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Back to School lifehacks: must-have tips for life at U of T

Find the hidden gems and free services to help you succeed in the first few weeks

(photo by Ken Jones)

Students at the University of Toronto arrive hungry to learn – but returning students want everyone new to campus to absorb one lesson right away:

At U of T, learning means more than just diving into a textbook.

“Welcome to U of T! You made it!” says Oloruntobi Ogunbiyi, a recent computer science graduate. “Feeling excited and overwhelmed is inevitable as there are so many students with lots to do. But settling in shouldn't take too long.”
 
One of the greatest things about studying at a university with three campuses that anchor a thriving global city? Ogunbiyi says it's all about the opportunities to explore.
 
We wanted to help new students get started with the best U of T and Toronto has to offer. The following are 10 back-to-school hacks for navigating the first few weeks of fall semester at the University of Toronto.
 

 
map of st. george campus

10. You are here: use these interactive maps for all U of T campuses

The first step to finding your way at U of T is to, well, actually find your way at U of T. Use these interactive maps – or download their app versions – to find buildings, green spaces, food, bike racks, accessibility spaces, libraries and more.
Want to see a throwback to what the corner you’re standing on looked like years ago?
 
Follow University of Toronto Archives on Instagram (image, left) to find great photos that place your journey in context of the long history of U of T.
 
And while you're at it, why not follow U of T's main Instagram account, Twitter and Facebook to join our ongoing conversation with students, alumni and friends of the University of Toronto? 
 

9. Eat well: where to find the best food on campus... and nearby

Explore on-campus eateries by clicking “food” on the maps listed above. It can filter all options by dietary preference, opening hours, seating availability and more. Seek out gems such as the family-run Innis Café, which offers home-made smoothies, and The Coffee Shed at New College, a headline-grabbing social enterprise managed by people with developmental disabilities.
tweet advertising tcard plus
 
Each campus maintains an online hub detailing their food services.
 
Tip: you can load meal plans onto your TCard
 
 
There’s an especially bustling culinary culture around UTSC campus, as explained in this U of T News article on Why foodies, bloggers and scholars are turning to Scarborough. And for food at the downtown St. George campus, the Food Services web site is dedicated to sharing news of food happenings on campus.
 
Join the conversation about new and exciting food spots as you discover them by sharing photos and reviews with us on Twitter or Instagram @UofT. There’s a whole world of food to explore in the GTA, search online to find the city’s best food blogs, hashtags, festivals and events.
 
Tip: ask restaurants near campus whether they offer a student discount.
 

8. New friends, fun clubs, free music and more – embrace “frosh” week: it’s called orientation for a reason

Taking an active part in clubs and the social life of the city is important for undergrads, says recent alumna and Onyx Motion CEO, Marissa Wu. (Read her advice for undergrad entrepreneurs)
 
There’s truly something for everyone in the diverse events offered during “frosh week,” the first week of September when back to school events take over U of T campuses.
 
Meet new friends and explore the city with the U of T tri-campus parade on Sept. 11 that will travel across downtown Toronto with music and cheers. There’s also a concert, a movie-mixer and an after-party... all requiring a TCard, so make sure you get that sorted out before Sept. 11.
 
 

7. Get the best information, fast, with U of T’s libraries

Forty-four libraries across three campuses and 12 million volumes spread out over the GTA make U of T’s library system the third largest in North America. (The collections are so vast they had to build a storage facility that looks like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the room of requirement in the Harry Potter books.) 
 
They’re an amazing resource – and a way to maximize the University of Toronto experience once you know how to use it best. Here are our top pieces of advice for learning to love U of T’s amazing libraries.
instagram of library
 Ask a Librarian online chat is available during the school year
• Follow @uoftlibraries on Twitter and Instagram
• New students can follow this libraries guide to help them get oriented with the library system
• Larger libraries offer tours
• Tip: attend one of many 30-minute workshops called 10 things you need to know about the U of T libraries
• If you want an item from a particular library, you can order it to the library closest to you
• All our libraries have study spaces – and some study spaces remain open 24 hours.
• It’s not all textbooks – U of T libraries offers free videos, magazines and more
 

6. Let U of T support your health and safety

You're not on your own when it comes to staying healthy and happy. U of T provides a variety of services to help students balance their studies with overall health and wellness.
 
