The Diner’s Club Experiment

After seeing my first post in writing, I felt I needed to get out more – out of my own head, out of my own room, and into the wider U of T community. It was no good to claim difficulties in meeting others and getting “out there” if I could instead develop solutions.

Having returned this year to U of T after a two-year absence, I observed that the biggest adjustment was eating by myself. I had the good fortune of two years of family dinners, so this was the most obvious difficulty. Now back at school, it has again become much easier to take food out in a takeout container – I thought I’d feel more isolated and look silly by being alone in a room full of people eating as groups, and I could catch up on CBC Radio or This American Life podcasts in my room. Practically speaking, takeout containers slung over one’s arm in a shopping bag are just easier to manage than a cafeteria tray. But the alone meal time made me feel worse; I knew something had to change.

Please don’t misunderstand me, U of T, I do have friends. But a couple of years away means that those closest to me in residence with me are long gone – having moved off-campus, graduated, or having left the city altogether .

So a solution to my loneliness problem became obvious: I couldn’t eat alone in my room anymore. This became a week-long experiment, the results of which I present to you now.

The first thing, in any experiment, is to lay out the hypothesis for that experiment. For me, it went something like: “I will feel more connected to my residence and to U of T in general if I eat in the cafeteria every day for a week.”

Then, all variables but one must be fixed, so that the researcher (me, in this case) knows how the changes in one variable alone affect the hypothesis without being affected by other variables. For me, the variables in question were as follows:

  • My residence building and room remained unchanged (I wasn’t going to live differently.)
  • The food would be the same (I wasn’t going to change how I ate.)
  • The staff would also be the same (this was obviously beyond my control, anyway.)
  • The environment in which I consumed it would be different (in our Hogwarts-esque dining hall rather than in my room.)

Great Hall of Christ Church College

The Great Hall of Christ Church College at the University of Oxford was replicated to create Hogwart’s Hall in the Harry Potter movies. [Image: Flickr | nathanaels (CC BY 2.0).

Having established my framework, I laid out some rules of engagement for myself.

  1. I didn’t necessarily have to eat with others if I couldn’t find them, but I did have to eat in the cafeteria for every meal.
  2. If given a takeout container (by awesome staff who remember my usual preferences) I had to eat in my residence common area.
  3. I could not have my phone with me when eating (what’s the point of eating in public if my mind was elsewhere? I’m also really afraid of damaging my phone with food.)
  4. I had to use a tray when ordering and carrying food.

The experiment itself was uneventful – I got food “for here” on a tray, and was often helped (very kindly) to a free seat by cafeteria staff. What surprised me was the almost instantaneous effects.

I felt more at home than I have all term, possibly my entire university experience. Something about eating on a real plate at a table with silverware, and not out of a cardboard container on my bed with plastic cutlery made me feel more welcome. I was never able to meet up with others to eat (I kept missing my new neighbours), but this didn’t bother me. I wasn’t joined by others, but I didn’t feel so alone. Perhaps because I chose this experiment: I wasn’t left alone by my peers, I was among them and alone voluntarily. Of course, I would have preferred company sometimes, but perhaps the thought that I was making more effort to be with my peers was comfort enough for now. Self-isolation due to fears of regressing back to a lonelier, more anxious incarnation of myself, and worries of looking weird eating alone kept me away, but a willingness to show up and be visible gave me confidence I could never have imagined.

Another interesting effect was how I ate. I didn’t wolf down food as though it were a necessary but inconvenient interruption in my day – I slowed down and took the time to enjoy my meals. I let my mind go blank. I confess that this often meant that I eavesdropped on my fellow diners. I have no shame in this: I figure if others people-watch, I’m entitled to entertainment of my own. 😉

There was only one uncomfortable moment when I sat down directly across from a group of friends. I felt I was too physically close not to be intruding on their lunch.

Overall, this experiment was a greater success than I could have ever imagined. I took it on doubtfully, but now am a full supporter of public, voluntarily solo eating.

The next logical step is to make more efforts to find people to eat with and reconnect with existing friends in Toronto. But I’m headed in the right direction towards socialization, however slowly I’m getting there.

Hi, My Name’s Sarah

the word hello and a smiley-facein a computer fontHi U of T! For my first post as the Arts & Science blogger, I wanted to introduce myself to my fellow students. But then it occurs to me how downright uncomfortable introductions to my own peers can be — especially online, which by nature, is a rather detached way to communicate.

