almost any culture. The first time I visited Kensington Market I was able to eat at a Mexican tortilleria, and have some churros down the street for desert. Whenever you are missing home, you can find a taste of foods from home in Toronto.

11. You will work for free.

Even though you might write a cover letter, submit a resume, and attend an interview, you might find out that the position you are applying for is unpaid. Toronto has endless opportunities – internships, placements, volunteer positions – but finding a paid job will be harder than you thought. University campuses do offer paid positions, but be sure to read the fine print.

12. You can eat breakfast food all day long.

It is perfectly normal to find a restaurant offering all day breakfast. This means a serving of pancakes, bacon and eggs, hash browns and toast can pass as a dinnertime meal too.

13. There is no such thing as a “typical” Canadian.

People who have lived here for generations obviously consider themselves Canadians, but will explain to you that their grandmother was born in Scotland, their mother has Ukrainian roots, and their father is of German background. Canadians are also not Americans — they will get mad if you tell them that. Knowing this, international students can feel right at home since you are likely to find someone with a shared background and will be able to make a connection.

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