About a year and a half ago an editor at Maclean’s reached out to ask if I would be willing to write a “student insider” type thing about my experience at McGill. In light of my graduation this week (as well as that of most of my friends), and the fact that this piece does not seem to appear online anywhere, here it is. The following was published in March of 2014, but as I understand it was rerun in the 2015 guide as well:
McGill University’s international reputation and enviable location make it one of the world’s most sought-after schools, which is true for Americans like myself too. One of the things that struck me about McGill on my first visit was how it maintains a large, distinct campus in the heart of one of Canada’s largest cities.
In the past three years of study, the thing that stands out the most about McGill is that there is no real unifying culture or ethos to the place. Students—especially after first year, when those who lived in residence generally find apartments in the city—tend to find their own cliques very quickly, and there are few activities that bring them together. Student politics can get fractious, as they do at many universities.
McGill is infamous for its labyrinthine, unforgiving bureaucracy and many students have at least one anecdote about an administrative runaround in response to a simple inquiry or request for service. Even though floor fellows in residences help first-years, and there are student counseling and mental health services, if you are looking for a tight-knit community, or some strong direction and guidance, look elsewhere. That said, McGill does have much to offer in academics and extracurriculars—you just have to seek it out.
Many groups are overseen by the student union, from the McGill Debating Union to Model UN, the culinary society, and clubs representing each of the major federal parties. The campus boasts an archeological museum and research centre, the Redpath Museum. Gert’s (short for Gertrude’s), the campus pub, is a popular student hangout in the basement of the University Centre.
Though Montreal is North America’s largest francophone city, it’s hard to learn French without a concerted effort due to the relative ease of finding services in English downtown and in clubs and pubs in the Plateau and St. Laurent neighbourhoods, for example. The city’s core is vibrant, but rather compact Old Montreal, with its rustic charm, is a downhill walk from campus. On the subject of hills, be prepared for lots of climbing; the main campus is at the foot of Mont Royal, the mountain for which the city is named. The park itself, designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead (of Central Park fame) is also worth a visit, and is a popular jogging location.
Abraham Moussako, U2 (third year), 20, Political Science
“McGill- University Insider.” In Maclean’s 2014 Canadian Universities Guidebook, edited by Kim Honey, by Abraham Moussako, 175. Toronto, ON: Rogers Publishing Limited, 2014.
For those interested, here’s a link to how it appeared in the guide (2nd page)