New to U of T? Here’s your UpbeaT guide to getting ready

Dear Froshies,

Welcome to U of T St. George (UTSG) campus, where, in your next four years (or five…or six although this is generally more rare) of undergrad, you’ll have the opportunity to be lost, and found, in every sense possible. It will likely all start with your “Orientation”, of which there will be many, such as a course selection one offered by your college, a Frosh week one, an UTSU one, and a residence one if you are (un)lucky enough to avoid commuting. Therefore, the thoughtful UpbeaT team here at Student Life, has allowed me the honour of giving you the Orientation of all Orientations right here on this blog. I hope that this will provide you with a less nerve-wrecking transition into undergrad life on this campus.

So, grab a drink, sit in front of your computer, and prepare to do some leisure reading. I’m going to share with you my experiences as a frosh, give you some helpful tips, and try my best to not spoil the fun surprises you’ll encounter along the journey. My goal is to make sure that you are as prepared as possible, before you arrive in September and realize that you’ve brought half of your video game/stuffed animal collection instead of the bare essentials of living, such as scissors and a pair of flip-flops (trust me, these things WILL happen, although probably to a lesser degree of noob-ness). That being said, if living in residence does not apply to you, feel free to take away from this post what you feel is important–since I will be speaking from my own personal experience about living on campus, there may be some things said here that apply more to some people but not others.

Without further ado, let us begin!

1. Don’t come uninvited.

Before you even consider packing up your room or stocking up on Kraft Dinner, make sure you are registered to everything that’s got a deadline. The most important include:

  • TCard and UTORid: Do you have your TCard yet? Your UToronto e-mail set-up already? How about your username for your UTORid? These are indispensable for the rest of your undergrad career, so if you haven’t taken care of this yet, get it done ASAP!
  • Your courses: Did you make your course selection yet? Do you have a Fall and Winter timetable which you can print off on ROSI? Do you still have conflicts in course scheduling? Prerequisite issues? Wait-listed for courses? For the absolutely most updated course selection information, keep checking this site. The anti-calendar has served its purpose well for many years in the past, so use it to your advantage! In terms of choosing courses, one of my earlier posts on bird courses may be helpful. Try to get as many course issues settled as possible. It’s all a pain in the butt, but so is life.
  • Registration for 2009-2010 school year: Have you taken care of the outstanding balance on ROSI? Deadline for paying the tuition fee is Wednesday August 19th this year, which is a bit earlier than usual. I’ve found that paying through online banking has made my life very easy. Just head over to a bank and ask them to add “University of Toronto” as one of your payees, and pay whatever amount you owe to the school online, like you would pay off any balances on your VISA card. If you plan to live in a campus residence, note that your residence fees may also be added directly to your ROSI online invoice (I only know that for Innis, this has always been the case). The money is pooled together, so that you wouldn’t be able pay for residence and/or tuition separately. Again, the concept is the same as for a VISA card. You know that your enrollment is complete, when on your ROSI timetable, the upper right hand portion displays “REG” instead of “INVIT” for your status. Usually, your outstanding balance would not be cleared the day after you’ve made your payment, so don’t worry if the big red numbers are still there while your bank account has been thoroughly depleted. Similarly, as long as you pay BEFORE August 19th, you should be fine – there is no such thing as having to pay a certain number of days before August 19th in order for the payment to be “processed on time”. All of this information, plus details to all of your burning questions, are very likely found in either the Registration Handbook & Timetable or in the Calendar.
  • Residence: before you move in, do you know which room will be yours/who your suitemates will be? Are you clear with move-in procedures (i.e. where your parents would be able to park the car, etc)? Do you have all the necessary documents ready to show the residence office in case anything goes wrong? My best suggestion would be to print off all e-mails sent by your residence that contain any sort of instructions, and keep them neatly in a folder and bring this with you on Move-In Day. The most important would probably be proof of your acceptance into residence, but bring everything, just in case.
  • Frosh Week: Have you registered for your orientation? Paid your dues or sent in a deposit? Since most Frosh Week orientations are student-run, rules are generally more lax, so that you’ve probably still got a chance to register if you missed the deadline. Contact the Frosh Coordinators ASAP! I really wouldn’t recommend missing out on Frosh Week–your undergraduate experience just wouldn’t be complete without it.  
  • Meal plan: If your residence is going to be dorm-styled, a meal plan would probably be mandatory and the cost is included in your residence fee. For others who would like to get a meal plan nonetheless, go here.

2. For those who will be living downtown: Lucy’s List of Essential Items.

This is by no means the Idiot’s Guide to Packing for Dorm Life. You are in university now (and will be hearing this phrase lots in first year), so I have strong faith that you’ll remember to bring the bare essentials of daily living, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo/conditioner, towel, bed sheets, etc. I’m barely noting a few important things most people tend to overlook when packing.

