This past month I’ve had the pleasure of taking an LSAT prep course at the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. With the constant comparisons being drawn between two of Canada’s most well-known universities, I thought there would be no better time than now to compare the two purported titans of Canadian academia: #McThrill and #UofTears.
To quickly preface these very unscientific rankings, I spent most of my time at U of T in one building: the Wallberg Chemistry Building! So, before the inevitable internet mob comes charging with their pitchforks, remember, the sample size is small and the takes (luke)warm!
To begin, we must investigate the most crucial of mid-day questions: which mediocre Tex-Mex chain do I hit up for lunch? Montreal may be francophone, and Toronto Anglo, but cheap burritos can be thought of as a constant, familiar offering on any campus in these turbulent times. McGill, of course, has the irreverent Quesada, while across the main gates of U of T on College Street stands Fat Bastard Burrito. I hate Quesada. I truly believe that it is unreasonable for anybody to actually like it, convenience aside. The chicken is cardboard and they give you enough guacamole to just barely plaster up a leaky hole in your basement apartment on Durocher. Luckily, the Quesada in Bronfman closed permanently at the end of April. Unfortunately, they still hold steady ground in C4. Anything — and I mean anything — is better than Quesada, so Toronto’s fast-casual Tex-Mex offering wins this round (although my LSAT instructor will not be happy I used the absence of evidence to validate my argumentative reasoning; sorry boss, the course is over).
Gates. For some reason, “top-tier” Canadian institutions of higher learning seem to be obsessed with gates. And while our Canadian gates are invariably replicated on some old-world ideal of the University Campus, both McGill and U of T’s are rather unimpressive. McGill’s got two sets, of the Roddick and Milton variety, to which the former is no doubt the more impressive of the two. Meanwhile, U of T’s College Street gates are pleasant. They’re clean, and frankly reminiscent of the Roddick Gates, albeit at a slightly smaller scale. But hey, at least they’ve managed to stay open, allowing the occasional passerby through – one of the key criteria of a ‘gate’ – which is a lot more than the McGill front entrance could say the last couple of years. By virtue of being unable to fulfill its primary duty the past couple of semesters, U of T wins on the battle of the gates, though not exactly due to the commendable beauty of its archic structure, but rather because of its practical utility.
Rush hour Tim Hortons beverage accessibility: clear victory for the Torontonians. The Timmies at the corner of University and College, right by Queens Park – no doubt a soon-to-be frequent stop for Premier-designate Doug Ford – has a morning express beverage line. No matter how long the line, I have been in and out with my double-double in under five minutes. It’s about time the Tim’s at the corner of Sherbrooke and University wrestle enough financial resources from their corporate overlords to open up one of these all-too-convenient morning lines for us caffeine-dependent students rushing to class.
In terms of the ubiquitous and indispensable category of memeability, McGill is the champion of all champions. While I’m not particular privy to the inner workings of the U of T meme community, @spicy_martlet_memes and @chaotic_martlet_memes, to name a few, keep McGillians going through the toughest of times. Their signature self-deprecating and “Big Suze”-orientated humour manages to endear themselves to all McGill students, from the finance bro to the Arts hipster. I couldn’t tell you one grievance the students at U of T have, whereas we are constantly battling everything from geopolitical conflicts to there only being one entrance to McLennan.
In the end, these two schools offer amazing academic reputations, city-living, and the opportunity to broaden one’s experiences no matter where one decides to go. If you’re a Rest of Canada-er (read: non-Quebecer), perhaps McGill will give you the best opportunity to venture outside your comfort zone and explore a culturally rich city with a splash of European flare that’s still comfortably close to home. If you’re from a small town, or a Quebecer yourself, the opportunity to live in the downtown core of Canada’s largest and most culturally diverse city will present personal and academic experiences of a lifetime.
Either way, when choosing between the two places your grandmother will be most proud of boasting about to her friends at next week’s mahjong night, you really can’t go wrong.