Need a doctor? Visit your campus clinic for help from a medical professional trained to support student needs .
 
All three campuses also offer counselling, therapy and other mental health services such as breathing and sleep-health workshops.

In addition, ThoughtSpot is a live map designed by students for students. It identifies mental health and wellbeing resources relevant to students in the GTA.

It is the goal of the University of Toronto to do everything possible to create an environment where students, staff and faculty can feel safe to learn, work and live.

Learn more about campus safety on the university's Safety website and in this Q&A with Vice-President and Provost Cheryl Regehr.

Tweet reading: have questions for your prof, or want to meet them? Then hit up your course's office hours!
 

5. Go to your prof’s office hours. It’s an easy way to improve your grades – and your university experience

First-year classes can feel intimidating. The best way to move past the fear? Get to know your professor.
 
Dropping by your prof’s office hours means you’ll get personal feedback and tips, plus you can ask questions.
 
It’s part of a professor’s job to set aside a specific time to meet with students one-on-one, but few students take them up on it.
 
Office hours are an opportunity to make a personal connection that will set you up to succeed.
 
 

4. Discover Hart House

Hart House is a bustling hub of student social activity at U of T. Home to a staggering array of clubs, courses, musical bands, choirs – plus a fully equipped gym, radio station and the famous Hart House Theatre, this is where students from all three campuses gather to bond over shared interests. It's also where you can hop on a shuttle to the UTM campus.
 
A few of the stand-out Hart House offerings include photography classes, cooking classes, Massage Mondays (free massages!), lectures and documentary screenings. Need a sugar fix near the end of winter? Check out the sugaring off at the 150-acre Hart House Farm. Yes, there's a farm. And you are welcome to visit.
 
Students from all three campuses are invited to drop in for the Explore Hart House: Welcome BBQ event on September 17, 2015.
banner advertising hart house bbq
 

3. De-stress with on-campus activities and healthy routines

All work and no play will make your studies suffer, not to mention your well-being. Everyone needs time to recharge and at U of T there are countless ways to get involved in fabulously de-stressing activities in groups or on your own. Here are a few of our favourites. Learn more about taking part in the community at U of T here or follow up on these tips.
 
• Working out: Athletic Centre, Goldring Centre for High Performance SportToronto Pan Am Sports Centre, intramural sports, RAWC, MoveU
• Group activity: join one of the hundreds of clubs at U of T or visit the multifaith centre, which offers a variety of non-denominational programs including discussion groups, yoga and more. 
• Eat well: Prepare healthy meals at home or join one of the community kitchens to make meals together. Find some student-friendly recipes and techniques here.
• Catch up on sleep. Find healthy sleep tips and more on ways to refuel.
• Reconnect with nature on U of T's green spaces and across the GTA
 
"My personal experience at the University of Toronto was about community," said Natalie Panek, an alumna from Aerospace Science & Engineering. Check out this video where she describes the community-building and extracurricular activities that made her years at U of T so memorable.

 

2. Get equipped for class and life in the GTA

A typical U of T student has a long list of school supplies to get before classes begin: books, laptops, scientific calculators, rulers, pens and backup batteries. But extraordinary U of T students need all the regular supplies plus two key items to ace the school year.
 
• Camera – Whether it’s a cell phone camera or a full-frame DSLR, the vibrancy of city life begs to be captured in photos. Share yours on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #UofT. A few ‘must have’ shots include UTM’s deer colony, UTSC’s nature trails and the Harry Potter-esque setting of St. George campus.
instagram of university college
• Headphones – Most U of T students commute to campus, so a good pair of headphones comes in handy on public transit. Once on campus, students can take advantage of the many different indoor and outdoor study spaces, pop on their headphones, and concentrate. And to learn more about the great city that integrates with our great university, use those headphones to listen to The Cities Podcast produced by the University of Toronto. City-building and research on urban issues are a real strength at U of T. This series explores little-known stories of Toronto and other global cities through interviews with experts, authors and citizens.
banner for The Cities Podcast
 

1. You tell us!

The thing about life at the University Toronto is, there’s always something new. Get in touch and tell us your lifehacks and moments of happy on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
 
Look forward to hearing from you!