University of Toronto is a place many Richmond Hill Asians are familiar with. Our successful cousins who graduated from law school and medical school went there. When we immigrated to Toronto, our parents took iconic photos in front of King’s College and planned our educational futures from then on. By default, UofT is the pinnacle of higher learning and prestige that every Asian parent wants their kids to attend.
UofT is sought after because 1) It is prestigious 2) The environment is not “sketchy” unlike the dark shadowlands called York University and 3) It allows kids to either live at home or live downtown, which is not too far from Richmond Hill. In this way, it encompasses the three most important Asian values: Education/prestige, safety, and
overprotectiveness proximity to family.
In Gr. 12, the time in which a Richmond Hill Asian considers university, he or she will start hearing elaborate stories about their successful cousin who graduated from Law School at U of T, and is on their way to buying a BMW and a townhouse in Whitchurch-Stouffville (the new Asian hub). Relatives will start asking, “So, you study engineer at U of T?” (When the student voices interest in the arts instead, their sympathetic uncle or aunt will suggest a reasonable compromise like Rotman Commerce.) Note: For Asians, college is not an option. To attend Seneca usually lends to social ostracization or pity, although thankfully, these attitudes are starting to change in light of current economic situations.)
During this time, the student may have been bribed with offers of a new car, or the promise that they’ll get to live downtown for all 4 years of undergrad. They may have fantasized about shopping at Eaton Centre between classes, all those legendary ramen places, accessibility to China town, and finally participating in a multicultural environment. Too late, many an Asian tricked into these assumptions face for the next 4 years: a bleak hour-and-a-half to two-hours one way commute, no friends, no sleep, and an excruciating difficult education that teaches you to overthink, but not much else. They will also realize the whole Eaton Centre scheme was a lie. Who has time or money to go there between classes?
Welcome to U of T, guys.
Actually, I’m kidding. As bleak as exam season can become, as dreary as Robarts Library can get, and as hard as it is to find real friends, U of T is still a cutting-edge institution. As long as you choose your program wisely, attend classes critically, and source your options, you will have a productive university environment. You might even make friends.
These simple tips will help you.
1) Be a scheduling ninja.
2) Make the most of opportunities.
3) Be thankful.
Stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll detail those three points and talk about how I survived the institution.
P.S. Every Richmond Hill Asian inherently knows that U of T is the biggest shark there in the great Canadian sea. Those who choose to attend York, Ryerson, OCAD, or other university institutions often claim that U of T is much too difficult, treats students poorly, and has a lousy campus life. Even if they truly believe U of T is overrated, and genuinely prefer York University, they still know deep inside that York is only U of T’s backup.