Campus Life
From small town girl to big city urbanite
by Ally Buso | January 28, 2019

 I have grown as a person in ways I never thought were possible.

I moved to Toronto a year and a half ago. It took me up to the very last date to accept offers of admission for me to decide that I wanted to become a Humber Hawk. There were several pivotal events that led up to me deciding to leave home.

I was born and raised in a small town called Thunder Bay, O.N. It is beautiful, rural, and scenic. Perfect for the outdoorsy among us. However, if you have ever spent any length of time in Northwestern Ontario, you will know the closest thing to a metropolitan city is often hundreds of kilometres away. In my case, Toronto is a 16-hour drive away. Needless to say, Thunder Bay is remote. And I wanted out. Fast.


Cityscape of the town of Thunder Bay


During the time before I attended Humber, I felt like I was on the long road to nowhere. I was enrolled in a psychology program at Lakehead University and spent 40-48 hours a week working night shifts at the local casino. I was strung out, exhausted, and not interested in what I was studying. I liked psychology but didn’t want to pursue a career in it (earning a Ph.D. was pretty low on my priority list). I was desperate to find a program that would marry my two main interests: writing and research. After copious Google searches, I discovered Humber and the rest is history!

On the heels of my Humber acceptances, I found out that my partner, Stew, had been accepted to all of the law schools he had applied to! Great news for him except that meant he would be moving to the UK for 2 years.

I knew that I had to focus on my own personal growth while he was gone. One of the best ways to build character and develop as a person was to move to a brand new city. Knowing he would be leaving as well made my decision to move to Toronto that much easier. There was nothing standing in my way of a new adventure.


Ally and Stew


Six months later I was saying goodbyes to my coworkers, my oldest and most cherished friends, as well as my beloved now-fiance. At 5 a.m. I hopped into the SUV with my dad and we took off, embarking on a 16 hour (2 days of driving) trip.

I arrived at 9 a.m. at the Lakeshore residence building on August 27, 2017. My dad, who is not the sentimental type, planned to drive all the way back to Sault Ste. Marie that same day. He stayed for all of 30 minutes to help me unload my stuff, then promptly left me to unpack alone. In all honesty, I was glad for space. It gave me the alone time my poor introverted self needed to get set up in anticipation of my new roommate’s arrival.

Lindsay was an absolute treasure of a roommate. I continue to be grateful for how amazing it was to live with her. If it weren’t for her, my first year would have been hell. Upon arriving, we immediately hit it off. We became friends instantly, and remain close to this day. Sadly, she was only in a one-year post-grad certificate program, so at the end of the year, she moved back to her hometown.


Lakeshore Campus residence building


One thing initially struck me when I arrived in Toronto: for such a big city, it was incredibly lonely.

You walk down the street, being passed by hundreds of people, but no one gives you a second look. No one waves. No one says ‘Hi.’ No one stops on the street to greet anyone. It’s cold and impersonal. In Thunder Bay, you know A LOT of the people in town (or at least on your side of town). You know someone, who knows someone, who knows you. Everyone is intertwined in some way. Toronto just felt devoid of friendly faces by comparison.

The adjustment period was…long. Living in Etobicoke didn’t help either. Trying to do anything even remotely close to downtown was costly and time consuming. I was not used to having to transit one hour just to get somewhere. The stark difference between Etobicoke and downtown Toronto was astonishing. Lakeshore Boulevard reminds me enough of home that sometimes I could pretend that I was walking down a busier version of Red River Road in Thunder Bay.


501 Long Branch Streetcar in winter


I was homesick and depressed a lot. I was only enrolled in four classes, so I had more time on my hands then I knew what to do with. I spent a lot of my time locked in my room watching television, trying to fight myself to stay motivated. Often the homesickness was so crushing that no matter what I did, I couldn’t pull myself out of it.

Trying to find time to talk to Stew was even harder because he was five hours ahead of me. When I would be free, he would be busy and vice versa. Since we had lived together before moving, this was the first time in over a year I had to sleep alone in a double bed. I would reach over in my half-sleep delirium and find the other side of the bed cold and empty. Soon after I bought a fuzzy body pillow, and that helped a bit.


Toronto Flat-Iron building


I wish I could say that there was a secret to make adjusting to a new place easier, but unfortunately, I don’t think there is.

Lindsay definitely helped a lot with that. She always made sure I wasn’t completely alone all hours of the day. We were always doing something together, even if it was just little things like watching TV, or going down for dinner.

Establishing a solid routine that you stick to is also incredibly helpful. It can make your time fly by.

This year, I have taken all the things I learned last year and put it into practice. I try to spend as much time as I can with friends, and I’ve established a strong routine that keeps me going throughout the week. Between school, work, volunteering, and keeping up my apartment, I don’t have time to be depressed or homesick.


Toronto skyline at dusk


I’ve learned a lot since I moved here. I know that I am a stronger and better person because of it. I have grown as a person in ways that I never thought were possible. This move may be one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I’ve come to realize that there is nothing I can’t accomplish if I set my mind to it and stick with it, even through the times when you most want to give up.

If I can do it, so can you!

If you, or someone you know are in need please feel free to visit Humber’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre.

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