While we’re only a few weeks into the semester, students are approaching Reading Week. This time is often used as an opportunity to visit home again — especially considering that it lines up with Thanksgiving. If you’re a first-year heading home for the first time since starting here at Brock, you may gain a new perspective of your home life in light of new independence, or gain a new appreciation (or possibly, disdain) for your hometown now that you’ve gotten to live somewhere else. The Staff here at The Brock Press has taken this opportunity to share their thoughts about living, or at least studying, in a new town, and how their hometown feels in retrospect. Enjoy.
“When do they turn off the falls?”
Niagara Falls is an interesting city because it only has about 83,000 people, but is set up to accommodate hundreds of thousands. While the locals may stay away from the Horseshoe Falls as much as humanly possible, it creates an interesting dynamic knowing that you’re in a city constantly being inundated with new and unique faces.
Niagara Falls’ best feature is probably the Niagara Gorge; unfortunately, the gorge is a place that most tourists never put in their itineraries. It’s one of many surprising green spaces within the quickly developing city. Scaling down cliff faces to literally put your feet into class seven whirlpools from the safety of giant rocks is truly a mind-blowing experience.
It was a change adapting to spending almost all of my time in St. Catharines: it might be a bigger city, but it seemed to be a more peaceful place. There is no static in the air or an audible roaring of the falls, instead, it is a mid-sized city where inhabitants still felt like they were in an Animal Crossing-sized town — let’s face it, looking at the houses at the bottom of Glenridge hill, it genuinely feels like an intimate student community.
And while I still can’t always find my way around the labyrinth of streets known as the west end of St. Catharines — the joy is really in the journey. Making the change from the Boston Pizza on Clifton Hill to Mansion House, from a gorgeous natural wonder to a lively downtown city-scape — the difference that a few geographical kilometres of a stretch of highway can make in the feel of a place.
Hey, St. Catharines may be your home, but Niagara Falls is only 15 minutes away if you want to explore some of the less tourist-trappy things the city has to offer.
From a small town to a small university
When I entered grade 12, I remember feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. Marks started to matter, teachers started to nudge us into deciding where we would attend post-secondary, and worst of all, the looming threat of leaving our safe little ‘bubbles’ and moving out on our own into the adult world.
It was during this time that I began to realize what I wanted out of a university, or simply put, what experience I wanted to get out of it. Coming from someone who attended an elementary school and a high school that were five minutes apart, having no more than 500 students at either, I knew that the traditional “big university” experience was not for me. I never wanted to be a simple number on a professor’s attendance sheet.
But then again, I also wanted to get a broader view of the world, a world that was bigger than good ol’ Port Colborne, a city best-know for its numerous ports, its lack of a mall/ most major retailers as well as overabundance of the old and retired who really don’t “appreciate” skate-boarding. Then are the bars, by my count 14 of them centered around three Tim Hortons and Subways, leading one to ponder how a town can have three Subways and not a single movie theatre.
That’s why I chose Brock. While I may be missing out on some of the benefits of going to a school like University of Toronto, Brock more than lives up to its reputation of being a small, personable school where students go out for drinks at the Skybar with their professors, where you will know most people in your program (as long as you’re not in Sociology or Sports Management) and where it is possible to actually find a quiet place in the library — well, sometimes. We even have seminars!
So while not being a university that is overwhelming in size, funding or has the prestige of, say, Waterloo or Laurier (perhaps only for their parties), Brock is a simple, down- to- earth university where you can be a part of everybody’s business, something every small-town person lives for.
Basically living out of my car
It’s a little more difficult for me to write about my hometown because, well, I haven’t left. Instead, I’m commuting.
I drive the long 25 minute drive along the vast 406 (depending on how everyone else feels like driving that day) from the small city of Port Colborne. Yes, it’s technically a “city” but I would hardly call it that. It’s the retirement home of the Niagara Region, as well as the home of the most grow-op busts annually. Sounds like paradise, right?
Nah, it’s a nice city. It has its charms and quirks just like any town. I’m lucky to be right near a beach in the summer and to live in a place where everything is within walking distance. There’s hardly any traffic, so I feel safer than I do when I’m walking around St. Catharines but at the same time, opportunities and things to do are few and far between in Port Colborne. There aren’t a lot of jobs, so you’re lucky to find one if you do and if we want to see a movie, go to a mall, you have to drive at least 15 minutes to the bigger, more prosperous city of… Welland, which is an entirely different story.
We don’t have much of a night life like that of St. Catharines, unless we’re talking about the Belmont Hotel. It’s a hole in the wall but it’s the best hole in the wall you’ll ever go to. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m still convinced. Everyone knows everyone but we’re always welcoming to new-comers. As a matter of fact, we locals make it a goal to get as many out-of-towners to get hooked to the Belmont as we can. Everyone always wants to come back. If you have a friend from Port Colborne, join them sometime. You won’t regret it, that much.
In all seriousness, maybe I missed out on the “university experience” that people have when they go away to school, but when it comes down to it, I’m glad I have the option to enjoy St. Catharines when I want to, but escape to home easily when I need to. It might not be the best town, but it’s home, and I’m glad that I’m still here.
There’s no place like home
I’m writing this as ex-Torontonian. I sold my house this year in Whitby, a small quiet little piece of suburbia that lies just on the outskirts of the big T, so while the Garden City has been my home away from home for close to four years now, due to my recent change of address its now the only place where I have a reliable roof over my head. But to be honest, it just doesn’t do it for me. I have every intention of getting out of here as soon as I can.
