As a fourth-year UTM CCT student and a U of T Varsity Blues field hockey player who lives just off the UTSG campus, my university experiences have been very similar to those of my childhood idol Hannah Montana. Like the Disney Channel character, I lead a double life. Despite the excitement of experiencing two U of T campuses simultaneously, it took me almost four years to embrace my unique dual identity.
In first year, living on residence at UTM, I didn’t feel comfortable on either campus. During my first three months of university, I spent all of my non-class hours downtown with my team. I never spent any time on the UTM campus during what could have been crucial friend-making time. Meanwhile, as the only hours I spent at UTSG were at training with my team, I never experienced any social time downtown. As a result, it was challenging to form friendships with my new teammates. I always felt left out.
Second year posed different challenges. Moving into an apartment with five other varsity athletes a few blocks from UTSG and attending smaller class sizes at UTM helped me form lasting friendships on each campus. But, the conflicting schedules frustrated me constantly. At the time, UTM and UTSG had vastly different academic calendars: I started classes on different days, my reading weeks were different, and my exam periods consisted of different dates than my UTSG counterparts. Coordinating plans was near impossible at first but, by the end of the year, I was a whiz at organizing my life according to two different schedules.
The intercampus commute began to weigh on me in third year. Calculating the hours per week I spent riding the shuttle was frustrating. As my workload got heavier along with my responsibilities as captain of my team, I never stayed in one place long enough to get anything meaningful accomplished. I wanted a normal student life with just one campus.
It was not until I finished third year that I began to appreciate my unique opportunity to experience the best of UTM and UTSG. I belong to a community of talented students, and professors at UTM—small enough for us to remember each other’s names—while also being a member of one of the largest student-athlete communities in Canada. I love UTM because it’s everything UTSG is not, and vice versa.
When I’m downtown, I realize that UTSG’s large size provides its students with anything they may need. If I ever need something or want to try something new, I know I can find it on campus, and on the off chance I can’t, I know it’s only a short walk away.
But when I walk from class to class at UTM, I embrace the small campus size and the way it fosters a tight-knit community. And every time I stroll past a deer on my way to class that always puts a smile on my face.
Now, I feel at home on both campuses and I love them both the way they are. Unlike Hannah Montana, my two identities will never merge into one, and I’m glad. I consider myself lucky to experience the best of both campuses—or as Hannah Montana would say, “the best of both worlds!”