Student Life

Slice of Life: Letter from Morocco

Keeping up with friends while abroad

Dear Katy,

There is so much I wish I could write to you—but where do I even start? I know it’s my fault for not taking the time to write to you more often. I’ve been busy trying to absorb all the tomorrows filled with even more stories than the yesterdays. But as I sit in a rattling bus taking me from Marrakesh deep into the Atlas Mountains—where I plan to wander in Amazigh villages—my thoughts run wild and I feel the need to write to you.

The landscape is truly unbelievable. It’s a mix of infinite mountain peaks and barren valleys. The sun heats up the bus, and I keep exchanging sighs of desperation with others who are clearly more patient and used to this weather. Yet, they’re amused to see me, this young woman traveling alone. It seems as though my every move is meticulously tracked, or maybe I’m just self-absorbed. I stumble through discussions, trying to squeeze in the few words of Morocco’s Arabic dialect, Darija, that I’ve learned here and there. As I travel through the north, I feel as though I only catch a glimpse of people’s lives: men far away guiding their flocks of sheep and kids begging as they reach out to the bus windows. Then the road turns, and the kids are replaced with a view of the imposing ksour, an ancient mud and clay village. While the remaining castles have been wrecked by time, they are architectural masterpieces in my eyes. These images feel surreal, as though from a movie that I will never get to view entirely.

While I’m escaping the calmness of Rabat to take a break from my studies, I can’t help but think about what I’ve learned here. There’s something really overwhelming—and powerful—about witnessing the extent of class disparity, colonial repercussions, and developmental challenges—realities I’ve only encountered surrounded by four walls in an air-conditioned classroom. While on my way to Marrakesh a few days ago, when I looked away from the window, even for a minute, the metallic slums transformed into unblemished, renovated buildings. The two worlds are so disconnected from each other that the bridges—both old and new—connecting them feel strangely simple. The disparity became even clearer to me as I witnessed an old shepherd wearing a brown djellaba—the traditional robe—slowly crossing the road with his sheep, while an expensive-looking sports car zoomed by. Morocco’s inconsistent realities are indisputable. La calèche d’un bord, et le pétrole de l’autre.

I’m starting to see a paradoxical world here in Morocco, where values clash with beliefs and actions. Sometimes, men welcome me, feed me and discuss politics and religion with me, while their own mothers and daughters sit quietly without access to education nor the need for it, according to those same men. I am allowed to do and say as I please, but I’m shown the charming side of a place whose people are secretly choking from the inside out. My foreign naivety is entirely gone now, and I am very grateful for it. I have a feeling this journey will change my stance towards this asymmetric country.

I hope the winter isn’t too harsh on you.

Sincerely yours,


P.S. You know that night…I did get on the back of that stranger’s motorcycle in Marrakesh. Ha!

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

Student Life

Great expectations, at what expense?

Cramming to finish your degree isn’t worth the mental exhaustion

Take a step back and look at your life from a different angle. Are you happy? Are you okay?

There’s a significant amount of pressure on students to achieve something in their young adult life, so much so that sometimes people forget that expectations aren’t always great. More often than not, this pressure comes from within. The individual lens that we see life through is tinted with the wants and needs of external factors: parents, society, friends, and the need to ‘become.’ It’s not a simple feat to differentiate between what’s really best for you and what you think is best, because of all these factors.

In 2016, The Charlatan published an article highlighting different factors contributing to university dropout rates. According to the article, most students leave because they’re unsure if their program is right for them.

“In the first year, dropouts were already struggling in terms of meeting deadlines, academic performance and studying patterns,” according to The Youth in Transition Study sourced in The Charlatan. “Compared to graduates and graduate continuers, more dropouts felt they had not found the right program,” the study stated.

Here’s the truth: deciding on your future at 18 is practically impossible. You’re told to make the most important decision of your life at an age when your brain is still evolving. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of about 25.

When you wake up one morning and ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth the stress, money, and effort you’re putting into it, remember you’re allowed to change your mind, take a break and refocus your lens.

“Overall, being out of school let me take time to focus on myself,” said Rachel Doyon, a student in Montreal. “It also made me miss school—I think that was the biggest benefit. Being reminded that I was in university because it was something I was passionate about, not just an obligation. I still get little pangs of disappointment when my peers graduate ‘on time,’ but it was the best choice.”

‘On time’ is the key term here: this is exactly the kind of ‘want’ or ‘need’ that we associate with ourselves, but really it’s an outside factor. The concept of graduating on time is not at all an objective conventional setting: the only timeline that matters is your own personal clock. Granted, there are several factors that affect when you graduate: maybe your parents pay for your education and you don’t want to prolong it, or perhaps you have to prolong it because you pay for it yourself.

