Toronto Cafés for Every Occasion

By: Kayla Zhu

Does your mood fluctuate as much as Toronto's weather? We've narrowed down a short list of cozy cafes in the downtown core that serve different purposes depending on what it is you're looking for, check it out!

Jimmy’s Coffee (84 Gerrard St. West)

Great for: Everything! Meetings, studying or even just chatting with friends

Jimmy’s is a veteran face in Toronto’s café scene, with eight locations scattered across the city. What makes the Gerrard Street location especially appealing is its spacious three-floor interior, reminiscent of a cozy, Victorian house. The first floor is great for chats over coffee while the third floor doubles as a rental space for meetings.

The second floor is the study hub, with spacious tables and single booth spots lined along the walls. An abundance of outlets, comfy cushions and a quiet but diligent ambiance make it the perfect spot to sip various “Jimmy”-named blends (including Dean, Hendrix and Hoffa) and grind through some assignments. Jimmy’s also offers an impressive assortment of pastries and finger food for your mid-study snack fix.  

The Black Canary Espresso Bar (329 Yonge St.)

Great for: Studying, people watching and reading

The Black Canary Espresso Bar is somewhat of a hidden spot, making up a small corner of the beloved Silver Snail comic bookstore. They’ve got a few tables and single bar stools along the window, making it the perfect spot to get some work done while gazing out onto the hustle and bustle of Yonge Street. There’s something cozy and a little special about being tucked away in a secret corner of the lively Yonge and Dundas area that really gets those productive juices flowing. Also, the expansive windows give the space lots of natural light, perfect for leisure reading or journalling.

Their menu consists of classic espressos, Americanos and macchiatos while incorporating some more eclectic recipes like banana hot chocolate and Nutella lattés. They’ve also got a few food options for hungry comic book perusers and hardworking students.

And, if you’re into life-sized character figures, you’ll encounter plenty of those at this establishment.







Dineen Coffee (140 Yonge St.)

Great for: Casual meetups, catching up with friends

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Within the café-goer scene, Dineen Coffee has a bit of an upscale reputation. But don’t let that scare you off! The Yonge location is super warm and welcoming and offers a generous amount of seating for chatting and working. However, the café is known to be constantly packed with business people, so make sure to grab a seat early.

They offer an impressive range of drinks, with one of their seasonal fall drinks being the delicious Turmeric Gold latte pictured above. They offer a seemingly endless assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries, croissants and more—perfect for sharing with a friend.

If you’re looking for somewhere with a nice mood, along with a bit of background noise to reduce those awkward silences, Dineen Coffee is your best bet. The gold accented decor, vested employees and classic, yet modern interior design really brings that timeless, fall ambience.

Student Creatives: The Filmmaking Journey

By: Nadia Brophy

Across all creative industries, there is a journey artists must take to establish themselves, meet their personal goals and create content they are proud of.

Three film studies students at Ryerson University gave CanCulture a behind-the-scenes look into how their creative journeys have been progressing thus far. Students Tyler Hall, Hayden Salter and Julia Batista share how they got inspired to pursue filmmaking, the projects they have created and what they intend to do next in their careers.

Tyler Hall

 Photo: Submitted by Tyler Hall

Photo: Submitted by Tyler Hall

Tyler Hall’s filmmaking journey began with a fascination for storytelling, which first manifested during his childhood years. Throughout his youth, Hall’s mother ran a home daycare where himself and the children who attended would experiment with a dress-up box, creating several different kinds of characters and narratives using the variety of clothes. Hall would also play with action figures and make up stories about them, bringing the narratives to life as he played.

At age 10, Hall picked up his first video camera, opening himself up to a new world of storytelling. He would produce his first amateur film at age 16 which lead him to experiment with video editing. From that point on, Hall was inspired to continuing adding to his arsenal of filmmaking skills, including working with computer generated animation, which lead to his creation of 15 animated short films within a five year period.  

While Hall had always been a creative person himself, he attributes much of his inspiration to the people he grew up with. “I was surrounded by creatives growing up and was inspired by a lot of my friends and family to continue pursuing film,” said Hall.

He credits one of his close friends for introducing him to the world of editing, as throughout their friendship, he would observe his expertise in cutting video game footage together to create montages. He would also frequently attend the band practices and concerts of friends who were musicians, where he developed an acute understanding of rhythm and pacing that he believes “really paid off for film editing.”

 Photos taken by Bang Siaotong, submitted by Tyler Hall

Photos taken by Bang Siaotong, submitted by Tyler Hall

In 2017, Hall was accepted to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he would put his skills to use in several creative and collaborative projects, including his psychological thriller Nosebleed. In the roles of cinematographer, producer and editor, Hall was assigned to collaborate with other student filmmakers on the task of adapting a script written by a student in the year above them. After reading the script for Nosebleed, which tells the dark story of a woman struggling with mental illness, Hall’s group was inspired to take an avant-garde approach to their storytelling.

“There are many ways to shoot a script,” said Hall. “You can take it Hollywood style narrative and lead a straightforward path for your viewer, or you can get experimental and become non-linear, bringing your viewers into a maze.”

