OCAD U: student tips for surviving life on campus

Learn about the most secretive event, the school mascot, best place for a nap and more

Jacqueline Lee
OCAD University Insider
OCAD University Insider

University Insider: Jacqueline Lee, 21. Marketing

School mascot: Space cat
Unofficial school motto: ‘Please don’t take our paper towels’
Creative protesting: Paper towel sculpture protesting the removal of paper towels from main building bathrooms
Best place for a nap: Couches on the third floor, but also anywhere
Coolest tradition: Our yellow staircase is filled with wicked student murals and graffiti
Best cheap lunch: Manpuku: quick and tasty $4 noodles with $1 refills
Favourite campus food: Free buffalo stew on Wednesdays at the Indigenous centre
Best giveaway: Flat-screen TVs at Safety and Wellness Day
Best break location: Chill out at Grange Park, the newly renovated playground that looks like it’s made of modern sculptures
Instagrammable spots: Colourful windows on the sixth floor overlooking the Toronto skyline
Best place to study: Relaxation lounge
Best spectator sport: We actually have intramurals like dodgeball, but we’re better known for our coffee drinking
Favourite event: Annual OCAD U Beaux-Arts Costume Ball
Most secretive event: Dining with Diamond, an exclusive dinner at our president Sara Diamond’s house; she asks selected students to give feedback
Cool fact: Our librarian Lindsay Gibb wrote the book National Treasure: Nicolas Cage

PROFILE: OCAD University | Toronto, Ont. | Founded 1876

OCAD U is a strange place. When I first visited with my dad, he was scared the Sharp building would collapse because it’s supported by giant pencil crayons. Sometimes, you’re not sure if a display is free food or an art piece. Yes, there is a TV show called Kim’s Convenience where one of the main characters goes to OCAD U. We’re a vibrant, creative centre living in the heart of Toronto, one of the most multicultural cities in the world. That’s what they told us at university fair, and it’s true. It’s easy to get used to being surrounded by creativity and forget to appreciate it.
Four years of (sometimes harsh) critiques are worth it to build a creative network. On every floor at OCAD U, you’ll find people creating, whether they’re making paintings, furniture, film, music, jewellery, games or brands. If you’re not sure what you want to do, you’re not alone. This is the place to try new things! It’s not enough to just make something look cool or pretty; OCAD U pushes hard on both the process and concept. There are times you’ll get stuck on an assignment, but consistently putting effort into creating things that make you proud and passionate will take you places. Students here can sell their work at the OCAD U store and at events like the zine fair. Many graduates freelance, and we have an incubator for entrepreneurial grads who start creative businesses. Our profs work in various creative industries, so get to know them and they might set you up!

It can be hard to start conversations with people outside class when everyone looks busy working on something. Luckily, free food is a great way to mingle. The student union hosts free lunches twice a week, and around finals, the OCAD U Christian Fellowship gives out ice cream waffles in the Lambert Lounge. It’s an awesome break for people to de-stress together and make new friends. OCAD U is a 100 per cent commuter school, so if you don’t make an effort, it can feel like there’s not much community. But look around and you’ll see posters for interesting clubs, events and opportunities everywhere. I’ve been a peer mentor for three years now and have connected with so many people because of it.

Local Vibe
Because we look like a QR code on stilts, people often mistake us for the Art Gallery of Ontario (it’s actually right beside us). There are plenty of indie galleries and coffee shops in the area, and the shops on Queen Street West get artsier the further west you go toward Kensington Market. Borrow a camera from AV Loans for a photo walk and you’ll stumble upon Graffiti Alley, thrifty fashion and eccentric stores and signs. When you’ve worked up an appetite after all that inspiration, have BBQ at Korean Grill House for $14 before 3 p.m., or a $5.95 meal at El Furniture Warehouse.

The Skinny
The OCAD U Talent Network is the job board for creative opportunities. I got my first gig there photographing at the OCAD U Beaux-Arts Costume Ball, and I just got a call from a toy start-up looking for a writer!