||Known as Canada's Megacity, Toronto is made up of modern skyscrapers, leafy old suburbs, and a hotchpotch of ethnic neighbourhoods. It offers wonderful outdoor experiences for the adventurous as well as a tantalising nightlife and cool cultural scene, not to mention the opportunity to sample international cuisine from every corner of the globe. And all this in a comfortable, friendly and safe environment.
"Toronto provides a great compromise for students who wish to experience urban-American living in relative safety," comments Edward Blackburn, Director of the Business English School of Toronto. "We are the fourth-largest city in North America, but boast a vibrant economy and relatively low crime rate."
Said to be Canada's most culturally diverse city, Toronto is home to over 70 ethnic groups who speak over 100 languages. All this rubs off on the city in many ways, giving it colourful neighbourhoods, delicious cuisine and a rainbow of festivals. As Carol Doornekamp, Registrar at the Language Exchange puts it, "Toronto is a very multicultural city with many different types of attractions. From Chinatown (1) to Little India to Greektown, the city's many cultural festivals and regions allow students to enjoy a taste of the whole world in Toronto."
Some of the city's most colourful festivals include the International Dragon Boat festival, celebrating a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition, when large colourful canoes are raced around the Toronto Islands; the Taste of Danforth multicultural food and music festival, which takes place in the streets of Greektown; and the Caribana, a major Caribbean festival, which includes reggae, steel drum and calypso music and dance, and a huge carnival parade. According to Houman Nikmanesh at IH Toronto, the great thing about these festivals is that they are all free to attend and "offer a new view into the many cultures that make up the essence of Toronto".
Other popular annual events include the Beaches Jazz festival, the Indy formula car race and the International Film Festival, held in September around the Yorkville area, which is also home to the Business English School of Toronto. "It is not uncommon to pass Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt or Sean Penn on the way to school during the first two weeks of September," reports Blackburn.
As well as enjoying the many events in their city, Torontonians are passionate about sports, with people cycling, rollerblading and jogging along the Harbourfront and canoeing on Lake Ontario in the summer. "In winter time it is possible to go ice skating outdoors at City Hall, just two blocks from our school," says Nikmanesh. "It is [also] possible to ski just one hour's drive north of Toronto."
Watching sports is also a major pastime in Toronto, and the city boasts a number of professional sports teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team, the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and Toronto Raptors basketball team. Tickets for the Raptors can cost hundreds of dollars, but students at the Business English School of Toronto can take advantage of the school's season tickets to a game, which, says Blackburn, is "an extremely popular venue for all students, male and female, from every culture".
Given the kaleidoscopic range of things to do in Toronto, schools have plenty to choose from when compiling their activity programmes. An example of a week's activities at the Language Exchange includes ice skating, a trip to a musical show, a city tour of Kensington Market (2), a weekend trip to New York City and a social lunch. "Activities are a great way for students to practise their English language skills, make friends and explore the city," states Doornekamp.
For those students who wish to explore the city themselves, Toronto is a very walkable city, where you can really soak up its green neighbourhoods, compact city centre and rejuvenated Harbourfront. In winter, too, when temperatures plummet, getting around by foot could not be easier as Toronto has a unique feature called the underground Path, which connects many of the downtown buildings. According to the Guinness World Records, Path is the world's largest underground shopping complex with 27 kilometres of shopping arcades, with links to more than 50 buildings/office towers, five subway stations, six major hotels and a railway terminal, as well as some of Toronto's major attractions such as the Hockey Hall of Fame and the CN Tower (3).
In terms of entertainment, there is plenty of choice. "[Students] love to go to movies and clubs," reports Douglas McKibbin from Archer Education. "Momentos in the Yorkville area and Tonic in the Entertainment District (4) are very popular. They also enjoy Little Italy with its café and bars for a European feel that is not as expensive as Yorkville Chinatown for inexpensive shopping, young and trendy Queen Street West (5), the Beaches and Korean Town.”
Toronto has many popular tourist sites, such as the CN Tower, the Skydome sports stadium and the Casa Loma, a mock medieval castle built by a wealthy financier in 1910, as well as an eclectic mix of museums, from the Royal Ontario Museum (6) Canada’s largest museum, filled with natural science, ancient civilisation and art exhibits to the Bata Shoe Museum (7), which houses over 10,000 “pedi-artifacts” in a building that looks like a stylised shoebox.
Antony Stille at English School of Canada mentions Algonquin Park, to which the English School of Canada offers a three-day canoe and camping trip, as a highlight for students. “Students often see moose, bears and other animals in the park,” he says. Language Studies Canada treats its students to a truly Canadian experience through its “Sugar Bush” tour. Gayle Forler at the school explains, “[We] take students out to a maple sugar producing farm to see how this famous liquid is produced. The students watch the trees being tapped for the maple, then they are taken to the cookhouse to see it being made into maple sugar. Lastly, they enjoy a pancake lunch with maple sugar. How Canadian!”
There is not doubt that the rich experience Toronto offers makes an indelible imprint on any student’s language travel trip. In fact, Stille reports, “We once had a student who loved the city so much he had the CN Tower tattooed on his bicep!”
"The capital of Ontario is a fascinating city historically built around multiculturalism. Our students mainly choose to study in the largest city in Canada because of the different cultures that amicably live side-by-side. There's never a dull moment in this vibrant city. Most students tell us that one day, they will return to this place that has changed their lives. In a way, when you visit Toronto, it is like you are getting a glimpse of the entire world."
Leo Wong, Education Prime, Canada
"Toronto is quite well known in Turkey; it is a kind of brand name. There are many future study options for the students after language programmes. The community college education system offers a lot of diploma and certificate programmes in any field. It is also very close to New York and major big cities in the USA, which students can visit during their studies. In the city, the public transportation system amazes students. The public library, CN Tower, nightlife and also visits to other towns nearby are mostly what they talk about, and of course they love to see Niagara Falls."
Serap Gunyeli, Alternatif, Turkey
"The clients who choose Toronto are looking for a big city experience. Many of them want to study English at a high level and in schools where there are relatively few other students from Switzerland. As Toronto is the business and finance capital of Canada, it is the ideal destination for people wanting to study Business English in combination with an internship. The Swiss are surprised to find that Toronto is in fact cleaner than most Swiss cities."
Mary McKay Vilén, Canada Live, Switzerland