To achieve this nonlinear experience for the audience, Hall’s group portrayed the story from the perspective of the mentally ill woman with the intention of showing “what it would be like to be in such an unstable, ever-changing mental state.” Adding to their experimentalism, the filmmakers chose to cast a man to play the main character’s mother.

“We wanted the film to feel surreal and dark with elements of symbolism and unanswered questions,” said Hall.

In the future, Hall hopes to continue creating psychological films with creative plot twists that play with the expectations of his audience.

“I hope to one day make a twist as good as The Sixth Sense,” Hall expressed.

Hayden Salter

 Photo: Submitted by Hayden Salter

Photo: Submitted by Hayden Salter

First-year film studies student Hayden Salter was first introduced to the word of filmmaking through photography. In his early high school years, Salter created an Instagram account where he would showcase his wide range of photographic skills, from city and landscape photography to profiles and intricate nature shots. Salter recalls entering high school feeling shy and insecure in the new chapter of his life, so he turned to photography as a medium for self expression. He began to gain confidence in himself after his Instagram page gained popularity across the school where he received positive feedback from his peers.

 Photo courtesy Hayden Salter via Instagram

Photo courtesy Hayden Salter via Instagram

“It felt like I was getting validation, because people would see what I was doing and they liked what I was doing,” said Salter.

While photography ultimately opened Salter up to the world of artistic expression, he believes film is the most effective medium for getting a message across to an audience, an aim he credits as being the reason he first got into filmmaking.

“Film grabs all the different components of sound, video, and you put it all together into this one image that you construct and you can share it with the world,” said Salter. “I just think that’s incredible. It captivates all the senses.”

Salter uses film to spread messages surrounding topics important to him including his latest short film Brink, which showcases the anxieties that come with entering into adulthood and how he overcame his fear in making life changing decisions for his future.

The idea for Brink came into fruition during Salter’s senior year in high school after he attended an assembly addressing university applications. He remembers going home that evening and translating his worries towards the prospect of university into a script, which he wrote as a conversation between two people representing two opposing thoughts in his head.


“One side of me was saying that you’re going to embark in this whole new world with all these opportunities and meet new people,” said Salter. “The other side of me was saying I don’t want to go into this new world. I have everything that I want right now and I’m sheltered and secure.”

The film concludes with the message that life will always change and move forward and despite how fearful one may be, they have to move along with it.

And Salter did just that, resulting in an acceptance to the film studies program at Ryerson University where he continues to add to his experience as a filmmaker. Currently, Salter creates action-packed promotional videos for sports games as well as music videos, but hopes to one day pursue a career in writing and directing narrative pieces.

“I want my films to mean something,” said Salter.

Julia Batista

 Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Julia Batista’s journey into filmmaking began during her time in elementary school. During her grade 7 year, teachers began giving students the option to explore several creative mediums in order to complete their assignments. Always, and without hesitation, Batista would opt to create and edit a film. And it wasn’t just that Batista thought making a film was a more appealing option than writing a poem or designing a poster, for example, she also did it because she thoroughly enjoyed the process of editing a piece.

“Actually physically putting all the clips together, rearranging them, zooming in on a program to the seconds and milliseconds and fine cutting the footage, that’s what I really liked,” said Batista. “I thought, if I could do that everyday, I really wouldn’t mind it.”

Years later, when she arrived in the film studies program at Ryerson University, Batista was opened up to a world of opportunities in the filmmaking industry. For some time, she intending on pursuing cinematography as she found herself enjoying camera operating on set. However, Batista recalls having a recent epiphany that changed her career focus entirely. She now desires to pursue the career of a producer, which focuses heavily on organizing and planning a film, as she claims this role would be the perfect fit for her personality type.

“I’m extremely type A, I consider myself to be very organized and efficient,” said Batista. “I live my personal life this way, so it just makes so much sense to take on that role in the production of a film.”

 Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

Photo: Submitted by Julia Batista

While the role of a producer may be her chosen path, Batista has gained experience in several different filmmaking roles, including that of writer and director on her short film Expiration Date, a portrayal of the influence that toxic relationships have on one’s mental state. The film, created as a project for her first year production class, tasked Batista and her peers to work entirely on a 16mm Bolex film camera. Batista chose to work with double exposures to convey the moments when the film’s main character relives past memories of his relationship. She explained that since her team had to work with a Bolex, in order to create the double exposures, she had to physically rewind the film and precisely coordinate when to stop and expose it to the right amount of light. When this process is successful, as shown in Batista’s piece, it creates a ghostly overlapping image that portrays the past and present intersecting with one another.

“It took a lot of planning, slowly taking the steps, and patience with the actors,” said Batista of the double exposure process. “Once you roll the film, you can’t go back and look. But it turned out really well and I’m proud of it.”

In the future, Batista intends to work within the niche of documentary filmmaking. She hopes to produce films with a specific focus on the state of the environment, an issue she has advocated for and been passionate about for many years. She intends to take her documentaries international to explore the industry in countries like Australia, where documentary filmmaking is a widely popular medium.

“There’s just something about documentaries when it’s a really beautiful, cinematic piece,” said Batista. “At the end you realize it was all real. Real people, real stories. And yet it still feels like you were watching a movie. That’s what gets me about documentaries, I really love that kind of stuff.”

