February 12th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

On being an international student so close to home

The University of Toronto is as close to home as I have been while in post-secondary education. There are almost no direct flights, but the total flight time isn't more than two hours, and the airport connections are fairly convenient on both ends. I'm only an hour and a half from the US border, and a large portion of my circle of friends here in town are Americans as well. Indeed, possible half of the Centre for Medieval Studies is comprised of Americans.

As a Midwesterner, my accent blends in tolerably well. Ontario is part of the greater Midwest too. Perhaps every three months, someone will comment that I don't sound like a Canadian, but the comments are rare. I say Toronno, I don't say 'eh', I know my loonies from my toonies, I can navigate, and in this highly international city, that's about as native as it's necessary to be and not stand out. It's not like being in England, where I was blatantly an international student, with no chance of blending in, however well I could navigate the city through experience. I don't pick up accents well.

There are advantages to being an international student here, not counting the theoretically higher cost of tuition (it's actually higher, but my funding package accomodates that difference). My first year, the biggest advantage was being able to take advantage of the International Student's Centre events, which are aimed at making students new to the culture of Toronto feel comfortable. I feel that Canadian students who aren't from southern Ontario need this kind of service just as much as those of us who don't happen to be Canadian; I was just lucky enough to be able to take convenient advantage of it. The best trip I went on was in February my first year, to see sugaring off of maple syrup, and to McMichael Collection.

These days, the biggest thrill I get out of being located at a Canadian university is being able to attend events in my own home country as an international scholar. I was the only out-of-country attendee at the Midwest Medieval History Conference I went to last year. I was charmed to notice that I seem to be on the international mailing list for the SHOT writing workshop attendees. My session at Kalamazoo has funding for international attendees' flight costs, and I'm pretty sure that means I'm included. Perversely, of course, many American scholars are coming from geographically much more distant places than I am. Still, it's a distinction worth taking advantage of for as long as it lasts. Canadians would think it's only just, since, of course, Canada IS a different country than America. Thanks to this, I'm an international scholar in my own country as well.