The Climax

Work. That summarises the activities I’ve had to focus on as of late. Five papers due in the span of two weeks? Check. An average of two exams per week for more than a month? Check. Five more (finals) in the span of 10 days? Check.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s been time to enjoy my stay here in Toronto as well. Plenty of time to get to know new people, see the sights, and in general enjoy life. But right now, the thing most on my mind, is that dreaded nebulous concept that doesn’t exist in all countries: Finals.

So lets talk a bit about finals. How this works at Ryerson is that, for most of your classes, you have a final exam that represent a certain percentage of your grade. The amount varies from class to class; whether the final is cumulative or not (whether it’s on everything in the entire class, or just on the material covered since your last exam) is also dependent largely on your subject of choice, but also on the specific class. The way, shape and form also changes. In essence, be aware that there are preferences and trends among different scholarly disciplines. For example, my own discipline (psychology) generally speaking only does non-cumulative finals (meaning my finals do not cover the entire course’s material, but just the things covered since the last exam I wrote).

As of the writing moment, my first final is tomorrow morning… and I’m quite stressed. I’m not anxious that I’ll do badly, mind, I’m just nervous because I want to get through this period of ten very intense days. Ironically enough, first up is a class final in stress management and coping. Go figure.

Now, another thing that’s important to consider for your final(s) is that there are no classes during the finals period. You can focus solely on your exams, which in my mind, comes both as a blessing and a curse. In some subject you will not have had time to cover everything in lectures, meaning the finals will rely more heavily on your reading comprehension and ability to memorise and internalise knowledge through reading course literature. For someone such as myself, who relies primarily on lectures as my most efficient form of knowledge acquisition, this is a bit of a bother. On the other hand, you need not be afraid that there will be a lack of time for reading. While the last day of classes is (this year) a mere two days before the finals period starts, the finals stretch on for a total of two weeks, and hopefully your finals will be spread out over this period, giving you many days to focus on reading and otherwise studying. That said, remember to take some breaks and enjoy yourself as well; you’ll be no good to yourself if you’re dead of mind and body when you finally sit down in your finals chair.

That said, the location of the chair is important. At Ryerson, quite a few exams are given on campus, but equally many are given at the MTCC; the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Due to the massive classes in some subjects, and the directive that people in the same class take the exam at the same time (to prevent cheating), as well as with a desire to make the finals period condensed and effective (who wants a two-month final period?), a lot of exams are housed in the MTCC. Ever wanted to do an exam in a room with 4000 other people at the same time? Here’s your chance. And no, it’s not optional.

As for finals exam times, they CAN run on weekends, and they CAN run both early and late. My earliest final is 09.00 – 11.00 (AM), and my latest 19.00-21.30 (that’s 7-9.30 PM, for you 12-hour-day people). As far as I know, that represents the whole spectrum of exams. And yes, you can have more than one exam per day. Yes, you can have as many as three on the same day; some of my best friends here in Toronto do. It’s a bummer, but at least you’ll be done quicker!

This update, while a while in coming, has been a lengthy one, and I wont drown you with more information. There’ll sadly be no update on the fraternities, as my investigation into the frat culture of Toronto sadly fell through due to another bout of influensa (yay, fun). However, I will be updating you on a few highlights and lovely activities in my next post: The Conclusion!

Stick around for a couple of more weeks, and you’ll find out how it all goes down. Until then, my friends, take care, be strong, and maple on!

Tempus fugit

Time really does fly, my friends. Since last we spoke, I’ve had quite a few midterms (they’ve been going well, thank you!), and submerged myself more in my classes, as well as into Canadian culture. It’s fascinating, how so many things are so similar to what you’re used to, yet it’s the tiny, tiny details that completely throw you out of your pace and makes you go “Whaaaat?”.
That said, today I’d like to talk to you a little bit about a major part, according to some, of Canadian culture: Hockey.

While hockey isn’t officially Canada’s national sport (that’s lacrosse), unofficially, well… without disparaging lacrosse, for every lacrosse fan you find, I bet you’ll find at least ten hockey fans. Going to a full house hockey game is a singular experience, like intense concerts or other sporting events; the feel of the crowd, the cheering, the wild rampant emotions… well, suffice to say that if you visit Toronto for any extended length of time (as in, more than a week), it might serve you well to immerse yourself in Canada’s favourite sport by attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game.
As for me, I haven’t had that satisfaction quite yet, but for exchange students (and others as well), there’s something else to be said for hockey in Toronto: University-level hockey. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a game between the Ryerson Rams and the Guelph Gryphons. It was a blast, and the crowd, though not massive in size, made up for it in passion and commitment to support their team.

