I remember the day I got my acceptance letter from McGill so vividly: it was a cold, snowy day in March of 2009 late at night. I was attempting to do some homework, which was a difficult task because my high school was devoid of any and all intellectual stimulation, when I saw an email from McGill. I opened the email and it simply read in excruciatingly vague details that the status of my application had been decided. I logged into McGill’s web platform and saw that one word beside the words “status”: accepted.
For most of the people that I’ve met over my four years at McGill, Canada’s best university was not their first choice for higher education. They chose McGill over more prestigious universities because of costs, stories of personal experience from parents and friends, or very specific programs that weren’t offered at other universities. I only applied to Canadian universities because I wasn’t ready to leave Canada - the furthest I had traveled before I came to Montreal were two trips to Italy and a few trips to Florida in elementary school. To me however, McGill represented my golden ticket out of the desolate cultural wasteland of farms and suburbia that sprinkles southwestern Ontario.
I’ve often had second thoughts about my choice of McGill for a few reasons: the political unrest within the province and the university has led to much confusion and challenges over the last 2 years, the university is less than compassionate about personal matters, class sizes are still significantly larger even in upper-year courses, grades are not inflated compared to other universities, which puts McGill students at a bit of a disadvantage, and so on. Sure, my university experience has been unique and not necessarily an easy one, but I’ve learned a tremendous amount both inside and outside of the classroom. In fact, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that learned more outside of the classroom than in it. If I had the chance to talk to myself four years ago, these would be the top 5 recommendations I would make to the little freshman I was not too long ago.
Push yourself to be outgoing, especially if it feels unnatural to you. There is a substantial amount of personality research that shows that people who score highest on measures of openness and extroversion are significantly happier than people who are more reserved and introverted. By being more open, you allow yourself to engage in new experiences and meet new people that may make you happier than the interests and groups of people you currently surround yourself with, ultimately making you a happier person.
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