In conversation in Tailynn Chang, valedictorian for the Education ceremony

"I received amazing mentorship from my professors and grad students, who were my role models. My classmates, teammates, and friends provided support and camaraderie, helping me become my best self"

In this special series of Q&As, McGill’s 2024 valedictorians share their insights and perspectives as they reflect on their academic journeys and look back at the moments that defined their time at McGill, from navigating the challenges of entering McGill during the COVID pandemic to finding and fostering a sense of community.

Today, we feature Tailynn Chang, valedictorian for the Faculty of Education. Chang, who has earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Honours) delivers her address at the Education ceremony on Thursday, May 30, at 3 p.m.

Please note, the answers have been edited for brevity.

Why did you choose McGill?

For me, university was about gaining perspective and making heartfelt connections. I knew McGill had many international and out-of-province students, so it offered the opportunity to gather and foster diverse friendships. I wanted a university experience where I could connect with folks from around the world.

After three years here, I can say I’ve succeeded; my dearest Martlets rugby teammates are from France and Ontario, my closest classmates are from Montreal, and my intramural teams have been totally global. I’ve gained insight and empathy, and leave McGill with greater understanding.

What are some of the highlights of your time at McGill?

In my final year, our rugby team won the first game of the season at Molson Stadium, the first win in four years. It was an amazing display of our collective drive and heart to persevere after so many losses and a euphoric moment to share with my teammates. I was beyond proud to represent this community of women, of alumni and past representatives of McGill. I hope I was able to inspire future generations of the team.

The simple and ordinary moments of student life have also been among the most joyful: sharing lectures and labs with my classmates, seeing friends while walking across campus, studying and working on projects together.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your time here?

The extreme isolation I faced after moving to Montreal [from Calgary] – living by myself through COVID-19-related lockdowns – was one of my biggest challenges. I spent days not saying a single thing out loud, and this isolation took a huge toll on my mental and physical health.

I made a real effort to reach out, build relationships and spend quality time with others. It was especially important to share my struggles with peers in my year. We connected because of this immense common struggle. As a result, I have gained more compassion, kindness and understanding for others and I don’t take for granted the time I have with classmates and friends.

What’s next for you, both short and long term?

In the long term, I want to reduce inequalities and improve the health of disadvantaged populations. Therefore, I am considering doing a master’s degree in public health or policy, but for now, I am looking to work as a kinesiologist and to gain perspective in the health-care field.

How has McGill helped prepare you for your next chapter?

I took advantage of the large array of opportunities available at McGill; these experiences have allowed me to grow.

I received amazing mentorship from my professors and grad students, who were my role models. My classmates, teammates, and friends provided support and camaraderie, helping me become my best self. I come away from McGill a product of collective effort and I am ready to represent McGill in the next chapter of my life.

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