C/O Yoohyun Park

Being so far away from McMaster can make you feel alone and disconnected 

By: Bianca Perreault, Contributor

Along with COVID-19 came a million other things that made life that much more confusing. The stay-at-home lockdown, the safety protocols and a lot of self-learning were part of many people’s journeys. To learn by yourself is already a challenge, but to figure out everything on your own hundreds of kilometres away was even harder. While university was online for all of us, I definitely didn’t feel as close to McMaster University as I felt I should have by my second year.

When a student is accepted to their first choice university program, you’d think that they would be immersed in feelings of accomplishment, of course and a sense of belonging. In the province of Quebec, the studying system is not the same as in Ontario. When one graduates from high school, they have two main options. They could either pursue a CEGEP program or a diploma of professional studies. People interested in getting into university must work hard on their grades while in CEGEP, whether it takes two years or more, your grades are the priority. 

McMaster’s requirement to get an offer to the faculty of humanities is a minimum 85% average.

As an out-of-province student who really wanted to get into this program, I had to work diligently over the past few years. 

When you finally receive an offer from your dream school and are willing to make a huge change to your life (to the tune of living six hours away from your hometown), you go through many emotions. A new town, a new life, new people and a significant adaptation overall. Until, COVID takes that away from you and you find yourself studying at home. I can only imagine what international students have had to deal with since the beginning of the pandemic.

As exciting as it was to begin university in person this year, there were still pros to our online semesters. An optimistic person can find the positive through almost everything; learning in your pyjamas in the middle of winter was welcomed. The real problem was the feeling of not belonging to the university while studying in a completely different province. 

Before getting into McMaster, my priorities were to work on my English, explore my field of study and to grow as an individual in a new town.

However, after being distanced from not only classes but potential friends, I was now distanced from the culture of Hamilton as well.

University is a lot of self-work already; students need to be diligent, aware of their schedule and now, we need to be a lot more patient. Softwares would crash, the temperature in Hamilton affected the Wi-Fi of some instructors, classes were delayed, people were working at the same time as their class or had problems understanding the concepts taught in online classes. 

I wondered more than once how long I could have studied that way and I asked myself if it was fair for me to pay the same tuition fees as if I was in class. Even today, I still have some classes online, but at least I get to go on campus sometimes.

Once I moved to Hamilton, it was an unknown city. While I am getting adjusted to the city, it’s still difficult for me to feel like I fully belong. Trying to discover a whole new city while figuring out hybrid university and adapting to every health protocol quite honestly makes me dizzy. All I can do for now is try to get my perspective out there and connect with each one of you that’s feeling the exact same thing.

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