All posts by Emma Kikulis

Sports Editor 2015–2016 Associate Comment Editor 2014–2015

Lifting limits

I like to think that I know an athlete when I see one: hair pulled back, some sort of oversized duffel bag slung over their shoulder, and proudly sporting sweats. Even though we’ve never met, this is how I recognize Alexandra Kousathana when she walks into the small Second Cup on Harbord and Spadina.

Kousathana is the co-president of the U of T Ironsports club, which she leads along with masters student Stephanie Scodras. I met with both women to discuss how they got involved with the growing sport.

“I’m in Kinesiology, so like everyone in the faculty was… talking about Crossfit, so I tried Crossfit,” said Kousathana. “Then [I] got into Olympic weightlifting, and from there I got into powerlifting.”

Previously unbeknownst to me, weightlifting and powerlifting are not synonymous — as Kousathana is quick to point out. “Weightlifting is the Olympic sport…powerlifting is [three events]: the squat, bench-press, and deadlift. It’s a sport just not an Olympic sport.”

U of T Ironsports was founded by Amanda Santos in 2012 and is the only Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting club on St. George campus. Kousathana and Scodras subsequently became presidents. “Ironsports has a lot of roots in trying to get women into [powerlifting and weightlifting]” said Scodras about the club’s investment in gender inclusivity in the sport which has been previously dominated by men. “It’s something that we both really want,” added Kousathana.

Putting in work

The duo’s goal is to teach the club’s participants the basics of both powerlifting and weightlifting in their practices and training days. They aim to reach out to as many women as possible who might be interested, but are apprehensive about trying the sport. “[IronSports] has a lot of women, Allie and I will usually be at the training days to not just help out the girls, but pretty much help out anyone… sometimes the girls will feel more comfortable in that scenario,” said Scodras, noting that the club can seem intimidating from the outside.

“I think that a lot of people have these sort of misconceptions that girls don’t powerlift,” added Scodras, who can deadlift over 400 lbs. “You’ll see these really little girls who are really strong and it doesn’t really fit the picture that people expect from powerlifters: big, fat, sweaty men.”

They are lifelong athletes who got hooked on the sport in university. They were introduced to lifting through other sports. Kousathana, who grew up in Greece, did not have much access to athletics growing up. “I grew up on an island, so we didn’t have many sports” she said. “The only sport the girls could do was track, because we weren’t allowed to play soccer… there was no women’s soccer.” Scodras was introduced to lifting through her rowing team at McGill, where she completed her undergrad — she hasn’t looked back since. “In the off season they encouraged us to get in the weight room, and I liked it a lot more than everything else.”

Once involved in the sport, both women noticed a lack of  female representation in powerlifting. They note that while lifting has garnered increased interest since the popularization of crossfit, there are still fewer competitive weight classes for women in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. Fewer women are represented come competition time.

This disparity was evident to Scodras when she was first on a team in Montreal. The team consisted of around a dozen men and two women, herself included. “At my first meet there was definitely a discrepancy in the number of men compared to women [but] when you get to the bigger meets, like provincials… you’ll see a lot more women coming out,” she noted.

“But it’s still not equal,” added Kousathana.

Breaking down barriers

Women are just beginning to make their mark in lifting sports. In the process, female athletes are slowly chipping away at the expectations society has of  their bodies. After all, the physique required to become a successful competitor demands a significant amount of muscle. Consequently, Kosathana and Scodras have been subject to extensive scrutiny for not fitting into a certain mould.

Kousathana, who placed third in her weight class at the Canadian Powerlifting Union National Championships, recalls being criticized not for participating in a male dominated sport per se, but for the amount of muscle she gained in order to become a competitive lifter.

“It was just like ‘oh, but you don’t want to get big,’” she said to illustrate the common line she would receive after telling people about her lifting, to which she would respond, “well maybe I do, and that’s fine.”

Kousathana cites Ronda Rousey, UFC bantamweight champion, as a major force in helping to redefine femininity.

“I think it’s feminine to have every muscle in your body to be there for a purpose” she says, “I don’t see why being muscly and being strong isn’t feminine, I consider it to be very feminine.”

It is clear for Kousathana and Scodras that women who powerlift, exhibit robust muscles, and lift more than men were not enigmatic. Rather, they should be celebrated for their athletic successes and the bodies that enable them to achieve their goals — after all, it’s working out well for them.

“I can just eat all the pizza and ice cream I want and I’m fine with it! As long as I’m setting [personal records] it’s fine,” said Scodras.

Both women who — you guessed it — are on their way to the gym after our conversation, humoured me with one final question: if I pick up a weight, I won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger all of a sudden?

“No,” Kousathana laughed, “I wish.”

Staying active

This past summer has been a particularly busy and exciting time for sport in the GTA with the Pan American games setting up camp. This means brand new, world-class facilities have recently been built at UTSC and UTSG and have been tried and tested by some of the best athletes in the world. Whether you’re new to the world of sport and athletics, or a well-seasoned gym-goer, U of T is like a buffet — you can try a bit of everything before you decide on your favourite activity. So lace up, grab a water bottle, and get out there. 

HEALTHY STUDENT LIVING

For those living in residence, you’ll come to realise that — as convenient as residence food is there aren’t always healthy options available. Eating a balanced diet often falls to the wayside in university, but getting enough of the right food to make it through not only class, but a post-class workout doesn’t need to be rocket science.

Making sure that you’re getting enough protein and carbohydrates is important to monitor. You can check these levels via an appointment at Health Services or with the Athletic Centre. Free dietician counselling is also offered to students at UTM, which can help you to plan nutritious meals. Residence dining halls usually post their menus online a few days in advance, so plan your meals accordingly. 

A softball match. DENIS OSIPOV/THE VARSITY
A softball match. DENIS OSIPOV/THE VARSITY

FACILITIES & FITNESS

The 2014–2015 school year saw several substantial changes to the facilities on U of T’s three campuses. The turf-war over back campus came to a climactic close as astro-turf was finally installed, allowing for more teams to practice even during the muddy spring months. The Goldring Center for High Performance Sport also had its official grand opening, and is now home to new weightlifting facilities, basketball and volleyball courts, and a multitude of drop-in and registered fitness programs for students to partake. 

The most impressive facility, however, has to be the Toronto Pan Am Sports Center located at UTSC, which boasts an Olympic size swimming pool, world-class diving platforms, and an indoor running track. Now that the games are over, students and members will have free reign over the facilities — go wild, U of T. Not to be outdone, UTM has a host of its own athletic centres with unique programs and classes for Mississauga students. UTM’s high performance center is stocked with enough cardio equipment to go around — no more waiting in line for a treadmill.

ACTIVITIES & EVENTS

As an undergraduate, you’re probably paying ancillary fees — meaning memberships to different athletic facilities are already included in your tuition. U of T won’t let you drop these fees, you might as well make use of your golden ticket — aka your TCard — and try out as many different activities, at as many different facilities, as you can.

The Goldring Center offers group classes for the popular phone app Nike Training Club, UTSC’s Pan Am Sports Center has a 41-foot climbing wall, which can be rented for groups or can be tried out in a drop-in class, and UTM has multiple outdoor beach volleyball courts for those channelling their inner Misty May Treanor.

Play and cheer

INTRAMURALS

If you are looking for a way to get involved in campus athletics, but drop-in classes aren’t intense enough, and varsity athletics is too much of a commitment, look no further than the intramural options U of T has to offer. Intramurals are organized on each of the three U of T campuses — some colleges even have their own teams — and are open to students of all ages, abilities, and faculties.

The benefit of intramural sports is that they require less commitment than being a member of a varsity team, and the emphasis is on fun as much as competition. Intramurals can also be a perfect fit for the student looking to try non-traditional team sports — like ultimate frisbee and dragon boat. For UTM students, campus recreation services offers intramural co-ed ultimate Frisbee, cricket, and ball hockey. UTSC students won the intramural jackpot when the Pan Am Sports Center was built on their campus — Scarborough students not only have access to the elite-level facility but the intramurals and programs which can now be housed within, including innertube water polo, triathlon training, and for muggles in denial: Quidditch.