  • Flip flops: this is especially important for those who will be living in dorm-styled residences. With showers that you must share with a mind-blowing number of people, you’d want foot protection against fungi and other nasty stuff!
  • Brita Water Pitcher + water bottle: provides you with refreshing water that’s safe to drink! Unless drinking directly from the tap is your thing, of course. Frosh week weather can be grueling hot, especially on the last day, when you’ll likely be parading all around downtown with UofT and screaming your head off. Make sure you stay hydrated.
  • Scissors: always useful; most easily forgotten by packers everywhere.
  • Paper towel: don’t trust that your dorm room to be beautifully clean and sparkly, awaiting your arrival. It’s downtown–sirens dominate your life, and dust is the runner-up.
  • Light clothing and running shoes: because it’s Frosh Week, and during Frosh Week, you will jump, run and possibly dance like Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Thumb tacks: for pinning up stuff of course! Mostly on the bulletin board over your desk…sometimes elsewhere…although you didn’t hear it from me :)
  • Ethernet cable: Unless your residence offers wireless Internet, make sure you bring an Ethernet cable of medium length, so that you won’t need to run to the UofT bookstore on the day you move in. Things will be crazy enough as is, and the last thing you’d want is to not have easy accessibility to Internet.
  • Portable medicine cabinet/unofficial first-aid kit: you know your health better than anyone else, so be prepared. While there are plenty of walk-in clinics all over downtown, as a disoriented Frosh, looking for one by yourself during the first few weeks here will be an intimidating experience. Pack some essentials, but don’t obsess over it too much. I usually carry a small pack with me, including: Waterproof band-aids, Lanacane anti-bacterial first-aid spray (eases sunburns and itchy bites and disinfects scrapes and cuts), 1-2 pads (you may laugh, but if for some reason you are bleeding excessively, it sure does the job! Kotex ones are cute and discreet), Tylenol Cold, Advil for headaches and general pain, Claritin, and alcohol swabs.
  • For Frosh week: Sunscreen and a sleeping bag!
  • Your 2009-2010 Calendar and Registration Handbook & Timetable: The Calendar is especially useful, since it’s got the entire GPA scale near the back, plus all the rules and regulations for how things are done around here. You might not ever need to read the pages of small, tedious words, but it’s good to know they are right there sitting on your shelf should you run into trouble.
  • Maps: of downtown Toronto, and of the UofT campus itself. Yes, Google has made life too easy, but you may not immediately have access to Internet upon your arrival (see next point). Wouldn’t want to be stuck in your room with nowhere to go, would we? (or even worse…LOST!)
  • Installed software: If you plan to move into a residence on campus, be very careful about your computer. Follow the residence’s suggestions (sent via e-mail prior to your arrival) religiously when they e-mail you information about what security measures should be installed on your laptop/desktop. The campus network is extremely fussy about network security, and for good reasons too. Make sure you have installed the following before you arrive: good anti virus software, good spyware detector, and a secure firewall in addition to the one provided by Windows (if you are a PC). Before you are allowed access to Internet, you will be asked to submit your computer to a scanning protocol to check for its security level. This program is notoriously frustrating in that often it will fail (and fail, and fail….and fail) and flag your computer for a re-scan. Sometimes it may be that your computer is missing some security measure, other times it’s possible that it just doesn’t like you. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to be well-prepared beforehand. Think about it: how would you be able to even download any free firewalls if you aren’t actually granted access to the Internet?

I’m sure that by now most of you have already started becoming acquainted with everything Downtown Toronto has to offer. To keep things in perspective in terms of packing, remember that anything you’ll need, you’ll probably be able to find here. Just a quick overview of some “amenities”:

The downtown St. George campus is

  • Max 25-minute walk to Eaton Centre, Nathan-Philips Square, Queen St. (i.e. There are 3 H&M’s within twenty minutes’ walking distance from each other)
  • Max 20-minute walk to Chinatown, Kensington Market
  • Max 30-minute walk to Little Italy
  • Max 15-minute walk to Bloor & Yorkville (restaurants, shops, Metro, the ROM, Indigo, Cineplex Odeon)
  • Max 15-minute walk to Atheletic Centre or AC, which has multiple swimming pools, a large indoor track, different ball courts, workout machines and weights
  • Max 15-minute walk to Hart House gym, which has a swimming pool, fitness room with treadmills, elliptical machines, weights, cycling and rowing machines, and many other rooms including a squash court
  • Max 15-minute walk to the newly built Varsity Centre, which has an indoor golf driving range in the winter
  • Max 15-minute walk to most downtown hospitals in the Discovery District: Mt. Sinai hospital, Toronto General, Toronto Rehabilitation Centre, Hospital for Sick Kids, Princess Margaret Hospital, and more.

3. Bring your best self (and a camera)

Coming from a small town, I had the time of my life in my high school. I had a tight circle of friends, supportive teachers, and I couldn’t have asked for anything else. Most of my friends, however, ended up going to University of Waterloo, and I remember for most of the summer after grade 12, I was at such a loss.

What I was not prepared for, was the first night I had spent in residence. It was Move-In Day, and my parents had somehow left in a hurry (or so I felt like it). That night, I sat in front of my desk in my new room, looked out of my window at the tip of the CN tower, and wondered if I had made the biggest mistake of my life by choosing to come to UofT, where I had known as many as three whole persons, none of whom I was particularly close to. The feeling of loneliness was overwhelming, and for more than once that week, I felt like crying.

But Frosh Week changed everything. I started meeting people almost immediately, and everyone was surprisingly open and approachable. The first week at university is like what happens after a storm: all norms of life have suddenly disappeared, and no equilibrium has been established yet. Everyone new on campus is precariously friendly, and the subsequent opportunity for meeting friends and establishing new contacts is immense. So take this opportunity, and put yourself out there! Beginnings are always hard, but they are almost always memorable. I still look back at my Frosh Week fondly, and I believe I always will. The one thing I wished I had done more was to take more pictures! I can promise you: for every picture you take that week, you’d have an amazing story to tell. So smile, take it easy, and embrace the all-unknown–like youth, the very beginning of your undergraduate career comes but once in a lifetime.