This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
I moved to Canada nearly a decade ago to study Communication Studies at York University. After graduating, I attended Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), formally known as Ryerson University, to get my Master's in Journalism. And let me tell you, even though both are in Toronto, I had two completely different experiences.
I don't regret the choices I made, but if you were hoping to choose a university to attend this fall, maybe this can act as a guide to help you make the right choice.
When researching universities, there's much more to consider than just looking at which one has the best program. Student life is something universities focus on very closely because it makes for the best results and experiences.
York University has a massive campus, which is quite a trek from Downtown Toronto compared to TMU, located in the city's core.
So naturally, one of them had to work hard to make life on campus a great one that caters to everyone's needs and the other has the city life to help.
I loved living on York University's campus. There were daily activities, so many food options and everything was within walking distance. The campus life felt like something I'd seen in one of those Hollywood movies I grew up watching and it was exactly what I wanted to experience.
Whereas TMU felt like I was attending a high school, I didn't want to be a part of. The culture was very different and people always had places to be. Making friends was hard because downtown life was a lot more exciting than hanging out in the student centre.
Both universities have a lot of amenities and facilities like a great gym, pool, library, student centre and the rest of it. But, I felt York University offered many more arts-related things to students.
For example, while I was a student at York University, I discovered that I loved photography and enjoyed developing my own film. So, I took a course on how to do it and used the darkroom every Saturday for two semesters.
When I moved to Downtown Toronto and went to TMU, they had no dark room. But you also couldn't use the podcast room, video editing and more without permission, which really restricted my creativity.
All classrooms are more or less the same, and maybe my program is too specific to judge the universities as a whole, but just from my experience, why did TMU hardly have any windows?
Most of my classes in the Rogers Communications Centre at TMU had no windows. If you've been there, think about it. I would take my 10-minute break between classes in the overhead tunnel connecting two buildings by the Tim Hortons on the top floor just to feel the sun on my skin.
Yes, some of my classes at York were in basements, but many had sunlight, and it felt nice to see the outside world while learning.
This might be a hot take, but have you heard anyone tell you they actually had fun staying in dorms at TMU?
I loved every moment of living on campus when I was at York University. The dorms were so much fun and I met my lifelong friends there. I felt integrated with my community, from frosh week to floor parties and even intramural sports games.
While there, I lived in Winter Residences, also known as the art school, but I had friends at Vanier, Pond and even Stong — IYKYK.
At TMU, I was lucky to know anyone in my class.
You may think these were two completely different times in my life, which may have played a factor in both experiences. To that, I will say you are not wrong. When I went to TMU, I was older and in an intense Master's program. Also, I already had friends.
But, when I talk about my undergraduate student life with others who didn't graduate from a campus life university, they all say the same two things:
- Their first year sucked
- It was hard to make friends.
Obviously, I'd choose York University over TMU any day.
Still, if York Univeristy is not your cup of tea and you were hoping to experience a campus-based life in Canada, then maybe Western University, University of British Columbia or Queen's University could be options you should look at.
Also, TMU didn't absolutely suck. My professors taught me a lot, the journalism program was so motivating and it really did prepare me for life as an adult, so if this is your first choice, don't let me stop you!