I moved from Vancouver to the East Coast for university

Should I have thought it through a bit more?

I think that the top question I am asked when I tell someone I’m from Vancouver is: “So like, why are you here [Toronto or Montréal]…?” It has gotten to the point that I, myself, am not even sure. I frequently wonder if I was too hasty with my decision to move for school… Was my choice based on a whim, simply because I wanted to be independent?

I grew up a good seven minutes from the University of British Columbia (UBC), and I always thought that was where I would end up, not only for the convenience and how the name would look on future job applications. Two of my cousins went to UBC, as did my dad (who is now their archivist). Naturally, it was assumed that I would further my studies at UBC.

Upon contemplation, though, I realised that I had lived in Vancouver for 18 years and had done everything I needed to do in Vancouver for that period of my life. I had frequented the Aquarium, gone sledding at Grouse, and called the Island my second home. If I moved provinces, I would be independent… That intrigued me, especially since I’m an only child and have no family out East. 

So, I packed up my life, migrated east, and lived independently. I was entirely self-reliant and I loved it. It would be so hard for me to go back to Vancouver, simply because I have gotten used to my independence and know I would not be able to backtrack. 

I have only found two cons that came with moving away for school. First, my grandparents—I am either the youngest or the only grandchild on each side. I went from seeing my Nani and Opa two times a week, to seeing them both twice a year. I do not like that at all because I miss them the most. This one also became very apparent to me this past December: the harsh reality that my parents are ageing (I know they’re reading this right now and are probably feeling slightly insulted). Especially since I’m not there to see the progression of that, it is so much more apparent to me whenever I’m back. 

Second comes the change in energy from city to city. Going from the mountains and ocean on my doorstep, to looking out the window and only seeing a flat metropolis really took a toll on my mental health. The atmosphere and vibe of a new city can sometimes make (or break) an experience. I might’ve moved twice now for university, but since Montréal is much more similar to Vancouver, I’ve felt more at home. 

I love the independence and adventure of being a few provinces away, but sometimes, I’m mad at myself because I think that my decision to pursue this independence is selfish. It is hard to be completely happy somewhere else when, though by no means forced, there is a sense of familial obligation a ways away. What possessed me to move away from my family and a familiar city, not to mention a prestigious university? It can be quite a guilt trip sometimes. 

From time to time, I find myself feeling whimsical and dreaming about B.C., mentally driving down that precarious loop that turns Broadway into Lougheed, or speeding down south west Marine Drive. When anything to do with B.C. is mentioned in class, I perk up a bit. I know that I’ll never truly be home again, so it is bittersweet when I visit Vancouver, especially since I’m not totally sure where I’ll end up… Only time will tell.

An ode to my first apartment

Moving back to Montreal. ASHLEY FISH ROBERTSON/The Concordian

You never forget your first love

When I think back to my first love, an image of a person doesn’t come to mind, but rather, a place: my first apartment.

It was a charming five-and-a-half located across from Rosemont’s Maisonneuve Park, and featured abundant natural light, worn-in hardwood floors, and an alley cat who regularly frequented the balcony. It also came with the lingering smell of cigarettes from previous occupants.

As anyone would probably tell you about their first place, it certainly wasn’t perfect; the ceiling in the bathroom was gradually caving in, the kitchen sink had a tendency to clog, and the walls were thin enough to hear the neighbours argue over what to have for dinner. Still, despite all its flaws, I was 19 and was about to live with my two best friends. Life was golden.

Before moving into my dream apartment, I had left the province I grew up in for New Brunswick. It was during spring break of 2018 that I realized I wanted to move back home to Quebec. I was residing in Fredericton, studying at the University of New Brunswick. Having spent most of my childhood living in a small village in the Argenteuil region of Quebec, I wanted to escape to somewhere new the second I finished my senior year of high school. As fun as it was to move to a city where I knew nobody, I began to miss the familiarity of home.

