In conversation with Juliet Morrison, valedictorian for the Arts ‘B’ ceremony

"The challenges that come from navigating university and living alone have increased my resilience and self-confidence. From dealing with difficult landlords, to finding my own internships, I’ve become more comfortable advocating for myself."

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 Juliet Morrison, one of the valedictorians for the Faculty of Arts. Morrison, who has earned a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science, with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies, delivers her address at the Arts ‘B’ ceremony on Monday, June 3, at 3 p.m.

Please note, the answers have been edited for brevity.

Why did you choose McGill?

When I visited during Open House in 2019, from Ottawa, I loved the feel of campus, filled with students walking around with friends and pretty buildings. I was also looking for an academic challenge and liked that McGill was in a city with international appeal. McGill felt like somewhere I could see myself and where I would grow a lot and have fun.

What were some of your impressions when walking onto campus for the first time?

When campus life came back in second year, I remember walking through the Milton Gates and being awed by how many people there were (and how well-dressed everyone was, of course). Despite how large McGill seemed initially, it also felt like a community. I loved seeing friends run into each other or large groups studying by the Three Bares. It was also funny to recognize people from my first-year Zoom lectures.

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

Outside the classroom, I’ve been a part of great student organizations, namely The Tribune and the Arts Undergraduate Society, and met wonderful, adventurous people who have become close friends. I have fabulous memories of late nights at the University Centre with the news team, joking around while reviewing articles.

I also found much joy in doing things at McGill that my high school self would have been too intimidated to try. In third year, I joined a kickboxing class with friends and had fun pushing my limits and learning to spar. I had never written an article or run for a student position before, so I’m proud of myself for stepping into student journalism as well as advocacy. Both were big parts of my time here.

On the academic side, I loved the seminars I took in fourth year. INTD 498: Violence and Memory, and POLI 575: The Politics of Military Intervention covered intense topics, but I learned so much. Being in small, rigorous classes with brilliant professors also gave classmates a sense of camaraderie and made for a special experience.

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

Like many students, my biggest challenges were navigating imposter syndrome and trying to balance school with part-time jobs, life, extracurriculars and trying to stay healthy. I wanted to do it all, and when I inevitably struggled due to having overloaded myself, I assumed it meant I was less capable than my peers (who I thought were doing it all effortlessly).

I overcame these challenges by quieting my pesky imposter syndrome and leaning on friends and family. Study breaks I had with friends where we opened up about our shared struggles with university life were particularly healing. It also helped when I reckoned with my underlying motivation for success and found healthier strategies for dealing with my workload.

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

In the short term, I’m staying in Montreal and finishing a research project on social media and sexual violence. I’ve never spent a summer here and it’s been lovely to spend more time with friends and discover different areas of the city.

After the summer, I’ll work and travel around Argentina, where my extended family lives.

Later, I’m looking to pursue a master’s degree in international relations. I’m interested in international human-rights investigations and would like to become involved in that area, be it through diplomacy or non-profit work.

How has McGill helped prepare you for your next chapter?

The challenges that come from navigating university and living alone have increased my resilience and self-confidence. From dealing with difficult landlords to learning when to quit, to finding my own internships, I’ve become more comfortable advocating for myself.

Starting university during a pandemic also taught me valuable lessons about taking the initiative and cultivating community. My campus involvement has brought me many great friends and I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want for the future, both career-wise and in terms of work/life balance.

What advice do you have for students new to McGill?

Experiment and try new things! One reason my university journey has been so fulfilling is because I’ve been a part of different spaces. I’ve met new people and grown in each.

Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. University is challenging. Everyone is struggling. We are so young, and this is the stage where you can fall on your face (and then get back up).

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