Hailing from around the world, McGill’s valedictorians are a diverse, multitalented group. When they came to the University, they brought with them their unique backgrounds, passions and ambitions. While they all praise the education they received at McGill, one thing is certain, the University has benefitted just as much for having them as valuable, contributing members of our community.
These outstanding students have earned the respect of the peers who they represent through their strong academic performance, leadership and commitment to making the University – and the world – a better place.
For the Spring 2021 Convocation, the Reporter continued its tradition of interviewing the newest group of McGill valedictorians.
In the fifth instalment of the series, we feature Maitena Gulli (BEd, Kindergarten and Elementary Education specializing in the Program immersion française), one of two valedictorians for the Faculty of Education. You can watch the Faculty’s virtual convocation ceremony here; Maitena’s valedictory speech begins at 27:46.
What is your hometown?
I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but I have grown up on the West Island in Montreal.
Why did you choose McGill?
I knew McGill had many international relations with other universities as well as a reputation for hosting international students so I figured it would be a great environment for me as I was once a newcomer too.
What were some of your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?
I remember being pleasantly surprised as I walked on that campus for the first time because it was so large and beautiful! The buildings were so large, and the amount of green space was fantastic! It reminded me of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies!
Three favourite places on McGill/Mac campus?
The community garden behind the Education building, the OAP field, as well as the Redpath library (I think that is just because I spend so much time studying there).
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your time here and how did you overcome them?
I think that one of the biggest challenges for me was the French and English bilingual courses I had to take. I decided to specialize in the PIF (Programme immersion française) and so most of my classes were bilingual. Although my English and French are strong, they are my second and third languages, so it was a bit of a challenge, but with the help of my peers and the support from my family and friends I was able to overcome some of these adversities.
What’s next for you, both short and long term?
I would love to teach abroad so I have been applying to a variety of places around the world; from Europe to Asia to Australia and more. I am a strong advocate for learning while doing, so I would truly love to learn on the job from different cultures and education programs. And ultimately my goal would be to have my own classroom where I could implement all the strategies I have learned along the way.
Tell me about your Faculty and your classmates. How important have they been to your overall McGill experience?
I think that being in a specific program such as the PIF allowed me to get close to my peers. I think this had both benefits and some challenges because we really helped each other out and learned to connect and work together, but also it was a bit tough to meet new people considering our courses were really geared to our specific program. All in all, I learned a lot from the people in my program and I am very grateful for that.
Who or what will you miss most?
I will miss some of my peers, they have become close friends of mine, but we will stay in touch for many years to come. I will also miss being on campus, after this year I feel like I have not explored enough of it, and I am going to miss meeting friends for coffee study sessions and things like that.
What advice do you have for new students to McGill?
Take advantage of all the resources at your feet. Enjoy your time here, do not be afraid to try new things because this is the time to test the waters! Trust me, you will enjoy your McGill experience more if you go out and try new things.
What are your plans for virtual convocation?
For this virtual convocation, I will take the afternoon off to be with my family at home. As we watch the video together, I know that my family from Argentina will be watching too, as if they were here with me. Under these circumstances I think it is one of the better ways to celebrate this achievement.
What was your experience with the pandemic?
My experience with the pandemic was truly odd. It had its good moments and its bad ones, I learned a lot about myself, I’ve had time to reflect and truly think about what I want to do in life and who I want to be. This being said, I cannot say that I enjoyed having online classes. It was tough to do everything online and not see my peers face-to-face for projects and such. Also, my last field experience was not easy either with all the COVID restrictions, but it was a very good learning experience.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the world today? How confident are you that we can address these challenges and make a difference?
There are so many issues that we can address today, I would not know where to start. I think the world needs to come together, especially after this pandemic and think about changing for the better.
I am confident that with the right mindset and attitude we can change the world, we just have to think positively and fight for what we think is right, we want the future generations to live in a world of peace, a world that is connected and united.