Eric's page of useful bits of information for new CS grad students
Welcome to York. This page isn't intended to give "official"
information about the programme. Instead, it gives some bits of
information that will, I hope, help you adjust to life at York
and in Toronto. Perhaps it will help make your time here a
little more fun too.
Information about the CS grad programme.
Faculty of Graduate Studies.
A full range of York's resources for students is described
on this page.
You can get
internet access on campus in various ways. You can also
access the department's computers via
The Student Community and Leadership Development page has information about campus life and can help you find
The free student newspaper, Excalibur, has information about what's
happening on campus. So does
Getting some physical exercise is good for you. Check out the university's athletic facilities. You're already paying for the facilities in your fees, so you should use them.
Here is a map of campus.
York uses abbreviations for building names (but likes to conceal the actual meanings of the acronyms in obscure web pages). To reveal the secret code, go to this page.
York's library has a good
collection of resources for research in computer science.
Most of the university's science collection is in the Steacie
Library, right next to the CS building.
A lot of CS journals and conference proceedings
(and other resources, like the
available on-line and can be accessed by any computer at York.
If you want to access those resources from at home, see
John Dupuis (in room 102E of the Steacie Library)
is the librarian responsible for computer science.
The York library loans videotapes and dvds (check the audiovisual library
in the Scott Library). Free movies!
you need to find something really obscure (or want to read some
Estonian literature), you can also check the University of Toronto
library, which is
one of the most extensive in North America. As a grad student
at York, you can get a UofT library card for free. (See
this page for info.)
Everyone has free access to the 99 branches of the
Toronto Public Library across the city which have
some things that university
libraries don't (e.g., a great collection of up-to-date travel guidebooks
at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St.).
If you're trying to find a CS journal or conference paper,
a good place to start is
of Computer Science Bibliographies
or DBLP. You can also try Google Scholar.
As a budding computer scientist, you should look into joining a professional
society like the Association for Computing
Machinery (which has special interest
groups in several areas of computer science)
or the Institute for
Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
It's fun to get involved with the ACM computer programming contest.
Make contacts with other grad students in the department (and also in other departments). Having friends around makes your time on campus more fun, but it's also an important support system. If you have questions about how something works, you can ask them. Learn from other students' experiences. If you have a research problem (or a supervisor) that is driving you crazy, you can talk about it with sympathetic fellow grad students. If you have a question or a comment that is of general interest to grad students in the department, you can use the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list.
Two major sources for scholarships are the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council of Canada and the Ontario Graduate
Toronto is a great city to live in, and there's always lots to do.
Take advantage of this.
The most important sources for stuff to do around town are
NOW magazine and
eye weekly, which are both free weekly magazines
that are published every Thursday.
Toronto Life magazine (monthly) also
has lots of interesting information about the city, and if you order
a subscription, they might send you a book of 2-for-1 coupons that you
can use at various and attractions around the city.
Some Toronto web sites:
The public transit system (TTC)
is a good way to get around town.
Ask someone in a subway station ticket booth for a free map of the
system. You pay one fare to go anywhere within city limits
and can transfer from one vehicle to another as many times as you
like (with no stopovers). To transfer between vehicles, take a paper
slip (a "transfer") when you pay your fare. The fare is paid using tickets or tokens ($2.10 each, but you must buy 5 at a time; cash fare is higher).
The subways run until 1:00 or 2:00 am (depending on where you are),
and some of the buses run all night. If you use the system a lot,
it might be worth it to buy a metropass (York students can buy
them at a discounted price of $87.75 for a month of unlimited travel
on the TTC--see this page).
The official TTC web site is among the worst I have ever seen, but it's due to be redesigned; in the meantime, several people have created their own useful web pages about the TTC (e.g. crazed monkey's map.
To get downtown from York by TTC: Take bus number 196 (or number 106,
which is slower, but has longer hours of service) to Downsview subway
station. Both buses can be boarded just south of the York
Lanes/Student Centre building. Then take the subway train south.
Once you get beyond Dupont station, you're downtown.
GO Transit also runs trains
and buses that serve York University. York's
has more information too.
Toronto is also a fairly good city for biking, for at least part of the
year. There are several maps of Toronto that show all the bike routes
(see this link).
The Martin Goodman trail, which runs along the shore of Lake Ontario is
a nice place for recreational riding.
Google Maps or Yahoo Maps will help you find
any street address in Toronto.
Toronto on a Student Budget
eye magazine publishes
a student guide that lists places you can get stuff cheap.
NOW also published a set of similar articles in 2005.
Ikea (several locations, including one at the Leslie subway station)
has good quality, inexpensive furniture and small household
items, all with cute Swedish names.
If you're setting up an apartment you might want to check out
Toronto's tackiest store, Honest Ed's
(Bloor and Bathurst; you can't miss it) for cheap housewares,
but also for the experience that is Ed's.
Travel Cuts, which has an office
on campus, can get you good student discounts on air fares and other
For music, the best selection of new cd's is probably at HMV (Yonge St, just
north of Dundas), now that Sam's has, sadly, gone out of business.
To make your student dollar stretch farther, you
can also check out the many used cd stores in town.
There's a cluster of them on Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst.
For books, some favourites are the World's Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward
Street, near Dundas station), the
University of Toronto Bookstore, and Book City (various locations).
There are a ton of specialty bookstores in town. There are also many
great used bookstores, including Seekers (509 Bloor W), Eliots
(584 Yonge), Atticus (84 Harbord).
Some cinemas are cheaper than others; look around.
