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The Viewpoint: Back to the future

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Priyanka Bijlani is a U3 student majoring in International Development. She will be pursuing a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics in the Fall.

It was just three years ago that the McGill Tribune asked me to reflect on my experience of entering McGill at the age of 16. Retrospectively, it’s hard to believe how quickly my undergraduate life has evolved—I will soon walk across a dais to receive my bachelor’s degree at the age of 19. From my first article written by my freshman self to this article, it is amazing to run through the trajectory of how my experiences at McGill on- and off-campus have paved the road for my future academic and career pursuits.  

Many changes have taken place during my time at McGill—the opening of Premiere Moisson, the closure of Sinfully Asian, and most recently, Rue Université being renamed Rue Robert Bourassa. On a more personal juncture, like most students, I have changed my major, minors, and career choices; however, my mindset on age remains unchanged. Age is just a number—the experiences are what take precedence in an individual’s development.

Although I was initially irresolute if McGill was the right choice for me, I can now wholeheartedly affirm that it has changed me for the better and moulded me into the graduate I longed to be. While I have managed to retain some knowledge that I once absorbed during my lectures in the massive Leacock 132 room, what has left an imprint on me as an undergraduate and as an individual were the extensive networks, opportunities I was exposed to, and the way of life in Montreal.

Throughout my time at McGill, I have noticed that a prominent topic of discourse amongst students is the limited resources making it difficult for focused guidance in career placements. However, I would disagree. While job hunting can be a competitive and cumbersome process, the trait on the trajectory to attaining anything is persistence and perseverance, and that is the prime element that has kept me positively driven. McGill’s educational environment is conducive to one’s success in that it offers students a magnitude of choices and options. Using these resources, it is up to students to go the extra mile to seek the opportunities, be it for our personal growth or career development.  

During my second year for instance, I was particularly interested in technology start-ups. In the process of trying to launch my own start-up—which didn’t take off—I ended up connecting with a McGill alumnus via LinkedIn and in turn joined his venture capital firm, The Founder Project. Here, I gained valuable insights by integrating myself into the professional and cultural spheres of life in Montreal.  Such experiences enabled me to build a league of my own through the common connections and liaisons I had established over time.

Amongst the numerous ways to get involved on campus, McGill offers programs that are unparalleled to other institutions. One in particular that contributed to my personal growth and career choice was the McGill Not-for-Profit Consulting (MNFPC) program. The MNFPC program allows students to gain consulting experience in the not-for-profit sector, which encapsulates my interests. This program not only facilitated the increase of my knowledge in this field, but also showed me how to apply myself professionally while also giving back to the community of Montreal that has given me so much.

Looking back at what I encountered—the apprehensions of being a 16-year-old froshie, being 13-hour flight away from home, and building a life in a new environment—I can now say without reservation that it was all worth it. The decisions that I have made along the way—both good and bad—have helped to mould me into a more independent individual as I step out into the world as a graduate, albeit still a teenager. With persistence, drive, and an open mind, you can make your experience here whatever you wish for it to be. From your peers to your professors and global network of alumni, McGill provides you with a solid foundation. Your success is contingent on how you choose to build from it.  

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