“Age is just a number” is a motto I have learned to embrace, since I started school at the age of three. My education continued to accelerate after receiving a promotion from the Ministry of Education in Dubai, when in kindergarten. This promotion involved a process that evaluated me in terms of social skills, maturity, as well as academics. I then attended Harvard Summer School at 14, and interned at the University of Chicago Medical Center at 15. Starting college at the age of 16, although unusual to many, was not a question for me.
During my first three weeks at McGill, my “underage” flag was already marked by my white frosh bracelet and my lack of valid ID to enter the local SAQ. People are likely questioning my decision to enter college as a minor, and whether I would be able to handle the educational and social pressures in a new environment, thousands of miles away from my home in Dubai. In fact, I recollect one of my concerned high school counselors suggesting that I take a gap year or participate in a volunteer program before starting university. Working part-time or job shadowing in Dubai is not a common practice, however. Nor is it an option for me, as the legal working age is 18.
There weren’t many options open for me but direct entry into college. Moreover, determined as I am, I felt that I was mentally and emotionally prepared to advance into the next phase of my life. I have always been self-driven to discover and explore new and challenging paths in my education and extra-curricular activities. Most of all, with the support and encouragement from my parents, I’ve been able to make it to where I want to be in life.
Mark Twain said: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Likewise, I believe that if I can handle what every other 18-year-old first-year can handle, then my age should be a non-issue.
I’m often asked if I ever feel out of place in any situation due to my age, and one incident did make me feel slightly ill at ease. In a neuroscience lab, I was paired with a 30-year-old MBA student. Eventually the ice was broken, and the age difference didn’t matter after all. Another uncomfortable situation, was not being able to legally access events at clubs or the Open Air Pub, even though many international students come to Montreal for just that! Attending an international school and being academically and socially oriented in turn has helped me in terms of adjusting to different groups, cultures and countries, thereby making my transition into university an easier process. Additionally, having lived on my own during summer work and study programs since the age of 13 has helped to build up my level of confidence, maturity and independence.
Some might think being 16 at university would make for a completely different experience—especially half-way round the globe—but I don’t really see it that way. Although I will be under the guardianship of Mr. Michael Porritt, executive director of McGill Residences and Student Housing, until I am a U3 student, I am really looking forward to making the most of my new experience here. I have met some of the greatest friends, colleagues, and professors along the 16 years of my journey so far. The people I have met, my family, and the opportunities and exposure I have gained from the diverse experiences I’ve been through have all contributed to the making of the person I am today. I would rather be at McGill right now, at the age of 16, than anywhere else.
Priyanka is majoring in economics. She hopes to pursue a career in patent law.