Chemistry at McGill University
Amy (Year 2)
What did you wish you knew before going to your university? What made you choose this institution over all others? What are advantages and disadvantages of your institution or campus? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your university.
McGill stood out to me because it was located in the downtown core of Montreal. Growing up in the suburbs, I've always wanted to experience the hustle and bustle of city life. One of the main advantages of going to school in a big city is definitely the people and the social life. My view of the world widened as I began to meet people from all around the world with vastly different experiences. Additionally, the social life at McGill can be very lively if you want it to be. One disadvantage would be how hilly Montreal can be; everything is on an incline. The walk up to McMed and Upper Rez is a journey and a half especially in the slippery winters. The campus is also quite large, so it can be difficult to get from one class to the other when you have back to back classes.
What did you wish you knew before choosing your specific program? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your program? List any advice for incoming first-year students about your program of study.
In U0 (first-year), science students have to complete the freshmen science program with the exception of students who have advanced standing (AP, IB, CEGEP, etc). This means that first year classes can be very large. There are obvious disadvantages to that. It is often intimating to ask questions in class and difficult to get to know the prof. I will say that you have to have initiative and be proactive when it comes to asking for help because sometimes office hours can be packed to the point where you have to stand in the hallway. However, there are some other resources to counteract the large volume of students. For example, review sessions, tutorials, help desks, and FrezCa (one-on-one speed tutoring). You have to be the one to go ask for help when you know you need it. No one is going to track you down and hold your hand.
What was your favourite university experience?
Some of my best experiences come from frosh and science games (basically winter frosh). They organize food/bar crawls, night events, and sight-seeing opportunities that help you bond with your peers. Smaller things like getting ice cream on Sunday Sundaes or going to explore the city with friends are also some of my favourite experiences.
What was your least favourite university experience?
My worst experience would have to be my Calculus 2 final exam. It was online due to COVID. It was one of the most difficult exams I've done and just not a good time. A more prolonged bad experience would have to be walking up to McMed for Calculus during the cold, icy winter mornings. Going down the stairs on McTavish was like sliding down a ramp.
What is the hardest part about your program and what were the steps that you took to overcome any difficulties?
I think one of the hardest parts for me was finding a balance between academics and having a social life. Going into university, I was quite nervous about falling behind and feel that I did not belong academically. So, once school really picked up, I spent most of my day studying and doing practice problems. I think in the second semester, I definitely found a better balance. Something just clicked in me and I felt like I needed to be taking more advantage of the university experience. So, I started going to the fitness centre, taking skating lessons on the weekends, and eating almost all my meals with friends. I also started studying more often in the library with friends as opposed to alone in the dorms. Since I was already outside, I would be more inclined to do other things. The funny thing is I performed around the same academically for both semesters, but I was just a happier person during the second (until COVID hit anyways).
If you were able to take electives, what was your favourite elective? If you were not able to take electives, what was your favourite course and why?
COMP202. This was my only elective for my first year. I've never coded before and found this to be a very good introduction. Giulia Alberini was my prof and many students will rightfully tell you how great an instructor she is. She, along with the TAs, and TEAM mentors were very supportive every step of the way. If you decide to take this course, make sure you do all the assignments as soon as possible so you can get help from the TAs. If you wait until a couple days before the deadline to ask for help, the office hours will be packed.
My general advice would be to get involved and take advantage of what the university has to offer because after all, you're paying thousands of dollars to go here. McGill has a large volume of students and at times, it can feel like all you are is another 9 digit number. You have to be the one to seek out opportunities and there are lots once you start looking.