Ryerson Rams hockey

Ryerson Rams hockey, Copyright Deborah Carlucci

Suffice to say, the Ram’s training and the crowd’s commitment paid off, as the Rams beat the Gryphons by 6 – 1 (Go Rams, yay!).

Another topic of North American culture, is the week of and popular Halloween. Just as in most of the United States, Halloween is very popular in Canada. Trick-or-treating, costumes, parties and events are everywhere in the week leading up to Halloween itself (which was yesterday, October 31st). If you’ve ever looked for an excuse to immerse yourself in the world of scary movies and events/amusement parks (Canada’s Wonderland just outside of Toronto has a massive Halloween theme every year), or just want a good reason for dressing up like a troll for class, Toronto offers you the opportunity. Coming from a country where Halloween didn’t exist when I grew up (not to be confused with All Hallow’s Eve, which is technically the same, but has different cultural connotations), and where it’s only mildly observed even to this day, this was a fantastic experience for me.
I admit to not dressing up myself, but it was a joy to watch all the creations people concocted, both for parties and for class (!). Also, if you’re a fan of scary movies, this time of year is perfect for scratching that itch, both for movies new and old.
Just remember, ladies and gentlemen: short skirts/kilts and tights are COLD this time of year.

All that said, if you do show up in Toronto in the fall term for studying or work, be sure to give yourself the chance to enjoy Canadian culture, and sample the different holidays and events. You will most certainly not regret it.

For next time, I was thinking of talking a bit about music culture in Toronto, if the opportunity presents itself, as well as talk a bit about the famous fraternities. Yeah. We’ll also touch base on finals (ever had an exam in the same room as 2000 other people before?).

Until you find your way back here, my friends, have a great time and maple on!

Reading week and laying down the Law

Hallo again, everyone! Hope you’re all doing great and are anxious for some more Maple Time!

As of right now, it’s currently “Reading Week” at Ryerson University. Reading week (Oct. 14 to 20) is dedicated to just that; reading. Students are meant to use this week, wherein there are no classes (unless you’re studying engineering), to catch up on their reading of study material, essays and research papers. In essence, it’s a week meant to take the stress off of students by allowing them to catch up on their workload.

Not all universities in Ontario have Reading Week; if you’re coming here to study, you might want to look it up before making plans for these dates.

That said, a lot of students here spend Reading Week doing things they don’t have time for otherwise… for example, a lot of trips to neighbouring cities and locales are arranged by different agencies, both from within Ryerson and without. Niagara falls, Montreal, Quebec, New York and Ottawa are all popular destinations for 2-4 day trips, often by bus. Other students spend their time socialising with friends, catching up on partying, social events, movies and other enjoyable activities, all in an effort to enjoy themselves and take some of the stress off; stress that, by now, will certainly be building, as midterms continue to pile up, and essays are started and near their hand-in dates.

Me, I just wrote my third midterm yesterday; our first examination in PSY300: Psychology of Law. Very interesting stuff, if I may say so myself; witness reliability, false testimony, interrogation techniques, polygraphs, deception, memory errors, suggestibility… so many interesting phenomenons and areas, so many horrifying stories. Did you know that there is current research that indicates that, on the low end, 20% of all confessions made in North America (US and Canada) are false, brought about by psychological strain resulting from harsh interrogation techniques? If that sounds fascinating, or horrible in a kind of “It terrifies me, but I want to know more”, then maybe PSY300: Psychology of Law is something for you.

That said, there’s a lot more to tell about what’s going on right now as an exchange student, not the least of which is Thanksgiving this Monday (Oct. 14th)! I’m going to gather up some more information and stories for you, and I’ll post another update during the coming week. Hope to see you back here then.

Until then, keep safe, be jolly, and maple on!

Exams and flu season, oh dear

Hi everyone.  Been a while since last time; been busy with studying (or maybe that was me watching Breaking Bad…) and having the flu. Fun times.