An intramural soccer match. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROB LEONE/VARSITY BLUES
An intramural soccer match. PHOTO COURTESY OF ROB LEONE/VARSITY BLUES

VARSITY

Although varsity coaches stress the importance of schoolwork, your varsity team will take a very close second place. The student-athletes who make up the 46 teams we have at our university are as close to superhuman as you can get — juggling hours of practice, therapy, workouts, and game-recaps every week is exhausting enough, even without the hours required for class, exams, assignments, and, occasionally, sleeping.

If you think you’ve got the skills and dedication that it takes to become a member of one of Canada’s oldest and most prestigious university athletics programs, many varsity teams hold open-tryouts for walk on students during pre-season. UTM students have a unique opportunity to join the UTM Eagles — the university’s sports team, which competes in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association. Although the team doesn’t offer as many sports as the Varsity Blues, the Eagles are worth a try if intramurals can’t quite quench your competitive drive.

SPORTS HEALTH RESOURCES

David L. MacIntosh Sports Medicine Clinic: Physiotherapy, athletic therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and Chiropractic treatments.

Health Services (UTSG), Health and Counselling Center (UTM), Health and Wellness Center (UTSC): Nutritional services, general health inquiries, vaccines, and health and wellness information.

The Sports Clinic at UTM: Homeopathy, sports nutrition, arthritis, and sports medicine. All services are made by appointment.

The Question: Is frosh week a worthy endeavour?

Embracing frosh

Frosh week may not be perfect, but it’s a memorable, important university experience

Being a froshie is a one time occurrence — it’s a golden ticket not only to drink in public and dance down the middle of Bloor Street, but also to take your mind off of the fact that you’ll soon be embarking on one of the most important periods of your life.

Frosh week is not for the faint of heart. Activities routinely include hazing, public humiliation, and drinking to excess.

In the past several years, however, students have started demanding more from frosh week activities. Issues of safety and inclusiveness have been brought to the forefront of conversations about orientation week, to the point that some universities, around the country, have started requiring more equitable practices.

U of T has made it a priority to erase the stereotypes attached to frosh week — like the one that the entire week is just one big drunken stumble through the city.

Most of U of T’s colleges and faculties have created frosh committees, which elect chairs and co-chairs who are influential during the hiring process for frosh leaders. The chairs of these committees are not only well  versed in their college’s administrative system, but are also student leaders and role models.   

Even in the past few years there have been significant changes to frosh week activities and experiences, but essentially, the tradition remains unchanged. Regardless of how much we hate to admit it, many actually enjoy the cheering and florescent shirts. 

My frosh experience nearly four years ago consisted of my leader taking shots atop the City Sightseeing bus, then proceed to reach out to grab an overhead street-car wire, quickly prompting our already fed-up tour guide to stop and kick us off the bus.

While scary and embarrassing at the time, it was also a perfect icebreaker that prompted a laughter filled walk back to campus with my fellow froshies. Funnily enough, none of the planned events and activities managed to forge this kind of bond.

Frosh week is not at all representative of your university experience — but that’s okay. Most of your time at U of T will see you attending class, writing essays, and taking exams, so it’s important that you have the opportunity to kick-back, lose your voice from cheering, and maybe even dye yourself purple. You’re not likely to get the same chance again. 

Emma Kikulis is a fourth year student at Innis College studying English and sociology. She is The Varsity’s Sports editor.

Frosh week is not reflective of the university experience

Time to tear it down from its pedestal

While free food and condoms are certainly worthy of celebration, frosh week itself hardly deserves the pedestal it is routinely placed upon.

Perhaps most striking is the sheer superficiality of the entire affair. People talk in perky voices, yet conversations are more like hollow surveys — hi, what’s your major, where are you living, this ice breaker is pretty fun, eh. Cue nervous laughter.

Understandably, students are worried about making good impressions and eager to dramatically recreate their identities in a new space. And surely, some will be lucky enough to stumble into another student with whom they instantly click.

But for most, such exchanges simply become cringe-worthy memories and nothing more. It is bizarre then, that we continue to idealize the social aspect of frosh as a formative rite of passage into university.

More unfortunately, the majority of socializing during frosh is done under the constant and disturbing pressure to drink yourself into oblivion. Despite the attempts of noble frosh executives to introduce quieter games nights, many frosh will ultimately turn to alcohol in order to both ease their insecurities, and fulfill, real or imagined, expectations on the resilience of their livers.