According to a study on persistence in post-secondary education in Canada done by York University, only 57 per cent of students aged 18 to 20 graduated, or are continuing in post-secondary education, 8 per cent of which were enrolled and dropped out. Students aged 20 to 22 had 14 per cent drop out rate of the 60 per cent enrolled in university.

“Even though my parents wouldn’t have minded, I just would’ve felt weird, like I fell off the train,” said Ali Sabra, a Lebanese student who was offered a year-long internship abroad, but refused because it didn’t feel right to take two semesters off. “Being in Lebanon, it’s virtually unfathomable to ‘take a year off.’ It’s the rush thing for sure.”

Culture played a big role in Sabra’s decision-making, but being in a rush to graduate is rather universal. In all fairness, it’s okay to want to graduate as soon as possible. You might not want to pass up an opportunity that would benefit you more in the future in the name of finishing sooner.

“I went into psychology because my parents got so excited, but I wasn’t sure I liked it,” said Noura Nassreddine, a previous American University of Beirut student. “The next year, I told my parents I didn’t like it and I needed to take a break, so I did.” During her gap semester, Nassreddine found what she really loved, and is now on her way to becoming a Paris-trained baker. Nassreddine’s experience is a reminder that your 18-year-old self doesn’t always know what you want your future to look like.

Choosing a career path is not a light task, and yes, sometimes you aren’t ready to decide where to go straight out of high school. It’s okay to go in blind and try things out, and then decide to change your mind. If you have the means, the patience, and the will, go find what’s best for you. When making decisions, consider which you’d regret more: doing it, or not doing it, whatever ‘it’ is.

All in all, taking time for yourself is as important as finishing your degree. Making sure the degree you’re getting is what you want to continue with and is important, too. Remember that your mental health is a key aspect of your success—take care of yourself so you can have the mental capacity to achieve your goals. Sometimes retreating is important to help put things into perspective. At the end of the day, life will bring you all sorts of problems in the future, so what’s an extra semester or two, anyway?

Feature GIF by @spooky_soda


Education abroad

Taking a look at some of the universities Concordia has international partnerships with

Concordia International will begin offering information sessions for students interested in studying abroad, as the application deadline for the 2017-2018 academic year is due Feb. 1.

For those who need help completing their application, Concordia International staff will be available to students on Jan. 18 during a Concordia Student Exchange Program (CSEP) application workshop. Participants are encouraged to stop by the workshop in H-517 at the downtown campus anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Concordia is partnered with 150 universities across 35 countries. The Concordian has compared, cost of living, education, food and more for five locations.

Graphic by Florence Yee.


University of Western Sydney (UWS)

UWS has more than 44,000 students and more than 3,000 thousand staff members, according to the UWS’s official website. The university has seven different campuses with a shuttle bus service to travel to and from them. In a rank conducted by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, UWS was ranked the 78th best university worldwide in 2017.

UWS offers a variety of courses under the subjects of health and medicine, applied and pure sciences, social studies and media, business and management, computer and IT, and creative arts and design.

University of New South Wales (UNSW)

UNSW has three campuses and was ranked the 46th best university in the world in 2015 by QS World University Rankings. UNSW was also ranked the number one choice among Australia’s highest employers in 2015 by LinkedIn. More than 52,000 students attend UNSW, including 13,123 international students from more than 120 countries.

Within the nine faculties at UNSW, there are 900 academic degrees offered to students. The nine faculties include the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Business School, UNSW Art and Design, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Built Environment, Science and UNSW Canberra—the Australian Defence Force Academy.

The city of Sydney

According to The Economist’s 2015 Safe Cities Index report, Sydney is the sixth safest city in the world. There are many activities and social events for students, including biking along the city’s cycling paths, exploring bushwalking—an Australian term for hiking/backpacking in natural areas—camping and surfing at beaches such as at Bondi Beach. For sports lovers, Western Sydney offers local community competitions you can watch or participate in, for sports such as cricket, basketball and soccer. Sydney is home to a large number of bars and clubs open 24 hours.


Communication University of China (CUC)

CUC has an enrollment of 15,000 full-time students and approximately 1,000 international students from more than 110 countries around the world. CUC has been ranked the number one university in China for journalism and communication studies, as well as theatre, film and television studies, according to the latest National Discipline Evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Education in China.

Renmin University of China (RUC)

RUC is research-oriented with a focus on humanities and social sciences. In 2015, RUC was ranked China’s 26th out of 196 universities by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.  RUC has approximately 24,522 students, including 1,113 international students. There are 23 different departments offered with a variety of programs amongst each department. Some of the departments include: Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Chinese Classics, Arts, Foreign Languages, Journalism and Communication, Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Public Administration and Policy, Economics, Finance, Law, Marxism Studies, International Studies, Science and the Sino-French Institute.

