I LOVE U (of T) & a long overdue reunion

Before I start a lengthy rant about how much I loved exploring the University of Toronto’s grounds, let me first write out a few lines defending my actual university.

As many of you know, I’m a student at Carleton University, located in our nation’s great capital, Ottawa.  I love my school.  I love it so much that I worked there all last summer and balanced three campus jobs this year.  I love the chicken naans they serve at the grad student pub, Mike’s Place (which is aptly named after my favourite PM, L.B. Pearson), the hidden porch outside the history department in Patterson Hall, and the way the O-Train always seems to come humming by just as I’m talking about it to wide-eyed high schoolers (one of my three campus jobs is as a tour guide).

The purpose of this post is simply to digitally drool over the wonders of U of T, and is not some sort of treason-filled statement of hatred for Carleton.  On that note: GO RAVENS.

ANYWAYS…

U of T.  This post is quite delayed, since I actually explored the campus after the very first day of my internship on April 11.  The night was originally meant to be a reunion between me and my elementary school friend Brandon, and not a night of exploratory fun.  Brandon and I were good friends between grades four and six, when we were both in enriched computer classes and I was a tomboy.  After I moved away from Timmins after grade 10, we kind of lost touch with each other.  We had been talking about a Toronto meet-up for years, and so today was finally the day.

Brandon is in Victoria College at U of T.  He also happens to be a tour guide (we’re everywhere!), which worked out quite well as far as exploring went.  We started off with a sushi dinner, walking past Toronto’s exclusive Yorkville neighbourhood and out into the Annex on our way.  I recognized a few scenes from past Toronto trips with the fam.

ROM: the place where I intend to spend a full day before leaving this city.
Honest Ed's at Bloor and Bathurst - my mom took my brother and I here once when we were really young

After supper we continued to walk down Bloor, dashing in and out of a variety of cool shops, coffee places, and pubs.  Did you know there’s a coffee shop called Snakes and Lattes (great name) where you can go and play boardgames all day?  Or how about Paupers Pub that flaunts the city’s best rooftop patio?  Or Future’s Bakery that apparently has great cake, serves all day breakfast AND has a liquor license?  My eyes light up from excitement with each new discovery.  There was so much to see, and frankly I’m surprised I didn’t get whip lash from all the sights I tried to take in.

The downstairs area of SONIC BOOM record store. Fun fact: they shot part of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World here!

Back on campus, was when the fun really began.  I’m not even sure what part of campus we were on, but exploration needs no direction.  We wandered aimlessly, walking in and out of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever seen.

Part of Victoria College (I think)
Trinity College

Unlike Carleton that has one central library, U of T has more than 50.  They have the fourth-largest collection in North America, coming in only behind the likes of Harvard and Yale.  Brandon and I went into six (I think).

That was enough to make me fall in love.

Hallways stretched out like rivers, and reading rooms served as their deltas.  These rooms were complete with fireplaces, old books, and antique wooden tables.  Students lounged in leather wingbacks and sat at tables strategically placed in front of giant church windows.

A typical U of T study area

Now I can’t talk about the libraries without going off on a bit of a tangent.

I hate to bring this up, but the libraries oozed romance.  You know how people always talk about making out in the stacks and all that stuff (picture Keira Knightley and James McAvoy going at it in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement)?  I didn’t really understand the appeal until now.  I suppose it didn’t help that the library’s heat was so high that my blood could have started to boil.  Other parts of the library contained nooks and crannies perfect to hideaway in…BUT OKAY, since my mom reads this, I’m going to stop talking.  Just so you know, Brandon and I have a completely platonic friendship and he’s still dating his high school girlfriend.  There, had to get that cleared up.

Back outside, we encountered one grassy quad after another.  I swear one of them looked like Hogwarts.  If someone tried to mount a broom I wouldn’t have even given them a second glance.  Walking around on the stony floors of campus made me wish I was wearing heels and experiencing the satisfying “click” and “clack” that is normally associated with overly stuffy business people.  I would have tap danced and skipped.

Since I can sense myself rambling, I’m just going to quickly jot down a few more things that I loved:

The exam writing facilities
Brandon and I walked into this old hall where antique desks and chairs sat in rows.  This place, Brandon informed, was where they wrote their exams.  Uh, AS IF (this is apparently a northern Ontario thing to say PS).  At Carleton we write our exams in the gym or Fieldhouse, where clinical-looking tables and sunken plastic chairs sit on top of a cardboard floor.  Maybe it’s for the best – if I had to write my exams in a room like this I would be too busy focusing on my surroundings to finish the exam.

The history (expressed through a series of short vignettes)
1. Yeah, yeah, everyone knows that U of T is old (founded in 1827 to be exact).  As a result of its age, reputation, and general splendor, walking through campus was like reading a history textbook.  In one building Brandon points out a pretty standard looking (but still gorgeous) lecture hall.  That lecture hall was where the first women ever allowed in a Canadian university took her first class.  I’m not a feminist or anything, but you have to admit that’s pretty damn neat.

2. One of my favourite historical figures, Marshall McLuhan (you know, “the medium is the message” guy), also taught at U of T.  He was a great Canadian media guru and communications theorist, and was way ahead of the curve when it came to predicting the impact technology would have on people’s lives (he probably would have loved this whole blog thing).  A heritage moment commercial about his contribution to Canadian history was filmed in a U of T classroom.  PS: I want to read this book so badly (two favourite Canadians for the price of one!).

3. In some other location on campus there’s a memorial to the students of U of T who fought and died in WWI and WWII.  Every single name is engraved in stone  Brandon jumped the small chain barrier in search of John McCrae of In Flander’s Field fame.  He got his B.A. at the university in 1894.  As a side note, this reminded Brandon and I of the time in grade six when we were the MC’s for our school’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

4. Later in the evening, Brandon signals towards a building with no windows. “See that lab?” he says.  I nod.  “That is where Frederick Banting discovered insulin.”  Um, WOW.  So one of the most important medical discoveries of all time happened on this campus, no big deal.

5. In less important and more recent pop culture history, Brandon pointed out the residence room that once belonged to Donald Sutherland.

The architecture

A stained glass window shines above the memorial site for U of T students who fought in both world wars

DO NOT even get me started on how much I love these buildings.  The gray cobblestone structures with vines crawling up their sides, the creaky wooden stairwells that spiral through the library, old fashioned windows who’s panes twist and open in the most unconventional of ways… It was so pretty I could have cried.

Alright, there you have it, my weakness for sprawling, ivy league-style universities is revealed.

The thing is, I don’t even want to be a student at U of T.

No, I’d be perfectly happy spending my days sitting in a cold stone window seat, glancing down on to the scenes below.

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