While laughter during drunken nights can certainly create some affection between students, binge drinking is, at best, a questionable basis for the long-lasting and meaningful relationships that frosh week purports to encourage.

Not to mention the fact that the culmination of frosh week  — that is, the street parade downtown — fails to foster a coherent school spirit. Instead, it is premised on segregating the student body based on college, faculty, or campus. Most notably, this annual institutional emphasis on internal rivalry reifies the notorious and regrettable disconnect between our UTM, UTSC, and UTSG campuses.

As students will find out after frosh week, university is not simply a series of awkward conversations and booze-filled evenings. Your experience at U of T will not be characterized by strict hourly scheduling, nor peppy handholding authorities. That was what high school was for. 

Instead, the next four years of your life will be based on your decisions and ability to explore what you care most about, at your own pace. Your engagement — whether with course material, professors, or other like-minded students — will certainly be more long-term, deeper, and thus more formative, than the superficial experience of frosh week.

So if you don’t have a good time at frosh week, don’t worry — it only gets better from here.

Victoria Wicks is a third year student at Trinity College studying political science and ethics, society & law. She is The Varsity’s Comment editor.

Be your own hero

Shouts ricochet off the walls and ceiling. Voices are echoed by the sound of dozens of roller skates rushing around a wooden track. A far cry from the old-school derby of the ’70s, roller derby has evolved and moved away from the violent theatrics and staged “hits” of decades prior, and has shifted its primary rules and regulations toward recognition as a legitimate sport.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is in the fact that people assume roller derby is just about violence,” says Rachel Paris. “The sport has evolved into an intricate and elaborate set of rules… it demands a lot of skill beyond the old ‘American Gladiators’ style of play,” she adds.

Paris, who is a second-season bench manager for the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad — Toronto Roller Derby’s (ToRD) rookie team — has been involved with ToRD for three years and maintains that the sport is much more than throwing punches and kicks.

Perhaps due to the aggressive nature of the sport, teams and players alike have faced the  struggle of getting roller sports, like roller derby, recognized and sanctioned as an official sport.

Roller derby provides a sense of community in addition to physical activity. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY
Roller derby provides a sense of community in addition to physical activity. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY

Roller derby is a highly sophisticated contact sport. Two teams of 14 choose five of their players at a time to play. It is played on a flat track — not a banked track — with roller skates rather than roller blades. The intention is to have a member of your team lap the other team as many times as possible. The person doing the lapping — the “jammer” — accumulates points by lapping the opposing team. The team with the most points at the end of two 30-minute “jams” wins.

The sport involves far more than skating in circles. Jammers must face an onslaught of retaliation by members of the opposing team while trying to score. These other players, “blockers,” simultaneously play offence and defence, making roller derby one of few sports requiring this kind of multitasking from its players.

The pace of play is exhilarating and entertaining for spectators. However, it is the passion and commitment of the players that make the sport. According to Jan Dawson, a seventh-season blocker and line leader for the Death Track Dolls, the passion fuels the competitiveness, which makes the sport enjoyable for players and spectators alike.

“There are many levels of play to be watching as a skater, ref, or fan,” Dawson explains. “This may be perplexing the first few times someone sees the sport, but soon they become track-aware and it all makes sense and sucks them in,” she adds.

Dawson, who started her skating career after watching a roller derby game while completing her master’s degree, posits that the sport is often met with mixed reactions because of its relative obscurity and the preconceived ideas people may have about roller derby.

“People aren’t completely aware that it’s a full contact sport on a flat track,” Dawson explains. “There are always questions about the roller blades and… the banked track.”

AESTHETICS AND IDENTITIES

Each team in ToRD has a unique name and distinct look.

On game day, some players and teams don “boutfits” — uniforms for the match or “bout.” However, for the most part, players tend to keep it simple, sporting their team’s uniform.

“Some players go the boutfit route and wear tutus or fun patterned tights and some prefer to just wear a simple pair of athletic shorts or pants. It’s all about your comfort level,” says Ally Zingone of the Smoke City Betties.

