Campus Spotlight, Student Life

A spotlight on McGill’s student YouTubers

As of late, McGill’s student YouTubers have been exploding in popularity among the McGill community and beyond. These content creators provide viewers with an inside look into their daily lives as McGill students, from morning routine vlogs, to dorm room decor ideas, to study habit guides. 

1. Alena Russell, U3 Arts

Known as one of McGill’s original YouTubers, Alena Russell, or Alena McKenzie as she is known on YouTube, has been creating content on the video-sharing platform since her junior year of high school. 

As she began her new life chapter at McGill, a channel that had initially consisted of ballet vlogs and makeup videos soon shifted gears to showcase Russell’s university experience.

During her application process, Russell noticed the lack of information accessible online about student life and life in McGill residences and wanted to change this for incoming first years.

“YouTube gives more insight into student life than any content coming from the university would,” Russell said. “The university presents things more objectively and positively, but it doesn’t give you a real idea of what being a student here is like.”

Above all, Russell values the support she has received from members of the McGill community. 

“It has been very heartwarming,” Russell said. “I’ll often have first years come up to me and tell me that my videos helped them choose what residence to pick. [Their] positive feedback really helps motivate me.”

While this may be her last semester at McGill, Russell intends to continue her shift to a more relaxed, vlog-style channel in the upcoming months and years. As a soon-to-be graduate student, she plans to take viewers along with her as she takes on new heights in her academic and personal pursuits.

2. Yasmeen El-Irani, U2 Arts

Like Russell, Yasmeen El-Irani started creating content on the internet long before she began her studies at McGill. During her high school years, El-Irani created her own lifestyle blog, where she would share her day-to-day experiences with her audience. 

El-Irani’s move to Montreal marked an ideal time to transition from blogging to vlogging. She started her YouTube channel with the handle “A Dose of Yasmeen.”

“There are some things that you just can’t translate into writing,” El-Irani said of her shift to vlogging. “In university, you’re constantly changing, so there’s always something to talk about.”

While she acknowledges that YouTube can often be a vehicle for negative criticism, El-Irani points out that it is also an invaluable space for personal growth. 

“[On YouTube] you kind of have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said. “Otherwise, you stop yourself from growing.”

Going forward, El-Irani intends to continue vlogging her experiences at McGill to help provide prospective students with an inside look into life at the university. 

3. Phoenix Plessas, U1 Science 

As she began her first year at McGill in Fall 2020, Phoenix Plessas was inspired to start a YouTube channel to document her undergraduate experience. Like Russell, the clear lack of McGill-related content on YouTube motivated her to provide prospective students with a more authentic perspective on student life at McGill. 

“I was having trouble finding information to supplement my decision [to come to McGill],” Plessas said of her own experience. “[I] was coming in blind, especially with COVID.”

Although Plessas initially feared putting herself out there on the internet, the sense of accomplishment that she feels after posting a video makes the risk worthwhile. 

“It’s definitely daunting to cultivate an online persona,” Plessas admitted. “There’s always that moment of hesitation, but getting over the barrier [is so] rewarding.”

Plessas encourages her fellow McGill students to reach out to her via Instagram or the YouTube comment section if they have any video ideas they would like to see on her channel. 

“I try to cater my channel to what [students] want to see,” Plessas explained. “My goal is really to help people.”

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