I am back for semester two and my blogs are back too. Have a read on if you can control your excitement, it’s probably going to be an update up until now and reflections on McGill. What a cracker.
The last couple of weeks of ‘fall’ semester were quite busy, with finals and a trip to New York, during finals. It was an unusual arrangement having exams straight after lectures finishing just before Christmas, but then it did make the holidays more enjoyable as I didn’t have the constant burden of revision when I just wanted a pig in a blanket
The actual finals were weird. So casual. You could just saunter in to the exam hall when you arrived, sit wherever you jolly well like, with an absolute disregard for alphabetised seating plans. You can take food in, I appreciate food but I don’t understand how someone can need a power boost from a nutrigrain part way through a 2-3 hour exam. Also, you can have a perusal through your social medias on your phone at your exam desk while waiting for it to start, but HEAVEN FORBID you have your notes out. Goodness
I went on a trip to New York with Friends I Met On Study Abroad, between my second and third (and last) exam. We hit all the main tourist spots and , but hopes to go up the Empire State Building, or any tall view-providing building were struck down by fog. We saw the Rockefeller Christmas tree, ice skating in Central Park and cut costs to see the Statue of Liberty via the Staten Island Ferry. Getting back on the Sunday afternoon was a journey to raise the heart rate. Our direct flight was cancelled, then were provisionally on other flights, making it to Toronto, missing our provisionally booked yet full next flight, and finally then getting back to Montreal around 10pm. We had an exam 9am Monday morning. Made it. Then 2pm that same Monday I headed back to the airport to fly home for Christmas. I had another delay and then my luggage never got on to my flight from Toronto, just adding another pleasant, non stressful, event to my travel.
Reflections on finals etc: there’s an excess of stress around finals, with people pulling exceptionally long hours in the library, which seems somewhat OTT when many exams were worth 40% or so – there’s far more opportunity for assessment here, including a variety of assignment types. Many people seem so het up in the idea of it being finals and being in the library is what students do etc, that they depart from healthy lifestyles and sleep patterns, losing focus on what would actually be proportional revision to the weight of the exam. I want to emphasize though that this isn’t solely McGill, but the average of the North American system. It is perhaps added to as McGill students are privileged to be at the Best University In Canada and that adds pressure. I want to point out that the system is definitely manageable to transfer into if you just keep calm and not get swept along with the furore (nailed that spelling) around it being so ‘OMG FINALS’.
Reflections on being on exchange: prior to leaving for McGill I heard many people saying to avoid being solely friends with other exchanges, but ignore that. I don’t see the problem with this. I live with exchanges and other friends are exchanges. People that have been here at McGill for a few years already need to focus on their studies more than we do, and perhaps don’t have the same immediate interests. Exchanges also want to explore the city and Do Fun Things. Also, as hard as it may be, don’t compare your experience with friends at other universities, especially from what you can see on instagram etc. I think I found this hard to start with, I think I thought I needed to be seen to be doing amazing, jealousy-inducing things weekly and if I wasn’t, was I really doing study abroad well enough? This is not a gap yah. I’m in lectures every day, I have to keep up with work, do food shops and pay rent. On the day to day, you are just doing university in a different city, not finding yourself. Just do what makes you happy (cliche instagrammed life quote aside). Preach over.
So now I am a few days into winter semester. Sitting in a lecture room 8:35am on January 4th after arriving back 11pm the night before was perhaps not my highlight of study abroad. I’m now in the process of deciding on my new courses. It’s a weird system in place where you have class limits and wait lists, gambling whether you can get onto a course. This is annoying but not serious for me, as I can just (hopefully) rearrange to another one, yet if this was the norm for my degree I’d be smiling through gritted teeth. It does seem like it could potentially influence the graduation date of students if they can’t get one to fit at the right level, or their progression if they can’t gain the prerequisites for their major/minors (this may be an exaggeration from exasperated students). There’s more flexibility though here, through the ability to take courses outside your main discipline. I am hoping to take a for-credit French class as it appears I do not have the language ability to become fluent just by being in Montreal. Surprising, I know.
Also, big news, I am the proud new owner of a pair of ice skates – another step toward being more Canadian. My skating ability is dubious, more just walking with a slight glide, but I’m working on it. Learning to skate here is just like riding a bike in the UK -it’s something that each child learns to do. To add to my very short list of snow sport talents, I am going skiing next weekend. It’s a weekend trip with the McGill International Student Network (MISN) – proof of spending time with other exchanges whilst experiencing study abroad and a lovely literary link back to earlier themes in my writing.
Au revoir till my next blog.