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Toronto, Canada

312 Adelaide Street West, Suite 301
Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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‘I Can’t Move on This Bus and Someone Keeps Brushing Up Against Me’: Surviving the City as a Small Towner

Written by Katrina McNabb

While moving to a different city for post-secondary can be exciting, it can also be a huge source of anxiety. It’s a big step from a one horse town to a sprawling metropolis.

Here’s how I survived life when I first moved to the big city.

Don’t Fear Public Transit

Moving into a big city can be daunting, especially if you don’t know how you’re going to get from place to place. When you come from a small town, public transit can be especially disorienting. I’m here to tell you to embrace buses, streetcars and trains. Using Google Maps, it will show you the best way to get around using transit. Google Maps will also show you the exact bus stop locations. Not to forget that most cities have websites with all of their transit information.

Find Your “Places”

No matter how big a city is, you will be able to find places where you can feel calm and at home. It could be a coffee shop near your apartment, or a used bookstore, or a deli that has the best BLT around. It doesn’t matter what or where these places are, as long as they give you that feeling of being in a community. Always look for a setting that makes you comfortable.

Avoid Isolation

When you move to a new city, whether it’s for school or not, it can be tempting to go about your daily routine and then hole yourself away. Do not fall into that temptation. You’ll only be lonely and miserable; you may even start to believe that it’s the city you hate, instead of your loneliness. Make friends. Talk to people at work, in class, at the bar, on the bus, in your “places.” Talk to as many people as you can and, eventually, you’ll make friends.

Make Your New Place Your Home

Whether it’s a dorm room, an apartment, or even a house, make it your own. Put your own little quirks and preferences throughout your new place, and make it yours. I found that just putting posters on the walls and filling up my bookshelf made me feel more at home.

Avoid saying, “I’m going home,” when you go to visit your family. It’ll just reinforce the idea that you’re not comfortable or happy where you’re living now.


What’s the point of living in a big city if you’re never going to see it all? For all I’ve talked about avoiding isolation and making friends, sometimes it’s nice to just put on your headphones and explore your new home. Go to the movies by yourself, browse a bookshop alone on a Sunday afternoon, or just go shopping. It doesn’t matter what you do, just try and familiarize yourself with your new environment.

Locate the Nearest Amenities ASAP

Nothing is worse than running out of groceries, or getting sick and having no idea where the nearest grocery store or drug store is. Especially if you’re moving into an apartment or somewhere off of your university campus, it’s vital that you locate where the nearest amenities are and the quickest way to get to them.

The “Around Me” app is perfect for this sort of thing. It tells you where gas stations, ATMs, grocery stores, and even parking are in relation to you.

Memorize Your Address

This one seems simple, but trust me, it’s important. When you go to order pizza, or buy something online, you don’t want to have to check the number on your house, or go digging for your Residence move-in package. It’s just so much easier to memorize your address (and postal code!), or have it written in your phone somewhere.

Become a Local

Anyone that has lived somewhere for an extended period of time can tell who lives there permanently—and who is a tourist. Locals know all the good places to eat, the areas of town to avoid at night, and the best places to take your mom when she comes to visit. Become a local. Read the local blogs. Turn yourself into something better than a travel guide.

No matter why you’ve moved to a big city, just make sure that you establish yourself in it, or else you’re never going to enjoy it.

What are your tips for discovering a new city as a student? Let me know below.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.