When I flew home to Quebec for spring break, my friends and I spent the night bar hopping in downtown Montreal. On the taxi ride back to our Airbnb, I remember being so mesmerized by the skyline, with its abundance of highrise condos and towering office buildings. Even at 3 a.m., the city was lively and teeming with pedestrians. It was exactly the kind of place where I could see myself living.

Back in Fredericton, I was used to most nights out ending around midnight. Everything moved so much slower on the east coast, something that I had enjoyed at first, but was beginning to grow tired of. When I returned back to Fredericton after spring break, I decided to finish my freshman year and move to Montreal as soon as I wrote my last exam.

Moving to Montreal. ASHLEY FISH-ROBERTSON/The Concordian

When I moved back to Quebec, the apartment hunt began (and my god, was it excruciating). After countless visits, my roommates and I were running low on patience. It was on a humid evening in June that we finally found a place.

To call it a pigsty would be an understatement; the entrance closet, instead of housing shoes and coats, contained a massive pyramid fashioned from empty beer cans. In the kitchen, the current tenants were gathered around a small table, smoking cigarettes and playing cards, with empty Domino’s boxes scattered haphazardly on the floor.

We left feeling confused. Sure, the place was atrocious, we agreed, but did you see those windows? And those hardwood floors? And the double sinks? I’d watched enough house flipping shows to know what a good cleaning job could do, and so we figured that a makeover would render the place liveable. It took many hours, but we succeeded.

In the months that followed, we all began to settle into our new independent lives. We bought our own groceries (and quickly realized how much it would cost to feed ourselves), we argued over whose turn it was to wash the dishes, and we learned to balance part-time jobs and school. It was simultaneously liberating and exhausting. I’m almost certain none of us knew at the time that 2018 would be the best year of our lives.

Our apartment became our one true safe haven, a place where we could escape to when faced with heartbreak, treacherous Canadian snowstorms, or just a bad day at work. Even when we were in our own rooms, we were comforted by the fact that company was right down the hall, just a knock away.

Some of my best memories took place here, from cooking spaghetti together, to lounging on the balcony while listening to The Doors, to night strolls through Maisonneuve Park. Outside of this apartment, we all felt like misfits. And so, in this place, we resembled some sort of odd family, one that wasn’t bound by blood but instead by a shared space.

Saying goodbye. ASHLEY FISH ROBERTSON/The Concordian

Nothing prepared me for the day I bid farewell to my first place. It was an immensely bittersweet experience. I often find myself thinking of my last moments in that apartment. I remember handing over our keys to the landlord and stealing one last glimpse of the empty living room before closing the door behind me. I made sure to sear that image in my mind because, frankly, I was — and still am — terrified of forgetting all the memories that took place there.

On days when I’m not pressed for time, I’ll walk past the apartment building. The curtains are still drawn wide open just as they had been when we lived there, affording prying eyes a glimpse into the modest but welcoming kitchen. If I focus hard enough, I can picture my roommates and I still sitting around the table, each of us discussing our day with one another over plates of spaghetti.

Instead of focusing on the goodbyes, this is how I choose to remember my first year on my own: in the company of two of my favourite people.

Photos by Ashley Fish-Robertson


IKEA furniture shortage creates challenges for returning students

Global shipping issues and high demand led to product scarcity in Montreal’s outlet

The world’s largest furniture retailer does not have enough supply to match the demand that comes with the start of the academic year, with many of its mattresses, sofas, beds, and kitchen items out of stock since mid-August.

For some Concordia students returning to Montreal, the move-in process has been more challenging than usual, as the supply issue continues as of the second week of university classes.

Luna Ferrari, a third-year communications student from Italy, has had to rely on her family as a temporary solution, due to missing a bed and a mattress for her downtown apartment.

“I am lucky that my uncle lives in Montreal, so I could stay at his house while the products I wanted were sold out. I didn’t want to spend 100 dollars on an inflatable mattress — which is something that my roommates had to do since they had no other choice,” said Ferrari.

When the student went to IKEA in person one week after an unsuccessful online order, she ended up buying just a kitchen table and a rug, as her other preferred items were still unavailable.

