As graduate trainees and postdoctoral fellows, we are privileged to spend time on Western University’s campus.
Sometimes it can be difficult to feel like you have time to enjoy life, but here at Western there are a lot of places, events and activities that can make life easier, exciting and peaceful.
Below is a list of my Top 10 Hidden Gems you can find across campus.
10: University Community Centre (UCC)
This is probably obvious to most of you, but I’m always blown away by how much the UCC has to offer. You can watch a movie at Western Film, grab a drink and some food at either The Spoke or The Wave while you listen to live music or watch a Blue Jays game, pick up a few groceries, get your hair cut, or check out CHRW, the campus radio station. We might take it for granted or simply underutilize it, but the UCC is the Swiss Army Knife of Western’s campus.
9. Social Sciences Building hidden patio
From the Concrete Beach you can access a concrete staircase behind the Social Sciences Building that will lead you to a patio with a few tables and benches. This patio is a great spot to take your lunch and enjoy some sun on a nice day in the spring, summer or fall, and adds to the variety of places you can enjoy. The hidden location and relatively unknown nature of this spot also means it’s usually a pretty quiet place to go to.
8. The Advanced Facility for Avian Research (AFAR)
There are a lot of interesting facilities for research at Western, but one that remains enigmatic to most of us is AFAR. In fact, most people haven’t heard of it, and most of those who have don’t know that it is located behind the Support Services Building near Medway Creek. With a hypobaric wind tunnel capable of modulating wind speed, pressure, humidity and temperature, researchers can learn about bird flight and behavior unlike anywhere else. This unique facility is the only one of its kind in the world, and I highly recommend those who are interested to check it out if you have the chance.
7. The Beryl Ivey Garden
Opened in 2004, the Beryl Ivey Garden is a unique and peaceful spot to sit and enjoy some outdoor reading when the weather permits. Featuring amphitheatre-like seating, an 18-foot sculpture and a wide variety of plants, this spot, located right across from the Campus Community Police Service office, is a calm, quiet place to escape to with a good book.
6. The International and Graduate Affairs Building atrium
This is a great study spot. It may be used by the University to hold large events and talks on a regular basis, but most of the time the atrium is set up as study space with large tables and chairs for your use. Because it is a new addition to an old building, the stained glass windows, outdoor wall and garden make this a beautiful and underutilized study spot with a completely different vibe than you will find in any library on campus.
5. The Cronyn Observatory and McIntosh Gallery
I have clustered these into one because, although they are two completely different venues with separate events and websites, they are similarly unknown to many of us. Both are on campus and open to the public regularly. Checking out the culture and talent in the art gallery, as well as seeing the stars in a whole new light while learning about them from graduate students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, are two enriching activities sitting right under our noses. They also make great spots to bring a friend or a date.
4. Behind North Campus Building
This is a spot with a view of the Thames River and a few benches overlooking the Laverty Bee Garden and an outdoor art exhibit from the Faculty of Information & Media Studies called Digital Stream, which is a series of outdoor sculptures created by students in 2004. Again, it is a quiet spot where you can go to read and enjoy some of the unique landscapes around Western, as well as talent from fellow students.
3. Concerts by the Don Wright Faculty of Music
There are many talented faculty members and students in the Don Wright Faculty of Music, and they perform in Talbot College every week. Have you ever walked home from the gym in the evening and noticed people walking across the street dressed up all fancy? They’re going to a show — and a good one at that. This isn’t your little brother’s second-grade recital (although that was probably very cute). This is a world-class performance by elite artists who have devoted their lives to studying music. If you want to feel sophisticated on a graduate student budget, this is for you. And it’s nice that by going to these performances you are supporting your fellow students too.
2. The Richard Ivey Building
Located on the west side of Western Road, this is a building you will probably never go to unless you do it just because you want to. It is a new building with a beautiful design, and a very quiet ambience that is great for studying or sitting to chat with a friend. There is a Starbucks on site, and the Love Family Quadrangle is another spot to catch some fresh air. I highly recommend checking it out to add some variety to the places on campus you hang out at.
1. The Windermere Manor
This is my favourite. The Windermere Manor was a family estate built on top of a hill in the 1920’s in the Tudor architectural style. Located near the Research Park, this country home is now a hotel, café and restaurant and makes you feel like you’ve walked straight off the Moors into an Emily Bronte novel. As I was leaving the Manor to write this message, I saw an eight point stag casually walking the grounds. Majestic. You can feel the history there, and imagining what it must have been like for the Smallman family to live there for more than 50 years adds to the experience. If you are looking for a different evening than your usual spots on Richmond Row, there is live jazz music there every Friday night from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
You don’t always have to visit another city to take in something exciting. Western’s campus features world-class talent, beautiful landscapes and architecture, and interesting history to take in, just steps away from your lab.
These spots are right on campus, and are worth visiting at least once. There are many other places and activities that I have missed, but I encourage you to take some time to explore all that Western has to offer. Taking the time to enjoy the campus could really change your entire graduate school experience. It definitely has for me.
PhD Candidate, Department of Neuroscience
Chair, Graduate Students Council, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry