The ‘Toronto girl’ lifestyle can seep into Queen’s culture

The influencer lifestyle represents an ideal some students already have access to  

Though distinct environments, Toronto and Queen’s have striking similarities.

Toronto has always represented the big city lifestyle I’ve dreamed of embodying. In my mind, it’s the closest Canadians can get to New York City.

However, being a “Toronto girl” is an exclusive way of living, gatekept by high rent and $16 cocktails. Toronto influencers, as highlighted on their TikTok pages, go out for drinks on Friday, brunch at a rooftop on Sunday, and always have a sleek, modern one-bedroom apartment downtown. 

This is far from the norm for average Toronto citizens, who don’t have consistently Instagrammable outfits and dinners. When I’m downtown in my favourite city, I sometimes feel like I’m playing dress-up in a world that doesn’t belong to me—not yet, at least. I feel similarly when I see the wealth and whiteness of Queen’s.

Kingston is separated from Toronto’s influencer culture on a map and is often referred to as a university town rather than an actual city. For many Queen’s students, Kingston is comprised of Queen’s campus, the University District, and downtown.

But with a large percentage of students being from the 6ix and our university’s reputation for old money, I’ve noticed facets of the Toronto lifestyle seeping into Queen’s culture.

Perhaps this is a trait of every Ontario university bordering Toronto. As a middle-class student from Calgary, the world of the GTA along with the privilege of select students at Queen’s is foreign and a little confusing.

There’s undeniably wealth in Calgary, but I grew up in circles where my friends and I had similar financial backgrounds. I understand what it feels like for money to fluctuate—it’s terrifying. The idea of living an influencer life right after graduating is like a fantasy to me because there’s simply no way I could afford it.

It was also a culture shock to start school at Queen’s and be immersed in conversations about Toronto private schools and visiting lake houses during cotty season.

I do see striking parallels between the culture of the two environments, though. It goes deeper than girls chasing vodka with La Croix at parties or walking into a lecture hall and seeing a sea of Aritzia sweatsuits with Super Puffs on top.

Kingston rent, like Toronto rent, is ridiculously overpriced. It’s the norm to “pay exorbitant prices for substandard housing”. Half my friends at Queen’s are paying close to $700 per month in rent while dealing with slanted floors, leaks, animals, and holes in their walls and ceilings.

I’ve also been baffled in conversations listening to students talk about their family’s connections in the industries they’re hoping to work in. It seems like a large number of students have parents in positions of power who have the capacity to help them navigate the professional world. Internships are inherited along with golf clubs and LinkedIn tips.

For most immigrants and first-generation graduates, this is far from reality.

Not every Queen’s student can afford not to worry about money. There are thousands of low-income students who come from humble backgrounds and work minimum-wage jobs during the school year to pay for tuition.

Generational wealth and privilege are so interesting because they’re held by a handful of elites—this handful, though, feels bigger at an institution like Queen’s.

The culture at Queen’s is slowly evolving with increased diversity, but it still sometimes mirrors the Toronto influencer lifestyle I can’t help but desire. I am acutely aware of the wealth and privilege around me and can’t help but want to build a similar life for myself one day. Despite my desires, I must also recognize the “Toronto girl” lifestyle is only as fulfilling and aesthetically pleasing as I see on social media.

Success on my own terms, after dismantling the systemic barriers intended to keep me out of privileged circles, has no time limit.

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