“I was so wasted…”, she said, rolling her eyes as she recounted how she doesn’t remember stumbling home and dragging herself out of bed for the French language placement test at nine o’clock in the morning. I smiled, trying to picture her pains and remembering those days gone by. The corridor was filled with (mainly) first-years, boisterous chatter and loud laughter. To be honest, I felt a little out of place and embarrassed to admit that I’m already a graduate. And of all things fun and exciting, a grad student… in air and space law.
One guy a few steps down the line bragged (perhaps too) loudly how he and his new mates managed to sneak into bars and get drinks with fake IDs. Many wore bright colourful matching t-shirts, with equally bright and colorful wrist bands that betrayed they were fresh newbies. Others, perhaps feeling awkward, feeling alone, had their head down as they rapidly thumbed their phones to keep in touch with familiar friends or family far, far away.
Thinking back, just two years ago, like many of these new McGillites I too took the same steps through the columns of Roddick Gates. McGill greeted me, his face firm with determination, his one hand clutching onto his walking stick, and while the other bracing his hat. Come sunshine or snow (and believe me, there will be snow…lots of it), McGill seems to be perpetually stuck in that one moment, frozen (even in the heat of an Indian Summer’s day) in that pose. Is he braving the wind… or perhaps he is braving the unknown path ahead?
Whatever he is doing, whatever is going on in McGill’s mind, there is a strong contrast with all the excitement going on around him. Groups huddled together and followed their leader who sang or shouted through loudspeakers. The smell of barbeque hung around in the air. Some random guy burst out that they were giving out free beers somewhere, and a stampede soon followed. Mechanical engineers (to-be) played games on the green lawn, while some arts students sat around in a circle and played truth-or-dare. It was like a giant fair and children’s playground, with stands and stalls, freebies and food. All in the spirit of getting to know the people they’ll be spending the next couple of years living, studying, working (and yes, maybe even falling in love) with. All in the spirit of getting newcomers to meet and mingle as part of “Discover McGill” week.
Thinking back, I was a little anxious, a little excited, and a little overwhelmed by the prospect of a new life and study at McGill. And I imagine for many it’s the first time away from home, or even first time in a totally new country. It can be a challenge, a daunting experience, to be thrust into a foreign environment, and having to juggle the weight of schoolwork and making sure the rent and bills are paid on time at the end of the month. Then again, it can be a liberation, a ‘coming-out’, a big party of debauchery and drunkenness (with moderation, of course).
Whatever the first days, weeks or years of study is to you, there is a special feeling that comes with arriving somewhere new and exciting. That feeling does not fade but grows as you slowly become absorbed in a community of people with similar experiences, expectations and idea(l)s. And certainly those who go to McGill are an interesting mix.
Which is why two years after I begun my studies at McGill, I am still hanging around, while most, if not, all my classmates have already finished and left. Perhaps I am procrastinating, or at times delaying, intentionally or otherwise, the inevitable day of graduation. And at times I’m blogging instead of thesis-ing.
But it’s because I know if I go too soon, I will miss this place even sooner.