To answer the question many of you are probably thinking in your heads, I’ve decided to devote three separate blog entries covering the following topics: why I chose McGill (including the application process), life at McGill as a grad student, and what I liked and didn’t like about living in Montreal. Alright, here we go!
In truth, the reason why I chose McGill is fairly simple and straightforward. I Googled “best library science schools” or something like that, and McGill’s School of Information Studies popped up as the first entry. Right then and there I said “That’s it. That’s where I’m going to apply to grad school.” I didn’t have a second choice, nor did I go in person to visit other campuses. I can’t say what exactly drew me to McGill. Maybe it was the fact that it was such a world renowned school with an excellent reputation for churning out the best and brightest. Maybe it was the fact that Montreal seemed like a glittering metropolis full of fun things to do with exciting adventures just around the corner (don’t worry, that will be discussed in another blog post). Or just maybe it was because I needed a change of scenery. Looking back now, I’m still not exactly sure what my reasons were for applying to McGill. But the simple answer is that McGill looked like an excellent school, the Master of Information Studies program looked decent, and Montreal looked exciting and would be a nice change from what I was used to.
The application process
So, after I set my mind on applying to McGill, I applied! To give you a timeline, I began the application process in January/February 2017 in order to enter the program as a first year grad student in the Fall of 2017. As is standard in today’s world, the application process was done entirely online. I completed the application in a few stages, as opposed to doing it in one fell swoop. After submitting a copy of my undergraduate transcript (which felt strange contacting my alma mater, since the last time I set foot on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus was back in 2009…a lifetime ago), and after I had finished filling out all the forms (which included paying the application fees), I just had to wait patiently for a response.
Anticipation in an envelope
Then, sometime in mid-March 2017, I received a sealed envelope from McGill University. I remember at the time I received the email saying that a letter had been sent, I was volunteering at my local library helping to shelve and arrange books. Due to the fact that I was in the library’s basement and had no cell reception, I quickly raced home to check the mail box. I eagerly opened the envelope and read out the words, “On behalf of the faculty of the School of Information Studies at McGill University, congratulations on your acceptance”, or something to that affect. I was over the moon! I told me mom, and we hugged. I was just so excited! I couldn’t believe that one of the world’s most prestigious universities had accepted me. Yesss!!!
Hurdles to jump
Now that I had gotten in to McGill, the easy part was over. Let the paperwork and necessary documentation retrieving begin!
As an American applying to a Canadian university, there were a few things that I needed to do in order to be properly prepared for studying “abroad”. I use quotation marks because although I don’t consider Canada to be “abroad”, it is a foreign country with laws and regulations that differ from those here in the U.S.
The biggest issues I faced when applying to McGill dealt with documents that I was required by the Canadian government to have in order to legally study in Canada. I was required by law to obtain a document called a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). The CAQ is specific to the Province of Quebec and states that the individual in possession of the CAQ lawfully has the right to live and study in Quebec. By the way, when I sent in the necessary documents in order to obtain said CAQ, I was unaware that when I would receive the CAQ via snail mail, it would be entirely in French. I had to request that an English translation be mailed out, which arrived about a week later. Word of warning to English speaking students planning on studying in Montreal. The official language of the Province of Quebec is French. But, more on that in another post.
As soon as we crossed the border, I stopped in at the immigration services office where I was required to fill out another form which legally allowed me to live and study in Canada. I was told not to leave the border without this form! As an American, I was able to apply for this form in person, at the border, which saved me a lot of time and headache. I should mention that the immigration officer who helped me fill out the form was very polite and friendly. For some reason, the printer was taking a ridiculously long time to print the document. After roughly forty five minutes (no joke), it was finally printed. The officer signed the form and handed it to me. He smiled and told me Montreal was a great city and wished me luck. Actually, he said “Good luck, eh.” Yes! My first “eh”. I really was in Canada!
The final part of the process occurred when I arrived at McGill. I was required to submit a copy of my passport photo along with a copy of the CAQ and the form I filled out at the border to McGill. That’s pretty much it. Yes, the process of filling out and obtaining the necessary legal paperwork was a bit annoying; however, it was necessary in order to study at McGill. It’s a way for the school to keep track of its international students, in order to ensure everyone who is studying at McGill is there legally.
Ok, then. I think I’ve written enough for one blog post…whew! I haven’t written that much in one sitting in a long time. My academic adventures (and mishaps) at McGill University will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!