Students vs Londoners: The Battle Continues

Another September, another tide of students wooshes into the campus bubbles, bemoaning that there’s “nothing to do in London.”

As a former student who was new to London and now lives and works here full-time,  I’ve seen both sides of the ‘tude. After all, students are here for “only” eight months of the year… who cares if they want transit or whatever, right?

Enough is enough! Here is a two-part piece to spread a little appreciation for both the Forest City and the students who inhabit it. Students, Londoners – you need each other, so let’s show a little love, ok?

Part one is for the students, particularly those brand new to London. This is your home for at least a few years – make it your own! Here are some reasons why you should poke a foot outside the bubble.

London’s really pretty!

London is home to some gorgeous parks, conservation areas, and little secret forest-y bits that you can spend hours exploring. Gibbons Park up near Western is a fantastic walk year-round, and there are several parks clustered around the western edge of downtown with some wonderful views of the Forks of the Thames.

If you’re feeling adventurous, check out Springbank Park and grab a bite in the nearby neighbourhood of Byron.

Westminster Ponds London Ontario
The long and winding road… at the Sifton Bog. Photo by Angela McInnes

Beyond the parks, London features beautiful green spaces to explore, many accessible by transit. You’ve picked up your bus pass, so go check out these spots while the weather is good. As fall turns to winter, head back towards our central Victoria Park. Enjoy a walk with a cup of cocoa through our own little wintry, light-filled wonderland. It’s really pretty.

Villages within a City.

Several London neighbourhoods, full of beautiful older homes and tightly-knit communities, have that magical, village-like feel. This is particularly true of neighbourhoods with “village” in their name. Wortley Village immediately springs to mind with its beloved Gathering on the Green events, nifty shops, and a main stretch that bubbles with life and good food. Of course, the Old East Village is the other name that pops up.

Old East Village London Ontario
One of the main OEV strips, Dundas Street, looking east. Photo by Allan Lewis

But wait! Old East Village…isn’t that…(GASP!) EOA?

Okay. EOA, or East of Adelaide, is the myth that anything east of Adelaide Street in London is super double duper sketchy and you don’t go there ever.

Folks, EOA is half of the city.

We can’t tape off half of the city, especially when that means shutting out London mainstays like Aeolian Hall, the Palace Theatre, the East Village Arts Collective, and so much more. Culinary treats, amazing small businesses, and cultural institutions await you if you venture past the dreaded Adelaide line. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

And on the topic of pleasant surprises…

The “treasure map” approach.

There are so many spots off of these lovingly worn paths to find something interesting happening. Treat the city like your treasure map. Start exploring and you’ll find some of your favorite gems in odd little places.

Take Woodfield for example. Wander around this beautiful neighbourhood off of the downtown core and you’ll find tucked-away places like Locomotive Espresso and The Bag Lady. There is no end to the novelty of walking around a neighbourhood when BOOM! Surprise cafe!

You might even run into a porch concert!

Around town, there are several museums if you’re a history buff. The core is also dotted with small galleries and other special spaces that will hold exhibitions, classes, workshops, markets, and even music shows.

Where do you find this stuff?

Poke around your Facebook events! Keep your eyes open for interesting posters! Peruse this website that you are on right now!

Make a game of it and be the “in-the-know” person in your friend group.

Get In On the Ground Floor

Let me share some personal experience for this one.

I started contributing with LondonFuse during my postgrad year at Fanshawe. I remember immediately feeling like I was a part of something important. There was a sense of “getting in on the ground floor.” That is, feeling like you have space to find your voice and contribute it in a way that is meaningful.

There are lots of hubs in town where you can volunteer your time and get in tune with some of the best London has to offer. This is one of the cool things about living in a mid-sized city. It’s not so small that it can’t support these communities, and it’s not so big that it’s overwhelming trying to get involved.

Take advantage of that! Use London as a place to explore your passions. You’ll find many people doing the same. Which leads to my last point:

There’s just a lot of cool people!

At the end of the day, what makes a city isn’t trendy restaurants or niche shops (as fun as they are), it’s the people. In the Forest City, there are lots of folks making cool stuff, sharing their passions, starting movements, and building communities.

London seems to have a dug-in reputation as a conservative old boys’ club, but that assumption does a disservice to the people pushing things forward through their arts and ambitions. As mentioned in my previous point, you can be part of that too!

London Transit Commission bus
The bus is your free ticket to adventure, students! Hop on end explore London.

So, if you’ve got some space in your schedule, or you’re looking for a change of scenery for study hour (or hours), hop on a bus and explore your city.

Get exploring and keep it locked…

First-years who are new here, I’ve been where a lot of you are. You move to a new place, you miss familiarity, and it’s easy to stick close to your school. Put a little time where you can into exploring London. You’ll find new favourites, new comforts, and even new friends. (Awww).

In part two of this piece, I’ll talk about why Londoners should show students some love. Yes, they can party hard here and there (kids these days!), but there are lots of reasons why welcoming thousands of brilliant, energetic minds to our campuses every year is a very good thing. Stay tuned!

Feature photo by Gerard Creces

2 COMMENTS

  1. This City has a fair number of gems that is true, but in some cases what it lacks is ACCESSIBILITY for those with disabilities. Yes there are some businesses where a person can get into the place but for some of those neighbourhood gems you do have to be able to go up and down stairs something a wheelchair bound person just can’t do. I assume students come in all levels of ability so it would be nice to also make sure that folks who are exploring our fair city with disabilities will not be welcomed at some establishments and that is the sad part of our city.

  2. sorry that was intended to be would be nice to make sure folks exploring our city with disabilities are informed (forewarned) that they will not be welcomed at some establishments (due to stairs)

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