University is the prime time to experience new things and reinvent yourself. While this transformation could take the form of a new haircut, a new piercing, a new wardrobe, or a new-and-improved personality, one of the easiest and most fun reinventions is redecorating your home. Although we may not realize it, A LOT of our time as students is spent in our rooms. Why? Not for sleeping of course, but for studying! That’s why as a student I try my best to surround myself with motivation. One source of this motivation is based in Toronto and named Athaliah, a home-accessory online shopping site that focuses on brightening and inspiring individuals. This business provides unique and diverse pieces of decoration. Athaliah is a lifestyle boutique that was created specifically for those looking to find pieces that cannot be found anywhere else, and will certainly make any room pop. How, you ask? Simple. Each product is from a different place in the world, and handmade. Athaliah has a variety of pieces to suit every desired look. It has a range of Handmade and Exclusive pieces, Pre-loved and Vintage Re-designs, and charming and original Inspiration and Community house plants, accent pieces, and patterned projects. With all this in mind, now you can finally mismatch the artwork on your wall, throw a cute pillow on your studying chair and place an “oh-so kawaii” plant on your desk.
My journey with blogUT started before I even came to U of T– I found the site over three years ago while frantically researching the school and convincing myself further and further that this was where I was meant to be. When I got my acceptance email I couldn’t wait to learn as much as possible about my new city, school, and home– hence where blogUT comes in.
So in honour of university application season and the fresh crop of future U of T students that will soon be upon us, here are some of my favourite pieces that blogUT has ever published. Enjoy this (re)introduction to your school and city.
Just starting university? Moved out of your parents’ house? Suddenly realizing that living is really expensive? Read on, friend.
Moving out of the house, even if it’s just into a dorm with a mandatory meal plan, can be a sonic boom shock to the head in terms of adjusting, and, more importantly, money. I won’t go as far to tell you to steal toilet paper from the local McDonald’s, but for everything else….
1. Food: actually eat at the cafeteria. While there may be a surplus of people you’re trying to avoid and a lack of people not at your college, it’s the most efficient in the food option since you’re already paying. Stash fruit, cookies and anything else that you can stick in a sweatshirt kangaroo pouch for those late-night, early-morning, or in-class munchies. Not feeling the caf food? Be a typical student; pick a sub that you like and find out which day it sells at a reduced rate at Subway. Also: save your receipts, fill out a survey online and get a free cookie! (no, Subway is not paying me…much).
2. Partying: while clubs and pubs can get very expensive very fast, partying at home/the dorm with some LCBO product, or just good old fashioned Boggle and the friends you actually enjoy spending time with can be a cheap and ultimately more enjoyable alternative. Sponsored club and pub nights or 4 dollar cocktail events can also offer a cheaper entrance fee to a good time.
3. Other Entertainment: movie Tuesdays are a particular guilty-pleasure of mine, especially when the Carlton theatre close by offers a five-dollar flat movie ticket on Tuesdays and reasonably priced popcorn. At the welfare level? Skip the concession stand and pack your own, pop some microwavable bagged corn, some canned pop, and Bulk Barn spoils, and bring a big purse. Living on the street level? Stay home and watch a DVD (Bay Street Videos has an impressive selection), or if you are of the current generation, download online: add friends and Orville Redenbacher to both for immediate effect.
4. Toiletries/clothing/other: if your parents are anything like mine, this is where you get with the emotional moocherie. Pick up toothpaste, deodorant, or stylish footwear when you’re out with your parents. Casually slip your items onto the counter and flash an I’m-the-fruit-of-your-loins smile and they’re all yours, free of charge.
5. Walk around a little! As a downtown area Toronto offers more than its fair share of nut-jobs with fliers on street-corners and its true that while most stick to unwanted religious advice there are the rare few who hand out coupons/ free Reese’s Pieces/diet soda.
6. Transport: grab friends with cars who are comfortable footing the gas bill or stick to public transport. If you commute daily grab, a metropass; if not use the matching limbs sprouting out of your pelvis and walk! Technically everything is within walking distance…short of other continents.
7. Get a job, ya mook!
Given hormonal changes, weird smells, and an actual workload, university can be a handful at times, on the brainpan and the wallet. Keep it simple, avoid the caviar and champagne, and if all else fails the toilet paper at McDonald’s is really not so bad…
I remember the first day I moved into residence. A bunch of energetic frosh leaders took my things and moved them into my room. Upon entering my room, I was shocked at how small it was. The lighting seemed too dim, the floor too brown, and the wood furniture too chipped. The frosh leaders’ saying “wow, this is such a nice room” did not help alleviate my feeling of doom.
For one year, I was going to be trapped in this box-like room.
Now flash forward eight months later. I’m still in my room and there are boxes. Except this time, it’s because I’m moving out.
