Arrival in Toronto!

18 January 2019

Check out our first North American blog from Angelos Angelidis, a Geography student on exchange at the Mississauga campus at the University of Toronto in Canada!

Arrival in Toronto

Before my departure for Toronto I was confident enough that I would not go through a cultural shock when I arrived in North America. I thought the transition would be as easy as falling off the back of a horse. And trust me I did fall off a horse. The biggest shock was definitely with regards to the structure of urban centres and how that determines certain aspects of everyday life. In the Greater Toronto Area which includes four regions outside of the City of Toronto, suburbia is thriving with certain areas looking so “perfectly” homogenous that they lack personality. In addition to everything being very spread out, the public transportation network across these regions is not very well-connected and efficient so most people own and use a car on a daily basis. During the first couple of weeks, I could not help but make comparisons between my experience here versus back in Europe. However, despite my initial shock I started looking at things from another perspective and started appreciating the differences of this place.

From my few visits in downtown Toronto, the city’s modern architecture has never failed to surprise and fascinate me. The imposing International style architecture of the city centre definitely makes a bold statement that Toronto is the financial capital of Canada. However, the further away you move from the shore of Lake Ontario the more architectural styles you encounter including Georgian and Victorian architecture especially in residential areas. My favourite area so far is Kensington Market. It is a very hip neighbourhood with vintage and second-hand clothe shops and lively cafés and bars and it is only a ten-minute walk from the University of Toronto Saint George campus.


Apart from Toronto, I also had the chance to visit Niagara Falls and Montreal during my first month here and both of them were extraordinary experiences. Prior to visiting both I only had a vague idea of how they would be and no particular expectations out of either of them.

Niagara Falls, completely caught me off guard. The image of a quaint little town with breathtaking waterfalls at its backdrop that I had, was replaced by a real-life-theme-park city where there are more haunted houses than residential houses and the air smells as if you were inside Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The waterfalls were actually stunning and you could feel their power if you paid to access the viewing platform. Even though I disliked how americanised the place was, I could not help but be charmed by its kitsch vibes.

Niagara Falls

Montreal was on the other hand a very artistic city full of galleries, museums and small local-owned businesses. The low rent but relatively higher living costs push creativity, so innovation and risk taking are encouraged and embraced. There is something about Montreal that gives you a sense that the city has not been infected with the craze and buzz of the 2000s as if time stopped in the 1990s. However it also feels like a city of the future because of how accepting it is of experimentation and how full of opportunities it is especially when it comes to the arts. Montreal is also the hometown of one of my favourite film directors, Xavier Dolan so it was amazing to see where he grew up and drew inspiration from for his movies.

To conclude, I am slowly getting used to all the differences here, try to embrace them, be open-minded and have fun. I feel like I have yet to explore so much and I want to make the most out this year. Time passes by very quickly, however the reality of things is that I also need to do well in the classes that I am taking here at the University of Toronto. Finding such balance is not the easiest of things but I think I am on the right track.