Our Fave Canadian Celebrity Halloween Costumes of 2018

By: Regina Dickson

As the Halloween celebrations wrap up and we sit at Starbucks, sipping our peppermint mochas, admiring the newly-released Christmas merchandise, we can’t help but wonder what the celebs got up to this week. Yet more importantly, what were they wearing?

Here’s a glimpse of Canadian celebrity looks from this year’s Halloween festivities.

1. The Weeknd

Canadian-born singer The Weeknd and girlfriend, model Bella Hadid dressed up as Lydia and Beetlejuice, from Tim Burton’s 1988 fantasy/horror film Beetlejuice.

2. Avril Lavigne dressed up as a pirate for a Just Jared Halloween bash.

3. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was Sherlock Holmes as he took part in Halloween

celebrations with his family at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. His wife Sophie was a zombie bride, while the rest of the family dressed up in other outfits of their choice.

4. Celine Dion didn’t dress up this year, at least not in public, but she did post a goofy Halloween photo of her and her sons wearing rotten teeth with a caption, “Happy Halloween ! Don’t eat too much candy, it’s not good for your teeth ! 😜👻🎃 - Céline xx…”

5. Vancouver-born actor and film director Jason Priestley and his daughter Ava played around with some eye-catching Halloween face paint.

6. Nina Dobrev, former Ryerson University student and Canadian-Bulgarian actress dressed up as a baby star, inspired by the 2018 remake of the film A Star is Born, staring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

7. Canadian TV personality, host of Love It or List It Vancouver and former ABC Bachelorette Jillian Harris and her family dressed up as characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Who’s ready to have another go at Halloween right about now?

Hopefully by scrolling through some of this year’s celebrity costumes you’ve been inspired to concoct something extra creative for next year.

Skele-fun Halloween Traditions in Canada

 Phillips and Scarsella’s Toronto house, decorated for Halloween night. Located at 10 Navenby Cres., in Toronto. (Photo: Sydney Brasil)

Phillips and Scarsella’s Toronto house, decorated for Halloween night. Located at 10 Navenby Cres., in Toronto. (Photo: Sydney Brasil)

By Ashley Alagurajah

Halloween is typically known as a time for horror films and excesses of chocolate. However, at its core is a holiday in which despite expectations, is a day fulfilled by time spent with family, friends and community.

It can be seen as a time where people can expect to dress up, party and be spooked by haunted houses.

To many Canadians, it is another celebration to cherish and take advantage of when it comes to spending time with those they love and care for. It can be a time to reminisce and build new memories, give back and spend time with loved ones.

Sydney Brasil, a second-year journalism student has watched her grandparents set up elaborate Halloween décor on their front lawn since 2005.

In October, their home is transformed into a dungeon “complete with a cemetery, drawbridge, and tons of spooky electronic figures,” said Brasil.

After nearly two decades of decorating, Debbie Phillips and Marco Scarsella, Brasil’s grandparents, have refined the process and now have the operation ready to go each Halloween.

“Marco loves doing this for the kids. He just loves the fact they can (go) through and have fun and get a scare,” said Phillips about her husband.

The couple starts by taking everything out of their storeroom in order to start setting up outside. Then, the process of turning their house into the spooky sensation begins.

According to Brasil, the home takes approximately three to five days to complete and Phillips even takes the week off work to decorate.  

For as long as she can remember, her grandparents have set up their display annually for their family, friends and neighbours to enjoy.

In fact, one year the couple caught the attention of Global News, who covered the action going on at the house.

“This is something that makes our family really happy. And I’m happy it can be shared with other people too,” said Brasil.

Now at 20-years-old, Brasil marvels at the transition from enjoying the fun of the frightening dungeon as a child to now experiencing the joy of the setup. As well as getting to watch young children enjoy it the way she once did.

Brasil expects this tradition to continue to carry on for much longer. “My grandparents are younger than most grandparents. So, I don't see it ending any time soon. I'll probably revive it once I have my own front yard,” she said.

For Karen Hirji, a third-year early childhood education student at the University of Guelph-Humber, Halloween nights are dedicated to giving back to her community.

For the past three years, Hirji has spent Halloween volunteering at her church, The Stone Church, in downtown Toronto.

The Stone Church has been hosting an annual Fall Fest  for the past four years.

 Visitors at The Stone Church’s Fall Fest of 2017 (Photo courtesy of The Stone Church via Facebook)

Visitors at The Stone Church’s Fall Fest of 2017 (Photo courtesy of The Stone Church via Facebook)

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The night typically consists of free cotton candy, popcorn, chocolate, games and bouncy castles for the community to enjoy, families with young children in particular.

Fall Fest originated when lead pastor, J.D. Mallory thought it would be a good way to spread love and serve the community around The Stone Church.

When Hirji was recruited to volunteer, she said she agreed to do it because for her, volunteering and “giving her time to serve the community is a tangible way to see and experience God’s love.”

Hirji is one of 30 volunteers at the event. She describes her fondest memory of the Fall Fest as seeing the smiles on parents’ faces when she tells them that the event, food and games are free.

“Parents often tell us that many events are expensive, and they didn’t have anything else to do on Halloween night … I would only hope that our gesture of free facilities and fun only shows our love for the people in Toronto,” said Hirji.  

