Readapting to university

October 19, 2021

It goes without saying that the year 2020-2021 was dissimilar from the previous university years. From an institutional level, university administrators around the globe were forced to create a pandemic-proof strategy to deliver the courses to students while accommodating professors, maintaining their educational standards, doing so in a COVID safe manner, and of course, as fast as possible.

As individuals, we were faced with the dystopian-like experience of relating to others purely via video communication. Our courses, team meetings, entertainment, planned events, and most of the human interaction were reduced to logging into a few video communications platforms while the human warmth from face-to-face interactions became rectangular-shaped videos on our screens, and the excitement of engaging in a class discussion was often diminished when we would hear the classic phrase “you are on mute”.

Many of us, international students, were faced with the pressure of returning to our home countries or applying for our immigration documents during the height of the pandemic. We became experts in verifying border restrictions, contacting the international students’ office at our universities, booking and rebooking flights with one goal in mind: arriving in Montréal.

Despite everything, we made it!

So now we are in Montréal! Most of us are doing in-person classes, meeting friends, discovering new places, and enjoying the vibrant energy this city gives just as we should. Some of us are eager to join new projects, recuperate what feels like lost time, and get busy with all the opportunities Montréal has to offer.

Though, what happens if you are not feeling exactly this way?

Please be patient with yourself. There is nothing wrong with needing time to adapt to a new routine and let’s not forget that this adaptation period is happening during a pandemic. So here are some tips that worked for me.

1. Reach out for help

It is never a sign of weakness to need a helping hand, especially not now. Most universities will offer counseling services that are anonymous and there to help you. These services can often be found by searching on your schools’ website, or by sending an email to student services which will then direct you.

If you feel yourself struggling to follow the pace of your class, ask questions during class time! This obvious advice helps you, and your classmates. More often than not, other students will be having the same questions and by speaking up you will help foster an engaging learning environment. If you feel shy to engage, attend your professors’ office hours or contact them via email to clarify questions.

2. Join or start an association in your university

The first step is to look for a student group of which you share common interests, the second step is to have fun!

Student associations, initiatives, and projects are by far the best way to make new friends while pursuing your interests. If you haven’t already, go to your university website and find a list of on-campus groups, choose the ones that interest you the most, and send them a message. I promise this will be the beginning of a great journey.

Personally, starting a sustainability initiative on-campus to repurpose plastic waste (CP3) brought me a lot of joy and helped me develop new skills, as well as break isolation during the pandemic. If you want more tips on ways to enrich your student experience, check out my previous article on how to gain professional experience and enrich your student journey.

3. Organize your time

I am a calendar fanatic. All my classes, deadlines, to-dos, work, and volunteer schedule go in my calendar. As busy students, we are often running from one place to another working to reach our deadlines and personal objectives, if we don’t write things down, there are high chances of forgetting that assignment date. Trust me, you don’t want to be that student who receives a – 10% on the assignment grade because you’ve turned it in late.

For this reason, organize yourself ahead of time! Try different forms of agenda, to-do lists, or calendar applications and when you’ve found the method that suits you best, structure your days ahead of time.

4. Call your family and friends back home

Some days we might feel homesick, and that is perfectly normal! In these moments, reaching out to a loved one back home will give us the energy boost we need to go out there and continue working towards our dreams in the city.

Lastly, remember how far you’ve gotten

Whether you have made it to Montréal or are in the process of choosing Montréal, take some time to look back on your experiences and be proud of yourself for how far you have gotten.

Montréal is a multi-cultural, vibrant city with lots to offer, and a big part of why this city is so great is thanks to students like yourself, who were brave enough to leave their home countries and continue writing your journey here. Don’t ever forget to look back at how far you’ve gotten with the joy of someone who knows how far they will go because I am certain that your journey is just starting!

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