Are there many research opportunities?
For a Former McGill Arts & Sci Student...
Why did you choose your program? What makes it unique to you?
I was planning on applying to medical school, and my personal belief is that a strong humanities background makes for an excellent clinician. Medical school (well, residency, really) teaches you all of the facts that you need, but communication and understanding one’s patients are not always so easily accessible. Arts and science provides the flexibility to tailor your program to your interests: if I could have gone completely undeclared and just completed 120 credits from various departments, I would have!
McGill is CHOCK FULL of research opportunities. University professors are not like high school teachers, and are most often chosen by the university on the basis of their research, not because they have completed teaching degrees. If you find yourself interested in something that you’ve encountered in class, speaking to the professor will more often than not net you a project (or two). If they don’t have something going on, then they will know someone who will. It might be tricky to land yourself a big spot with a big name right from the get-go, but I find that it’s more about good timing and persistence than it is about anything else.
What's the workload like in your program?
Work-life balance is what you make of it. In university, it’s entirely up to you how you spend your time. No one makes you go to class, no one makes sure you’ve done the recommended homework; you need to keep on top of these things yourself. It’s also wildly variable depending on how you choose to build your program: if you’re planning on taking five heavy courses in one semester (which I would seriously recommend against, as there is no reason why you would ever need to), then you’ll have to spend a bit more time studying than if you take two or three heavier, and two or three lighter courses. Researching the courses you’re taking and the professors teaching them can be a great help, as can speaking with your academic advisor at least a couple of times a year. I personally love hosting study groups and cooking for my friends, some love to study in cafes, and if you’re staying in residence or living close to campus, people are never more than a few minutes away if you want to meet for a study break. Transition to university was definitely a big academic shock for me, coming from a small town, but as long as you find what sort of studying works for you, and make sure to do it consistently throughout the year, you’ll find that any program can have a great work-life balance.
What is some
advice you would give high school students when applying to your program?
My number one recommendation is to choose a program that you love! Neither one of my programs led directly to employment in the way that engineering or management would, so there was no reason to be in either one of them just for the sake of a job. If you are similarly looking to complete a degree with the intention of post-graduate studies, or a job in a field that doesn’t require a hyper-regimented education, I would wholly recommend taking the time to think about what you like (and hopefully you’ve already thought about that if you’re going for the other). Not only that, it is shamefully easy to switch programs if you find yourself drawn somewhere else. An extra 6 months or a year (or five) seems like the absolute end of the world when you’re living it – speaking from experience – but it is absolutely inconsequential in the long run. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing, then you’ll feel more like you’re living your life and less like you’re working through a burdensome checklist of tasks before you can start being happy.
Arts and Science allowed me to take integrated classes on everything from the anthropology of baseball, to the art of warfare in ant colonies, while simultaneously exploring my loves of neuroscience and forensic psychology, language and bilingualism, and literature across a variety of eras and cultures. I still did find myself in required courses that I would have rather avoided (looking at you, calculus), but I had significantly more freedom within my program than most of my peers. You have the option of either a double major, or a major and two minors, and though you sacrifice the tighter-knit community that you might encounter in a more structured program, you gain the advantage of diversity. I love creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and though my degree was not as straightforward as some, I found that I was able to explore my fields of interest from various angles that I might not have otherwise considered. Art/Sci does mean that you don’t get to take too many electives outside of your programs of choice, however.
What kinds of things are there to do in your schools hometown?
A better question would be what can’t you do in Montreal.It’s a very small big city, and different areas have different sort of vibes. It’s a pretty
safe place to walk, and there’s a metro system and bus system that does a good job of
connecting the core areas (public transit gets a little crappier the farther you get from the epicenter). Old Montreal has lots of beautiful historical buildings and fancy pants restaurants and clubs, with tons of festivals on the water in the summertime. The plateau is more of an artsy
vibe, with lots of pubs for happy hour – called "5 à 7" in this neck of the woods – shows, hipster restaurants, a big fringe/LGBTQ community (it’s just north of the area known as the Gay Village, which is full of outdoor art shows, burlesque/cabaret and affordable rent) and very accessible green spaces. Downtown boasts yet more amazing restaurants – fantastic food is a very recurrent theme in this city – as well as several big shopping malls, the Montreal Musée des Beaux Arts, and Crescent street, which has a great bar scene. You can walk up the path to the top of Mount Royal and overlook the city, take a graffiti tour (with beautiful new art popping up every summer), hit up one of the many board game cafes, escape rooms, axe throwing or archery locales, attend the free music festivals, circus shows, parades, and food festivals that take place every year, check out Nuit Blanche and Igloofest in the winter or Piknic Electronik in the summer… and that’s if you’re lucky to ever get the chance to attend activities off-campus! McGill has a wildly active campus life, with tons of clubs, faculty-based wine and cheese events, bars and social events on campus and even if you’re downtown, you’re free to attend the amazing events put on out at Mac Campus, which has fantastic events for Chinese New Year, a yearly chocolate festival and rocking parties every Thursday night at the Ceilidh. The best part is that there’s very little pressure to drink here, so while the drinking age is 18, it’s very acceptable to go to any and all of these places/events and grab a soda.
A very special thank you to our interviewee...
I came to Montreal from a big old farm in Ontario about a decade ago, and I just never left! I love sci fi, which is probably why I love medicine - we might not have the diagnostic and regenerative med of the future, but we're working on it. I cook daily and bake about twice a week, play a whole whack of board games, and figure skate/roller skate when I can find the time. When I grow up, I'd like to be a polyglot (right now, I'm really more of a trilingual), have at least a horse or two, and have a really organized partner that keeps my future walk-in closet under control. Reach out with any questions - I'm especially helpful with budgeting, transition to city life and med school planning.