Every year the staff get together in order to brainstorm how they can make the Fall Fest as spectacular as possible. This year, their highlight was introducing a slime-making table for children.

The Stone Church is expected to keep the Fall Fest on track for many years down the road. The event is valued in the community as it offers a fun and inexpensive Halloween excursion.

For many Canadians, pumpkin carving is a yearly tradition during the fall. Some may even describe it as a vital activity to partake in during the season.

From carving a design to watching her grandmother roast the excess pumpkin seeds, Serenity Noble, an eleventh-grade student from Calgary, is one Canadian who has carried this tradition since childhood.

“Ever since I was a little kid, during the Halloween season I remember sleeping over at my nana and papa’s house (and) going to the grocery store to get like, four pumpkins. I would draw a face and then my grandpa would carve it out for me,” explained Noble.

This heartwarming tradition was altered in 2016 when Noble’s grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.

However, Noble continues the tradition of pumpkin carving, only without her grandfather by her side.

“Even though my grandpa isn’t alive anymore, I still enjoy being thankful about his life and doing the things we used to do,” said Noble.

Canada without a doubt has a wide range of both common and uncommon traditions and activities that people engage in around the country.
All of which contribute to the wonderful celebration of Halloween in the country each year.



The Power Plant’s fall exhibition features engaging multi-medium art

By Natalie Michie

The Power Plant is known for their seasonal exhibitions of Canadian contemporary art. This fall, they featured five artists who presented a variety of unique multi-medium art.

Visitors were lined up around the building at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 19 for the Fall 2018 Opening Party.

Each of the gallery’s season exhibitions includes an opening party where admission is free and anyone is welcome.

This season, the gallery featured five artists: Abbas Akhavan, Vivian Suter, Elizabeth Wild, Karla Black and Beth Stuart.

With the intent of making visitors more aware of their bodies and the space they take up in a room, much of the work was created by the artists with the exact intent to be experienced in The Power Plant’s gallery.

As visitors entered the gallery, they were first introduced to Akhavan’s piece, an abstract exhibit with the theme of changing seasons.

 Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

His exhibit consisted of green TV screens on each side of the room, a fountain wrapped in a tarp, a stick, and a non-working iPhone charger plugged into the wall.

“His work is left open to interpretation,” said Emily Peltier, a gallery assistant at the Power Plant.

Although there was little information about Akhavan's piece, he included a written component where he asked a group of writers to write about what came to mind when hearing the word “fountain.” Their contributions were featured in booklets available for visitors to take home.

According to Melissa Gerkup, an art enthusiast and event volunteer, the way in which art is displayed here is through one panel that gives little information and another that lists all of the materials that were used.

“The rest is left up to your imagination. It’s up to you,” said Gerkup.

In the next room of the gallery, visitors admired clusters of painted canvases that were hung from the ceiling by artist Vivian Suter.

 Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Gerkup said that she felt like she was in nature by the set-up of how the canvases were hung. Canvases were painted with a wide variety of colours and marks left from elements of nature, such as visible flood stains. This, paired with visitors needing to navigate the paintings to see them all, created a forest-like feeling.

In fact, a large part of Suter’s creative process is her collaboration with nature. It all started after a hurricane flooded her studio and damaged her work. From then on, she began leaving her canvases out to allow them to be altered by the outdoor elements.

“Sometimes it is hard to focus on the individual paintings, but because everything is put so closely together it makes me think that the intent was for the work to be shown as one big piece, rather than looking at each painting individually,” Gerkup said.

As opposed to some art galleries where patrons admire pieces from afar, guests at The Power Plant were invited to walk through the pieces in order to experience them in the way the artists intended them to.

This includes the site-specific piece created by artist Karla Black, who used household items such as eyeshadow, lipstick and blush to create her aesthetics influenced piece. She included her daughter in the making of the piece by having her put her handprints on the walls around the room.

Rebecca Black, a student at the Toronto Film School, said she had a hard time visualizing the planning behind such a large-scale sculptural piece.

“I love it,” said Black, “It has me thinking, did (she) do it in (her) living room first? How does someone come up with this?”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Beth Stuart’s work was displayed all around the Power Plant, including outdoors. Her piece had multiple aspects, such as video, and perhaps provided the most context out of any of the other exhibits.

Visitors saw the first piece of Stuart’s installation while waiting outside, where a traditional 18th-century bathing machine was installed. Guests were welcomed to enter the bathing machine, which was used in the Victorian era by high-class members of society to enter bodies of water.  

Upstairs, Stuart’s take on traditional bathing costumes were hung, and visitors could proceed through a hallway featuring sculptures that symbolize microorganisms found in the sand.

“There is a lot of elements but they are all connected,” said Nadia Nardine, a volunteer and fan of Stuart, “Altogether, it is a feminist view on the 18th century.”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Featuring exhibits since 1987, the gallery has been popular amongst visitors and art lovers for its seasonal exhibits that are always uniquely designed and different each time.

Harry Clarke, a Ryerson journalism student, said going to The Power Plant is one of his favourite things to do. He explained that he tends to go there whenever he feels anxious.

“It is a great place for me to centre myself and remind myself of my existence because for one, the artists always have such an eloquent way of describing existence,” said Clarke, “I always cry here, but it is a good release.”

