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     Volume 1 Issue 20 | December 24, 2006 |


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University of Toronto: Canada's largest university

Ilham Alam

Why is University of Toronto is rated as one of the world's top universities? Let me count the ways. First there is her immense history; founded in 1827 under a British Royal Charter as King's College, to provide education for the growing population of Upper Canada (present day Canadian province of Ontario), University of Toronto since then has been in the middle of great moments in world history and has even been the originator of it! One of those most notable moments is the discovery of penicillin right at University of Toronto by Banting & Best which has now made diabetes a less fatal disease than it used to be before the discovery of insulin and penicillin (they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1923 for their work; one of six won by professors from University of Toronto),. The rich history of Canada's largest university can easily be seen when one takes a walk around the vast Uoft campus; now faded black and white photographs of graduates from UofT's famed medical school from as far back as 1877, can be seen by the medical students of 2007.

Every student in the department of Arts and Science (the largest dept in Canada) enrolls in one of seven of the colleges, in order to be part of a more intimate academic, intellectual and social community. Each of these colleges have their own student accommodations, own programs of study, their very own libraries (because of this UofT has the 4th largest library system in all of North America!), their own student associations which students can join and meet new friends in, academic centres which help students with their assignments and their own scholarship awards. Scholarships like the T.A. Reed Scholarship sponsored by New College, award $1000 to the New College student who has the highest mark at the end of the year. There are also in-course scholarships; for example a student who is studying History wins a scholarship for writing the best History essay, but this award is only open to History students. Other scholarships the UofT has are those which need to be applied for, such as $1500 awarded through the Norma Epstein Scholarship (sponsored by University College) to a student who has submitted the best work of poetry or short fiction. There are hundreds upon hundreds scholarships with varying criteria and I recommend students check the scholarship website: www.utoronto.ca/scholarships, for more information.

Now getting back to the seven colleges and their courses. University College (the very first building of the University of Toronto campus, thus the oldest building) in a gorgeous castle-like building offers courses on Health Studies (i.e. community health), Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence, Canadian Studies, Drama, Peace and Conflict Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies. Another classical building, Trinity College offers courses in International Relations, Immunology, Ethics/Society/Law and Independent Studies. Independent Studies allows students to choose their own proposed area of study or thesis and then work on it independently throughout the Sept-May academic year, under the supervision of a tenured faculty member. Since Trinity is an Anglican based college, it also offers Anglican Divinity Studies. Then there is St.Micheal's College which mostly offers courses with a religious base such as Christianity & Culture and Theology. Non-religious courses in this college are Celtic Studies, Medieval History and Book and Media Studies. Victoria College offers courses in Literature Studies, Semiotic and Communication Studies, Renaissance Studies, World Literatures and a special Vic One set of courses: Vic One is only open to first year students enrolled in Victoria College, who can benefit from small classroom sizes (no more than 25, thus the students get to know their fellow classmates and professors well) and lively discussions on social sciences, life sciences, humanities and education and visiting guest lecturers are invited to broaden the academic experience. Other advantages include special scholarships and dedicated accommodations only for Vic One students. Wordsworth College is a little bit different in its course offerings; it has the regular Arts&Sci courses like Criminology and Employment Relations.

But this college also offers post-undergraduate certificates in Human Resource Management and Summer Abroad Program, which give Uoft students a chance to spend 2 months of their summer studying in a foreign university affiliated with University of Toronto. Finally, New College which has a large South Asian population because of its South Asian Studies program also offers programs in African Studies, Caribbean Studies, Human Biology Studies, Women Studies and Independent Studies. These seven colleges are all located within the central University of Toronto St.George campus.Apart from the seven colleges and its various course offerings, more courses are offered through the various faculties (Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Pharmacy), the School of Graduate Studies, Centers & Institutes (Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research) and the two other University of Toronto campuses: University of Toronto Scarborough (which has a superior Business Management program) and University of Toronto Mississauga (forensic sciences). For more detailed information on programs of study, I would recommend you check out the website, http://www.utoronto.ca/academic.htm Fees depend on the student's course of study, how many course he/she is taking and which faculty or college he/she is a part of. The total fee not only includes the tuition but also the absolutely necessary health coverage, fee for student societies, fee for the International Student Centre, gym membership etc. Extra amount has to be paid for books, stationary, accommodations and meal plans for those accommodations. I will say that an Arts and Science program with 4 courses will cost an average of $15,000 per year. Please refer to the fees website for more specific details: fees.utoronto.ca

