I’ve always wondered about the University of Toronto (U of T, from here on). Almost a decade ago, I turned down offers from both the St. George campus and the Scarborough campus to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of Waterloo instead, and the list of reasons is too long to name. Still, Toronto is my city, and with the campuses within easy access, I felt like I should take the chance, before leaving Toronto again, to go see what I missed by turning down U of T all those years ago. After all, it was just another stroll in the park…literally.
The buildings of the U of T St. George campus are scattered all around the core of downtown Toronto, so anyone can be walking around the campus and not even be aware of it. It is often the case for me when I visit downtown. I knew the boundaries of the university, passing by buildings here and there that I knew were part of the campus, yet I never took time to explore the inner campus itself. Then one day, after lunch with a friend in downtown, I was left with an entire free afternoon to myself. I could go home and call it a day, I thought, or…I could take this excellent opportunity to finally SEE the U of T St. George campus. Since I was there anyway, why not? Little did I know that I was about to step into quite a magical place…(click here to see the entire collection of U of T photos.)
My starting point was an old building that I later found out to be Trinity College. I opened a set of doors, entered an empty hall, and pushed another set of doors at the other end of the hall to enter a grand courtyard. All was quiet, and the sight before me baffled me, to say the least. “Is this in Toronto?” I thought, as I stared at the uncharacteristically sophisticated and beautiful architecture that surrounded me all all sides, cloistering the quadrangle in which I stood alone. Somewhere hidden in the busy urban center was this enclosure that seemed like something I would only see in a medieval town, or in a Harry Potter movie. All of a sudden, “Toronto”, a city I thought I knew so well, became more of a mystery to me than ever before.
The front façade of Trinity College radiated an air of age, history, culture, and scholarship. I believe Trinity College houses some departments in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the U of T as well as the department of Theological Studies. Such class and elegance – I was impressed. I don’t think I would have had the chance to get well acquainted with Trinity College though, had I chosen U of T, as I would have been in the Faculty of Engineering 😦
This is one of the “reading rooms” inside another building (I believe it was Wycliffe College, right across from Trinity College). Huh. Compared with the “study rooms” at Waterloo, this seemed more like a luxury hotel lounge – and I mean no offense to my alma mater. It is all a matter of style 😉 Anyway, I totally wouldn’t mind curling up on one of those very comfy-looking sofas with a good book and just read for hours…
I don’t remember where this photo was taken, but I recall that as I stepped into this corridor, I was instantly transported back to France. The reason was that this area reminded me immediately of the cloister in Saint-Émilion, France, which was probably one of my favourite places near Bordeaux. In particular, I almost felt like I relived that one day last October where I spent a whole morning leaning against the columns of the cloister in Saint-Émilion in a light sleep, one of the best memories before I left Europe…ahh! There were a few students around, but not many as it was still summer, I presume.
One thing I noticed was that the St. George campus was very green. Well, maybe it was only because it was still summertime, and I was browsing the nicer section of the campus. After all, I was walking quite slowly, admiring each building that I came upon and trying my hardest not to compare the campus with Waterloo 😛 I didn’t get a chance to see the buildings in the Faculty of Engineering, unfortunately.
Another unknown building, this time near the King’s College Circle. All this time I was walking from building to building, I felt like I was doing a self-guided tour of the remains of an ancient medieval city. The main disadvantage was that I didn’t get to examine in-depth the historical significance of each place I visited, which was quite a shame, really.
I think in my mind, the U of T St. George campus was what an ideal campus should have been like. Classy, scholarly, and relaxing all at the same time. Of course, if I had to commute from Scarborough to downtown Toronto every day for classes (at least one hour each way), I probably would not have enjoyed it as much as if I was just taking a leisurely walk. And the possibility of living on campus was non-existent, as Scarborough was already “close” to St. George. However, I’m sure a residence experience would have been quite a blast at St. George…if you’re a fan of big cities and tall buildings. Then again, U of T seemed to revolve around a world of its own, and I had to ask myself again…”Is this really Toronto I’m seeing?”
The university revealed more of its magic and secrets to me as I entered several random buildings on my “tour”, one of which was University College. This is one of the (I suppose) lecture halls and need I say more – it was stunning. I had never seen a place quite like this – DEFINITELY not at Waterloo, ha! My first thought as I entered this classroom was, “What is this, Hogwarts?!” Now, tell me this does not look like something right out of a Harry Potter movie setting, where the students study Defense Against the Dark Arts. It’s unreal. I wonder if classes actually do take place here, because I wouldn’t mind having lecture here, though knowing me…I would probably fall asleep no matter how interesting the lectures were. Teehee! Still, I do have a reason for calling this place “magical”, don’t I?
As I continued my exploration of University College (assuming that I was authorized to just go in and see the place), I saw a set of staircase leading up to the upper levels of the building. By now the university has already enchanted me with its charming appearance, but I couldn’t help praising even the elegance found in these simple flights of stairs that seemed so ordinary. So much delight and sophistication in every corner – how could I not admire this place?
A view of University College from the King’s College Circle. I may not have had the chance to experience what I have described in this post, but I am glad that my sister will be spending the next four years at U of T St. George, and she will have the privilege to enjoy all that the campus has to offer, including its exuberant student life, outstanding reputation, and most of all, pleasant campus 🙂
So the bottom line is, after having lived in Toronto for so many years and having rejected offers from the U of T in my undergrad, I didn’t realize the true beauty of the St. George campus until today. The unexpected stroll in the park (the campus itself really is a park) that day certainly justified everything I heard about U of T having an unfathomably lovely campus, and I couldn’t help but agree that Waterloo has to humbly surrender on this point. While I may say I almost regret not choosing U of T over Waterloo based on the campus, I say “almost” because that’s all it is – a first impression. Would I got back 9 years and to reverse my decision and try my luck with U of T, where magic seems possible? Maybe, but more likely not. If I could have 9 years of my life back, I think choosing the right university would not be something I would be worrying about much… 😛