This will probably be the last "first impressions" post for a while; at least, I hope it is, since further exposure to novel experiences and places soon will likely drive me further insane, given that I've essentially been homeless, travelling, and depending on family and friends for quaint things like "a place to sleep" and "transport to where I need to be".
Anyway, on with the impressions.
The university of Guelph seems to be a typical mid-sized Canadian university. The campus is layed out not too differently than the University of Victoria, where I did my B.Sc., and the total student population is similar to both UVic and SFU. There are some Ontario-specific features and attitudes around here, but I think I already talked about that.
Administration is always the second most important feature of a university for one's graduate studies (as far as I can tell from talking to many current and former graduate students). I say second because one's research project should always be the most important factor. Other features, like local geography, are probably tertiary at highest, since any project at any university is most likely to be dominated by a) staring at a computer screen, writing; and b) arguing with the beaurocracy (i.e. administration). Going out, off-campus, to do trivial things like socialize and sleep, always comes after those two in importance.
Administration at U of Guelph seems quite good, actually. On my first day, a week ago, I managed to get everything done (I think). Payroll, keys, ID, library and computer access, tuition payment all seemed to get accomplished without too much trouble. This is unthinkable for other universities - it took about three months at SFU before I had a student ID card and library access. The SFU computer system hates me.
The campus is more compact than either SFU or UVic, which is surprising considering the size of U of Gueph's land. It seems compact to me, though, probably because the few buildings I need to visit on a regular basis (the biology building, the University Centre, the library) are all very close together. The gym seems not much farther; perhaps as distant from my office as SFU's gym was from my office there. Also, the three lab rooms I need access to on any given day are very close together - very different from the three-departments-spanning voyages I made up to six times a day just to get basic work (gels, gels, gels) done at SFU. So when I invariably forget something on may way to accomplish some task, going back to get that something is trivial. Also, the two primary seminar rooms are just around the corner and just around the corner one floor up, respectively.
I haven't had a chance to sample much of the local social scene; I've been to one talk, but I had to bail during the questions because I was expecting a 'phone call. This week looks good for that, though, since I've finally moved in to my new place and I can now return to my usual habits of staying out until whenever, and there are several mildly special events forthcoming (free pizza, perhaps). Not having a structured TA schedule is good.