Each player is encouraged to come up with a “derby name” or “rink name.” These nicknames sometimes manifest as alter egos for skaters, and are typically witty representations of some aspect of a player’s real name or something identifiable with their personality.

Paris’s pseudonym is Ani Phylactic. “I have a vast number of allergies; food, pollen, insects, synthetic fibers — you name it,” she explains, “and it’s pretty much become one of my primary identifiers, so I wanted to pay homage to that.” Ani Phylactic is a pun derived from anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.

Players choose names to represent themselves during matches. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY
Players choose names to represent themselves during matches. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY

Zingone created her derby name, Zomboney, out of a life-long joke about her last name.

“As a kid I used to get teased by other kids who would call me Zamboni,” she says. “I was going to use Zamboni as my derby name but my friend suggested Zomboney since I’m such a horror fanatic.”

Zingone also maintains that a skater name isn’t a prerequisite of the sport. Some skaters — in an attempt to legitimize the sport — have purposely forgone a derby name in favour of their legal name.

“Some players have… been using their real names on the track,” Zingone explains. “[This is] an effort to have the sport more widely recognized as a real sport and not something kitschy.”

Dawson, who  uses her last name as an identifier while skating, maintains that the “switch” she flicks on while skating is not an alter ego, but more of a competitive one that she is still actively developing.

“I use my last name because that’s what people call me,” Dawson explains. “I don’t have an alter ego, but I have an athletic switch.”

A SAFE SPACE

Though the league is open to and encouraging of interested individuals, players make it clear that it’s a serious time commitment. Being on the cusp of mainstream, there currently aren’t any pick-up teams or leagues for the casual derby-er.

“I would encourage the majority of people to try derby unless they have a fear of falling down or if they are too busy to commit to a pretty rigorous schedule of practice and volunteering,” Paris says.

The sport’s demands are akin to that of a competitive hockey or soccer team. Players are expected to commit to weekly practices, games, and fundraising. These efforts aim to grow the ToRD organization and help further the legitimacy of roller derby as a sport.

“I long for the day when derby is big enough to have low-commitment pick-up leagues,” says Paris. “But until then, you’ve got to be willing to put in time to support the organization that you play in, no question,” she adds.

Roller derby provides a unique formative experience and a venue for self-expression for its players. The iconic line, “Put on a pair of skates and be your own hero,” from the derby film Whip It, encompasses this feeling.

“I’ve learned how to be tough and confident on the track,” explains Dawson. “[This] has [infused] lessons about being tough and confident in my professional life,” she adds.

This feeling is something both Zingone and Paris relate to. “I think there’s a kind of self-expression in teaching and encouraging people to hit each other,” explains Paris. “I wouldn’t normally get to promote [that] in my chosen professional field of social work,” she adds.

Zingone attests to the feeling of community that the sport offers and attributes this camaraderie to the ease of expression that roller derby allows. “I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for this sport,” asserts Zingone. “Not only because I have a safe way to get out aggression… but also because of the personal connections I’ve made along the way,” she explains.

Teamwork is key to winning matches. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY
Teamwork is key to winning matches. EVAN LUKE/THE VARSITY

This particular sport offers more than the usual benefits of being active and part of a social group. Despite its aggressive nature, roller derby gives players a safe place to express themselves. Inclusivity and safety are paramount to roller derby, and are aspects that ToRD teams are trying to promote.

“We’re still in a period where the sport is getting established and growing, so it still offers the players who get involved a lot of opportunity to help guide what directions we’re growing in,” explains Paris. “We’ve generally got a lot of traction on making this an extremely inclusive and accepting sporting community, and are trying to make derby as accessible to as many people as possible,” she adds.

“Many leagues [are] having discussions around gender policies that include trans women and non-binary folk, and how to accommodate skaters/officials with disabilities, like hearing impairment,” Paris concludes.

Zingone refers to the gathering of many individuals who share the same interests and values as an important aspect of the sport, as it provides a safe place for people with alternative tastes. “It’s comforting to know that there are other people out there who are living an alternative lifestyle, and they are happy doing it.”

“Roller derby has really given me an opportunity to see that everyone lives different lives, and one person’s happiness may not be the same as someone else’s… It’s hard to see that there are other options in life when you’re surrounded by what’s ‘normal,’” Zingone explains.

“Everyone in our community is… super open-minded, which makes it very easy to just be yourself and feel accepted, even if you have blue hair and are covered in tattoos,” Zingone says.

Incubating collaboration

With the largest student body in Canada — including a staggering 67,128 undergrads and upwards of 700 undergraduate programs — the University of Toronto is not the easiest place to make meaningful connections. Students are further isolated on several structural levels, including year of study, faculty, and specialization.

The Hatchery is trying to change this.

Created nearly three years ago, the Hatchery is one of the university’s most innovative solutions to building bridges across different faculties. The program is designed for students who think they have a marketable idea that they are interested in pursuing, but don’t know where or how to start.

Carmen Choi, a communications manager for the Hatchery, stresses the importance of academic diversity at the heart of the Hatchery and encourages students from multiple disciplines to get involved.

“[The Hatchery] allowed me to network outside my comfort zone and meet people in more technical fields,” explains Choi. She has a humanities background and received a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and economics at U of T.

IDEA MARKETS

Networking is an important aspect of the Hatchery experience, and part of the first step in the program’s three-tier system: entrepreneurial evangelism, the Hatchery process, and the startup launch. Phase one is designed to provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with one another outside of the constrictions of faculties and programs.

“The evangelism section happens throughout the academic year and feeds into the application process,” says Choi. She encourages students to attend Hatchery events, even if they don’t have a solid or coherent business plan, in order to connect with other, often equally apprehensive students.

Weekly “Idea Markets” act as informal mixers, which serve to facilitate networking and collaboration among students in a neutral, non-academic environment.

“The market is a casual way to bounce ideas off people and get a sense of what the public might feel about it,” explains Choi, who stresses the importance of interaction at the markets.

BUILDING DIVERSE TEAMS

The goal of the Idea Markets is to establish relationships towards building a strong, multidisciplinary team for the next step in the program: the Hatchery process and application.

Stage two of the process emphasizes the importance of inter-faculty and inter-program collaboration, as well as proactively encourages women to become involved in potential startup teams.

According to Choi, women are a minority in the program. “Entrepreneurship is tied, typically, to engineering and computer sciences, where, structurally, there is a deficit in women,” says Choi.

“The mandate of the Hatchery is to open up the space,” explains Choi, adding, “We want to tackle the problem [of female involvement] from a more equalizing space so it’s not gender[ed] or discriminatory.”

MENTORSHIP AND LAUNCH

The third and final segment of the Hatchery process is the startup launch. In this phase, which is only available to groups who are successful throughout the evangelism and application processes, students receive funding as well as support from influential members of the Toronto entrepreneurship community.

The mentorship program is essential for students who plan to pursue their startup as a full-time career.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLIAM YE
PHOTO COURTESY OF WILLIAM YE

 

“We have mentors who are on the board of directors,” says Choi, “[They] are entrepreneurial alumni who are interested in helping younger students ease the transition from being a student to someone who’s running their own business.”

“We maintain a relationship with [the teams] so that they’re not pushed out into the open and have to fend for themselves — our doors are always open. We really want to help them with succeeding,” she adds.

BRANCHING OUT

For teams that do not launch successfully, the Hatchery offers alternative opportunities for students to rework their ideas into a refined start-up that could still warrant interest from business investors and partners.

“[What] we also have as an in,frastructure for teams who didn’t win is a collaborat[ion] with the Ontario Center of Excellence, who are really invested in getting young entrepreneurs involved in the market,” explains Choi, who also highlights the Hatchery’s continuous involvement with successful start-up launches.

More than just an opportunity to create a profitable business, the Hatchery is U of T’s premier program to inspire students from various faculties to work collaboratively and branch out from their respective areas of study.

