Postcards from Abroad – Toronto


In the very last of his Postcards to those left in the motherland, Niall Spain concludes his year abroad, and sums up what it is that makes Toronto so special


Why Toronto? That was a question I was asked a surprising number of times when people heard about my year abroad, and it was definitely one that confused me. Obviously not a lot of people have been here. But why not Toronto is a more appropriate question, really. Let me tell you why.

This place is cheap. You may have heard otherwise, and it may not be as cheap as some countries I’ve been to, but compared to Dublin you are making an absolute killing on every purchase you make. Pretty much everything is far cheaper than you can get at home. There’s no way I could have lived like I have on what I had if I had been still in Dublin. I would have declared myself bankrupt in three months. For example, you can get steaks for as little as three dollars (just over two euro), and the student bar in Toronto has pitchers for just ten dollars. That’s only seven euro, folks. Think about it.

Then there’s the public transport system. It’s fast, reliable, clean, and nothing at all like our own. You can get anywhere quickly; buses arrive on time (people who get the seventeen bus will probably salivate at that thought); and you can obtain ‘transfers’ when you get on any form of transport, a little ticket that allows you to get onto the next form of transport for free. That means if you have to get three buses and a streetcar to make it to work or college, it only costs as much as one journey. Not only that, but most of the transport is twenty-four hour, and this service costs the same as transport during the day. I’ve only had to get a taxi once since I arrived. It’s amazing.

If you’re reading this I’m assuming you’re Irish. Strange as it may be, this is also a reason to go to Canada. If you arrive here with an Irish accent, people instantly love you. Seriously. You have a friend wherever you go. People go out of their way for you, solely based on your nationality. I have gotten a free taxi ride (one of the days I was lost, lazy and couldn’t find the amazing transport system), dozens of free coffees in cafés (“don’t worry about it dear, my grandmother was Irish”), free drinks, an offer of free accommodation for a month (just after I was put up in the penthouse), and countless other things. It also helped me get a job. It’s incredible really. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. They love us.

There’s also the weather. Someone told me they would never go to Canada because of the horrible winters. I don’t want to go back to Ireland because of the horrible weather all year round. The winter was not bad at all. Snow beats rain any day, in my opinion, especially in a country that actually knows how to deal with it. Paths are clear, roads are clear, so you only have to deal with the snow in fun scenarios like building forts or pelting children with snowballs. Not only that, but it is currently mid-March, and it’s almost too hot to go outside. The temperature will be in the high twenties all week, and is likely to only get better for the next six months. That’s right. A real summer, six months long. Sign me up.

Finally, there’s poutine. What’s that, you might ask? I know I did when I arrived. Then I was given a plate of it, and I’ve never looked back. Imagine a plate of chips, smothered in hot gravy and lumps of melting cheese. I don’t know why we don’t have poutine in Ireland. Or everywhere, for that matter. It is amazing. Come for that alone.

The people are nice, the city is beautiful and I really could go on all day. I won’t, but I will say this. Whether Canada or not, try and go on a year abroad. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I managed to find the coolest landlord ever, who ended up being a great friend I’ll miss immensely. I’ve met the nicest people, the most amazing girl, seen some unreal places, and have had some great adventures along the way. Whatever might hold you back, forget it. Go for it. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Oh, and it makes your degree stand out too.