Not that I want to take anything away from people who love this city, and it is lovable with its surrounding nature trails, the student pubs, the beautiful underground music and art culture that survives in the pubs and the cafes does give this place a lovely light. But it isn’t Toronto. Some would say that’s all they need to hear: Toronto! Get away from me! I understand the sentiment but there’s only so much I can take of that cheesy entertainment district we call Niagara Falls and the pretentious downtown core. I love it, but if I have to put up with it any longer I know I’m putting my sanity in peril.
Whitby doesn’t have the kind of cultural and music festivals we do here and the downtown isn’t worth any kind of exaggerated praise and respect. The place has never left the early 19th century, nut being the quiet little dump that it is, with some natural beauty and no consistently propped up population of students, it’s also just enough away from Toronto that I know when I say I’m going home, I know exactly where I’m going.
Making the big jump from the big city
Growing up in Canada’s most populated city certainly has its ups and its downs. I love the culture about Toronto, entertainment, festivals, and of course the amount of professional sports that exists. However, the one thing that I can’t stand is the traffic.
When I was in grade 12, it was time for a big decision in my life, deciding where to go to post-secondary school. I knew that as a die-hard sports fan, I wanted to select an avenue that would be leading me towards working in sports. Guelph University had marketing Co-op program which was an option, several colleges had radio and television broadcasting programs, there’s even a specialized college called the College of Sports Media located right in downtown Toronto. Then there was Brock University and their Sport Management program, the only Sport Management four year honours degree available in all of Canada. Having a birth right in mid-November meant that I would be entering my first year of post-secondary at the young age of 17. It was a very nerve racking time, and one of the biggest decisions I’ve made in my lifetime to date, but I had to make the move. Brock’s program just seemed to fit me to a tee.
Moving to the small town of St. Catharines where the population size is significantly smaller than at home was a big change for me. Yes, there are less grocery stores, bars downtown, special events, or professional sports teams, but the word rush hour doesn’t even exist in one’s vocabulary here. Having lived in St. Catharines for over four years now, and on cusp of graduating with an honours degree in Sports Management, I can honestly say I made the right decision in coming to Brock.
The Steel City: more than just factories and foul smells
When people think of Hamilton, they usually think pollution, crime, and even homelessness; however, the city is often underrated and overly-judged. It is densely populated and diverse, with over 500,000 people calling it home.
In many ways, Hamilton and St. Catharines are very much alike — an eclectic downtown scene, home to a college and university (Mohawk College and McMaster University, Niagara College and Brock University), very scenic (waterfalls and wineries), and of course, full of lovely people.
Many Brock students from the Faculty of Education attend the Hamilton campus, but are not aware of the countless gems this vibrant city has to offer. If you’re ever in town, here are some places I highly recommend (from a born-and-raised Hamiltonian no less):
Sarcoa Restaurant & Bar: Ideal for girls night out, anniversary dinners, or business events, Sarcoa is a gorgeous, new, upscale hot-spot with a large, beautiful outdoor patio equipped with cabanas and live music (often compared to Toronto venues).
Locke Street: A perfect place for first dates, lunch with an old friend or Sunday strolls, Locke St. is home to cozy coffee shops, wonderful restaurants (Bread Bar, NàRoma, West Town), and dainty boutiques. It’s also host to the popular Locke St. Festival every September.
Waterfalls: Also known as the “City of Waterfalls”, Hamilton is so grateful to have over 100 breathtaking waterfalls that line the Bruce Trail and the Niagara escarpment. Great for walks, hikes, and even swims!
Hermitage Ruins: Halloween is almost here! It’s the best time to check out this historic (and haunted) site that was featured on Creepy Canada for having high paranormal activity.
Hamilton Waterfront: Located on the Hamilton Harbour, the waterfront is easily one of my favourite places in Hamilton. It’s home to Sarcoa (mentioned above), an outdoor roller skating rink (which turns into an ice skating rink in the winter), marathons, festivals, and boat tours. That’s not to mention that it’s a great place to have ice cream and watch sailboats glide by. On holidays like Canada Day and Victoria Day, it’s the spot for the best view of the fireworks.
Art Crawl: Music, culture, food, and art, all in one place, James Street North. Taking place every second Friday in September, in conjunction with “Supercrawl”, a three-day long, arts and music street festival that attracted around 135,000 people this year!
Although I’ll probably spend my years at Brock learning about and adapting to the St. Catharines community, Hamilton will always be close to my heart for its marvellous charm and character.
For more Hamilton events and activities, search #HamOnt
Friendly by nature
Perhaps you have driven through a small town, just below the trees of the Niagara escarpment and nestled between St. Catharines and Hamilton. A charming place that is free from the shadows of shopping malls and movie theatres and chock-full of local community. This place is none other than Grimsby, my beloved hometown.
There are many attractions that make Grimsby special, including a weekly Farmer’s Market, the Grimsby Public Art Gallery and even a new coffee shop, Station One. If you ride a bicycle, the country roads are an absolute pleasure to cruise along against the picturesque background of the Bruce Trail. The most wonderful thing that Grimsby has to offer is a simplistic lifestyle and an easy-going attitude. True to Grimsby’s coined slogan “Friendly by Nature”, I can honestly say it is one of the friendliest places I have ever lived. While you walk up and down Main Street expect everyone to say hello to you.
As a student, I have a love-hate relationship with Grimsby because, when compared to St. Catharines, there is little to no student life. St. Catharines has many opportunities for students to get involved in the community as well as convenient amenities. St. Catharines also offers things like a transit system, a selection of job opportunities for students, and a wider variety of restaurants, bars and venues. Although Grimsby is cute and quaint, it is catered to a non-student crowd; I do however recommend you go for a visit! Take advantage of the season and go to the Grimsby Pick-Your-Own fruit farms, travel along the hiking trails or go for a bicycle ride along the rural roads.