It’s not ALL personal introductions I have difficulty with. I can go to a networking event in a room full of professionals (and strangers) and generally hold my own. I participate in class if I have something I think is worth saying. By nature of my disability, introducing myself to instructors and teaching assistants is a must — it’s my own peer group I have trouble with.

Here’s the thing: I don’t consider blindness a hindrance on a day-to-day basis: it can be an inconvenience at times, but it’s only one part of who I am. In the case of introducing myself to peers however, I feel it definitely holds me back.

How will I know, for instance, if the person I want to speak with (say, beside me in class, or in my residence common room) isn’t otherwise occupied? Perhaps they’re reading and haven’t turned a page yet, thereby giving an audible clue? Perhaps they’re on their phone or have earbuds in? Perhaps they’re looking the other way, or have smiled or given some other visual acknowledgement of my presence and further attempts to engage in conversation might be considered pushy or “trying too hard”?

Perhaps I have met them several times before but haven’t memorized their voice yet, so reintroducing myself would be incredibly awkward for all involved? (In a perfect world I’d ask them to identify themselves from the moment they said hi, but I still don’t know how to do that without feeling embarrassed). What if someone else joins us: how can they be brought into the conversation and introduced to everyone present without being weird? Worst of all, perhaps someone in a group’s gotten up and moved away, leaving me to talk to thin air? I have a bit of vision, but not enough to always know whether the dark blob that was a human near me a second ago is still there.

Of course, all of these concerns could happen with instructors, teaching assistants, or members of a professional networking event, too. But there’s something about these groups that makes me feel less judged than by students, a perception I can’t quite explain.

Perhaps it’s the notion that those “adults” – who may indeed not be much different in age than myself – will be less intimidated by a blind person and therefore more willing to talk to me. My lack of vision limits conversation topics, but in more professional situations this isn’t usually a problem. With students, however, since I can’t talk to someone about a picture on our phones, any clothing or accessory they have, or anything at all on Snapchat or Instagram, I feel awkward and behind the times. My conversation topics can be a bit more personal – a person’s program of study, the courses they’re taking and what they think of them, their commute, their interests, even their future aspirations. I understand this can be off-putting to some, and I fear I sound like some weird hybrid of a person’s mom, grandmother and social worker.

It is therefore with a great deal of hesitation that I seek out peers to meet. I’m not unfriendly – on the contrary I think I’m quite the opposite – but I usually let people come to me. Sure, I’ll say hi to classmates and neighbours, but I’ll hesitate to really get to know them. I let my fear they’ll think I’m “too much” rule my desire to make new friends and have company.

So, dearest U of T students and friends, I say hello to you now in writing, and will work harder to do it more in person. Maybe we’ll be friends, or study buddies, or maybe just see each other in class and leave it at that. Just do me one favour, okay? Identify yourself when you see me: “Hi Sarah, it’s Fred” gets you instant blind street cred; “Hi Sarah” alone (unless I really know you) doesn’t do much for me.

What do you think? Do you hesitate to meet new people? Or are you one of those master communicators who can talk to anyone? Let me know in the comments.

Finding A Little Balance

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell? Is your story long, or short? Deep, or lighthearted? How would you break the ice?

I’d start with an introduction: My name is Zach and I’m in my third year at U of T, in the undergraduate Public Policy and Governance program. I also minor in Aboriginal Studies and Russian Language, just to keep things interesting. I’m from Calgary and more used to mountains and meadows than I am to towers and transit. Some of my ancestors were Cree and Russian. These roots guide my story.

Pathways through the trees.

Sometimes you find yourself in need of a guide, and that’s actually a good thing (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

But I’d go beyond the basics. I’d include other parts of my life, to paint a better picture. In short, my story needs balance. Actually, my story is about balance.

I’ll start back in grade school. I think I’ve always had some mental balance. I always found time to work hard for my marks. Don’t get the wrong idea, I had time to goof around too. In class. In front of teachers. Oops.

Before grade twelve, I lacked physical balance. I’d get home from school and eat a whole pizza sub or two for a snack. I wasn’t a shining example of athleticism. But after recognizing this imbalance, it was easy to change my ways. Ok, not that easy. My calves burn just thinking about the exercise regimes. Finding the willpower to eat healthy was even harder. Thankfully, I dropped over eighty pounds. It’s great although I miss binging on chips and milkshakes.