Having graduated from high school last year, saying goodbye was the hardest. To those dear friends you’ve created so many good memories with, how do you part? This year, although I’m living with the expectation of seeing them again next year, the fact that we won’t be gathered here, “slumming” it out together in the collective experience that is res life, is sad. Sure, you might bump into them occasionally at Sid Smith or Robarts, but there won’t be any late night food trips or dropping in randomly to watch movies together. Residence is a perfect place to do devious things to your friends, such as taking a dustpan, pour milk onto it, and slip it underneath your friend’s door (not talking from personal experience…maybe). Instead, you’ll have to specially schedule ahead to meet up, unless you take a trip to visit your friend’s house in your PJs uninvited.
The boxes, the torn down posters, and the bareness of the room establishes that this was never really my home, but a temporary stay in my four year trip.
So with that nostalgic-ness aside, I’ll say:
Goodbye, residence. Goodbye, first year. Next year will be better.
I’m sure a whole lot of us are in that scramble to find living arrangements for that summer right now. Or maybe you’re not sure if you’d be interested in finding a place downtown to live next school year.
Though I don’t claim to be the expert, I’ve found a few tips that might help:
- Looking for summer renting? Start now.
- Looking for renting starting in September? Start in July.
- Prices have apparently gone up ~$100 this year.
- Contracts suck, but you have to do it. If you don’t have a job, make sure you have a co-signer (ie. your parents).
- Start off by knowing who you’re rooming with (if you are going to room with someone).
- Decide on location and budget.
- Find good days to go looking at places.
- http://www.padmapper.com/ is good for basically everything – it’s all combined into one website.
- http://www.viewit.ca/ also has some pretty good stuff.
- https://www.housing.utoronto.ca/student/login.aspx is good if you only want to find places meant for students.
Emailing A Landlord (Template):
Hello _____, (if their ad shows a name)
I saw your ad on <insert link here> and am wondering if the suite/apartment/house/room is still available. Would you be free sometime <insert possible time> for a showing?
However, if they provide a phone number, it’s probably a better idea to call them. Make sure you ask for the exact address of the place, and that you know how to contact them once you’re there.
Filling Out An application:
Depending on the landlord or the agent you’ve contacted, they might be looking for different things in an application form. Sometimes you’ll need a co-signer (someone who makes the money) and other times you won’t. Some things to keep in mind:
- Some landlords will not favour students, so it would be in your best interest to inquire about that early on.
- If you have a parent co-signing for you, they fall under “applicant”.
- Sometimes you may be requested to fill in one application per person.
- If you’re confused, don’t be afraid to ask the agent or landlord to clarify.
- Often, they’ll ask for references. Consider your residence don, a roommate/floormate, or someone else who knows you well.
Getting The Lease Contract:
If you’re approved from the application, they’ll do a credit check. Depending on the situation, it can either be for you or for your parents. Equifax Canada seems to be the most popular choice. You will likely also need to get renter’s insurance – those State Farm commercials don’t seem so useless now, do they?
And, with that, I wish you luck in your epic hunts. Hope this post didn’t come too late.
Before coming to university, my biggest fear was the washrooms, or more specifically, the cleanliness of them. What would happen if I needed to use the washrooms in the AM? Would the lights be on, or would it be like a scene from Harry Potter where the water is dripping and I hear demonic hissings? What if all the stalls were occupied? What if somebody had been sick in the bathroom? After almost a year living in res, I’m glad to say that…I’m definitely moving out next year and the bathroom is a big reason why.
You’d think that living on an all-girls’ floor would mean it’d be clean, right? I mean, aren’t girls supposed to embody hygiene and rainbows and sparkles and whatnot? This turned out to be a lie when I discovered my friend’s co-ed floor had a bathroom cleaner than mine. My optimistic image of girls being clean has been shattered now, but I’m glad to say that it has definitely taught me to adapt to even the worse of situations.
My everyday adventure:
(I apologize for the sideways photos, my iPad was being difficult again.)
1. Go into the stall. Will the toilet be clean? Flushed? I’ve truly learned that not everybody knows how to flush (stand there, pull the switch, and wait for a few seconds). Too many times have I walked into a cauldron, an amalgamation of different types of…stuff. There will be weekends when there will only be one bearable stall left and even that one would be something pretty gross.
2. The sinks. I once saw dirt in the sink. Once we were missing a sink because someone sat on it. I once saw a bloody (what blood?) tissue next to the faucet. But usually it’s not that bad, just some toothpaste and hair, the usual.
The person who dumped her tea leaves into the sink was kind enough to only throw a little away, so it’s only partially clogged now.
3. The showers. If you’ve ever lived in res, you’ll know the trek between your room and the bathroom involves a small migration. Sometimes, you forget something, and you have to go back to your room to get it. However, the showers are what I like best about the bathroom. If someone is showering, the shampoo’s fragrance will fill the air for a few minutes. Even the yellowed shower curtain doesn’t seem that bad…
…until somebody puts a used sanitary napkin on the towel rack, for all the world to see…
You’ll love res and you’ll hate it. You’ll hate it when it’s Sunday and the toilet has been filled with people’s regurgitations for three days already and there’s only one non-disgusting toilet left. You will love it when your friends are minutes away, when you can wake up ten minutes before class and run to school, and when you get to experience everything downtown Toronto has to offer without the restrictions of your parents. Finally, you will definitely love it when you get to move out next year, and you’re a changed, better person who has lived through it. So relish this suffering, because what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So the take home point. If I and hundreds of other germaphobes can do this, then you can too!
