I grew up in a small town on Southern Georgian Bay. Actually,  I shouldn’t call it a town – because that would be a lie. I live in Tiny Township.

Yes, my passport and drivers’ license say Tiny, ON.

This is an instagram shot of my front yard – I live on the beach 🙂

I absolutely adore my beautiful home and the beautiful people who are there. It will always hold a large part of my heart.

My mom took me on a 14 day tour of Europe when I was 11 years old. I think that trip radically changed the course of my life. When you grow up in a small town in Ontario where there is little cultural diversity – your opportunities to expand can be limited. I fell in love with culture, history, architecture and language. Six years after that trip I went to live in Murcia, Spain and fell in love yet again. I feel like these experiences led me to Glendon.

I have been blessed with a very travelled life – but I’m still a country girl at heart.

I grew up driving to get everywhere (there’s no public transit in Tiny), I lived on a dirt road, my high school had 220 students (Le Caron!), the hometown heroes were the hockey players (I used to go watch ‘The Kings’ play every Friday night from grade 8 to grade 10), there’s a movie theatre – but most of our entertainment was (/still is) bonfires, house parties, little coffee houses, writing and playing music, sitting on the beach and counting down the days ’til we could “Get the F out of Penetang/Midland/Tiny/Perkinsfield/Victoria Harbour” (…no one ever really wanted to leave Lafontaine).

I know that almost sounds like a cheesy country song, but it’s the truth.

Oh – the nostalgia. How beautiful the autumn looked and felt – walking to the school bus stop (I rode one of those big yellow buses to school every day) with fresh fallen snow – my headphone blaring City & Colour’s ‘Sometimes’ album (I was still using a CD walk-man), the snowmobiles parked out front and then the bright colours of spring and the awakening…

Needless to say – I get very homesick and so do a lot of other students (even though none of us like admitting it).

You will miss your mom, your dad, your brothers, your sisters, your grandparents, your cousins, your friends… don’t let that scare you. It’s okay and it doesn’t make you less of an independent woman to want to cry to your mom when things aren’t going well or to want to call your best guy friend up and ask him if he can beat up some guy who annoys you in your lecture – just to hear him say he will.

That’s normal – it sucks when you grow up and life starts pulling you in a million different directions. But it is also really exciting!

There’s no way you could work from the United Nations if you stayed in Perth, Ontario!

How would your brother become a big music producer if he stayed in Skeed?

You used to countdown the days until you can leave – now you’re counting down until Thanksgiving, what happened?

Remember, growing up is about letting go and getting used to change but here are my big tips for getting through those sad bits!

Watch your favourite movie

Is ‘The Lion King 2‘ your favourite movie? Mine too! I watch it when I need to feel like I’m 7 years old again with my three little brothers and parents one loud yell away. I’ve also watched ‘Marley and Me‘ to make myself cry, sometimes you need to feel it and get it all out. It’s okay to do that.

If you’re not a big movie person, re-read your favourite book or listen to your favourite album. Do something to feel a bit of warm nostalgia.

Use Skype, don’t abuse it

Skype is free software application that allows you to video chat with your contacts – no matter where they are in the world (as long as they have a computer) for free. 

It’s okay to call your dad after you do poorly on a test. Or talk to your best friend who’s at a university in Waterloo. Just don’t spend all of your time on Skype. You need to enjoy where you are and the things you are doing. Too much time on the internet can actually be dangerous, plus you’ll just always feel like you’re missing out on what your family’s doing instead of having fun at what you’re doing!

But – your parents might be sad if you don’t call them from time to time, so make sure you check in!

It’s okay to go home sometimes

It’s cool if Thanksgiving is only 2 weeks away but you really want to go home this Friday to see your dog. Quit debating and just GO! You’ll feel a bit better. No one is going to judge you or think that you ‘can’t handle’ being away from your parents, and if they do – they’re just haters. I personally recommend staying in Toronto as much as possible – it will help with your personal growth and give you a lot of independence, but do what feels right for you! Don’t make yourself sick by trying to do what the majority do.

Remember why you’re away

Make a dream board, write a giant list of all of the reasons why you LOVE being at Glendon and all of the great things it’s doing for you. It can really help to visually see all of the good things about being away and all of the reasons you’re there.

Go out with Glendon friends

Having a terrible day? Feel like crying? Go knock on your friend’s door down the hall in residence and tell them you’re going to the Toronto Zoo or go shopping in Kensington. Do something to get yourself out of your room and moving, you’ll feel better.

Also, go to the events the GCSU run! You’ll keep busy, have a ton of fun and make new friends – maybe you’ll even be inspired to get involved!

Snowball 2011 – Myself, Graham, Sarah & Dillon

If it’s really bad…

If you live in residence, go talk to your Don! They’re a fantastic resource and will help hook you up with whatever you need. They have contacts across the university and will always be there to support you – the best part is it’s confidential!

