Life after Pitman: an inside look at where students live
Khrystine Muniz and Melanie Jacob
Ryersonian Staff
Uploaded on 1/22/2013 11:26:06 AM


Rent in Toronto is among the highest in the country, and Ryerson students are often pinching pennies at the start of each month to make do. According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, an average two bedroom pad in downtown Toronto costs $1,164—only second to Metro Vancouver’s sky-high price of living. But is the price worth the experience? The Ryersonian followed six students home, from Chinatown to the Gardiner Expressway to the Gay Village. To check out the homes, click through our Photo Gallery. 

Name: Brandon Vo

Neighbourhood: Chinatown

Rent: $950/month

The perpetual sound of shoppers and traffic in Chinatown are no problem for Brandon Vo, a first-year business technology management student. The noise doesn’t travel down the pathway to a small house he shares with two roommates.

A steep flight of stairs leads to Vo’s sparsely-furnished living area. The only hint that anyone lives here is a table, a couple of chairs and a row of shoes lining the entryway. The kitchen sink, on the other hand, suggests that these students have better things to do than pick up a dishcloth.

“I’m not a picky person,” admits Vo, alluding to the piles of plates and bowls. 

In Vo’s bedroom, a headboard is lined with colourful wristbands, the ones security straps on his arm each time he visits a Ryerson residence. Chinatown is just a 15 minute walk from campus, which is one of the main reasons Vo doesn’t mind paying close to $1,000 each month. The other attraction: budget-friendly restaurants and markets that the area has made famous.

“The food is very cheap…there’s a place nearby where you can get a full meal for just four dollars.”

Vo doesn’t miss his hometown in Guelph; it was too boring for a person who likes change. He lives in an area where excitement is always nearby, but if he ever needs to relax, Vo knows that behind the light green walls of his well-kept bedroom, he can play League of Legends, his favourite computer game, in peace.

Name: Philip Byers

Location: University of Toronto campus

Rent: $525/month

The entire place looks like a health hazard, but Philip Byers seems unconcerned. He’s a fourth-year civil engineering student who scored a spot in a U of T frat house because of a family connection. The house is home to up to 11 guys at a time – and it shows.

It’s baffling to witness just how many cigarette butts, dirty dinner plates, and bottles of beer and vodka can accumulate in one house. The place is the definition of a man cave – complete with a drum set, a pool table and a fire place in which they once burned pizza boxes for warmth. 

“Sometimes we think we should get a maid, but with the rent that’s money we don’t have,” says Byers. “The rent could be a little cheaper.”

Despite the cost, Byers loves being in the heart of things. Everything he wants is within walking distance and no one cares about how late he’s up—or the booze-filled frat parties.

“It gets really loud with other fraternities nearby, especially during frosh week,” he said.

The noise can sometimes be a problem, but Byers likes the experience of living on his own. It’s easier to connect with people and he learned a lot about responsibility.

But according to his girlfriend, there is one thing to remember upon entering the house:  “For the love of God, do not take off your shoes.”

Name: Daniella Enxuga

Location: Spadina and College

Rent: $700/month

Just a few minutes away from the frat house, Daniella Enxuga, a second-year history student, lives in peaceful solitude. She lives alone in a small, pretty house just steps away from a University of Toronto building. The word she uses to describe her home -away -from -home: quiet.

“It can get a little lonely now and then…but I have friends over every other day,” says Enxuga.

There are some problems with storage space, but she loves the house’s unique layout. Enxuga doesn’t actually have a bedroom; instead, a few steps wind up to a loft bed close to the ceiling, overlooking her small living room and kitchen.

Her parents and OSAP help pay for the bills, but to Enxuga, the cost is fair. The area is safe and close to Kensington market, a great place to grocery shop every weekend and maybe grab some churros.

“It’s a little farther from campus than I would have liked,” says Enxuga. “But I walked every day in the fall.”

One of the perks of living on her own is decorating however she wants. Superhero posters hang on the walls and anime figurines pose on the living room shelves. She spends her nights at home, often watching old movies and shows with her boyfriend.

“I’m a little bit of a nerd in that way,” says Enxuga with a smile.

Name: Sophia Feng

Location: Bathurst and Queen’s Quay West

Price: $650/month

With a rooftop hot tub, sauna, rock climbing wall and a party room, there is only one thing Sophia Feng yearns for: a pool. The third-year public health student loves the water. But what the building lacks in a swimming pool, it makes up for in proximity to the lake.