Next, I landed in Toronto. Imagine you’re an alien visiting another alien world even crazier than where you’re from. Now you know how I, a small-town Albertan, felt in big, bustling Toronto.  After wobbling around in this immense place like a goofball for a year, I read the writing on the wall. I needed emotional balance. Over the second year, I dealt with every emotion known to man (and maybe some unknown ones as well) and came out on top. My goofball score dropped dramatically too. I think.

A view out over the Bow River Valley in the foothills of southern Alberta

My old view from my home in Alberta (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Toronto's impressive skyline on a bright clear day, from 18 floors up in a tower

My new view from my Toronto apartment (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Afterwards, I still lacked something. Maybe you’ve felt the same way like you need to complete your soul’s inner circle. Profound, right? I simply realized I needed spiritual balance. So I worked up some courage, embraced my heritage, and dove headfirst into Toronto’s Indigenous communities including U of T’s First Nations House. Engaging was easy and I received the warmest of welcomes.

The vines and trees just outside the First Nations House building

Just outside First Nations House (photo taken by Zachary Biech)

Mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual balance were vital for embracing my Indigeneity and finding my personal, academic, social, and spiritual center at U of T. I even enjoy my other interests more fully, like music and cooking. If I could only tell one story, I’d talk about balance to show my perspective. But luckily, I have much more to tell! I also like listening and I think we can have a great time storytelling together.

How balanced are you?

If you could only tell one story about yourself, what would you tell?

Looking straight upwards at the big blue sky, through foliage and campus buildings

Finding centre at U of T is not as hard as you’d think; you just need to know where to look (photo taken by Zachary Biech)


UTSU Clubs Day 2014

Hey there U of T! To all those participating in orientation week, I hope you’re having a blast getting to know your new home for the next four (or more) years. to everyone else, I hope you’re enjoying this last week of summer and gearing up for the new year!


On Wednesday, UTSU held their annual clubs fair where each of U of T’s 250+ clubs get a table at Hart House Circle and give out information (and occasionally free stuff) to students. In case you missed the fair, or couldn’t fight your way to the front of a line to sign up for a cool club, Ulife has a directory of clubs right here.

Check out some pictures from the Clubs fair below!


Hanging out at the Student Life booth! There was popcorn! And books with my face in them!


So many clubs and student associations to join! I’m very excited to see the Importance of Being Earnest at Hart House this year and I salute the brave souls in the U of T bees club!


So U of T, what clubs are you excited to get involved in? 

Last-Minute Orientation Week Events

As you walk around campus today, you will notice something profoundly different. Hoards of people dressed in the same colour shirts are walking around screaming and cheering. Campus buildings are dressed in their newest and brightest banners, advertising different events and programs. The once quaint study spots you occupied all summer have been over-taken with obstacle courses and mass barbecues. It’s officially Orientation Week here at the University of Toronto! 

Image via.


While it’s undeniable that Orientation Week brings a unqiue energy and sense of life to campus, not every first year feels the need to paint themselves purple with the engineers, or block traffic intersections with UC. That’s why U of T offers hundreds of different orientation opportunities, and even though the week has already begun there’s still great events you can sign up for.

Kickstart is one of the most unique opportunities you can sign up for here at U of T. It runs for two weeks from September 2nd until September 11th, but the schedule of events is entirely customizable to fit your wants and needs. Although you register for one week or the other (or both!) the idea is that you only attend the events that sound interesting and helpful to you.

Choosing Orientation Week events like...  via.

Choosing Orientation Week events like…

They offer things such as workshops that help you transition to university writing style, a panel of upper-years (including myself, Amie, and Api!) who can help answer some of your burning questions, and tours of Hart House and Robarts library. You can still register for kickstart at

The Univerisity of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is your next place for no-strings-attached Orientation Week events. They host a series of events to welcome you to campus and let you meet students from every college, faculty and campus of U of T. Their annual events, such as the Clubs Fair, Parade, and Street Fest are massive events that showcase all the unique opportunities U of T has to offer. To attend any of these events, you only have to be a University of Toronto student – no registration or commitment required!


The UTSU Parade through St. George campus & downtown Toronto!  Source:

So to all my Orientation-registration-procrastinating friends out there – there is still hope, and more importantly still time! Even if Orientation Week sounds like something you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, what’s the harm in taking a casual walk around Clubs Day day, or attending a FREE Tokyo Police Club concert? (There isn’t any – I promise!)

Put yourself out there this week and enjoy the energy of the campus. To see all of my Orientation Week adventures, make sure to follow me on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.