The Power Plant’s Fall Exhibition will be featured at the gallery until Dec. 20, 2018.






Lil Uzi Vert and Juice Wrld headline Western’s Purple Fest

Western alum, Loud Luxury, and multi-platinum producer, Murda Beatz also performed at the six-hour long day festival during FOCO last Saturday in London, Ont.

 Clad in a ski-mask with four bags hanging off of his shoulders, Lil Uzi Vert performs in the on-campus parking lot turned festival venue. Photo / Benjamin Hargreaves

Clad in a ski-mask with four bags hanging off of his shoulders, Lil Uzi Vert performs in the on-campus parking lot turned festival venue. Photo / Benjamin Hargreaves

By: Benjamin Hargreaves

The sold-out festival at Western University went off without a hitch last Saturday, but that might not have been a good thing.

The concert, organized by Western University’s Student Council, sold out of its 12,000 tickets with the Western WSC stating that, at its peak, there were over 11,000 in attendance.

Purple Fest was a mid-day music festival organized by Western’s USC in a bid to draw unsanctioned partiers off residential streets.

The consensus of the crowd was that Grammy-nominated recording artist, Lil Uzi Vert, was the performer attendees were looking forward to most. This seemed to be the case as the crowd broke apart into scattered mosh pits upon his entry.

Before Uzi took the stage, Chicago rapper, Juice Wrld, performed his explosive hits Lucid Dreams and Lean Wit Me. He also covered the late XXXTENTACION’s Take a Step Back.

Other acts included Maestro, Drezo, WISE, Matt Royal and Toronto based rapper, Jordon Solomon.

With only one unspecified non life-threatening injury reported by the Western USC, they consider Purple Fest a success, but it might have caused problems in other ways.

The concert was meant to give students an alternative to partying on streets, but it might have magnified the problem, according to John Pare, London’s police chief at a news conference addressing FOCO on Tuesday.

In 2016, the university decided to move homecoming to late October as a way of deterring the illegal street parties. But the student body’s response to this decision wasn’t what the university expected.  

With the new date of homecoming plagued by midterms and colder weather, the students took to the streets on Oct. 1, 2016, for the first ever “fake homecoming” or FOCO.

London police estimated that about 10,000 people showed up in 2016 and that increased to 11,000 in 2017.

But this year was by far the biggest turn-out for FOCO with the LPS announcing Tuesday that they estimate the number of partiers to have been 20,000.

Details are still emerging about FOCO but the LPS reported that there were 134 charges, over 3,000 warnings and 28 people taken to hospital. The costs of policing alone are expected to be in excess of $100,000.

When the dust settles around FOCO we will have to wait to see if Purple Fest will make an appearance next year.




A Look Into the Mosaic of Toronto

The Lives of International Students in Canada’s Most Diverse City

By Chloe Cook and Severina Chu

Every year, thousands of international students come to Canada in hopes of improving on their education and experiencing a new culture.

From their education to their lifestyle, these students encounter multiple challenges and changes that they must adapt to.

Being away from home has forced them to learn to face obstacles such as culture shock and living alone in order to engage in their new Canadian lifestyle. Each of these four international students have their own ways of adapting to life in Canada. Here’s a look into the challenges and rewards that they’ve experienced during their time here.

Divyansh Chandel

 Divyansh Chandel, 22, is an aerospace engineering student from Kuwait, India. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Divyansh Chandel, 22, is an aerospace engineering student from Kuwait, India. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Divyansh Chandel has spent the last four and a half years adding everything from president of the Engineering Student Society, to International Student Director at the Ryerson Students’ Union to his impressive resume. On top of that, he has two startups under his belt and he is currently organizing a presentation for retired astronaut and engineer, Chris Hadfield.

“Every time I’ve taken a step to do something innovative, Canada has helped me.” Chandel said about his multiple endeavours.

In 2014, he moved to Toronto from Kuwait, India to begin an aerospace engineering degree at Ryerson. However, Canada was not his first choice. He originally applied to schools in the United States but his parents urged him to look into a Canadian education stating that it was a much ‘nicer’ place.

“When I was in twelfth grade applying, my love for Canada started growing. Everyone's so friendly, everyone's so accepting and that's one of the reasons I came to Canada.” Chandel said.

However, Ryerson did not entirely live up to his expectations. “I grew up with these university party movies, I didn't expect Ryerson to be a commuter school. I thought it would be like Queen’s or Western. I thought that's what every weekend would be,” he explained.

When Chandel came to realize that he wouldn’t be bonding with his peers over beer pong and karaoke, he took it upon himself to meet other international students like himself. He started volunteering his time to various clubs and organizations to meet new people.

As the International Student Director, he has begun to implement events such as the International Students’ Welcome Lunch, that allowed students from all over the world to meet each other and form connections as they started their school year.

While Chandel has enjoyed his time in Canada, it has not always been easy. Moving to a new country is bound to give you at least a few culture shocks and difficulties. For Chandel, one of the most difficult things about the transition was keeping in touch with his family in Kuwait.

“It was very hard in the start. I tried to have one Skype video call every weekend and at least check in with them on WhatsApp or Messenger everyday. They would check in with me too. As I got busier, it got harder,” he said.

