Your Higher Education in a New Country

August 11, 2020

Studying Masters in Montréal

Are you thinking about studying abroad as an international student? Let me tell you something, I have chosen Montréal and I could not be happier about this decision. Let’s have a flashback.

Phase 1 – Moving to Canada

Everything packed in 2 luggage with a one-way ticket in hand, ready to get on the airplane. I came from Iran, 13 hours on the air, daydreaming about the life ahead of me. I arrived in Montréal on December 25th, 2018, on the Christmas night. A girl in her 20s landed on the land of opportunities. Step by step, I settled and waited for January 7th to start my new education at Concordia University.

Phase 2 – Before the first semester begins

A tall building right in front of me, hundreds of students passing right through me, my heart was pounding, and the semester begins. To be a helpful guide, I will mention each necessary and helpful thing you need to do on your first days.

First steps

First of all, thanks to Montréal and its high diversity plus Concordia’s International department, it does not matter which nationality you are, you will find lots of orientations which would cover all the important information that you need to know. Je choisis Montréal (I choose Montréal), Concordia, and all the other universities offer great gatherings and info sessions. So, I say start with that. Sign up in each and every gathering that you get. They will talk about your status in Canada, after study visa, jobs, insurance, places to go, places to study, and all the stuff that are needed. I give the highest score to this part, because if you miss something it’s not because it wasn’t mentioned, it’s because you didn’t pay enough attention :D.

Second Steps

The second step would be the first day at your university, for me personally I would continue with Concordia University. The first mandatory step is to see your advisor. I was studying the course-based Master of Computer Science. I went to see the department’s advisor and I cannot explain how nice she is. She welcomed me warmly and word by word, she explained everything to me. I was automatically enrolled in 2 courses; she gave me an agenda so I could have all the important dates. The next step would be getting the insurance card, setting up with the International Student Office (ISO), getting the Student ID card, and Student Access card.

Phase 3 – First semester at Concordia

The classes began. It was a big challenge even from the first session. I never experienced English language university classes. In the beginning, it can be hard to follow the class. The professor would explain all the course contents in the first session, so I preferred to be present in the first sessions. The usual flow of the term is to have one and a half months of teaching, midterm exams, again teaching, and the finals. Each session material would be uploaded in the Moodle by the professor for the students. In my field, classes are mostly more than 60 students so if you also have a problem with concentrating in large classes I would suggest recording the professor’s voice with their permission. I had two extremely challenging courses in my first semester.

A challenge

Everything was challenging as an international student for me. I was behind the class schedule and it caused me trouble. I discontinued one of my courses in the middle of my semester and that was the best thing that I could’ve done. This gave me the chance to focus on the other course and understand the most important passion in my life. After studying hard, recording my professor’s voice, group study sessions, and extra activities, at the end of the semester, I didn’t do good on my final and I was devastated. Imagine moving from your country and feel that you are failing. It was a hard situation, but I never give up, I never accept failure. So, I started to investigate the problem.

Phase 4 – The semester with the big change at Concordia

I started focusing on small details, I knew the problem was not feeling or getting the course contents. So, since I was studying Information Technology in my bachelor’s and I wanted to continue in that field, I attended most of the computer-related classes even in different departments, to see if I can feel more connected to them. I figured out that, I am more passionate about Software engineering courses, I get them, I am comfortable with the concepts and more importantly, because of the passion that I have, I feel the course contents could come naturally to me. This added too much to my struggles with adapting to my new life but that was exactly what I was missing, being passionate about my course materials. I spoke with the advisor, some professors, and my friends and I reached the decision that it’s better to stay one more semester and then decide.

Switching to a new major

Right now, that I’m writing this, I would suggest to everyone, if you found out that your passion is in a different major, DO NOT HESITATE. I took another Computer Science course in the first summer semester, and in the first 2 weeks of the class, before the DNE Deadline, I dropped the course. At that time, I knew it from my heart that I needed to change my major. Special thanks to the Computer Science and Software Engineering advisor, I changed my major for the Fall 2019 semester to Master of Software Engineering and I’m thankful for that every single day. For this change, you have to get approval from your current department’s advisor and at least a GPA of 2.7 and after the approval. Within 1 month you will receive an official letter that states the change in your field.

Phase 5 – Changing experience

Since summer 2019, I’m enjoying and loving what I am studying, I can do better in courses, my grades are higher, and I have more interactions with professors and students. This was a challenging decision, especially because of some clichés. People tend to say, the job opportunities for computer science are better than software engineering. I want to say that if you like the field that you are studying or working in, you are going to be the best in it. With your passion, your mind and heart will help you go up the ladder and be more successful every day. I changed my field while almost, most of my friends in Computer Science were telling me that you won’t be able to find a job as easy as us, and guess what, right now I am working in the Software Maintenance field.

What I am trying to broadcast with this article is that studying abroad might bring a lot of pressure and stress but be positive, stay positive, don’t ignore the details, and follow your heart and passion, this will guide you to the best. In Montréal, the best city on earth for students, if you try hard you will get what you deserve.

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