Postcards from Abroad: Toronto #2

 
 

After a tumultuous month of house searching, Niall Spain finally hits the accommodation jackpot.

The last time you heard from me I had just arrived in Toronto, was living in a building site and had a mysterious cat upsetting my sleeping pattern. While the whole cat thing never really got cleared up, thankfully things have changed.

That first month was certainly interesting.

In an attempt to stay away from the building site hellhole I pretty much slept anywhere else that I could. Any new friends I made soon had an Irishman making a close acquaintance with their floor and Union station kept me warm for a good night or two. No joke. After two weeks of living like this I moved in to my new English friend’s house until October began, in return for a bottle of whiskey and a set of pans. Bartering is underrated.

During this month I searched desperately for accommodation, lugging most of my belongings around Toronto in the blistering sunshine. There were definitely some interesting places viewed; there was the seventeen-story building where an old lady who had covered her apartment in mirrors told me her priest could “help” me. There was also a room about the size of my shoe that simultaneously served as the fire escape route for the building, meaning I couldn’t legally lock my door (the landlord kindly suggested that I hide my valuables if I moved in). There were many others too, and had I the space, I could fill a few pages describing them. One room seemed ideal and it was agreed that I would move in within a few days. The owners then called me a day later to say they had decided to give it to their friend instead. With the exception of that one flat, pretty much all of them were unsuitable in one way or another. I really began to despair.

Then, the day before I had to move out, my luck changed. I saw a new ad on one of the accommodation websites and called to ask if I could check it out. It was a two-storey penthouse apartment on the eighteenth floor of a high-rise. It had a large balcony. I would get a room and an office. There was Internet, a dog, and a cat. Rent was cheap if I walked the landlord’s dog. I could move in the next day. To sweeten the deal, the landlord promised he would get me a TV and cable for my room.

It was perfect.

I’ve been here ever since and it’s been amazing. I can’t explain exactly how good it felt to unpack after a month of living out of a suitcase. Also, the look of grudging respect I get from other tenants in the elevator every time I press the “PH” button (while they press their measly numbers) definitely makes up for the mornings of being woken by builders and mystery cats. To top it off, my landlord regularly buys me KFC (which tastes far better over here than it ever did in Ireland).

With my accommodation problems solved, I’ve finally been able to fully enjoy the exchange experience. I’ve been immersing myself in Canadian culture. That is, I’ve been going to frat houses and toga parties, one of which involved my toga acting as not only my attire for the night but also as a medical aid for a passing drunken cyclist. They really are such handy items of clothing.

College itself is a different experience than back home. Most of my courses have five or six assessments throughout the semester, which is far more than I ever had in UCD. This is good and bad. It seems like I always have work looming over me but nothing is worth a scary amount of my final mark. Another difference between here and home is the format of the lectures. In Ireland you generally sit and listen while the lecturer speaks and it’s rare for someone to interrupt or ask questions. Not so over here. Lectures are almost more like tutorials, or chats. It’s an intriguing difference.

The weather is still great, but it’s starting to get colder and I’ve been hearing horror stories about the Canadian winter. The next thing I need to sort out will be proper winter attire. Somehow I think it will be a far easier task than finding accommodation was, but I’m almost glad the first month was so interesting. I ended up in the perfect place and had a bit of an adventure in doing so. I mean, how many students do you know living in a penthouse on exchange?

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