His mother and sister moved to Canada in January of this year, so it is slightly easier to stay in contact with them now, however with his father still in India, it’s still just as difficult.

Despite this, Chandel says that he has no regrets coming to Canada. When asked about the biggest advantage his move had for him, he responded, “If you take an initiative, Canada rewards you for that initiative and that's what I love about Canada.”

Adela Zyfi

 Adela Zyfi, 22, is a student from Albania who is studying biomedical science with a minor in Spanish. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Adela Zyfi, 22, is a student from Albania who is studying biomedical science with a minor in Spanish. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Adela Zyfi moved to Toronto from Tirana, Albania in Grade 12 in search of a better education.

“There’s a lot of corruption within the education system, so unless you pay a lot of money, you probably won’t get in,” she said, “There’s little to no chance you’re going to get a good education.”

Zyfi chose Canada because it’s an English speaking country with some of the most lenient immigration laws in the world, which helped make her decision easy. She plans on becoming a permanent resident in Canada after she graduates to help her pursue career opportunities unavailable in Albania.

Something that was difficult to get used to in Toronto for Zyfi was the diversity. Up until around 20 years ago, Albania was a communist country with a very strict immigration system in which the country was almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world. Due to the fact that nearly no one new could come into the country, Albania did not have a very diverse population.

“Coming here, I was shocked. I was like, ‘Oh my God! I have never seen people that look different than me!’” she said, “It was really awesome and I love it, but it is one of the things that really hits you.”

Moving to Canada has given her a lot of opportunities, but it has also come with its own set of challenges and barriers. Although Zyfi could speak English, Albanian, and Spanish, she said that the language and culture barrier was still difficult to maneuver around during her first years in Canada.

“I may have known English from a book, but you miss little jokes or references from shows and movies and things that are in North American culture. People would make a reference to a food or thing or a person and I would have no idea, I’d be so lost,” she said.

Another barrier that Zyfi found difficult to overcome was the 20-hour work week limit put in place by the Canadian government to ensure international students are focusing on their studies.

“Our expenses are so high that 20 hours on minimum wage is not going to cover anything, especially living in Toronto,” she said.

She stated that this rule puts a lot of students in a tough situation where they must choose whether or not to accept “precarious, under-the-table work” in order to meet their needs.

While Zyfi is enjoying her life in Canada, it is just temporary. She aims to continue travelling and seeking opportunities around the globe once she gains permanent residency in Canada.

Paula Lozada

 Paula Lozada, 19, hopes to become a Canadian citizen in order to bring her family here. (Courtesy of Paula Lozada/Instagram)

Paula Lozada, 19, hopes to become a Canadian citizen in order to bring her family here. (Courtesy of Paula Lozada/Instagram)

Paula Lozada was just 16 years old when she came to Canada by herself.

Lozada was born in Dubai, where her family currently resides as she studies abroad. Currently studying business administration management at Seneca College, Lozada knew that leaving her family behind to come to Canada was a decision that would benefit her in the future.

“When I was in high school, most of my teachers were Indian. There was one specific teacher who was British but because she was white, she earned triple compared to other teachers,” she said, “Basically, if you’re coming from the West and you show that you have a degree from here, they’ll really invest a lot in you when you go back home.”

When talking about living alone in a foreign country, she admitted that there were difficulties.

“My first year here, I didn’t have any work experience from back home.” Lozada started out in door-to-door marketing, which she admits wasn’t the best experience. She then switched to retail and currently works at Nordstrom.

Another difficulty was contacting her family due to the ban in Dubai of multiple messaging platforms. Which leaves Lozada and her family limited to texting.

“It’s hard because back home, Skype is banned, calls on WhatsApp are banned, any social media calling or video chat is banned. It’s harder to keep in contact,” she said.

However, Lozada has still found ways to keep in touch with her culture and feel at home.

When she began volunteering at the Filipino festival, Taste of Manila, she was able to meet more people from the Filipino community. She also mentioned the Underground Dance Centre as one of her favourite places to go when she starts to feel homesick.

“Back home, my family and I would go dancing every weekend. (The Underground Dance Centre) is this non-profit organization where all of the people who are away from their families gather and dance,” she explained. “Whenever I can, I go to Underground because it makes me feel at home.”

But the one thing from home she can’t seem to get? The food.

There are several Filipino restaurants in Toronto, but nothing can compare to the authenticity of home cooking. “Sometimes I crave Filipino food or my dad’s cooking. I try to make it myself, but it’s not the same,” she said.

Despite the lack of home cooking, Lozada has made herself comfortable in Canada.

Her hope for the future is to become a Canadian citizen. She hopes to graduate and stay in Canada for a few more years in order to get her full citizenship. “I want to get the Canadian passport. Then, I’d help move my family here because life here is easier.”

Soumya Gupta

 Soumya Gupta, 21, is on exchange from India and is currently studying graphic communication management at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

Soumya Gupta, 21, is on exchange from India and is currently studying graphic communication management at Ryerson University. (CanCulture/Chloe Cook)

When the opportunity came up to study abroad, Soumya Gupta took the chance.

Though she was already studying two hours away from her hometown back in India, coming to Canada would be a new challenge. She chose to study graphic communication management at Ryerson University, which was similar to the graphic design major she was doing back home. This would be her first time out of the country, and her first time having to adapt to a new culture.