“One of the major goals is breaking stereotypical views of what someone in [Arts & Science] would perceive an engineer as, and what an engineering person would perceive an [Arts & Science student] as,” explains Choi, adding: “Its so easy to disregard each others degrees, people forget to look at each other on a neutral ground, and to foster a collaborative environment.“

Welcome to U of T

Navigating the 65 hectares of St. George campus can be daunting, and in the first week of classes you’ll doubtlessly find yourself standing on a street corner or in a maze-like building wondering where your tutorial room is. The campus is home to many libraries and student spaces for studying and socializing, and provides options for quick meals and coffee to grab during the 10-minute break (or, likely, jog) between classes. Here is a sampling of where to study, eat, caffeinate, and socialize on campus — but there are countless more options for you to explore downtown.

Where to Study

Robarts Library

Shaped like a giant peacock — or turkey, some might say — Robarts library is where you (and hoards of your peers) will undoubtedly spend time cramming for finals and writing term papers. Offering 24-hour study space during the busiest times of the year, the 13 floors provide ample space and privacy to do your work.

Gerstein Library

 

SHIJIE ZHOU/THE VARSITY
SHIJIE ZHOU/THE VARSITY

Gerstein Library is a spot for very serious studying — make a sound in the quiet study area at your own risk. Also known as the Science Information Center, Gerstein is usually frequented by life sciences students. Located on King’s College Circle, Gerstein is a convenient study space across from your first-year Convocation Hall classes.

Shore & Moffat Library

Located on the second floor of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, the Shore & Moffat Library is the perfect place to find the motivation to finish a project or put the last touches on your ARC221 schematic. Flooded with natural light and overlooking College Street, the environment of this study spot will make you feel creative and inspired.

Earth Sciences Library

On the second floor of the Earth Sciences Centre, you’ll find Noranda, the Earth Sciences Library. You can enjoy the high ceilings of the round room from the ground floor or climb up to the individual desks on the overhanging second floor. It’s a quiet haven to review your PowerPoint slides and try to decipher your scribbled lecture notes.

Indoor Bamboo Gardens

Located in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, the indoor bamboo gardens are a mellow place to hit the books. The atrium is the ideal spot to meditate and try to pretend that you don’t have a final essay due the next day.

Where to Relax

 

The Cat’s Eye

Although difficult to locate, the Cat’s Eye in the Goldring Student Centre at Victoria College is a good spot to relax between lectures. In addition to having two pool tables, a foosball table, and plently of comfortable seating, it is also prime real estate for club events.

Philosopher’s Walk

The Philosopher’s Walk is a quiet, tree-lined path connecting Bloor Street West and Hoskin Avenue, ideal for the deep thinkers among us. Use the outdoor space to ponder your latest existential crisis or to get some fresh air and squirrel-watch.

Junior Common Room (JCR)

 

JCR by Shijie Zhou

The JCR is University College’s prime student space. Lined with comfy chairs and couches, the JCR is the place to grab a fair trade coffee and meet some of the most eclectic students and faculty at U of T.

Kruger Hall

The atmosphere of Kruger Hall combines the diversity and creativity of Woodsworth College with the modern aesthetic of Rotman Commerce. The lounge acts as a refuge for commuters to socialize with friends and provides a quiet setting for residents to crack open their textbooks and begin highlighting.

Munk School of Global Affairs

The Munk School gardens are a lesser-known place to relax and refocus on campus or to contemplate avoiding the real world for a few more years at grad school. This hidden gem is situated in the heart of the Munk School of Global Affairs and is complete with a covered courtyard and plenty of greenery.

Where to Caffeinate

 

The classics
JAMIESON WANG/THE VARSITY
JAMIESON WANG/THE VARSITY

Campus is home to two Tim Hortons, six Second Cups, and three Starbucks locations, ensuring that you’ll never be more than a short walk away from a double-double or vanilla bean latte. On select days during exam season, dedicated baristas keep the Robarts Starbucks open 24 hours a day, though the line of sleep-deprived students is often terrifying.

Caffiends

Victoria College’s Caffiends is the go-to spot for eco-friendly caffeination on campus. The coffee shop doesn’t use disposable cups and instead allows you to borrow one of their ceramic mugs or bring your own. Selling only organic, fair trade coffee is Caffiends’ standard, and it seems to resonate with students and customers who keep coming back. Their Red Heart latte should definitely be on your to-try list, and brewed coffee is a sustainable steal at just $1 per mug.