The City of Beijing:

An inexpensive activity students can participate in are morning sessions of Taichi held in parks across the city, such as in Ritan Park. Those who are looking for a place to drink should visit Sanlitun Bar Street, located just south of the embassy district. It is one of the more popular spots for nightlife in Beijing, open until 2 a.m. Those who plan to stay abroad in China should be mindful that various social media websites are blocked from use by the Chinese government, such as Facebook and YouTube.


Institut d’Études Politiques (IEP) de Paris

The Paris Institute of Political Studies in English or nicknamed “SciencesPo”—has seven different campuses across France. There is one in Paris, Poitiers, Menton, Dijon, Reims, Le Havre and Nancy. The same bachelor’s degrees are offered at each campus, allowing students to choose their prefered campus. However, doctoral programs and master’s degrees are only offered at the Paris campus. The 2016 World University Rankings rated SciencesPo as the 4th best university for politics and international studies.

Université Panthéon-Sorbonne

Also known as Paris 1, this university has a capacity of 1,183 faculty members and 32,564 students. Paris 1 has been rated by QS World University Rankings as the 228th best university in the world. The same source rated their archeology program as the 12th best worldwide, their history program as the 18th best, their law and legal studies programs as 20th best and their philosophy program as 23rd best.

The City of Paris

Paris is filled with many historical gems and beautiful architecture for anyone visiting the city to explore. There are also many markets around the city selling local food, inexpensive books and various second-hand items. While going out at night can be pricey, students should check out La Zorba, an inexpensive bistro open at 5 a.m., for an early bite or late-night partiers for a drink.


University of Iceland (UoI)

UoL is one of Iceland’s seven universities, however Concordia only has a partnership with one—which is in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. The first language taught at UoI is Icelandic, however some programs are offered in English, but mostly at the graduate level. There are a variety of courses offered in English in the engineering and natural sciences, education studies, health sciences, humanities and social sciences.

The City of Reykjavík

Those looking to live in the city should beware that food prices are quite high in Reykjavík, since Iceland imports most of its goods. In the mid-winter months, there are only four to five hours of solid daylight, while from mid-May to mid-August the sun sets for only a few hours per day—this is called the “midnight sun” by many. For less than $10, those who want to see Reykjavík from the tallest part of Iceland can visit Hallgrímskirkja Church, the tallest building in Reykjavík with a lookout at the top.


Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

LMU has a faculty of 3,506 and 35,809 students and is recognized as a leading research and academic institution in Europe. QS World University Rankings rated LMU as the 68th best university in the world, ranked as having the 13th best physics and astronomy program and the 33th best faculty of natural science.

Technische Universität München (TUM)

TUM has a staff of 5,675 and 37,483 students with campuses in Munich, Garching and Freising-Weihenstephan. While the university has a research focus, it offers 13 different faculties for students to choose from. QS World University Rankings rated LMU the 60th best university in the world, and ranked it as having the 27th best engineering program and the 30th best faculty in natural science.

The City of Munich:

There are many free activities offered in Munich, such as visiting Olympiapark—the location of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games—and attending their free concerts during the summer months. Daring individuals can also try river surfing. You can also watch river surfers in Eisbach in downtown Munich. Although swimming in this river is prohibited, many do not follow this rule. Museums in Munich offer “one euro Sunday” entry, where it is just one euro for the day for you to marvel at Monet, Rembrandt and Warhol.

Comparing numbers from each location

One pint in neighbourhood pub:

Graphic by Florence Yee.

One cappuccino:

Graphic by Florence Yee.

1 bedroom apartment:

Graphic by Florence Yee.


*Sydney and Beijing transit does not offer monthly passes. Instead, the system charges users for  the length of time one is on the transit. Estimates are based on the use of an average commuter in Sydney.

Basic lunch menu with drink in business district:

Graphic by Florence Yee.

*All of these rates are based on approximations according to Expatistan and comparisons of different cafés, bars, real estate agencies and transit operators in each location. These numbers are a suggestion towards the average price in each city.

The first information session will be held on on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Concordia International’s office at 2080 Mackay, Annex X, room 103, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

There will also be information sessions hosted at the same place and time on Wednesday, Jan. 11; Thursday, Jan. 12; Tuesday, Jan. 17; Wednesday, Jan. 18 and Thursday, Jan. 19. For those who cannot attend in the afternoon, there will be evening sessions held on Monday, Jan. 16 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Graphics by Florence Yee

Exit mobile version