“It’s been a journey of ups and downs,” she described. “Moving away in India was easy because you’re aware of the culture and you know what to expect. Moving here, I kind of experienced culture shock.”

The culture shock came in terms of the education itself, Gupta saying that things are taught “more detailed and precise” in Canada and how the content she was learning differed from back home.

Gupta has only been in Canada for a month but through her exchange program, she’s been able to meet international students from across the globe. “A month ago, I hadn’t met anyone from any other countries. Now, I have friends from five or six countries,” she said.

Even though she’s been exposed to so many new cultures, Gupta is still able to surround herself with people who remind her of home.

“The people that I’m staying with are both exchange students from India, and we have a few more friends from India as well,” she told us. Being surrounded by people from home has helped her adapt, especially since language is not a barrier between them. She told us that every so often, her and her friends will get together and have a night in.

There are also things in the city that have helped her feel at home. For instance, when the RSU Wellness Centre was offering an Indian dance activity, she was able to meet more Indian people while getting a good heart pump. In addition, she prefers to explore the cuisines in the city that she cannot get in India.

Due to Gupta’s exchange only being for one term, she will be going back to India by December to finish her final year to get her degree. She then plans to continue school and do her masters in graphic design.

When asked if she would consider coming back to Canada, she said that it was too early to commit, though it’s still a possibility. “I always want to go back to India because the attachment will always be there. But if the opportunities are better in places like Canada, I might come back,” she said.

The Myth of Being Rich

Although all four of these students’ experiences in Canada have been vastly different, one idea was consistent among them - that the stereotype that international students are rich should be laid to rest. The widely believed notion that international students are beyond affluent is, more times than not, inaccurate and often offensive.

For Lozada, the stereotype has always made her uncomfortable. “I’ve met people who are rich, but there’s also some people who are international students and are still struggling.”

Chandel shares the same sentiment. “Some international students are getting government funds, some of them their parents have scraped together everything they could to educate their child. So one of the biggest stigmas that I don’t stand with is that international students are rich.”

Zyfi noted that while many people think international students are rich, many of them are putting themselves at risk for a paycheque. “A lot of international students find themselves in a not safe or risky position because they need to make money to support themselves.”

No matter where they came from or what they came for, these four students and many others like them, have uprooted their lives to find better opportunities in Toronto and to improve the quality of life in the city we live in.









Thanksgiving traditions across Canada

By: Sukaina Jamil

Although Thanksgiving enjoys a celebrated history  in Canada spanning hundreds of years, what’s often lost is how this festive holiday is observed from coast to coast. It’s an official statutory holiday in every province and territory, but it may come as a surprise that in four provinces, namely, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Thanksgiving does not hold that statutory holiday status. What’s more, not every region chooses to serve the seemingly requisite turkey and mashed potatoes as the main dish.

Now that the long weekend has come to an end, let’s talk about the different spreads on tables across Canada, and try not to salivate as we go.

Let’s be real, the year-long hype that comes with Thanksgiving season is largely due to its staple fare: turkey, roasted season vegetables, some variant of potatoes and of course, pumpkin spice and everything nice.

Although you might assume that these dishes are executed in the same way across the country, most Thanksgiving dinner spreads contain some features that are unique to their region.

Residents of Prince Edward Island often spruce up their Thanksgiving starches with some lobster mashed potatoes, infusing two of the province’s most beloved ingredients. Nova Scotians opt to not mash their potatoes, but rather throw them in a stew with a bunch of other vegetables to create Nova Scotian Hodge Podge (most intriguing name ever - a must try).  

Taking a sweeter turn, pumpkin pie has become the lifeblood  of the Thanksgiving season. After all, it is fall, and what feature speaks more to our country’s love of the harvest season than the delectably saccharine pumpkin? However, no Thanksgiving spread is complete with just one dessert, which is where each province’s character emerges. Ontarians delve into decadent butter tarts, while Nanaimo bars are spruced up and served by the dozens in British Columbia. Ever heard of Saskatoon Berry Pie? It competes fiercely with its pumpkin counterpart on dessert tables across Saskatchewan.

You didn’t think we’d forget about the bread, did you? While American Thanksgiving feasts are traditionally served with cornbread, Canadians in Manitoba and Yukon combat with their bannock and sourdough bread, providing a variety tastes and textures for your palette.

Bannock can be served in many different forms, and is a traditional Métis food. Thanksgiving traditions in Canada trace back to long before European settlers came to the land to when Indigenous people would hold feasts in celebration of the fall harvest. Manitobans still include traditional Aboriginal foods in their Thanksgiving meals as a way to honour this piece of history.  

From stews and starches to pies of all kinds, no two tables in Canada are likely to look the same on Thanksgiving.

If you’re getting the urge to travel across the country and divulge in some Thanksgiving leftovers from different provinces and territories, we don’t blame you. In fact, let us know if you need some eating buddies!

Enduring Freedom at Nuit Blanche

By: Chloe Cook

 Ze Mair, co-creator and performer during rehearsal (Photo by: Zahra Salecki)

Ze Mair, co-creator and performer during rehearsal (Photo by: Zahra Salecki)


What do the words, ‘Wonderland’, ‘Swamp Fox’, and ‘Enduring Freedom’ have in common? Although they sound like nonsense, they were actually military operation code names. As well as the basis of a 12-hour continuous dance installation at Nuit Blanche this year.

