Commentary, Opinion

Campus conversations: Transformation

Valentina de la Borbolla, Opinion Editor

As I go through my last few days as a McGill undergrad, I cannot help but look back at my time in university with a sense of incredulity and nostalgia. I am still taken aback when walking by the infamous Leacock 132 lecture hall, struggling to remember any useful piece of information from POLI 200 three years ago. What strikes me most is how normal walking through campus feels, when just a few years ago, this place was so deeply unfamiliar. It took me longer than expected to adapt to university life. The cold, the large classrooms, and the dorms destabilized me. I was used to perfect Mexican weather, classrooms full of friends, and a quiet life with my mom and my dog. Suddenly, I was surrounded by screaming frat boys and empty bottles of Black Flys. 

I cruised through the discomfort of my first semester in a half-awake state, and when I had to return home for lockdown, I almost forgot I had left at all. Every post-lockdown semester at McGill felt eerily similar to the first one, but in retrospect, the changes I have gone through are undeniable. I am surrounded by friends, a partner I love, a yapping dachshund, professors that challenge me, and coworkers I admire. All the things I was hoping for when I first got my acceptance letter ended up coming true—though maybe a couple of years later than expected. Before my semester, and my degree, officially end, I am slowing down a little bit and appreciating my growth. These past few years may not have been the best of my life, but they were certainly the most transformative, and that is something to be grateful for. 

Chloé Kichenane, Staff Writer

“On this day, two years ago.” 

It’s 8 a.m., and my body is sinking back into slumber. Yet, the notification shakes me and I need to know. Who was I two years ago? 

As I scroll through the hundreds of pictures flooding my Snapchat memories, an odd feeling hits me. Some people would describe it as looking into a mirror and seeing a past version of yourself looking back. But to me, it feels more like looking into a stranger’s window, into a parallel dimension where I am someone entirely different.

Sometimes, I find myself thinking about home, about who I was before coming here. I think about the people I used to know. I wonder where they are now and where they’re going. As I let my thoughts wander, I realize this past life doesn’t feel real anymore, almost like a very long dream of which I only recall a few glimpses. 

Maybe it’s simply the struggle of every university student who leaves home, but being away transformed me—and I get a reminder of it every time I step into my old bedroom, a place that doesn’t feel like mine anymore. It seems like everything from the pictures on the walls to the books on the shelves belonged to someone else. What was once the centrepiece of my life now seems like a still picture, as if I had never actually lived there. So I wondered: Where is ‘home’ if not the very room I grew up in? 

For all those for whom going back has caused an existential crisis, here’s a reminder: ‘Home’ is an idea in constant flux. Moving away, I realized that home could be anywhere. It is the wooden staircase of my high school, the cafés my friends and I stayed in for hours, even the street by the train tracks where I’d walk my dog. But home is also 5,000 kilometres away as I sit right here in Montreal, scrolling through pictures from a different time.

Keith Baybayon, Contributor

I moved to Canada from the Philippines over 10 years ago, not knowing English or anyone outside of my immediate family. Coming from a small town, it was challenging to live in a big city such as Toronto. Yet here I am today, living independently in Montreal, learning French, and making new friends. I became someone I would never have imagined. 

Transformation is constantly happening around us. The transition from autumn to winter is a prime example. Changes like this can sometimes come fast, like the flipping of a switch that brings light to a room. Some changes, however, can take months or even years.

As someone who is learning French, it takes time to indulge in French culture and speak the language naturally. Moving to Montreal encouraged me to pursue learning French so that I could communicate with my peers and find a job. It takes dedication and ambition to achieve growth like this.

Some may not have seen snow until having moved to Montreal, officially transforming into either a snow-lover or snow-hater. Maybe some took a bird course to achieve a good grade and ended up loving the content and pursuing similar studies; that is a transformation in and of itself. Some people may not notice in the moment, but everyday decisions lay the groundwork for becoming someone new and better.

Uncontrolled events can prompt change, but whether that change is pursued is what matters. I took a big step in my decision to attend McGill as I was the only person from my graduating class to move to Montreal. Each day I spend in this city is another opportunity to figure out who I want to be.

We’re all on a constant journey of improving ourselves. It is that transformation that allows people to reach their highest potential.

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