I’m going to be honest: I really didn’t think Montreal would have a huge impact on me. I just figured it would be another semester, albeit with a lot of new, fun experiences in a totally new place.
That didn’t happen. If anything, this semester had the most impact on me out of any I’ve had at Champlain, since it allowed me to get to know myself for, really, the first time in my life.
Going abroad meant depending on myself, in a lot of ways: making my own food, commuting to work, and living apart from the big college community I was used to. It also meant spending a lot of time by myself, which, as a social introvert, sounded perfectly ideal to me.
But it meant that I spent a lot of time figuring out what I really needed to, essentially, survive in this whole-new environment and make the most out of it. For starters, I found out that I really like taking late-night walks around the city. Not too far—just strolling a couple of blocks out from our building and looking at all of the neat architecture in Old Montreal.
I also realized that I love spicy food. I’ve struggled with spice for a long time since I’m way too over-sensitive to it, but I’m learning to love it day by day. Spicy chicken and curry have brought me so much joy these past few months.
These two things were a lot of fun to learn, but really the most important thing I’ve discovered is how to be more comfortable with myself. In the spirit of being honest, my junior year of college was really tough for me personally. I struggled with taking on too many activities and responsibilities, and that ended up affecting my personal outlook and relationships with others. I had also struggled with my mental health for a long time without seeking help for it, so I didn’t feel like I could ask for help or take time off for myself. I fell into a hole that I couldn’t see my way out of, and it took a serious conversation with my advisor to start making changes.
In the hopes of continuing that positive change, my advisor strongly recommended I go to Montreal during my senior year. I was originally supposed to go sometime during my junior year, but with everything happening, I couldn’t see myself going there and being happy at that point.
Choosing to go to Montreal now was probably the best decision I ever made. Studying abroad junior year works for many people, of course, and I understand why it’s recommended. But I guess I just wanted to say that taking your time with that decision is okay, too. I’m about to graduate next semester, but I still had the opportunity to experience time in a whole new place before I went out into the “Real World.”
Ultimately, being in Montreal made me realize just how much I need to take care of myself. Working hard is super important, but knowing how to balance work and time off is also important, too. We spoke with a bunch of Champlain alumni while we were here at different events, and they all said the same thing: balance is key.
That was the moral of the story if I had to pick one: being comfortable with myself enough to know when I needed to work and when I needed a break. Everyone experiences burnout at some point, but knowing how to manage it and prevent it is one of the best things I ever learned. Going to Montreal forced me to find out how to do that, and I’m glad I can say that I’ve been doing a lot better this year.
I moved outside of my Burlington comfort zone and made a life for myself in a new city, and that initial jump into the deep end meant that I now feel like I can finally swim. I’ve taken on responsibilities that I know I can handle, and I’ve been giving myself time off when I need it. That’s allowed me to really enjoy the experience up here and make the most of all the fun events and opportunities we’ve been given.
I feel a lot more confident coming back to Burlington that I can make the most of my last semester in Champlain than I did when I left for Montreal. I’m ready to take on Capstone and everything that happens after that, and I can honestly attribute that to my time here. Even though I’m sad to be saying goodbye to this city, I’m even more excited about what comes next.