This past weekend, as I sunk into a puffy chair to nurse my protruding belly much too full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and other Thanksgiving delicacies, I closed my eyes and took a moment to fulfill the holiday’s second mandate—being thankful for what I have. My four years at McGill seem to have passed with reckless abandon, in a blur of Bronfman days and Gerts nights. As an international student, I’ve been lucky to live, study, and work abroad in Canada and Europe, specialize in what I’m most interested in as my major, and satisfy my random curiosities with electives. I’ve met more fascinating and inspiring people than I can count, both in and out of class, and gained more from my peers than in any of my top courses. I have even managed to rationalize the many gripe-inducing aspects of the McGill experience that every student faces as something to be grateful for: If nothing else, they bring us all together and build character.
But, as I lay there with a stitch, breathing deeply and trying to keep down that extra helping of apple pie, what I kept coming back to was how thankful I am for the friends I’ve made at McGill—and how little would be the same without them. Nothing has been more responsible for keeping me happy and motivated and for helping me grow than my closest friends. University is a unique place: From first encounters during Frosh and in Rez, to the new colleagues and classmates you meet in your last year, it almost seems designed to put each student in front of as many potential friends as possible. Besides the daily geographic proximity with a relatively small group of peers, there’s much to be said for facing the same experiences—good and bad—at an impressionable time of our lives.
After graduating from high school and coming out from under my parents’ wing, I got a rush of what felt like real independence for the first time. But, it didn’t take long to recognize that that autonomy came with its fair share of challenges as well. Figuring out how to stay on top of schoolwork and other pursuits, feed and clothe myself, and discover who I was as an independent person were scary. I soon realized, however, that everyone around me was going through the same process. That shared experience brought me closer with my newly-encountered McGill friends. Looking back, I now see that we grew together and supported each other simply by being equally confused by the same Minerva menus or simple cooking instructions. With each new chapter of my McGill career, those and other friends have been along for the journey.
University is a formative and impressionable time. Like trees planted very close and forming around each other as they grow, I can reflect and appreciate how my friends and I have influenced each other. Over the last nearly four years, we’ve grown together to fill the empty airspace of becoming our own confident individuals that some might call “adults.” Like someone who moves to a different region and involuntarily picks up the local accent, the hours of hanging out, studying and working together, and talking about our issues—big and small—have subconsciously given me a part of them to always carry in who I am, and vice versa. My views have formed and evolved, I’ve learned what’s important to me and what isn’t, and I’ve grown into someone ready to face the world—all thanks to my friends.
Reclining further in my post-Thanksgiving-meal recovery chair, I couldn’t help thinking that I’ll never make friends like these again. Once we’re scattered off into the workforce or further studies, we’ll be surrounded by others who have just left their own groups of close formative friends. No other time will we be in an environment where we’re a blank slate among other blank slates, just waiting to rub off on each other. But, I’ll always have my people, living close by, or keeping in touch from afar. That’s what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, and all the Thanksgivings to come.