“[The building] has its own workout sidewalk by the water,” says Feng. “In the summer time the CNE is also close by…it’s walking distance from everything.”

Feng splits the bills with “her most favourite roommate.” Feng used to have a problem with her roomie bringing her boyfriend around all the time, but now it’s okay. “He brings food and sometimes washes the dishes,” Feng says with a laugh.

The place shows every sign of belonging to two girls. Instead of bland dollar-store dishes, they have cute bowls and plates covered in ornate designs. The living room was converted into a second bedroom where stuffed animals and pretty lamps fight for space, and in Feng’s own room, a small section of wall has been transformed into a shrine for David Beckham.

The space may be limited, “but it’s a fair trade-off because of the facilities,” says Feng.

She admits that the proximity to campus isn’t great; it can take 50 minutes to walk home from Ryerson. But for Feng, that’s a small price to pay for a condo by the lake.

Name: Loren Hendin 

Location: Church and Wellesley

Price: $850/month

It was madness living with nine other people in residence in their first year, so Loren Hendin and Karen Labis decided to live on their own.

Hendin is a fourth-year journalism student, and the location has everything she needs – especially entertainment. “If you want to go dancing with the gay men, there are lots of bars nearby,” she says.

The pièce de résistance is “the art wall”. One of the living room walls was transformed into a montage of art, complete with an array of hats, photos, paintings and even shoes. Some of the items were purchased, but many were created by the roommates.

Neither Hendin nor Labis, a fourth-year photography student, miss their hometowns of Edmonton and Vancouver, but their rent isn’t exactly student-friendly. Hendin’s parents help pay for her rent, while Labis pays for it on her own. However, they’re happy with the location and all the room they have. Here they are free to lounge on their balcony and fight over who gets to wear Hendin’s fabulous fur coat.

“The basement kind of smells like pee,” Labis says, which is probably the only major issue they have with the place.

Name: Jonathan Nguyen

Location: Church and Gerrard

Price: $497/month

There have been a couple of water shut-offs and power outages, but Jonathan Nguyen survived. Last semester the internet access was inconsistent at best, but he persevered. Sometimes the elevator jiggles precariously when it reaches a floor, but Nguyen is okay with it. Then one day, he and his roommate found three dead mice while cleaning out the storage closet – he really wasn’t okay with that.

“This building is super old, but it was the cheapest place to live that’s right next to Ryerson,” says Nguyen. “I know it’s kind of crappy…but everything I need is just a couple of minutes away.”

Nguyen, a third-year business management student, lives with four other roommates. They all have their own rooms but share one washroom, one shower, and one kitchen.

“I’m lucky enough to live with my friends…it makes this whole sharing business a lot easier.”

Nguyen needs lots of help from his parents and OSAP to pay for school and rent, but the experience of living downtown is priceless. Curfews are nonexistent here and entertainment is always a few steps away. He doesn’t have that type of freedom back home in Richmond Hill.

“I don’t know what I would change…maybe just less drunk people at night. Less sketchy.”

Nguyen’s room is small, but he doesn’t mind. As long as there’s enough space for his Tassimo coffee maker and pile of Nike shoe boxes, he’ll be just fine.


Name: Emily Nelson

Location: Dalhousie and Gould

Price: $1200/month 

“Spacious” might be the first word that comes to mind when entering Emily Nelson’s domain.  “Luxurious” might be next, or possibly “swanky.”  Any of these adjectives could suit the fourth-year business student’s condo.  Better yet, it’s only a proverbial hop, skip and a jump from home to class and back again.

“Oh God, I love it.  It takes me 10 minutes to walk to school.  Metro is right below me and the Eaton Centre is right next door.”

While only a one-bedroom apartment, it’s clean and well-furnished with chic, modern appliances and stylish furniture.  Wall-to-wall windows and a skyline view light up the suite.  And Nelson has the place all to herself since her parents bought the condo for her. 

“Sometimes my friends ask, ‘Isn’t it lonely?’ but I don’t think it is because I’m an only child so I’m used to living by myself and I’m actually pretty shy.”

In case you weren’t already jealous, she also has a pool, a party room and a conference room on the roof, all inclusive.  While she acknowledges the good security and many benefits, there are still small inconveniences here and there, such as thin walls and labyrinth-like hallways.

While Nelson is one of the fortunate few able to live on her own without sharing her space, she sometimes finds herself yearning for the camaraderie of having a roommate.

“There are times when I want roommates because I see the bond they have, like sharing food and making meals together … but in the end, I like living alone.”


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