There are plenty of opportunities for Bangladeshi students to settle themselves into the life and culture of University of Toronto and the wider Toronto community. Toronto is a vibrant, multi-cultural city with over 100 languages spoken by people from all over the world. There are specific neighbourhoods with ethnic shops and restaurants dedicated to each community like the “Little India” on Gerard Street and “Little Bangladesh” on Danforth Avenue (there are also Greek, Italian, Portuguese and China towns). Toronto sees many cultural dance and music shows and parades held throughout the year such as the “Masala Mehendi and Masti” which celebrates the arts of the entire South Asia sub-continent.

Into this colourful mix of cultural shows, the University of Toronto Bangladeshi Students' Association (BSA-Uoft) puts on a large scale annual show in March celebrating Bangladeshi arts and culture through song, dance, drama, comedy skits, mime acting, “kobita arbriti” and décor. University of Toronto opened the very first university association in Canada, catering specifically to the needs of Bangladeshi students in 1997. Over the past ten years we have put on many successful and heavily attended shows (500 audience members) in large, mainstream theatres, involving many Bangladeshi students in fun and creative performance. All our proceeds from our sold-out shows are donated to various charities in Bangladesh. We have donated to acid attack victims and flood victims in the past). BSA-UofT also arranges other events throughout the year like Eid Parties, dinners and Sports Day (we had a World Cup Football themed sports day in July), to give Bangladeshi students a place to meet and socialize their fellow country-men and learn about their culture. To view pictures of past events and contact info of the executive committee (I am the Vice President External) and information on how to join, check the website http://bsa.sa.utoronto.ca

One other opportunity is available to Bangladeshi students through the Bengali Studies Program at University of Toronto. So far an Introductory and Intermediate courses are offered in Bangla language and literature (we begin from the alphabets to Shamsur Rahman poetry all the way to watching Satyajit Ray's movies). Here students can learn Bangla in the comfort of small classes guaranteeing individual attention from the professor and students can also meet Bangladeshi students from other universities (who have come to Uoft to take this course). Bengali Studies students are eligible to receive the $1000 “Dipti Chakravarty Scholarship” as long as they apply by March 15th and complete their Bangla course with good marks.

Other opportunities are also available to international students to be more involved with the University community and meet other students. One such place is The International Students' Centre which holds trips and events for international students. Previously students have gotten to know Toronto and the surrounding area better by taking tours of Toronto and the beautiful city of Niagara Falls ( with the amazing water fall which straddles the Canada-US border). ISC also provides useful services to international students like English language classes, free income tax filing and helping students to look for work in Toronto. I also urge students to receive a more fulfilling academic experience at University of Toronto by joining the more than 200 student associations catering to many individual interests from cultural groups like Bangladeshi Students' Assoc, to religious groups like Muslim Students' Assoc to political groups, sports teams to charitable groups and course unions such as the Economics Students' Assoc.

So why should you come to University of Toronto for your undergraduate or graduate studies? As Canada's largest university (70,000 students and counting) you will receive a mind-boggling variety of courses to suit every interest and needs (did you know UofT has 75 PhD programs?). And by being Canada's largest university, University of Toronto receives the largest amount of funding, ensuring that students receive the very best professors, brand new research facilities, necessary academic help and architecturally superior infrastructure ( currently building 1 million square feet of research centre, accommodations, libraries and high-tech classrooms). UofT's vigorous academic programs and its superior services and infrastructure has constantly placed this university at the top of North American university rankings (such as the one done annually by Maclean's Magazine). Despite its big size, students can still find their own intimate niche in this historical university by joining the myriad of associations within the vibrant University of Toronto, situated in Canada's most colourful and largest city. To find out more about University of Toronto, please do see www.utoronto.ca. I hope to see many of you reading this article today, to attend University of Toronto tomorrow!


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