Orientation Week Survival Kit

Your expectations for your first year probably come from the stories of your family, your campus tour (if you were lucky enough to take one) and inevitably, the hundreds of Hollywood movies based around college life.

I’m here to tell you, as someone who only just experienced this 1 year ago, Hollywood does not prepare you for what orientation week is really going to be like. Neither do the stories of your older siblings or the posts on the “Accepted at U of T class of ____” Facebook page. That’s because the only person who can dictate what your orientation week is going to be like – is you!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Me during my frosh week last year with the people that would soon become my best friends!

Orientation Week at the University of Toronto (here at the St. George campus), is almost entirely customizable. There are multiple different options for every experience from the classic “ra-ra” cheering with your college or faculty, to one or two day seminars that help prepare you for the academic expectations of university. Check out all of these different options and more on the Start at U of T Orientation Calendar.

Regardless of the experience you choose for your Orientation Week, it’s going to be busy week. Between meeting new friends, running to different locations on campus, and trying to squeeze in as much as you can before class starts, here are a few things you should keep on hand. An Orientation Week Survival Kit of sorts;

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 1.46.01 PM

  1. A Backpack – on top of using this to carry around everything else you’ll need for the week, most events come with an endless supply of pamphlets, booklets and free swag. The last thing you want is to be carrying that around all day. Keep your hands-free and bring a backpack!

  2. A Water Bottle – one of the things I wish I had known about U of T before I came was that no where on campus sells bottled water! This environmentally friendly initiative means that having a reusable water bottle, that can be filled up at hundreds of places around campus, is a must.

  3. Flex Dollars – speaking of eating & drinking, trying to run off campus every time you want to eat is not always do-able. It’s also not necessary as U of T offers hundreds of different locations on campus where you can get everything from locally grown sustainable produce, to favourites like Pizza Pizza and Subway. Make things easy for yourself by purchasing some Flex Dollars on your TCard, so that you always have money to eat!

  4. TTC Tokens – that being said, there will be times when events are off campus! And while transportation is usually always provided, it’s good to have some TTC tokens in your pocket so that you always know you have a safe ride home.

  5. U of T Lanyard – remember the early 2000s when wearing a lanyard around your neck (with your one house key and tamagotchi attached) was so cool? Well I’m not saying lanyards are back in that sense but I will say that all of my friends in first year used a lanyard for their residence keys and their TCard. The U of T Bookstore sells special lanyards that house your TCard in a clear plastic sleeve for easy access!

  6. The U of T Map App – for anyone who hasn’t yet downloaded the U of T Map app, this is your new favourite tool for finding the location of events. Just type the location name into the app, and the map will show you were it is on campus! It also has features like where’s the closest ATM, or the closest Coffee shop.

So that is my Orientation Week Survival Kit! Just a few things to keep on hand to make sure you have an amazing, and safe, week!

Myself, and the rest of the Community Crew, will be on campus all week and we would love if you said hi! So no matter what Orientation option you choose make sure to share what you’re doing with me on twitter at Rachael_UofT.

Top 5 #UofT Twitter Accounts

In my last post I talked about how following different U of T twitter accounts was one of the best ways to feel like you were still on campus, even when you’re hundreds of miles away. But it’s come to my attention that when you search “UofT” on twitter, you get thousands of tweets, hundreds of different twitter accounts, and a gentle reminder that
Hey – you’re the one who decided to go to the largest school in Canada!

So today I have decided to brave the labyrinth and decode the complex twitterverse of the University of Toronto. There’s a lot of great content out there, but there’s also a lot of false information and down-right trolling. Somewhere in between it all, I’ve narrowed it down to The Top 5 #UofT Twitter Accounts You Should Follow;

1. The Official One

Okay lets start off with the basics. You should most definitely begin by following the official U of T twitter account. Although their content is mostly retweet based, you can guarantee that all the information provided by them is legitimate. They often inform when there are IT problems, university closures and major campus events. Their partner account is UofT News, which is essentially your one-stop shop for quick-read headlines linking to news articles about the U of T community.


2. The One That Actually Relates to Your Life 


Excuse the shameless self-promotion, but if you aren’t following the Life @ U of T twitter you’re missing out. @LifeatUofT is, well exactly how it’s name portrays it, about life here at the Univetrsity of Toronto. Whether it’s sharing events or venting about lack of sleep during exam season, the content is written by students for students. It’s relatable, and most importantly relevant. It’s also by-far the most community-based account out there. It really focuses on connecting with different students, staff, and faculties at the university – which makes it a great home base to find other accounts out there.


