It was love at first sight for Marina Smailes. During the summer of 2011, the Delta, B.C. native came to Montreal to visit relatives and took a tour of the McGill campus. “I fell in love with the place and decided then and there that McGill was where I wanted to go to university,” she recalls.
Thanks to a Best in the West General Scholarship, Marina was able to fulfill her dream. The award was created through support to the Best in the West General Scholarship Fund from many generous donors, including James S. Palmer, BA’48, Chancellor Emeritus at the University of Calgary.
After graduating from high school, Marina packed up her belongings and headed east to Montreal. “Being from a very close family made it difficult to say goodbye to my parents and brother,” she admits.
Thinking back on her first few weeks at McGill, Marina says: “When I first arrived I found the campus so big and overwhelming. But everyone I met was very helpful and in no time I felt right at home.” She quickly immersed herself in her studies in the Faculty of Science, where an initial interest in physics has evolved into a passion for sustainability-related sciences.
Eager to take full advantage of Montreal’s bilingual milieu, Marina is taking an extra-curricular French course. She also finds time to play on the intramural basketball, soccer and volleyball teams.
“It’s really important to balance school work with physical activities and McGill has such an amazing sports complex,” she says.
And if that’s not a busy enough schedule, Marina also volunteers on the First Year Council, where she has helped to develop a survey for first-year students to assess how they are adapting to university life. “The president of the Council invited me to attend a Leadership for Life conference, which I found really exciting,” she says.
Being the inaugural recipient of a Best in the West General Scholarship was a life-altering experience for Marina.
“It was a huge honour to receive this award,” she explains. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been in a position to travel across the country and live away from home. My time at McGill has completely changed my life!”
A Martlet’s Migration
McGill’s connections to British Columbia run deep. Responding to a growing demand for post-secondary education in British Columbia, McGill helped to establish both Victoria College (later renamed the University of Victoria) in 1903 and then the McGill University College of British Columbia (later renamed the University of British Columbia) in 1908.
Over a century later, there is an enduring affinity between McGill and the two universities as the schools share research and networks. Researchers collaborate on a variety of initiatives, from the Green Crop Network, whose members study crops and climate change, to the Canadian Seismic Research Network, which seeks to reduce the vulnerability of urban infrastructure and earthquake risks.
More than 2,000 students from B.C. call McGill home, and the University and UVic share the same mascot – the fabled Martlet, a mythical creature that represents the ceaseless pursuit of learning.