By McGill Reporter Staff
They come from Antigua to Zimbabwe, and almost every country in between. The more than 430 new students who filled Redpath Hall for the annual welcome reception for international students represented 66 different countries and a whole lot of fascinating background, experience and future.
Joined by 39 members of the Montreal diplomatic corps and officially welcomed by both Principal Suzanne Fortier and Quebec’s Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Kathleen Weil, the students noshed on a wide variety of hors d’oeuvres, had the chance to learn trivia about Canada, about Montreal and about the French fact in Quebec, and listened to superb jazz from a Schulich School of Music combo.
“This is the highest number we’ve ever had,” said Caroline Guay, International Student Advisor in the office of International Student Services. “It’s a fantastic event and we’re so happy to see so many students join us.”
McGill has been holding this reception, organized by International Student Services, for more than 30 years, Guay said. The host and emcee for Thursday’s event was Pauline L’Ecuyer, Director of ISS.
Prof. Fortier spoke of how diversity of views and backgrounds enriches the student experience in the classroom and on the campus and noted that with 9,000 international students, McGill has the largest proportion of international students of any large Canadian university.
“I hope that you will also take time to get involved in the exciting and creative Montreal community and to explore the rest of Quebec,” she said. “Students often tell me that the projects they have been involved with to give back to the community are remarkable learning experiences. Your journey here at McGill will be exciting and challenging and I promise you, these years will be some of the best of your life.”
It was one of those events where you wanted to talk to everyone in the room about where they came from, what they’re studying and what they want to do in their lives once they move on from their university lives.
Hector Buchiel is a 22-year-old Electrical Engineering student from Peru pursuing his Master’s degree. He’s been in Montreal for less than a month and is happy with life here.
“It’s quiet, it’s organized. I just don’t know about the weather yet,” he said with realistic caution.
Buchiel said his priority in applying to study abroad was to find a university in Canada. He was impressed with Canadian society, the level of education offered here and the prestige of graduating from a Canadian university. He was delighted when it turned out to be McGill.
And he’s hoping to apply his education to work here in Canada.
“It’s safe, there are opportunities here,” he said.
Sumeet Duggal, 30, is a PhD student in Management, specializing in organizational behaviour. He’s a native of New Delhi, India, who arrived at McGill a month ago and has already discovered a challenge.
He owned a car back home and doesn’t have one here, so moving around in Montreal is taking some getting used to.
He’s impressed by the degree to which people are willing to help out when he has questions or needs help, and has been struck by the degree of respect people have for one another.
Duggal is not likely to stay in Canada. “Most probably, I’ll go back,” he said, adding that he’d like to find work as a professor in his field. He was drawn to McGill by the reputations of the Desautels Faculty of Management and some specific professors, plus the match between the professors’ research interests and his own.
Is he ready for winter?
“I need to buy a jacket,” he said with a smile.
Gabrielle Bertier, a native of France who has spent the last few years in Spain, is typical of today’s young global citizen. The 26-year-old who is doing a PhD in genetics and bio-ethics, she is linked to the Centre for Genomics and Policy, under the direction of Bartha Maria Knoppers.
Knoppers and Canadian genomics whiz Mark Lathrop were beacons from Bertier.
“I think they’re really leaders in their field,” she said.
She’s enjoyed the taste of the nightlife in Montreal, dropping into jazz clubs with her jazz musician boyfriend whom she brought with her from Spain.
Getting back into study mode after spending a few years in the working world has been a bit of an adjustment, she said.
As for what’s next, “I’m looking forward to the winter,” she said, laughing when told that sounded just a touch on the naïve side.
More important, she hopes to take her expertise in research and genomic ethics to wherever it takes her.
“I expect to have an international job located basically anywhere.”