Remember that no matter what, you’re going to be okay. Some days will be hard, but you will be okay.

Toronto can also be a bit of a culture shock, especially for a small town kid. So I wrote a little list here of the things I noticed about living in Toronto and a few fun tips.

The TTC

“The 11 Bayview, 10 times out of 11 you’ll be waiting at least an hour” – Aaron Scriver

The most terrifying part of the TTC: the streetcar

124…11…152…Lawrence Station?…What do you mean by ‘train’?

Oh boy. I moved to Toronto with no real concept of transportation or how I would get around. During the multiple presentations about Glendon I had attended, I kept hearing “accessible by the TTC”, but I was so excited about university! and Glendon! and trees! and bilingualism! and internationalism! that the whole “How am I going to get around?” question didn’t matter.

Tip!

Don’t be afraid of the bus or streetcars! Glendon is 90% commuters, that means a good chunk of your friends are Torontonians or GTA-ers, they know their way around the city. Follow them! Frosh week helps because they take you around downtown but your “internal map” of Toronto will develop slowly over time. Be patient with yourself. You can use resources like myttc.ca which plans your trips and tells you which buses to take – its super useful and I still use it monthly!

The TTC makes Toronto accessible, but it takes a long time to get anywhere.

At home you’re probably used to hopping in the car and driving to wherever you need to go. At most it probably takes half an hour to get to a friend’s house or to the grocery store. Toronto isn’t like that; what would take 20 minutes in a car can take up to an hour on the TTC. BUT – the subways aren’t on the road so you aren’t as affected by rush hour traffic, you don’t have to assign a Designated Driver if your group is using transit, you don’t have to beg your younger brother to drive you around if you’re a loser like me and your G1 is about to expire… AND there are 24 hour buses. Plus, using public transit is better for the environment AND your wallet – when you add up all of the parking costs, gas and insurance for Toronto driving it can be very expensive.

Tip!

Enjoy it – you can read a book, listen to your iPod (listen to ‘Save your scissors’) and people watch! Maybe grab some Starbucks (yeah, Toronto has those, you don’t have to drive to the nearest Chapters in the nearest bigger town to get a frappuccino) and take in the moment.

Torontonians, GTA-ers and other city kids

Some of the coolest people I’ve met at school have been people from Toronto and the GTA (one of my roommates is a born and raised Torontonian) but they’re different. There are some differences in culture and values between Torontonians, city kids, GTA-ers and small town kids (let alone your international friends – that’s a different story).

Tip!

Just remember to respect and appreciate them, even if they don’t “get” why you like being outside so much.

Be patient when they make fun of where you’re from, just tease them back about breathing in smog all the time and not being able to start fires.

Find some small town friends you can bond with, it will help you feel a little less alone.

OMG FOOD

My absolute favourite part of living in Toronto is the food! Back home we have your standards; Chinese take-out, Pizza, Subway, Kelsey’s, Tim Hortons (all 5 of them), Boston Pizza and a few really awesome local food restaurants – but it’s very limited.

But in Toronto there’s EVERYTHING!!!

Thai, Ethiopian, Shawarma, Indian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese, Mediterranean, French, English, Irish, German, Somali, Japanese, Korean BBQ, etc. etc. etc.

All of it is so delicious and awesome, but it can be a bit daunting. Especially when you don’t know what it’s going to taste like or if you’ll like it.

Yummm Shawarma

Tip!

Go with your friends who know what to get, ask them questions about the food. I had never had Ethiopian food but I was curious, so I went out with a friend who lived in Ethiopia for a year. Try everything – even if it’s something you never thought you would like. It’s worth it!

International Friends

Make international friends! Even if their English (or French) isn’t very strong and your Italian is limited to ‘Buongiorno’ . It’s sometimes a struggle to understand the conversation fully but it’s so interesting to get to know someone who grew up with a drastically different culture than your own.

One of my best friends is from Côte d’Ivoire and I’ve learned so much about West African culture just from spending time with her. Also, after 3 full years at Glendon I have beds and couches all over the world to crash on. It’s truly a gift to go to a school as international as Glendon and to have met so many different people.

Tip!

Put yourself outside of your comfort zone – go up and make friends with new people! Maybe you’ll remember those French exchange students who were on your Frosh team – say hi to them in the hallways of Res or in York Hall. Ask them about their hometown, even if you wouldn’t be able to point it out on a map at least you’ll start to understand them a little more.

In conclusion, your university experience is what you make of it and we’re all human. You’re going to be happy, sad, overwhelmed, lonely, excited and loved; sometimes all at once. That’s okay! Just be yourself and through it all, don’t forget to smile 🙂

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