Student Life

Graduating students look back at their time at McGill–and forward, too

As the Winter semester comes to a close, the class of 2022 is getting ready to graduate. Some will take a gap year to travel or to work, whilst others may be heading to graduate school. The options are endless—but what’s certain is that graduation marks both the end of an era and the start of a new chapter. 

While Alena Russell, U3 Arts, is excited to be graduating and going into the “real world,” she is also anxious. Before heading to graduate school to study art history, Russell will be taking a break from academia. To kick off her gap year, she’s travelling to Greece in May. 

“I am nervous about big changes and goodbyes, but I am really looking forward to my gap year,” Russell said. “I’m hoping to work a little and get some experience, but I am also excited to be able to travel, as I have not travelled much outside of the U.S. I am looking to prioritize life experiences and personal growth this coming year, and take a breather from academia.”

Looking back at her time at McGill, Russell explained that the university has been the backdrop for many of her most valuable moments and relationships. 

“McGill has given me amazing friends and meaningful experiences that have helped me grow into an adult,” Russell said. “I would love to go back and experience that chaotic joy again. Living in dorms, exploring a new city, and figuring out what I wanted to study was so formative and meaningful to me looking back on it now.” 

Students in the Arts program often face internal doubt and external pressure about their futures and the practicality of their degrees—if not graduate school, then what? Despite not knowing exactly what her post-McGill life will look like, Victoria Fortunato, U3 Arts, reflected on how her undergraduate degree helped her develop more than book smarts.

“I feel fairly prepared to enter the real world,” Fortunato said. “It’s something I was always planning for and thinking about throughout university [….] Many McGill classes have helped me understand more about myself and the world, and I find that really necessary for me to feel comfortable with the fact that I’m leaving.”

For some, the transition to life after McGill will be fairly straightforward. Others, however, like Natika Bikraj, U3 Science, have noticed a scarcity in resources for finding a career post-graduation.

“I don’t think McGill prepares us for life after graduation, especially in science. In terms of trying to expose students to different job opportunities, it’s very academia-focussed,” Bikraj explained.

Despite her misgivings, Bikraj says she will always remember the community she found at McGill and the moments she shared with friends.

“My favourite memories at McGill have all been the times I was hanging out with my friends, making cocktails and having board game nights,” Bikraj said.

Ruxi Chirila, U3 Arts, would have been among the graduating cohort this year as well if not for the pandemic. However, like many other students who have spent most of their time at McGill online, Chirila is taking an extra semester. Though she’ll be missing out on the formal hurrahs of the end-of-year spring season, like grad balls and summer grad trips, the extra time brings its own perks. 

“Because my first year went online at the start of the pandemic, being able to take an extra semester has overall helped me feel like my undergraduate degree isn’t being cut too short,” Chirila said. “It’s also provided me the space to take four-course semesters, giving me more time to take on a larger role in my extracurriculars and experience a healthier school-life balance.”

Like Bikraj, Fortunato’s experiences meeting new people at McGill has had a huge impact on her. Her most memorable experience at McGill has been meeting people from around the world who have different perspectives. 

“Coming to McGill has shaped me to be the person I am today. I’ve met so many amazing people thanks to McGill, both students, and professors alike.” Fortunato said. “I’ve had numerous moments in class where I’ve thought, ‘I’m so glad I’m here.’ I’ve been lucky to experience classes and meet people that have changed my life.” 

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