Why Ryerson is better than the University of Toronto

Ryerson campus (Sissi Wang/ Ryersonian)

Ryerson campus (Sissi Wang/Ryersonian)

After four years of undergraduate studies at the prestigious and history-laden University of Toronto, a master’s degree in journalism at Ryerson was exactly what I needed.

I was ready to put my knowledge to good use at Ryerson, a school with a much more hands-on approach. You can always spot journalism students filming on Gould Street or find a free seminar to attend. The campus itself is an open learning space buzzing with student activities and events.

The difference in location of the two schools brings a unique flavour to each. Ryerson campus is located in the heart of downtown Toronto, minutes away from Eaton Centre and the business and entertainment district. U of T’s downtown campus is more subdued, being surrounded by buildings such as the Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Conservatory of Music and high-end fashion stores along Bloor Street. Its downtown campus is about four times larger than Ryerson.

As a student at U of T, I was easily hidden among the thousands of faces that walked on campus. I had around 1,000 classmates in my first-year psychology class at Convocation Hall. Thank goodness I wasn’t studying the life sciences; I heard classes of that size are common in that program.

Because of the large class sizes at U of T, it’s difficult for professors to know their students on an individual basis and for students to bond with each other. People sitting around you always change with each class, preventing students from forming lasting friendships. Ryerson’s campus and classes are smaller, giving students more opportunities to get to know their professors and one another.

The problem with studying on a big campus is that after four years at U of T, I had set foot in only about 30 per cent of the university’s buildings. While the campus is great for exploring when you have time, its vast size also makes it inconvenient to meet people outside your program. Sometimes, you feel as if everybody is a stranger on St. George Street.

The lack of communication and understanding between students from different programs often created jokes, where engineers made fun of art students’ math skills, and art students ridiculed engineers’ social skills. As a result, the craved feelings of unity and rapport were often replaced by a sense of division and isolation.

My first year at Ryerson went by quickly. Students I had never met before participated in streeter interviews for my journalism course and helped me find my way to the right classrooms.

At U of T, it was harder to get students to help with these similar tasks. It was a less trusting place, and students would treat each other as strangers instead of schoolmates. Faculty members and students across the different programs need to start talking to each other to foster a sense of togetherness.

At Ryerson, I saw that students are generous and sincere, and immediately felt a sense of unity within the school. Students are able to come together despite the differences in culture, program and interests. Perhaps a smaller campus forces people to get to know each other and learn to coexist peacefully.

The faculty members at Ryerson are equally praiseworthy. Many professors and technical staff generously give their time and guidance when I feel lost. Their involvement and genuine desire to help students succeed are some of the reasons I look forward to school every day.

Almost everybody at Ryerson knows the name of the school’s president, which is not the case at U of T. Sheldon Levy spends a fair amount of his time engaging with members of the school and participating in events. The students all seem to have an idea of what he’s like in person. Having Levy, who incorporates innovation and entrepreneurship to form the face of the school, encourages students to strive for these ideals as well.

Ryerson is well-known for its Digital Media Zone and heap of student startups. Its liberal, can-do attitude makes it an exciting place to be. The energy of the university is infectious to everyone that sets foot in it. It makes me look forward to my future after graduate school because it has instilled in me a very positive experience of the real world.

Although this is only my second year at this school, I’ve come to love this place and its people. Ryerson campus is a melting pot of ideas and beliefs, and every idea is encouraged to be pursued.

My ideal educational environment is one where students’ goals and dreams, whatever they are, can be realized under the guidance and support of their teachers and classmates. A school should be a nurturing space where students can freely explore their curiosity and interests, try new ideas, fail and try again, all the while knowing that the school’s got their back.

Ryerson, in my experience, comes pretty close to that.

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