It all started with a list of 3,600 military operations that was compiled by Canadian poet Moez Surani. Operations: 1946-2006 was performed by approximately 60 people as a five-hour spoken word piece on the night of Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“With the general feeling of anxiety and despair that followed the last American election, we wanted to do something that could create some solidarity,” Surani said, as well as a “physical reminder that we are not all alone in this.”

The idea was to make military operations more than just a name and to shed light on the effects that these operations had on real communities around the globe.

“The language that often gets used is from the poetic imagination: dawn, sunrise, freedom, purity. These kinds of poetic-seeming words help to create support for state violence,” said Surani.

 Dancers in their fifth hour of performing (Photo by: Chloe Cook)

Dancers in their fifth hour of performing (Photo by: Chloe Cook)

One of the readers that performed was Michael Reinhart, a performance creator and theatre instructor at Randolph College and the University of Toronto. Although the reading had finished, Reinhart knew that the life of the poem was not over.


“I thought it was really kind of tragic that this naming was not done in public and that we as a community could not contend with the activities that we do as a community.” Reinhart said. “What I wanted to figure out is how to allow Operations to be social.”

Reinhart surely found a way to do just that on the night of Nuit Blanche. With the help of choreographers and co-directors, Magdalena Vasko and Ze Mair, and a handful of dancers, Reinhart turned Surani’s poem into a 12-hour ballet performance.

The dance piece is comprised of a sequence of movements that is repeated once for every military operation while the names are projected onto the wall. Which means that the sequence is repeated continually 3600 times, over a period of 12 hours throughout the night.

When it came to figuring out how to best represent the effects of war, it seemed that there was no better option than ballet to the creators.

“Ballet was an analogy for the military because it's skilled, rigorous, bodies that are able to do extraordinary acts that are deeply impossible yet it appears to have exceptional ease,” said Reinhart.

 Michael Reinhart, co-creator of  Operations  going over the timing of the piece in rehearsal (Photo by: Magdalena Vasko)

Michael Reinhart, co-creator of Operations going over the timing of the piece in rehearsal (Photo by: Magdalena Vasko)

According to Vasko, one of the creators of the piece, translating the number 3600 into a series of physical movements was one of the top priorities when choreographing.

Vasko said that being able to represent a statistic in a way that resonated with the audience was also important. “It's interesting to put it into your body, the number that you've been talking about,” she said.


In the piece, there are approximately 25 dancers who perform the sequence of movements across a square patch of grass in the middle of an auditorium. Throughout the performance, the grass begins to fall apart, representing the effects that these operations have on the land, the communities, and the people.


According to Sara Hinding, a dancer in Operations, the duration of the piece also contributes to the message of the dance as the performers get more and more worn down over time.

“By the end of the night we're avoiding each other and we're getting frustrated and we're tired and we don't want to do things and there's dynamics and we're looking dead into the eyes of people in the audience,” she explained.

 Volunteers clearing the sod off the floor after the performance (Photo by: Chloe Cook)

Volunteers clearing the sod off the floor after the performance (Photo by: Chloe Cook)


Carmen Leardi, who is also an Operations dancer gave an example of how the piece offers a “disturbing” contrast of the effects of the operations.

“(In) one year there were a lot of dancers coming in and the choreography was really quick. Then the next year everything tones down. There are a few dancers in the space and the choreography is stretched over a longer piece of time.”

Although most of the dancers had never danced for 12-hours straight, the tensions were anything but high. Everyone was exceptionally calm and focused.

Veronica Simpson, Operations dancer, said she kept herself busy through the night by experimenting with the choreography.

“I kept myself occupied by finding new places to make contact with the audience members and different ways to execute the choreography while maintaining the same overall form,” she explained.

Audience members were free to come and go as they pleased, allowing them to check the progress of the piece throughout the night.

According to Reinhard, there were around 1,400 people who came through the doors.

Mark Francis, an audience member called the piece mesmerizing and said that he could not stop staring at it due to the different moving parts and the relentlessness of the piece.

“I think the subject matter is obviously very dark and depressing but the form and the soundtrack and everything was super beautiful and I found it really meditative to look at,” Francis said.

Cassandra Alves, another member of the audience, noted the similarities between the military and ballet.

“It definitely parallels as if you're going through any kind of military operation which is kind of scary. The dancers literally go through it in a different form,” said Alves.

As for Vasko, who was also a performer in addition to being a creator, said finally performing the piece with all of the dancers was cathartic.

“To collectively be so devoted felt like we were on a battlefield fighting for the same cause,” Vasko said, “It was like a funeral, a remembrance, a memorial and a sacrifice all at the same time.”

Although no one is chomping at the bit to dive into another night long performance anytime soon, the experience is one that the audience, performers, and creators will never forget.
Hinding said after the performance that is was a test of her abilities, “In my opinion a piece like this is a true testament to the human spirit and what it is capable of.”

 Dancers in motion during a rehearsal (Photo by: Magdalena Vasko)

Dancers in motion during a rehearsal (Photo by: Magdalena Vasko)