Montreal was where I always envisioned myself living during university; it has multicultural influences and its people are welcoming. Interestingly, it was not until a visit to New York that I fully understood why I enjoy my time here: Although it is one of Canada’s most densely-populated cities, I appreciate the calm and relaxed lifestyle the city still manages to offer its dwellers.
After surviving my first Montreal winter as an international student, I decided to use reading week as an escape to relax and travel. Spontaneously, I visited my cousin in New York, and spent six days wandering around the city, going to museums, and eating out. It was not my first time in New York; however, I feel like, each time I return, I rediscover the city and what it has to offer all over again. This time, as a new university student, I imagined what it would be like to study there instead of in Montreal.
On my second day in New York I woke up early, ready to conquer the streets. It was around eight a.m., rush hour, and the streets were filled with people commuting to work. Everyone was in a hurry, but it seemed like they were used to rushing, as nearly every passing individual ate their breakfast, drank their coffee, and speed-walked in formal business attire. It was, without a doubt, a normal morning routine for New Yorkers. As the day passed, I expected to see fewer people, yet, surprisingly, the streets were always teeming with people running around.
Later that day, I found a highly-rated restaurant and brought along a book to read. I was surprised by how exhausted I felt, and when the food arrived, I finished it in seconds. I realized that I had forgotten to enjoy my time sitting and eating; rather, I felt like I was rushing through all of the activities that I scheduled. I was confused, angry, and dissatisfied.
My remaining days in New York passed similarly, and, when I returned to Montreal, I was relieved by the city’s comparatively slow pace. After only spending six days in New York, I was surprised that my perception of the city had shifted so dramatically.
I noticed that, in New York, people tend to live faster, without fully appreciating the present moment. A simple morning routine, such as leaving one’s apartment and walking to the metro, can make people appreciate their time, but New Yorkers were more focused on the next step of their daily agendas, instead of enjoying the present moment. They were prone to disregarding the simple pleasures in life. Although achieving goals can make people feel happy, experiencing life in real time is what I need in order to feel fulfilled.
When I returned to school, I was more appreciative of Montreal’s calm and easy-going atmosphere. Although students often feel pressured to do more and keep up with work in university environments, our city offers students the opportunity to live a slower, and from my experience a more satisfying, life. I am glad to be a student in this city because I feel alive, tranquil, and present. I am excited to explore what more the city has to offer in my remaining years at McGill.