3. The One that Represents You 


You probably know that we have a student union, and if you didn’t you’ve probably at least attended one of their events without knowing it was put on by them (think the frosh week concert every year). The UTSU twitter account is very event and opportunity focused. It’s a good place to look if you’re interested in getting more involved or want something (usually FREE) to do on campus.


4. The One without a Point

front campus

I long debated putting this on my list, but I’ve decided that if this account manages to make me laugh on a daily basis it shouldn’t be excluded purely due to it’s lack of legitimacy. You’ve probably already seen their tweets around, but Front Campus officially has a twitter account. Yes you heard that right – there is an entire twitter account dedicated to the grassy laws of front campus. I’m going to blatantly admit that there is no underlying point to this account, yet each tweet exposes a hilariously true point or comment about front campus. Follow them if you’re looking for some funny timeline filler.


5. The One with All the Answers 


Ask a Student U of T is a twitter account for where U of T students answer the questions of other students in an entirely hilariously, yet ultimately accurate way. Their tweets are almost exclusively links to answered questions with a brief headline of what the question entails. So although there’s not much content created exclusively for twitter, I guarantee that as you scroll thought your timeline you’ll inevitably think “Hey, I was wondering that too!”


So those are my top 5 twitter accounts. Talking about everything from event listings, to answered questions, to relatable rants about the elevator lines at Robarts, they’re sure to fill your timeline with the perfect combination of U of T infused content. But hey, maybe I skipped out on a few great ones! Maybe there are even some instagram accounts I need to check out. Send me your suggestions and additions to my list in the comments below – or tweet them to me at @Rachael_UofT

Taking the next step

The picture-perfect version of graduation. The real thing comes with a big slice of uncertainty. Via

Graduation, minus the real-life reality of uncertainty and anxiety.

Graduating is a pretty exciting concept. You’ve survived the onslaught of assignments and tests, and as a reward you never have to set foot in the Exam Centre again. This is the time to celebrate, graduating students! You did it!

Since I’m one of you, I know that the reality is not quite that simple. A huge cloud of uncertainty seems to settle in as the school year draws to a close. What comes next after U of T? Should you go to grad school? College? Search for a job? Find an internship? Should you move back home? The questions are endless. And even for those of us who have decided where to go next, there’s still anxiety about whether the choice was a good one and how to end up in a desired career.

Last week, I attended the Next Steps conference, which was designed to help answer these kinds of questions. It began with a keynote address from Gloria Roheim McRae, an alumna who tried out 21 different jobs before landing on her passion as an entrepreneur.

speechNear the beginning of her speech, she asked who was feeling overwhelmed by what was next. At least half of the hands in Con Hall went up. She shared her story and provided advice on how to stand out and make a living doing what you love. I can only speak for myself, but by the end I was feeling a lot less overwhelmed. A linear path to a dream job is not necessary, and in fact may even be less interesting. Your unique experiences are what set you apart from your peers, and may even be key in landing a job.

As the cliche goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Roheim McRae can attest to this; only one out of her 21 jobs was landed through a formal application process. But instead of handing out business cards and viewing other people only in terms of what they can do for you, she emphasized the importance of making authentic connections. Get to know people, be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and opportunities will come from there.

A conference was a perfect setting for that kind of conversation. It was easy to chat with people while eating cookies or waiting for events to start, and everyone there had a lot in common by virtue of being in the same life stage.

signI also attended some afternoon sessions on education after undergrad and staying positive and finding balance as you make the transition. Both were great opportunities to hear the stories of alumni and staff, reflect on where I’m going, and set goals for moving forward.

One thing I wish is that I’d attended this conference in my third year. It would have been useful to more thoroughly explore my options well before any actual choices had to be made. For any second years out there, keep an eye out for this event next year!

A Final Farewell to U of T

For the past four years I have said goodbye to U of T in April. But it was a tentative goodbye, said with the knowledge that I was returning to the woes and joys of student-hood in September. Now, this April, today, I am saying goodbye to U of T for the last time.