There are still a few repertory cinemas left which charge less (every day) for
a movie than
They show movies a little after
they are released in the major cinemas (and they also show some old classics).
See NOW for listings.
The CBC posted an article about tax breaks for students.
Things to Do
There are tons of events going on all the time in Toronto.
Here's a random sample of some places/events you should check out:
Many of the cultural events in the city offer tickets to students
(or people under 30) at incredible discounts. In particular,
Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the
Canadian Opera Company and
Soulpepper Theatre Company have great deals.
York University and the University of Toronto stage student
productions of plays (and even operas) for very reasonable prices.
- The Toronto Islands: this is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Most of the islands are parkland. Take your bike or rent one there.
They are a 15-minute ferry ride from the bottom of Bay Street (just
south of Union Station).
- Art galleries: The Art Gallery of Ontario has a nice collection.
The McMichael Gallery, in Kleinburg, Ontario (northwest of the city)
has the best collection of art by Canada's Group of 7. See NOW magazine
for listings of shows at small galleries around the city.
- Live Bands: There are lots of live bands performing every
night. Some neat places to see shows include the legendary
Horseshoe Tavern, the Rivoli, Lee's Palace, the Lula Lounge,
the Opera House, the Phoenix. See NOW or eye for listings.
- Theatre: Toronto has the second most active theatre scene in
North America. NOW magazine has listings and reviews.
- Toronto International Film Festival:
the second most important film festival in the world. A chance to see
films from all over that you might not otherwise see. At the beginning
- Harbourfront, on the
lakeshore between Spadina and York Street.
- Join a club. Toronto has clubs for all kinds of activities.
I know people who have organized
yurting trips and
Balboa workshops. If you can't find what you're looking for,
start a club and other interested people will find you. As a starting
point, here's a
list of York's clubs.
- There are lots of places to go hiking or camping near the city.
The Bruce Trail is really beautiful.
If you want to get back to nature within the city limits, check out
High Park, the Toronto Islands, or the parks in the ravines that run
through the city.
- Go dancing.
- Tafelmusik is a famous
- Skiing: There are a few ski resorts near Toronto.
Blue Mountain (near
Collingwood, a 1.5 hour
drive north of the city) is the best.
A season pass there might work out cheaper.
link gives a computer scientist's view of buying a ski pass, assuming
there's a chance you'll break your legs each time you go skiing.)
- Beaches: There are some beaches in the city (e.g. Sunnyside
Beach, Cherry Beach and some on the Toronto Islands). Some might actually
be safe for swimming. If you have a car, you can also head to beaches
along the south shore of Lake Simcoe (1 hour drive) or
Georgian Bay (1.5 hour drive), which are less likely to be polluted.
Wasaga Beach, on Georgian Bay,
is the longest freshwater beach in the world.
- Panorama restaurant, on the 51st floor of the Manulife Center (at
Bay and Bloor Streets) is a
nice place to take out-of-town visitors on a warm evening. The patio
has great views of the city.
- Spectator sports: Toronto is a
hockey town. I think there might be some other pro sports teams
in the city too.
There are lots of interesting neighbourhoods to explore in Toronto,
each with its own character. 10 of my favourites:
About half of Toronto's residents
were born outside Canada, so many ethnic communities have
stores, churches, community centers, and restaurants geared
towards members of that community. (For example,
even for a tiny country like Estonia, Toronto has the Estonian House
community center, 3 churches,
a credit union, a newspaper, and a few stores).
Sometimes these are gathered into a single neighbourhood, but
sometimes they are spread out across the city.
- The Annex (around Bloor and Spadina): lots of neat stores and
great restaurants along Bloor and Harbord,
Victorian houses on the sidestreets. Future Bakery has the best
selection of desserts in town.
- The Beach (Queen East, east of Woodbine Ave): shops, Kew Gardens,
the boardwalk along the beach itself.
- Bloor West Village (Bloor St. W, around Runnymede Road):
delis, shops. Go for a walk through High Park.
- Chinatown and Kensington Market: Toronto has several Chinatowns,
but the oldest and most vibrant is around Spadina and Dundas. Kensington
Market (interesting food stores and vintage clothing) is a couple
blocks west of Spadina, between Dundas and College.
- Church and Wellesley: The city's main gay neighbourhood.
Martini bars, restaurants.
- College West (west of Bathurst): swanky bars, good restaurants.
Italian and Portuguese community.
- The Danforth (Danforth Avenue, east of Broadview): Greek
restaurants, nice shops.
- St Lawrence Market (Front and Jarvis): There's the
itself, but the neighbourhood around it is also interesting.
It's the oldest section of Toronto. St James Cathedral, the
Gooderham flatiron building. Also check out
a beautiful Victorian-era industrial complex that is now used for all kinds
of cultural events.
- Queen West (between University and Trinity Bellwoods Park):
funky, artsy neighbourhood. Live music clubs, cafes,
retro furniture, galleries, etc.
- Yorkville (just north of Bloor, between Avenue Road and Yonge):
see how the other half lives. Flo's Diner.
Information for GLBT Students
Toronto has a very large, active gay/lesbian/bi/trans community.
spread out across the city,
but many events and establishments are in the neighbourhood
centred on Church Street,
between Bloor and Carlton. A good source of information is
the free newspaper Xtra,
which comes out every second Thursday.
York has a student group
Don't miss Pride Week,
which leads up to a parade and street party
on the last Sunday in June that attracts
close to a million people each year.
Want to know about the symbolism of York's coat of arms? See
Thanks to the grad students who contributed some information to this page.
Back to Eric's
home page. Updated August 20, 2007.