There aren’t many students who know about 89 Chestnut, the purely UofT (not college affiliated) residence that is hidden away near St Patrick station. Composed by approximately 1050 students who primarily attend UofT (there are also a handful of students who attend the Ontario College of Arts and Design), the Chestnut community is built by a variety of people with a huge array of cultural backgrounds and academic interests.
For those who haven’t heard of it, or for those who are considering maybe living there for a year in the future, here are some pros and cons with regards to this secluded residence.
Location, location, location
One of the major complaints that arises amongst the Chestnutters is the fact that we are so far from campus (relative to those who live on or around campus). The 20-30 minute walk, depending on where your class is, can be quite unpleasant, especially if it is an early morning class, or if it is raining/snowing/hailing/blizzarding outside. There is no way you can pull off the “roll out of bed and get to class in five minutes” routine unless you are a very, very fast runner that is extremely committed to sleep! However, if you are willing to, it is feasible to get used to the walk and to even learn to enjoy it. I myself find it gives me time to think!
In comparison to most other residences at UofT and a lot of student apartments, Chestnut is quite expensive. In fact, one of the major reasons people move out after first year (other than wanting to live with friends or wanting to live in one’s own place) is the fact that most other options are cheaper to some degree or another.
While every resident will appreciate that he/she is safe within the building, the security measures at Chestnut are quite austere. Every student is assigned a key card for their room, and has to flash this card as they walk by the security desk towards the elevators. You cannot go by without it, and if you are a guest in the building, you have to be signed in and given your own little colour-coded card for the day and are only allowed in if you are with the person who signed you in! Most people who visit the building find this excessive, and to be honest, I do too. However, we learn to live with it, and like I said before, we are extremely safe.
There are six elevators that travel between the 27 floors of the buildings, and it is a good day when four of them are functioning. The past week has been good (knock on wood!) but there have been occasions when only two were working. When this happened, as I live on the 4th floor (the first residential floor), I would have to wait for ages for an elevator that wasn’t completely full – and by full I mean there was barely breathing space, let alone moving space!
Representative of UofT itself, the residence is filled with people from literally all over the world! (There is even a map in the lobby that points out how many people there are from each country). This, of course, leads to interesting conversation, various arguments, but also helps increase the variety of food options in the cafeteria as the kitchen tries to please as many palates as possible!
As legend has it, the Chestnut caf is probably one of the best on campus. On any given meal time, be it lunch or dinner, there is a choice of two main entrees. In addition to that, there is the grill bar that usually presents an array of burgers and hot-dogs (including the veggie variety as well). There is also a pasta/rice/noodle bar (depending on the day) in which you select the ingredients for your sauce, and this is located right next to the salad bar. Asides from that, there is also a larger selection of salads set apart, as well as the veggie food bar. As for drinks, there is a huge variety of both cold and warm beverages, including hot chocolate and French Vanilla cappuccinos. As for desserts, the favourite part for any sweet-tooth like myself, there is a new selection each day ranging from cheesecakes to pies to fruit salad. While people may start complaining as to the quality once they have lived here for a while, we all accept that it is much better than many other residences or university cafs!
Asides from the caf itself, they also have a bagged lunch program for people who have long days of classes (like engineers) and don’t have time to come back for lunch.
Location, location, location
While I’m aware that this topic is appearing in both lists, there is a reason for this. Even though the residence is far (compared to others) from campus itself, it is pretty amazingly located otherwise. We are literally a five minute walk from the Eaton Centre, ten minutes away from the two closest movie theatres, surrounded by a variety of restaurants and bars, making us fortunate to be living where we are!
It‘s pretty much a hotel!
The 89 Chestnut building was formerly a hotel. With that in mind, the lobby is luxurious, the rooms are all en-suite, and we have our own laundry service in the basement. Not only that, there is a massive common room on the 27th floor (yes, I said 27th) which has a wonderful panoramic view of the city. With regards to services, each room is fitted with a phone that can be used for making local calls, and both cable and internet are included. As well, there is a weekly cleaning service (although some people may count this in the cons when it’s their turn to have the early morning knock on the door announcing their turn!). This involves a proper wipe down of the bathroom, new toilet paper roles, and a quick vacuum of the carpeted floors.
The nut house, as some of us affectionately call it, like any place, has its good and bad parts. However, having lived here for three years already, I can only say that it’s a great place to make friends, and while you may be a bit removed from campus life itself, there is a community within the building that helps maintain a pretty stable social life for anyone who lives here.
Editor’s note: For more information on Chestnut Residence, visit their website at http://www.chestnutresidence.utoronto.ca/