IKEA Canada told The Concordian that its low stock availability is the result of its disrupted supply chain due to COVID-19. Since 2020, the transportation of goods by sea has been unreliable as port closures and cargo ship standstills significantly delayed the delivery process.

“In addition, at IKEA, we are seeing higher customer demand as more people are spending increased time at home. […] We want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we work with suppliers to restock their favourite IKEA products,” stated Lisa Huie, the public relations leader of IKEA Canada.

The company has bought its own shipping containers and is chartering additional vessels in an effort to reduce delivery times and meet the historically high demand. IKEA also began transporting its products by transcontinental rail from China, all the way to Europe, to avoid a production crisis.

Montreal is not the only region experiencing such shortages: up to 10 per cent of all furniture items were also out of stock in Ireland and the U.K. as of Sept. 9. Despite the company’s efforts to resolve the global issue, university students continue to feel the impact.

Ferrari explained that, “The problem is not the lack of options in general, but the lack of affordable options. As students, we all have similar budgets, so we all want to buy the same products that would look nice for our apartments while also not being very expensive. It was frustrating to visit a store that I personally like and then leave almost empty-handed.”

The student decided to purchase a bed via Amazon for the first time, which was delivered to her doorstep in just three days. While feeling relieved about finally having a place to sleep in her new home, Ferrari said that balancing studies with furniture shopping has been “nothing but a stressful experience.”


Photo by Catherine Reynolds.


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


Student Life

The cyclists that will step up your move

Déménagement Myette: the environmentally-conscious moving company

At 11 a.m. sharp, the movers arrive at my apartment.  The two men have come prepared, and quickly, they begin unpacking their equipment.  They start unloading and stacking blankets, ropes, tool boxes and tape.  They talk amongst themselves, examine my stairs and point towards my door.  They are discussing their game plan.  After a few minutes, the men are almost ready to start the big move.  Only one thing remains before the heavy lifting: their bikes need to be laid strategically on their side.

For the past eight years, Déménagement Myette has been moving apartments and offices of all sizes across the island of Montreal…on bikes.  Julien Myette founded the company in 2008 after quitting his desk job to pursue his two great passions in life: cycling and the environment.

“Julien never uses a car,” said Matthew Gaines, spokesperson of the company, with a laugh. “He bikes everywhere.”

Since its opening, the company has built a good reputation, earning rave reviews on Google, and countless interviews and features in major media outlets such as The Globe and Mail, La Presse and Radio-Canada.  The type of moving service offered is unlike anything else on the market.  With friendly service, lower rates and lower CO2 emissions than companies that rely on trucks, Déménagement Myette has created an environmentally-conscious moving experience.

“It’s very nice to work for a company with values that I believe in,” said Gaines, who has been working for the company for three years.

The process for booking the movers is the same as with any other moving company.  The information for the move is entered online or over the phone, an estimate is provided and, if the client decides to move forth, a date and approximate time is set.  What comes after the booking is what steers far from the ordinary.

Gaines explained that, on average, the company sends two movers for a job.  The movers arrive with trailers attached to their bikes.  The size of the trailers depend on the size of the move.  The ones that pulled up to my place were about as long as the bikes themselves, but not much wider than the average desk.  The company’s largest trailer can hold up to 300 kilograms, said Gaines.  To place the items on the trailers, the movers wrap and tape each item rapidly yet carefully in large blue blankets.  Afterwards, they begin stacking the items on the trailers as if they’re playing a game of Tetris.  Ropes with locks are used to secure the items in place.

While it sounds like quite the process, on average, an entire move with the company, including transportation, takes less than three hours.  The company moves anywhere on the island with a maximum distance of 15 kilometers.  There is only one item the company doesn’t move: pianos.

As the last piece of furniture is placed in my new bedroom, one of the men walks over to me with a smile, wiping his sweaty palms on his shorts before handing me the bill for the move.  The amount is approximately $100 less than what any other moving company offered for the same date.  I make the payment and chat with the men for a good 10 minutes.  We say our friendly goodbyes, and out the door and on their bikes the pair goes—with pep in their pedal, on to the next move.

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