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I always wanted to go to McGill University. As a high school student, I set my standards high for myself and was never afraid to tell people about my grand future plans. Come Grade 12, even though I already knew how badly I wanted to attend McGill, my eventual decision to go to school there wasn’t all that easy.

When it comes to choosing a university, there are a lot of factors you have to consider when making your decision. You need to really weigh the full consequences that your choice may have. For me, I had to decide if it was worth it to spend double the amount and move 3000 kilometers away from my family. Realistically, it wasn’t just a decision of whether I wanted to go away to McGill badly enough–it was about whether it was actually possible.

I am currently a third year student at McGill University. I made the difficult, but exciting decision to move away to a city I’d only ever visited for six hours. Going on three years, I have yet to regret my decision. Here are the seven factors that eventually led to me deciding that McGill was the right university for me.

1. The ‘Moving-Away to University’ Experience

Even before I’d heard of McGill, I knew I wanted to move away for university. I’ve always been very independent, so I knew I would thrive in a situation where I was living on my own. Furthermore, I wanted the chance to explore somewhere new. I’d lived in the same touristy beach town right outside Vancouver all of life. I wanted the chance to go somewhere completely different and start fresh. McGill, with it being located on the other end of the country, gave me this exact opportunity. The fact that I would be able to make a new life for myself in a completely different city was one of the big reasons I chose McGill.

2. The Gorgeous Campus

For those of you who don’t know, McGill University is over 200 years old. The campus is characterized by historic buildings that students have been learning in for decades. Even just looking at photos, I knew that I would love learning at a campus with such gorgeous aesthetics and rich history. Better yet, the campus is smaller than a lot of other universities I was considering. You can walk from end to end in 20 minutes tops, which is a big plus if you have classes close together. The campus is also situated right in the heart of downtown Montreal. This means that some of the city’s biggest attractions are just a 10 minute walk away and it’s easy to find a cozy (and reasonably priced) apartment close by. My own apartment is literally right across the street from campus.

3. The City of Montreal

Moving to McGill meant that I would be living in bustling downtown Montreal. I had only visited Montreal once before this–for a six-hour layover–so I hadn’t seen much of the city. But a little research on the Internet revealed how amazing Montreal would be to live in. I was attracted to the thought of living in the heart of a big city. My campus would only be minutes away from tourist attractions, large shopping centers, concert venues, and lively bars and clubs. Montreal is also famous for its French culture and the chance to be submersed in a different culture and hopefully learn the language was another big selling feature. To me, Montreal sounded like living in New York without the price tag.

4. McGill’s Name and Prestige

McGill University has always been one of the best universities in Canada, if not the best. Even more, it’s widely regarded as one of the best universities internationally and frequently ranks in the top 20 best universities in the world. It has spawned many great alumni in everything from the music industry to politics to academia. After all, it is called the “Harvard of the North” for a reason. McGill is internationally recognized, which would mean it would be easier for me to find a job or go to grad school in a foreign country. I’ve always been the type of person to judge a university based on their name and the prestige that McGill carries is the main reason I wanted to go to this university. I wanted people to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ when I tell them where I go to university and I knew McGill would do that for me.

5. The Opportunity to Meet Different People

I had attended the same private, religious school for thirteen years before I went to university. I had grown up surrounded by relatively the same types of people with the same beliefs. One of the things I wanted going to university was the opportunity to meet people of different backgrounds and beliefs. I wanted the chance to be submersed in different cultures and ideological ideas. With a student population of over 35,000, with roughly half of them being international students, I knew I would definitely have that opportunity at a school like McGill.

6. The Tolerant and Accepting Atmosphere

One of the main things I love about McGill is its liberal atmosphere. When I was reading up on McGill, I learned about their efforts to make the campus a “safe space.” This means they strive to make the environment as safe and comfortable for individuals as possible. They don’t stand for discrimination against individuals for anything like gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or personal beliefs. Tolerance and acceptance are two qualities that I value extremely highly. I knew that I would love learning in such a free and accepting environment as the one they promote at McGill.

7. The Price of Tuition and Living Expenses

It is in no way cheap to go to university. The main reason I didn’t go to the United States for university was because I wouldn’t be able to afford the price of international tuition. While I haven’t ruled out going to post grad school in the US, I knew that for my bachelor’s degree I wanted to stay in Canada. It obviously would have been even cheaper for me to live at home while going to university, but, like I said, I wanted that moving away experience more than anything. When I compared the cost of tuition at McGill to another big school back in Vancouver, I saw that McGill was only slightly more expensive (because I would be an out-of-province student). To me, it was worth the extra expense to go the school I so desperately wanted to go to. In addition, if I would have gone to school in Vancouver I knew I wouldn’t live at home for the full f0ur years of my degree. The cost of living in Montreal is significantly cheaper than Vancouver. In the big picture, it was only slightly more expensive to go away to McGill than stay in Vancouver and I knew the price would be worth the experience. Scholarships and my part-time job were allowing me to go to university in the first place, so I was willing to pay a bit more to go to my dream school.

In the end, I found that McGill would be the best university for me. I loved everything about the school from its name to its campus to the opportunity it would give me to have new, exciting experiences. It was still not easy for me to say goodbye to my family and get on a plane and leave, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Choosing your university is a difficult, scary process. I encourage you to look at the full picture and everything that a university has to offer you. By knowing what you do and do not want in a University will help make the decision clearer and a lot less difficult for you.



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the author

Alexandra is a third year student at McGill University studying Joint Honors Political Science and Philosophy with a minor in Sexual Diversity Studies. She is an aspiring writer with publications appearing on The Huffington Post, Her Campus McGill, Elite Daily, The Main, College Fashionista, Unwritten, and, of course, The Prospect. She is a self admitted coffee addict and Netflix Junkie with an unhealthy obsession for plaid shirts. Alexandra is passionate about maintaining perfect hair, solving the problems of consequentialism, and perfecting her sarcasm. In her spare time she enjoys binge-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, shopping as a sport, and composing blatantly angsty music. When she’s not studying at her infamous corner of the library, you can find Alexandra at whatever concert is happening that night or working on her Pinterest boards. Follow her on Twitter @AlmostAlexandra or instagram @alexandrasakellariou.

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