By Jade du Preez, Inbound Exchange Student from the Journalism program at Edinburgh Napier University
“Yeah, but why Canada?” This was probably the most commonly asked question from local Torontonians. They couldn’t understand why someone as well travelled as myself would spend four months in Canada, of all the countries I could have picked. And here’s why; Canada is the most beautiful and polite country I’ve ever visited. Never have I encountered nicer people in such a big city, and I’ve lived in a few cities!
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but moved to the Highlands of Scotland when I was nine. Then I left to study Journalism at university in the capital, Edinburgh. After two years, I moved to Toronto as part of the Ryerson International exchange program – and I never met the person I exchanged with, but if they ever want to swap lives again, I’d happily accept. In fact, my parents just about had to drag me back home after a whirlwind four months at an amazing university, with amazing new friends. If I had it my way, we’d all stay in Toronto and never leave. I couldn’t understand why locals were so dumbfounded to find that I’d fallen head over heels in love with the city.
Toronto has everything you could possibly want as a student – the bright lights at night, the beautiful harbour, and the surrounding areas are amazing; Scarborough Bluffs are insane on a warm day.
People kept telling me that they’d love to leave Toronto behind and move to Edinburgh for a few months, even though they had what I viewed as literal paradise on their doorstep. This was madness to me. I couldn’t understand their confusion, just as they couldn’t believe mine. Then it struck me, the novelty of things wears off when you’ve been around them for too long. You forget the beauty and wonder of sights at home when you’ve walked passed them a million times, or how delicious things taste when you’ve eaten them once a week for your entire life.
I’d never looked at Edinburgh from a tourist’s perspective, because I wasn’t one, but when I had the excuse of acting like a tourist for four months, I realised how good it feels. I was witnessing and experiencing everything for the first time, and I was viscerally very aware of that. It was like every second spent with my new friends; eating, exploring, trying, it was all on a heightened level of happiness, as I totally immersed myself into Torontonian life.
I rode the TTC, ate Beavertails and shopped in Kensington Market, whereas at home I would take the Night Bus, eat Tunnock’s Teacakes and shop at the Grassmarket. I could do all of these things at home but it wasn’t the same; I had to learn how to see things like it was for the first time again.
Toronto showed me how to do that. I’d never experienced a baseball game in a stadium as amazing as the Rogers Centre, or eaten maple syrup that wasn’t a cheap exported knock off of the real deal, or walked for hours to get a great view of the skyline.
I still miss the reassuring sight of the CN Tower from my bedroom window, or the adventurous friends who were always up for a laugh, but I made more memories in the time I was in Toronto than I ever did when I was at home, so if anything, my exchange has taught me a true lesson. To value what is around me and never take for granted the place I live in, because there is always an adventure waiting for you around the corner, you just have to go looking for it.
Toronto awakened me to the fact that there is so much to see and do, no matter where you are. So, take that holiday and see the world, even if you don’t go very far, make sure you make the most of it and make all the memories you possibly can.
Moving to Toronto was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve learned so many life lessons from it. It truly was a magical, beautiful and worthwhile trip. I can now understand people who aren’t content with where they live, but I can’t understand people who don’t go on exchange whilst they still can. It’ll change their lives.