First exam’s coming up tomorrow, just a few short weeks into the term. Yikes. It’s true what they say, time really does fly. With the organisation of Ryerson activities and exams, it’s important to stay on top of your studies. Last-minute work can be hard, especially when you have an exam and two essays due on the same day. Thankfully, in each of my classes, there have been good instructions for readings to be done every week, and most of my exams (though this is far from universal) are cumulative, meaning I don’t get tested on last exam’s contents on every new exam, as well as the new content. Be aware, however, this is not always the case.

While I’d love to chat a bit more about exams and the like, I’m going to have to leave you with this, for now: Flu season in Toronto is BAD, and it hits like a truck. If you’re coming here, stock up on flu stuff. You’ll most likely need it.

Maple on, friends.

Classes and reading, or “what happened to all my money?!”

Classes have started to take on a form of regularity now (post-Labor day week), and all my classes, at least, are thus far both interesting and engaging. Bought my textbooks two days ago, and have started, with some trepidation, to approach the content contained therein.

On that note: Textbooks in Canada are expensive. While Sweden is somewhat cheap (for once) when it comes to textbooks, I know that a lot of people coming in from other countries would, just like me, find that the books are expensive here. For the mandatory textbook for five different classes, I have paid 660 Canadian dollars total, equaling about €480 or US$640. It should be noted that while psychology textbooks (which is what I got) are by no means known for being incredibly cheap, neither are they known for being terribly expensive. Woe betide he/she who should desire to purchase law or business textbooks new. 250 Canadian dollars PER BOOK is not an impossibility when dealing with law books.

That said, there are ways to save a lot of money. While you may not want to purchase your books before classes start (or even during the first week) to spare yourself the agony of having purchased expensive books for a class you may decide to drop, it’s a good idea to try to find used books via, for example, Amazon or Craigslist. There are also two stores on campus that sell used books, but the line for the first 10 days of classes was about an hour or more long, and there’s a great deal of competition to get those (not always) low-priced books.

If you’re going to start studying, keep in mind also that while used textbooks can be a great way to save money, they may not always be the exact one you need. Make sure that the edition you’re purchasing is the same as the one that will be used in your class. In some cases, an older edition may be acceptable, but the norm is that they are NOT. So save yourself both time, money and energy, and make sure you buy the right edition.

Remember: Every dollar you save on textbooks is a dollar you can use for other, more entertaining pursuits… like a Billy (cocktail-ish creation) at the Ram in the Rye (Ryerson’s resident student pub), or at some other non-scholarly pursuit. Sound like a good time? You bet it is. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be covering some of the “recreational” activites that exist on and around Ryerson campus, so be sure to stay tuned.

Until then, journey safe, and maple on.

Toronto Islands


(Picture courtesy of and copyright by Yuxi Pan)

So the other day I went out to the islands in the Toronto bay area with some fellow exchange students. Never having been out there before, I was kind of amazed by the sheer amount of work that’s gone into the atmosphere and landscaping of the general area.

So, a few pieces of information about the islands: They’re located just offshore from the Toronto harbour, and feature approximately 570 acres of land area (230 hectares), of which some is private and corporate (meaning not open to the public). The place features several smaller restaurants, five larger beaches (one of which is labeled “clothing optional” on the map. I’ll let you figure out for yourself what that means), and many, many miles of walkways. All of the islands, to my knowledge, are reachable on foot once you arrive at any of the designated ferry points. A ferry can be boarded in the Toronto harbour, not far from Union station, for (at the time of writing) seven (7) Canadian dollars (equaling about €4,50).

The picture above depicts the Toronto cityscape as viewed from the deck of the ferry, close to one of the island docks.

The islands themselves are beautifully landscaped, with waterways, fountains, evenly kept grass and boardwalks along parts of the islands facing out to Lake Ontario. It’s important to remember that because of the size of the lake, Lake Ontario is somewhat chilly compared to smaller inland lakes, and while a dip in the blue can definitely be refreshing, if you’re planning on doing it, be aware of where and when you do so.

Me and the group I was with walked around a bit on the islands, enjoying the nature and the boardwalks especially. Tourist trap or not (and yes, they are), it’s definitely a good place to mix up walking/biking and spending some time in the sun at one of the beaches. There’s even a frisbee golf course, for those so inclined.

I want to point out that while I enjoyed the visit a lot, especially the view of Toronto from the island coast and the ferry, as a Swede the islands feel very artificial. Their beauty is undeniable, but it’s also incredibly neat. The lawns are kept, the trees are roughly the same size, the ponds are charming and have smooth, even edges. It may be a well-landscaped piece of land, but it IS just that: Landscaped. Visitors to Canada looking for a more “wild-natured” look may want to look elsewhere for their entertainment… though at seven dollars for a round trip on the ferry, it’s a worthwhile investment either way.

