Home (but the journey continues)

I thought that going abroad was going to be the biggest change in my life this year. But since returning, things are still continuing to change. I have started an internship with the University of Manchester over summer, and in turn, my first full time, professional job. I have lived completely alone for the first time – including setting up all the heating, internet and meters in the house!! And finally, (here comes the biggie) my parents made the decision to move to New Zealand.

I feel as if this year hasn’t just been a monumental shift within myself, but my family too. And without studying abroad, I wouldn’t have been able to handle all the things that I have listed anywhere near as well as I have. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been easy, but I have coped and thrived and grown up rapidly in the space of a few months.

I used to be so afraid of change – making the decision to go abroad was not one I took lightly, and I’m not sure I ever truly believed I was going until I stepped off the plane in Toronto. But now, I can feel myself embracing it; my parents are moving to the other side of the world and I could not be more excited for them (and for myself too!)

By studying abroad I  proved my ability for independence to myself and to my parents, and I don’t know if they would be moving if I hadn’t gone. The decision to live abroad affects not just you but everyone you know, and if it affects you positively, chances are it will affect them positively too.

I am working with the international office on my internship, and I cannot express how rewarding it has been to be involved with the process of encouraging students to study abroad, and being able to pass on my experience and passion to them. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity in this internship, and met the amazing people I have, and gained the life experience that I have, if it wasn’t for studying abroad.

If you haven’t already got the message – go! Study abroad! You will gain a lifetime of memories, experiences and knowledge and grow so much as a person – and this doesn’t stop on your return. And hey, who knows – your family might move to the other side of the world and give you a new place to explore.

(Cape Reinga, New Zealand. The top of the north island, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean)

Montréal summer loving

Harry at McGill in Montréal

 

In just over a week I will be catching a flight from Pierre-Trudeau airport exactly three hundred and eleven days after arriving there to begin my year of exchange. To say a lot of has happened since then, true as it is, would be a little underwhelming and doesn’t seem to do justice to quite how busy Montréal and McGill are.

I previously mentioned I was set to start a summer research position in the McGill chemistry department, which was how I could afford to stay in Montréal another two months, and it has transpired to be a very rewarding experience. The department made it simple for international students with regards to obtaining placements and so if you are one to consider experience and career opportunities getting a cheeky summer internship at McGill would look pretty sweet.

Despite the work being engaging and the lab environment being social or the first week or so /I was a little confused about the situation I found myself in. Most other exchanges had left Montréal and those that were left were dropping like flies. Not even just exchanges. Full time McGill students were all on their annual homeward migration. Consequently I was in a sort of limbo where I was neither going home nor travelling. A lingering smell. It was like Montréal had a party and the house got a tiny bit damaged yet I insisted staying to help tidy up even though Montréal is tired and doesn’t really need the help.

Though this is inaccurate because that suggests Montréal is sluggish when term is out. People had said to me that Montréal was a student town though having spent half of summer here I wouldn’t agree that that was the case. However I do concede it is not a suit-sporting hyper-competitive business town. For sure.

In fact I found that with so few people staying in Montréal everyone was quite keen to step out of their comfort zone and hang out with people they hadn’t all year. I guess people taking summer courses whose friends have left don’t want to be bored either. Consequently the stifling purgatory feel soon dissipated.

Walking from my new flat I pass through Jeanne-Mance park (should you be reading this in anticipation of coming to Montréal you will soon become familiar with this park as it serves as a buffer between the Plateau and Mont Royal) and with all sincerity one afternoon coming home if by some freak accident I was slain… I could have died happy.

The sun was low enough in the sky that there was no risk of frying however it had not gotten any colder than it was at noon. Camera in hand I strolled past all the sports facilities the park adorns in turn: beach volleyball, soccer, Frisbee, tennis and baseball. With each sport a healthy crowd of athletes participated, and although some were more athletic than others, they were all soaking up the summer ambience. These games were punctuated with groups of picnicking friends, flirting couples, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, slackliners, musicians and other photographers.

It is my conclusion that Montréal too has a juxtaposed culture similar to that of McGill, but instead of it being work hard and play hard, it is winter blues and summer loving. Everyone throws themselves so hard into summer.

One example of this is the plethora of festivals Montréal hosts for essentially the whole of summer. There are actually so many that some are so poorly advertised you only find out about them when you stumble into a main stage on the walk back from the metro. This was the case where I found half the length of Boulevard St Laurent shut off with a terrasse outside every shop, bar and restaurant. The highlight of which was a local’s bar in little Portugal that had moved a flat screen into the shop window so that people could sit and watch the Euro from the street.

I am so glad I was able to spend some time in Montréal over summer and would highly recommend that however you find your year at McGill you should seriously consider staying for summer because they city transcends into something greater than you will see it at any other time of year.

This is actually my last compulsory blog with the GGA scheme and as such my next one will likely be a photo compilation comprised from a number of friend’s photography archives. Writing this actually served as a break from planning my summer travel plans which are woefully lacking. Now this is finished I can focus on getting tourist cards and visas and reflect on the fact that my time in Montréal has finally come to an end.

Good luck to anyone reading this who is set to come out here.