Diabolos’ Coffee Bar

If its popularity among students is any indication, this student-run café has got it right. The quirky, charming staff understands the starving student reality most of us face and has a menu priced accordingly with most options not exceeding $10. The best part: everything you buy is sustainable and locally sourced.

Café Reznikoff

Located in Morrison Hall, this café offers somewhat pricey baked goods and fair trade coffee, but it’s the perfect spot to grab a bag of candy for lecture fuel. Reznikoff is spacious and brightly lit, making it a good place for a study group or lunch with friends.

Where to Eat

 

Innis Café

Innis Café, located in Innis College, serves a little bit of everything. Feeling like jerk chicken but your friend’s a vegan? Have no fear; with a menu that spans four chalkboards and includes daily specials and great freshly squeezed juice, this café has something for everyone.

Gallery Grill

The Gallery Grill, located on the second floor of Hart House, is one of the best gourmet dining experiences you’ll have on campus — particularly if your parents are visiting and it’s their treat. The grill includes menu items such as flat-iron steak and house-made ice cream.

Ned’s Café

Located in the Goldring Student Centre, Victoria College’s Ned’s Café boasts some of the best snacks and sandwiches on campus. A gas fireplace and comfy chairs make it a cozy place to hide during the frigid winter semester.

Hot Yam

Think eating vegan means quinoa and tofu? Hot Yam doesn’t think so. Located at the Cumberland House, Hot Yam aspires to make eating vegan accessible and enjoyable for students. With menu items like red lentil soup and peanut ginger sesame cookies, you won’t miss meat and dairy. Their hours are limited — they are only open Wednesdays from 12:00 pm–2:00 pm — so schedule your visit accordingly.

Harvest Noon
DENIS OSIPOV/THE VARSITY
DENIS OSIPOV/THE VARSITY

The food cooperative Harvest Noon does more than just fill your stomach. The café nourishes your brain as well as your body by giving students information on how to cook and live sustainably and organically. With an ever-evolving menu that uses seasonal produce, you’ll know you’re getting the freshest and finest food our campus has to offer.

Defining the city

Ask ten people in Toronto where they’re from, and prepare yourself for 10 different answers. In a city where you can walk through several cultural districts in only a few blocks, and 50 per cent of residents were born elsewhere, this cosmopolitanism isn’t surprising. What is notable, however, is that people often don’t directly associate themselves with the city.

Toronto’s identity is a subject of much discussion, but so far no one has been able to make a snazzy slogan or singular characteristic stick to our city and put us on the proverbial map. You can visit the Big Apple, Sin City, or the City of Love — or you can visit Toronto, period.

TO NicknamesNew York City is the cultural capital of the world; Paris is teeming with art and historical significance; Toronto’s character is not as clear-cut. The lack of a collective identity in Toronto inspires nostalgia for the places people came from and ambivalence about the future. This ambiguity is particularly frustrating for students who are desperate to fit in in a place where there is no mould.

Because Toronto is such a mosaic of people, places, and cultures, we have to work that much harder than a city with lessdiversity to establish an identity. How do we form a definition for the most multicultural city in the world without excluding anyone or anything? There is a desire for a clearly defined identity, but it is complicated by the costs of attaining one.

Toronto desires something to cling to — an inclusionary definition that will make people feel as if the city is oriented in the context of other major global cities, or a pinpointed feature to draw people to it. The CN Tower, which is now pretty much irrelevant (thanks, Dubai), fails to serve this purpose, as do Casa Loma, City Hall, or all the other sights that tourists amble by before hopping back on their City Sight Seeing Toronto bus. What genuinely defines Toronto are the little boroughs and neighbourhoods that make it unique — the distinct corners of the city that appear disjointed at first glance, but come together to make up an alluring whole.

Ironically, Toronto’s identity is its constant identity crisis — the city refuses to be defined by one word or single characteristic because it cannot be contained. Toronto’s diverse constituents animate the streets of Kensington Market, Little Portugal, Greek Town, the Annex, the Junction, Baldwin Village, and so on. It’s not the skyline, the museums, or the lake that make this city special — though they certainly add to the ambiance — it’s the discord and the instability of the neighbourhoods and the architecture, the multiplicity of cultures, and the difficulty of attempting to pin it all down.