I haven’t been “touristing” a lot in Toronto as of yet, but I figured I’d keep you all appraised of what goes on outside of the studies at Ryerson as well as within the campus “walls”.

Oh, and I got to see Reese Witherspoon as we walked by the Toronto International Film Festival.
That was neat.

First day(s) of class

Today was my first day of class; most people had theirs yesterday, but my schedule is empty Tuesdays, and since Monday was Labour Day here in Canada, this is how the first week plays out.

A good thing to remember about Ryerson is that they do allow for a small window of time before each class begins for you to get your things in order and find the right place. What this means, a bit more specifically, is that unless otherwise noted, classes that are set to begin at a full hour actually begin ten minutes past. This is not a way for you to get another ten minutes of sleep; this is to allow time for stragglers, and for you to get into your seats and get yourself ready to begin class. Being late can (and often will) take marks off of your final grade, so that’s not a ten-minute period you want to waste on anything but settling down in a good spot in the classroom.

So how was my first day, you ask? Well, as far as such things go, it went well. I started my first two classes today, in blocks of one hour and three hours. Class size sits at about a hundred people, give or take a few, for both classes; a size which seems to be pretty normal for Ryerson. I know for a fact that students attending any form of Business programme can expect classes to, at times, be three times that size.

Coming from Sweden (and Europe in general, as far as I know), the Canadian school system seems rather strange. There’s no chance of re-taking tests without re-taking a class, and you have to score well on your tests to get credit for the course; passing and getting credit are not necessarily the same. If you’re going to study in Canada, be sure to inform yourself as to the differences.

That said, don’t let these things frighten you. Most of the time, you are not required to pass every test; your marks are cumulative, and (mostly) you need a total percentage of marks over your exams to pass (and get credit). While it may sound daunting, don’t worry; at least my experience thus far with Ryerson speaks of very little but a desire to help students pass their courses, enjoy their stay and benefit from the exchange with both faculty and other students during their stay. My first day of class did nothing to contradict this; in fact, it went so far as to affirm that while every lecturer may have very varying personalities and ways of teaching, they are committed to their subject, and invested in their field of study.

While this may be a ringing endorsement of the Ryerson faculty, I’m only in my first few days here, so expect both the good and the bad to show up over the coming weeks and months. Some days are going to be great, others very much not so, but either way, I am committed to making the most of my time here at Ryerson, and in Canada, and I hope that you will find the mix of information and personal experiences to be a satisfying and enriching read.

Expect more Maple Time soon. Until then, take care, and enjoy life to the fullest.

Settling in…

Okay, so just what’s going on here?

For those of you who do not know, I’m a student of the BIT-programme at Umeå University, who’ll be attending a 4-month exchange during the fall term of 2013 at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

As for what’s going on right now: I’ve been in Toronto for six days now, four of which have been like living in a sauna. The heat in and of itself isn’t bad; a mere 23-25 degrees celsius. The problem lies in the humidity; a humidity which I am told is always this bad in the region. Humidity for the first few days was around 85-90%, so this is definitely something to keep in mind if you’re going to visit Toronto during the summer months.

As for me, I’m just settling into my room. Living in Toronto is very expensive overall (a small room/bachelor’s apt. can be anywhere between $650-1100), and while there are cheaper places, there are also a lot of places you want to steer clear of. The trouble is that not all of them are concentrated in the same spot, or are in the outskirts of the city. On the contrary, there are select blocks near downtown which are considerably worse than what you might find just around the corner, and doing your research will pay off.

Right now I’m living in a room in a 140-year-old townhouse about 20 minutes walk from the Ryerson campus. I only just settled in today, after six nights at the Only Backpackers Inn, a great little hostel up on Danforth Avenue (comes warmly recommended).

Conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of downtown, Ryerson University is one of the several universities in the Toronto area, and it does have many (Brown, U of T, Centennial just to name a few). While the first few days around here (classes have yet to start) have been somewhat chaotic, the welcome I’ve received has been warm and genuine. The student commitment thus far has been lovely, and I look forward to participating in yet another exchange student activity on the morrow.

Want to learn more about life as an exchange student at Ryerson? Then you’re in luck, because there’s more to come in the days, weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!