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To be or not to be? Or, to stay or not to stay?

by Fatima Dia September 18, 2018
To be or not to be? Or, to stay or not to stay?

The city of Montreal’s role in preparing students for life after university

I have two more years in the safe environment of university life before the boundless and merciless maze of a world takes over my life. Much like other long-term planners, the question that plagues me night and day is: What’s next?

I moved from Lebanon to Montreal two years ago, and Concordia has quickly become a haven in the metropolis. Now, I don’t like to get too comfortable in places where I know my stay is temporary, so I make a point of planning what comes after my time at Concordia. The problem this time is that, unlike high school, I will be thrown into the mad world of adulthood where my sole focus will be to find whatever purpose I should fulfill.

I often find myself walking across René-Lévesque St., looking at all the suits rushing around and wondering if this is my purpose. Am I to walk these same streets, go about these same routines, all the while still trying to master a language that I have yet to learn?

Oh, yes—I should mention that I don’t speak French. Yet, I love Montreal. Part of what makes it amazing is how quickly I adapted to the snowy, moody, beautiful city-life. The metropolis makes it easy, really. Compared to other places, even around Canada and the province of Quebec, Montreal is so eclectic that you are bound to find something you identify with.

Although it’s in a French province, Montreal’s bilingualism makes the city home to immense diversity. I’ve heard about 17 languages being spoken while walking from the Hall building to John Molson. I’ve seen a woman wearing the hijab laugh audibly with a woman in shorts and a tank top. The city’s mélange of cultures is almost palpable.

Also, Concordia University is a beacon of innovative ideas; it constantly creates chances for students to make the best out of their time, personally and in their careers. Mary-Jo Barr, the university’s spokesperson said, “Montreal offers many advantages for those who want a complete university experience. It is culturally and linguistically diverse, and is seen as a place where students and graduates can prosper.”

In addition, while most universities in the province of Quebec are seeing a decrease in student enrolment, The Concordian reported that Concordia is experiencing the opposite.  The fact that it’s located in Montreal and its main language of instruction is English are substantial reasons, according to Concordia’s chief financial officer, Denis Cossette, and the senior director of financial planning and budget services, Jean-François Hamel.

I think this city is perfectly equipped to help students adapt to a balanced lifestyle. Unfortunately, I don’t think this privilege extends to graduates looking for a job. According to an article from the Montreal Gazette, Montreal’s unemployment rate has risen 0.4 per cent this past July—now sitting at 6.2 per cent.

There are discounts and offers for students all around the city that help make our stay more affordable; this perk does not extend to non-students. And for me personally, I’m a future journalist studying in a bilingual city whose media outlets rely heavily on French.

On top of that, having spoken to a few people who came here and stayed, what I noticed they all have in common is routine—they settle themselves here, go to work or university or both, come back home, have the occasional weekend outing, and repeat. The excitement of newness and diversity becomes normalcy. At one time, perhaps the beginning of winter was exciting for newcomers—but then, the cold breeze announcing winter becomes a cold reminder instead: “Here comes another six months or so of weather-induced depression.”

I do believe that those who are comfortable with a set, continuous routine can find their calling in this city. But I left home at 18 to come to a strange city, meet new people, make connections, be at Concordia, and then see where I can take what I’ve learned and do something with it. I don’t believe the Montreal that lies outside the safety net of Concordia is apt for me. I do, however, believe it’s the perfect city for transitioning into adult life.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

 

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