International student at age 33: Starting over from scratch!

November 12, 2021

Who here has never asked themselves: “What if I changed my life?” Very few of us would raise our hand. So if you had the chance to start all over again, the opportunity to realize your dreams, would you take it?

Opening my eyes

I am a 33-year-old Frenchwoman who loves life in general. A few months ago I had a stable job at the European Commission of Luxembourg. Not very rewarding but it paid the bills. It was enough, it seemed, so why did I feel like a caged lion?

As I dug into the issue day after day, talked with other people in the same dilemma, I realized that my cage was also theirs. Fear and regret kept them caged in. It was a cage that they had built themselves and rather than break it down little by little, they reinforced it, because that was just life. It required less effort or it was just too late.

It really opened my eyes! All these years, I always had the opportunity to realize my dreams, yet I always prevented myself from making them come true. Why? Because it’s frightening! Because you need to step outside your comfort zone without any guarantee of success!

However, the recipe is simple: Just drop everything, roll up your sleeves and work hard! And that’s how I became a student again and started classes at NAD-UQAC, a 3D animation school in Montréal.

Go international? Why not?

I never really had the chance to travel much in the past and when I was building my plan, I realized that it was possible to go to a world-renowned school in Québec. It was a unique opportunity to create a solid future and to travel at the same time. If you’re going to change up your life, you might as well go all in!

The pre-departure phase was quite difficult. I had to pull away from everything that I had spent years building. Immigration was also quite challenging since my CAQ (Québec Acceptance Certificate) was first refused and applying during a pandemic was an emotional rollercoaster that lasted for several months.

But it was really worth it. Since I’ve been here, I’m in awe very day. I feel as if I’m seeing everything around me with a bright glow. People say it’s temporary and life’s routine will make it fade, but I think not, the city will feed my passions.

Montréal is outrageous compared to what I have known up until now. I can play hockey in the morning, have some Thai food at noon, do some axe throwing in the afternoon, and go enjoy the Montréal Symphony Orchestra in the evening, and then admire some mural projections and street artists in the Quartier des spectacles as I take a stroll at night.

It’s also an incredible cosmopolitan space, where you don’t even need to mention tolerance because it’s such a natural part of the city. I was quite surprised to see how much respect there is in this city.

Is it a good idea to go to school in your 30s?

Going back to school after being out for more than 10 years is not a light decision. Especially if you have gotten used to an active life. In addition, your maturity gives you some perspective on how to grasp the courses, do your assignments, consider your future, etc. The issues are different even if the goal is the same as the other students.

When we’re 20, we have our whole lives ahead of us, we take our time and enjoy the moment. Going on the wrong path is not a big deal, it lets you learn about yourself and grow. However, when you’re in your 30s, you have a different outlook on the time that has already gone by. We have this extra baggage that I call “la fatigue de la vie,” because some things do happen over a span of over 10 years.

When I hear my younger fellow students talking, I realize that I’m from a different generation. What’s great is that they take the time to include me in their world, to get me up to speed.

I was not worried about joining my classmates, but I did wonder if the students would have any issues seeing me as one of them. And the answer is no! I’m fully living life as a student, certainly even more so than when I was 19, because I am really doing something I love this time. Having a mid-life crisis in my 30s is great!

Studying in Québec

I was very surprised to find out that I only had 18 hours of classes every week. In France, my weekly school schedule was closer to 25–30 hours. However, my personal workload is heavier here than when I was living in France. The issues are certainly very different, so I have no actual point of comparison, but now I know why Canadian universities are so world-renowned. You can’t just rest on your laurels here.

The teaching method is more informal too. I really enjoy my courses at NAD-UQAC, much more than other courses I have taken before. The professors really care about the students and push them to make progress with some humour and a good mood. They are not satisfied with merely reciting their notes monotonously. They want us to have discussions and are available outside work hours to help us, when necessary.

Furthermore, what I really find amazing here is the students’ creativity and investment in student life, which the school administrators reward by loaning out venues to students when they request them for events.

Do I regret my decision?

In conclusion, I will tell you that leaving everything behind to go back to school was the best decision I ever made. I’m finally at peace with myself. I followed my heart and stopped listening to people who projected their own fears onto me. Becoming a player in your own life requires effort, creates lots of stress and sleepless nights, but it’s an investment in yourself that’s worth it because you will no longer be this caged lion watching life pass you by. So go fulfill your dreams. You can do it! Remember: It’s not luck, it’s all the work you did that is being rewarded!

It’s possible to live a starry-eyed life!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Montréal International.