To commemorate my time here, I went for a little walk the other day. Here’s some of what I saw:


I remember when my parents dropped me off at those doors. I was nervous. I came in with boxes and bags and posters to hang on my wall. But beyond my edgy nerves, I remember the undeniable thrill of arriving. I was starting a new life, and I was making a new homeIMG_0095

When I discovered the UC Quad, I knew I was home. Standing on the low stone steps leading down onto the open green grass, and looking across at those sunlit archways, I remember how my imagination exploded with the possibilities at U of T. I dreamed up a whole life for myself, a whole new me, really. And it turns out, at a place as magical as U of T, dreams drift right into reality.


My main stomping-ground in first and second year, Hart House Library. Curled up in a red arm chair, bathed in warm sunlight, a novel laying open on my chest—it may not have been the most academically productive space, but you can’t ask for a better setting for a studying induced nap.


Yep, a secret, forbidden stairwell at Hart House. Where does it lead? I’ll leave that to the naturally adventurous…


This room in Northrop Frye Hall! There are lots of wonderful reasons that make this room special. Peices of that university dream that I never really expected would come true. I’m sure, if you think about it, there’s a room somewhere at U of T that makes you feel the same way. If not, just you wait!


The Isabel Bader Theatre is the most comfortable lecture hall at U of T. Trust me, it’s science! Not only did I have first year philosophy in this theatre, which I will never forget—because it’s first year philosophy—but the Bader was also home to The Bob sketch comedy performance. Here, in this theatre, I really got to be me, and a whole lot of other people, but mostly me.

Wow! What a great pleasure it has been to attend the University of Toronto. It was certainly the best, most fulfilling, most challenging, and most rewarding part of my life, to date. And it was extra special having the opportunity to share some of my experience with you, the U of T student community, this last year.

To all of you who ever read one of my posts, and to the whole of U of T, the professors, T.A.s, students, admin, caretakers, grounds workers, chefs, cashiers, and coat-check volunteers:

Thank You. It was diamond!

– Stephen.


On A Magic Bus

One of the great things about university is the endless opportunity to experience, learn, and engage with new perspectives and worldviews. Last Saturday I went on a Multi-Faith Centre hosted event, a Bus Tour of Houses of Worship in Toronto and the GTA. I saw a poster for it at Hart House a week ago. The tour visited a Sikh Gurdwara, an Islamic Mosque, and a Christian Presbyterian Church.

The bus tour left from Hart House at 10 am. Everyone had to register before hand, and as we boarded the bus, the organizer checked our names from the list. We were given name tags and encouraged to speak with the people sitting in front and behind us. The bus was packed.

I talked with an exchange student from Paris, France, who had been a little undecided whether to come to Canada or the United States for her term abroad, but she said she was enjoying her decision very much. She registered for the bus tour because it allowed her to explore Toronto and Canada in a safe and comfortable way and experience the variety of communities and cultures that live here.

We arrived at the Sikh Gurdwara first. The building reminded me of a library mixed with a gymnasium. It was very quiet and clean, and we had to remove our shoes and don shawls to cover our heads. Our Sikh guides, a young woman and an older man, gave us a tour of the different prayer rooms, and eventually led us to the cafeteria where they were offering lungar, a free meal to which all are welcome. On the floor, we ate vegetarian curry and naan bread and vegetables tossed in a special batter. It was delicious! The Sikh religion believes in inclusivity, equality, and good will to all of humanity.

We got back on the bus and drove a short ways and arrived at the Islamic Mosque. Welcomed by a very cheerful and entertaining volunteer, we discovered that the building was also a community outreach centre, a registered private school, and a place of worship. Inside the prayer room, I was surprised by the lack of symbols and images. The room was plain and undecorated. Our host explained that individual prayer is integral to Islam, and so they don’t have intermediary symbols and signs. The religion is largely about how to be a good person.

Our final destination was the Christian Presbyterian Church. I went to church when I was younger, and I recognized the smell of old wood, the dim light of stain glass windows, the Bibles on the backs of the pews. But I know very little about Christianity. For instance, I thought the Gospel was a song. Nope. The Church employee cleared that up, explaining that the Gospel is the triumph over evil, and that Church is the celebration of the Gospel. She also told us that the church is involved with local Toronto charities, offering Out of the Cold and ESL programs.

All in all, the Bus Tour of Houses of Worship brought to my attention the vastness of my own ignorance. But in a good way. I realized that the opportunity for understanding, and the potential to explore and learn is open to me, and to every student, here at U of T. We have such an unbelievably magnificent invitation to open our eyes and see the world beyond our own life-styles, beliefs, and understandings. It was a great day. Plus I got a free lunch!

‘Til next time, U of T, stay diamond.

– Stephen.